UK’s FCO Act on my Complaint against Ukraine

Full text of an email I was very pleased to receive from the UK’s FCO today – 

Dear Mr Phillips

Thank you for your email of 4 August. I am replying as team leader in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Consular Directorate.  I am about to leave this position, but I will ensure I pass to my successor this correspondence.

Firstly, can I say how sorry I am to read about what must have been a very difficult experience for you. I was personally in close contact with your parents during your time in Donetsk and know, understandably, they were very concerned for your safety.  We note from your Twitter account that you are currently in Luhansk. We would like to draw to your attention to the fact that we currently advise British citizens not to travel to this region because of the very difficult situation there.

Although we are unable to guarantee a solution for all your requests, we can raise some of your concerns with the Ukrainian authorities, on your behalf. However we require further information on some of the matters before we can do this.

  • You state that a Ukrainian soldier told you he could ’not guarantee my life’ – Please can you provide more specific information about the nature of this incident?
  • You have raised concerns about your basic human rights – Please can you advise of the time period in which you were denied access to sanitation and water facilities and if you received any other liquids or food during your detention. You state that Vadym, the local journalist (your co-detainee), was savagely beaten by Ukrainian soldiers. This is obviously very concerning. I appreciate that this is distressing for youand we want to check whether you were physically mishandled in any way so we can establish how best to support you.
  • I understand that you were denied any representation or contact with the British Consul – Can you confirm whether you were told of your right for the Embassy to be notified, and if so, whether you asked for the Embassy to be informed? We can consider raising this issue for you.
  • You say you were refused any contact with the outside world – Local law may not allow contact with family and friends during the initial period of detention however we cannot provide legal advice and suggest you consider contacting a lawyer if you want to confirm you position. That said, it is concerning that you were not allowed access to a legal representative, in order to obtain legal advice. Please can you clarify if you were denied access to a legal representative/legal advice, as we could raise this particular issue with the relevant authorities.
  • Your emails raise general concerns about restrictions on the press – we have recently underlined the importance to the government of Ukraine about dealing with the journalists in line with Ukrainian law.

There are certain issues which you have raised that we are unable to take forward on your behalf. I have clarified these particular issues below. In these instances you would need to seek legal advice from a local lawyer and appoint one to represent your interests, if you choose to do so. We can forward you a list of English speaking lawyers in Ukraine, if that would be helpful. I should add that we cannot recommend any particular lawyer nor can we cover legal fees.

At this stage we are unable to take action on the following matters:

  • Wrongful detention – You have not provided evidence that your detention was unlawful. We require clear evidence that a British national was wrongfully detained before we can consider raising concerns, and in most instances need to see advice from your lawyer pertaining to the legality of the detention. As such, we recommend that you seek legal advice.  Please be aware that the authorities may state that they have the jurisdiction/power to detain a person, for their own safety reasons, in the current circumstances.
  • Theft of property/Return of your possessions – You will need to address this issue through a lawyer.
  • Malicious defamation of character/Publishing of your passport online without your consent – You will need to address this issuethrough a lawyer.
  • Illegal impounding of computers/Deletion of all files/family photos/videos – again you will need to address this issue through a lawyer.
  • Online accounts hacked/malicious details posted on them –  This is a matter for alawyer, if you choose to instruct one, to take up with the Ukrainian authorities.
  • Deported to acountry, with which you have no relation – Generally, governments have the right to take decisions to deport or ban individuals from their countries. There are limits to what we can do in such cases and are not able to interfere in immigration/deportation matters. We are not able to overturn any deportation decision that has been made by the Ukrainian authorities as we have no jurisdiction over immigration matters in other countries. A lawyer is best placed to advise you on how to challenge this decision. We understand deportation to a third country is not international practice and is something we will consider raising with the Ukrainian authorities.
  • Banned for three years from a country in which you own property – We suggest that you make enquiries with the Ukrainian authorities, to establish if you have been officially banned from Ukraine (due to the absence of formal documentation). However, we are not able to overturn any decision that the Ukrainiain authorities have made, in relation to banning you from Ukraine.

Additionally, if you consider that a criminal offence has been committed under Ukrainian law you may wish to consult a lawyer regarding making a criminal complaint to the authorities.

I hope that this answers some of your queries. We will make enquiries with the Ukrainian authorities, as described above, once we have received further information that we have asked for.