An open appeal for the dismissal of Olena Pekh
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Her Excellency Minister Ann Linde, OSCE Chairperson-in- Office Copy: Her Excellency Ambassador Heidi Grau Dear Chair Linde,
Please accept sincere regards from ICOM Ukraine and warm wishes of success in solving the problems that you will focus on during your tenure in the office. People in many countries pin their hopes on the OSCE as the unique transnational platform established to ensure peace and security in Europe, to facilitate in conflict resolution, and to affirm the democratic principles. On behalf of the museum community of Ukraine and our colleagues of IICOM Poland, we would like to draw your attention to the situation that has been of grave concern to us. Our colleague Olena Pekh, an art scholar and research fellow at the Horlivka Museum of Fine Arts, has been arrested on August 9, 2018, in the town of Horlivka, in the part of Donetsk Oblast (Ukraine) that has been under the Russian occupation since 2014. She left the occupied territory for the city of Odesa in 2014 with her underage daughter, but had to make regular trips back to Horlivka since 2016 to help her mother, who required medical assistance and care because of her deteriorating health. Russia-controlled militants seized Mrs. Pekh during one such trip, accusing her of “treason” and “espionage.” While in custody, she had been brutally tortured, and tried to commit suicide to put an end to torture. In March 2020, she was “sentenced” to 13 years’ imprisonment based on the testimony received under duress. She is currently in Penal Colony N° 127 in the town of Snizhne. There is no doubt that all “accusations” against her are absurd. In reality, Mrs. Pekh is a hostage. The practice of taking civilians hostage to exert further pressure on Ukraine or to demand ransom from the relatives is widespread on the occupied territory, where no legal norms apply, and where there’s no recourse to justice. Human rights advocates, journalists and former detainees have often drawn attention to this fact.
The Ukrainian authorities are taking the necessary steps to get Mrs. Pekh released; she is included on the list of detained persons for eventual mutual releases. Unfortunately, the releases planned for 2020 didn’t happen. We regret to say that the Russian side failed to fulfill the obligations that it had accepted, and refused to give the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross access to the prisoners. Dear Chair Linde, we are asking you to use the resources at the OSCE’s disposal to ensure Olena Pekh’s release. We would be very grateful if you used your influence to persuade the Russian side to give the International Committee of the Red Cross access to Mrs. Pekh and other prisoners as soon as possible. Additionally, we would like to ask you to raise this question at the next session of the Trilateral Contact Group through the OSCE’s representatives. We have every confidence that the release of the innocent and vulnerable woman who became a victim of the international military conflict will be an inspiring act of humanism and a sign that even acute military conflicts do end, and that the peace that we all wish for will come to pass.
With best regards,