Political Asylum for Melnychenko

February 26, 2001

The Honourable Elinor Caplan
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Fax 957 2688

Dear Minister,

Canada has often granted political asylum to those who at great risk to themselves and their families work for democracy. These actions signal Canada's commitment to high standards in the protection of human rights. A recent case is that of a retired Russian submarine officer who revealed dangers posed by spent nuclear materials improperly disposed of by the military. Subsequently charged by his government with treason, he and his family were granted political asylum by Canada.

It is with regret that we feel obliged to call your attention to an analogous situation in Ukraine. You will no doubt be aware of the brutal death of journalist Hrehoryj Gongadze. The case involves a newly-retired member of the Ukrainian Presidential security detail, Major Mykola Melnychenko. His secretly-taped conversations from the President's Office which appear to implicate the most senior levels of government, including the President, in improper and possibly illegal activities, including the disappearance of Mr. Gongadze.

Major Melnychenko has been charged with treason by the Ukrainian government and has gone, with his family, into hiding outside of Ukraine. Although the Council of Europe has asked its members not to extradite Melnychenko to Ukraine, he has good cause to fear for his safety and that of his family. According to media reports, he has asked, as yet without success, for political asylum in the West.

The purpose of this letter is to ask Canada to give positive and quick consideration to offering Mykola Melnychenko and his family asylum in Canada through appropriate channels. As there is no form of contact between our organization and the individual, we cannot say if he would accept the offer. Even if he were to decline, the very fact it was made would be a positive signal to those who support the rule of law, the integrity of political office, and freedom of the press in Ukraine. Also, it would further Canada's reputation as a champion of these principles.

We look forward to hearing from you on this critical matter.

Yours truly,

Oksana Bashuk Hepburn

John P. Manley, Minister
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Mr. Eugene Czolij, President
Ukrainian Canadian Congress