Day 1921 - Paul Whelan - IK-17 Mordovia Russia - April 1, 2024 - Widespread Support and Waiting

We were grateful last week to see Paul's name in statements made by President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, Ambassador Tracy, and members of Congress, including Congressional leadership, and the Senate Foreign Relations Commitee.  Just as with President Biden's State of the Union address, we take this as a public re-commitment by the U.S. government to bring Paul home to his family.  Paul has already been put through five years of injustice by the Kremlin.  We will hold the President and his Administration to this commitment to prevent it becoming 16 years.

We are also heartened by the first public acknowledgement of Paul's wrongful detention by the Canadian government.  Global Affairs Canada has shown leadership in gathering support for the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention and we are glad that they are finally connecting the concept to those suffering its effects.  Their support and acknowledgement of the Russian government's use of Paul as a bargaining chip gives us hope that Canada and other signatories to the Declaration will be taking a more forward-leaning posture.

It's remarkable to realize that the Levinson Act, the Declaration, Executive Order 14078, and the Congressional Task Force on American Hostages and Americans Wrongfully Detained Abroad all have come into being in the 63 months that Paul has been held hostage.  It is unfortunate how much of this framework had to be built while innocent people wait in labor camps and prisons around the world. It is clearly not yet enough to stop states from taking foreign citizens hostage to extort concessions. A more coordinated effort by those governments and entities working to bring it to an end will be the key.  Like sanctions, time will tell.

Paul's life, as with so many prisoners, is a mostly mundane routine.  The biggest concern is that, after more than 5 years of malnutrition, lack of preventative medical care, and human rights violations including physical assaults, Paul's physical and mental health can only be on the decline, no matter how upbeat he tries to appear. Paul learned in March that a broken tooth is beyond repair so he will wait until the dentist is able to return to have it extracted.  Just as with his hernia surgery, care only comes when it's too late or doesn't come at all.  Deterioration that is invisible until it has an outward manifestation, like that tooth, will go undetected until he is home, I expect.  Hopefully freedom will also not come too late.

Mail continues to reach Paul in fits and bursts, mostly after any visit by Embassy officials, showing that it could be given to Paul at any time but isn't.  A recent visit by the Canadian ambassador in March led to more mail being released.  We are still waiting for books, sent from Moscow in December, to be given to him.  Letters can take 3-6 months from leaving the US to arrive in Paul's hands, but each one is like gold.  If you are able to include or point to the address for mail, we would be grateful as mail and news from the outside is crucial to keeping Paul's morale up.  We remain concerned about him being moved.  There has been no decision whether IK-17 will be consolidated although it seems to be a nationwide issue.  The devil you know.