Legal Case of the Week: Oleg Sentsov

posted 5 Dec 2016, 02:53 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Dec 2016, 02:58 ]
On 2 December 2016 President Putin turned down a request by film director Aleksandr Sokurov to release imprisoned Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, sentenced to 20 years in a maximum security prison colony on charges of preparing explosions and arson attacks in Simferopol, Crimea. As The Moscow Times reported, at a meeting of the Presidential Council on Culture and Art, film director Alexander Sokurov asked President Putin to free Sentsov: ‘Putin replied that Sentsov had not been convicted for his art or opinions, but because he had, “dedicated his life to terrorist activities.” “We live in a law-based society in which these kinds of questions must be resolved by the legal system,” Putin said.’

However, as Halya Coynash writes, President Putin’s ‘assertion that Russia is a law-based country comes just two weeks after the International Criminal Court accepted jurisdiction over Russia’s ongoing occupation of Crimea and spoke of Russia’s “non-respect of a number of due process and fair trial rights”.’ In Coynash’s view, ‘Neither Putin’s assertions about Sentsov, nor his claim that it is the court in Russia which decides have any credibility, and the demands for Sentsov’s release have come not only from world-renowned film directors, but from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the EU, OSCE and all democratic countries.’

Amnesty International called the prison sentences handed down by a Russian military court against Oleg Sentsov and Aleksandr Kolchenko in August 2015 ‘a blatant injustice’, describing the trial as ‘patently unfair’ trial marred by credible allegations of torture, and ‘marred by credible allegations of torture‘. Heather McGill, Eurasia Researcher at Amnesty International, said: “This whole trial was designed to send a message. It played into Russia’s propaganda war against Ukraine and was redolent of Stalinist-era show trials of dissidents.’ Amnesty International called for any testimony gained through torture and other ill-treatment to be thrown out, the ‘terrorism’ charges withdrawn, and Oleg Sentsov and Aleksandr Kolchenko either released or brought to face a fair trial in a civilian court.

Photo: Human Rights in Ukraine

'Putin Rejects Plea to Free Jailed Ukrainian Filmmaker,' The Moscow Times, 2 December 2016 
'Путин ответил на просьбу освободить режиссера Сенцова,' RBK, 2 December 2016
Halya Coynash, ‘Putin’s cynical lies about Oleg Sentsov debunked by International Criminal Court,’ Human Rights in Ukraine, 5 December 2016
‘Russia: Crimean activists sentenced after “fatally flawed” military trial,’ Amnesty International, 25 August 2015