November 23, 2023, 16:59

Social and legal protection of civilian hostages and their families: how the law is implemented and what improvements are needed

Recently, the Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories reported that more than 760 civilian hostages were considered as persons illegally deprived of their liberty, a crime that the framework of the commission’s activities during 8 meetings held since the law entered into force, took cognizance of. At present, both human rights activists and relatives of civilian prisoners responded positively to the law being put into effect. However, for many, it is still unclear how it encapsulates practical experience, how the commission works, and what criteria, especially regarding civilians, the findings of fact are made. 

Aliona Luniova, Advocacy Manager at ZMINA Human Rights Center made this report, during a briefing at the Media Center Ukraine – Ukrinform. 

“Sometimes confusion happens—in some cases, the ICRC confirms captivity for a minor number of civilians, that’s when confusion arises, as there is a certain misunderstanding about why it is necessary to confirm the fact of being held hostage through the commission. Or, take, for example, the next criteria—people persecuted for political reasons were the “beneficiaries” of this assistance for a really long time, but now we are considering all civilians. However, how can we establish the fact that a person is in the occupied territory if relatives do not know where they are, there is no confirmation of the place of detention, no understanding of where they are. There is also some misunderstanding about the special legal status of a person missing under special circumstances, and how it relates to the fact established by the commission. That is, certain uncertainties harm the relatives’ understanding of how the law works. And we need to work on it, to explain and interpret how this law works,” explained Aliona Luniova. 

According to the human rights activist, it is obvious that the closed and non-transparent nature of the commissions contributes to the fact that relatives are confused and misunderstanding how it works. Therefore, she noted, it is necessary to seek a balance, to constantly communicate with families, and to explain how a particular decision was made.

In addition, the commission should develop its own practice and analyze it, because there are questions the legal practice is riddled with and there is no clear answer.

In addition, she emphasized, it is crucial for the commission to cover its activities, to explain to both persons released from captivity and their families how to file an application in a way that fully describes the circumstances when deprived of personal freedom.

It is necessary to make the commission’s activities generalizations. Obviously, the commission should be the entity that studies the practice of applying the law and sees where the rule of law is not working effectively, in order to correct it a little bit where necessary through the practice of application, and somewhere to submit proposals for changing the law. 

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