Hundreds of trade unionists from maritime unions affiliated with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) today expressed their support and solidarity with Captain Gennadiy Gavrylov and called on the Sri Lankan government to expedite his safe return home.
Gavrylov, a Ukrainian seafarer, has been prevented from leaving Sri Lanka since his arrest on 23 June 2016 in connection with an ongoing police investigation relating to the Sri Lankan flagged vessel Avant Garde (IMO 8107036).
ITF president Paddy Crumlin, ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton and Oleg Grigoryuk, vice president of the Maritime Transport Workers Union of Ukraine (MTWTU), met with Captain Gavrylov during the ITF’s Maritime Roundtable conference.
Maritime unions from around the world pledged their support for Gavrylov’s struggle.
In October 2015, the Avant Garde was anchored outside Sri Lankan waters on the orders of the company operating the vessel. Capt. Gavrylov was awaiting clearance to bring the vessel into port when the vessel was seized by Sri Lankan authorities and forced to enter Sri Lankan waters. The vessel remained in port and Capt. Gavrylov remained on the vessel as its master. Then on the 23 June 2016, Capt. Gavrylov was arrested in relation to the illegal importation of arms and has since been unable to leave Sri Lanka.
“In anchoring the Avant Garde outside Sri Lankan waters, and subsequently entering Sri Lankan waters on the orders of the Sri Lankan Navy, it is clear that Capt. Gavrylov never intended to commit any crime. He was merely following what he believed to be legitimate orders issued by his employer and the Sri Lankan authorities,” said ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton.
Capt. Gavrylov has not been formally charged with any crime. During his three years of detention, Capt. Gavrylov has been restricted in his ability to contact his family, has been prevented from leaving Sri Lanka and thereby prevented from earning a living. This has caused significant stress to both Capt. Gavrylov and his family. Also Capt. Gavrylov is suffering from a serious heart issue and doctors have informed him that his condition requires surgery in the Ukraine.
“The fact that he remains in Sri Lanka three years after his arrest, and nearly four years after he first arrived is a clear breach of his human rights and a classic example of criminalisation. Criminalisation occurs when seafarers are charged with offences related to their role at sea and is an issue with a rising profile at both the ILO and IMO. While charges may be justified, it is important that seafarers, and all people, are treated fairly and have access to justice. Capt. Gavrylov has been denied justice and, we believe has been unfairly criminalised,” said ITF president Paddy Crumlin.
International law is clear on the rights of individuals who are subject to detention by state authorities. These rights are contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 9 of the ICCPR states that every person has the right to liberty and that any person “arrested or detained on a criminal charge… shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release.” This principal, and others contained in the ICCPR, are reflected in Article 13 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
The MTWTU has been and is actively exploring all diplomatic avenues to ensure Capt. Gavrylov’s safe and immediate return to Ukraine so that he can receive the much needed medical attention.
“The ITF chose to hold our conference in Sri Lanka to show support, solidarity and compassion to the people of Sri Lanka after the tragic events in April this year and we trust the Sri Lankan government to show the same compassion to the Captain and expedite his safe return home” said Crumlin.