Two British Men Sentenced To Death By Russian Separatists In Eastern Ukraine

Amidst rising tensions between Russia and the West, two British men, Aiden Aislin (28) and Shaun Pinner (48) have been sentenced to death by a court in the self-proclaimed and unrecognised  ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ in Eastern Ukraine. Donetsk has been at the epicentre of the rapidly escalating conflict between Putin’s forces, Russian separatists, and fierce Ukrainian resistance. The Governor of Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, stated recently at a briefing that “The Lyman and Izyum fronts are the main directions in which the enemy is trying to advance in order to capture the territories of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, (their) key aims in the north of the region.” In response to Russian forces advancing deeper into Ukrainian territory and the vast number of displaced Ukrainian refugees, Ukrainian citizens and those who have chosen to call Ukraine home have taken up arms against Russian forces with conflict heavily concentrated in the east of the country.

Aiden Aislin and Shaun Pinner have been living in Ukraine since 2018 and are long-standing members of the Ukrainian military. Both men surrendered to Russian forces during a siege of the Azovstal steelworks plant in Mariupol and were subsequently convicted on charges of being mercenaries and engaging in terrorist activities, according to the official Russian news outlet TASS. Both men have been sentenced to death as a result. They have been given one month to appeal the conviction which, if successful, would result in a 25-year prison sentence instead.

According to the Third Geneva Convention of 1949 which details the rights and rules for treatment of prisoners of war (POWs), all such prisoners are entitled to be protected whilst outside the reach of their own government. The convention states that in the event of capture, POWs are to be treated with “respect for their person and their honour”, must not be subject to coercive interrogation or treated as if they have committed a crime. The doctrine of combatant immunity clearly outlines that there should not be any attempt to punish or prosecute POWs regardless of the number of casualties they have inflicted on opposition forces.

It is imperative that Russia condemns the conviction of Aidan Aislin and Shaun Pinner, advocates for restraint from Russian separatists and ensures that both men are treated as POWs in accordance with the terms of the Third Geneva Convention. Russia and Russian separatists must reject both death sentences and ensure that they are treated humanely and in accordance with international law. The Geneva Conventions were an unprecedented yet necessary development in the protection of the rights of POWs to ensure that the mistakes of the past were never repeated again. Russia and Russian separatists must therefore not ignore the significance of these conventions and must seek a peaceful resolution to this issue.