A Letter Home. A petition to secure the right to correspondence for the Ukrainians who ended up in captivity because of the Russian aggression.

We, the concerned citizens, human rights defenders, members of civil society organizations, activists and relatives of prisoners of war and illegally detained civilians, victims of forced abductions and arbitrary detentions that occurred as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, ask the International Committee of the Red Cross (hereinafter, the ICRC) and the Secretary-General of the United Nations to address the issue of the lack of possibility for the citizens of Ukraine imprisoned due to the Russian aggression to be in correspondence with their relatives that is guaranteed for them by international humanitarian law.

The International Committee of the Red Cross does a tremendous amount of humanitarian work as part of its mission to mitigate the suffering of the victims of war launched by Russia. At the same time, several acute issues threatening the lives and health of imprisoned people have not been resolved. The OSCE experts described in detail in their last report of 25 June 2024 numerous violations committed by Russia, in particular, the refusal to give the ICRC access to all prisoners, the widespread practices of torture and ill-treatment, lack of medical care for wounded and sick, poor detention conditions and poor nutrition, and others. The United Nations representatives, the Ukrainian authorities, human rights organizations and people released from captivity have been talking about these war crimes throughout the war.

We ask the ICRC to boost its efforts and, as a matter of priority, ensure that the citizens of Ukraine detained due to the Russian aggression have an opportunity to be in correspondence with their relatives and stop the suffering of both prisoners of war and civilians who are unlawfully imprisoned in Russia and temporarily occupied territories and also their relatives who for months have been waiting for news.

Article 71 of the Geneva Convention (III) enshrines the right of prisoners of war to correspondence but this right is not regulated for civilians as the latter can not be detained at all under international humanitarian law. But Russia is violating all these rules, leaving the families with the worst of it, not knowing what is happening to their loved ones. Often, correspondence is the sole string that keeps those in captivity and those who are waiting for them connected. Without letters, the relatives do not know the condition of their loved one, the environment, in which they are being held, and whether they are alive at all. 

Thousands of civilian Ukrainians are now imprisoned and nobody knows how many prisoners of war Russia keeps in captivity. It means that hundreds of thousands of their relatives and friends daily suffer from the horror of the unknown. 

We ask the international community and the governments of the UN Member States to take all economic, legal, diplomatic and other actions to force Russia to respect the mandate of the International Committee of the Red Cross and allow it to perform its humanitarian activities in line with the provisions of international humanitarian law.