Paul Whelan has been held hostage by the Russian government for 1,300 days as of tomorrow [7/20/2022]. It's a milestone none of our family wanted to reach. Paul has been in Russian detention for so long that children born since his arrest could start pre-school this year.
We continue to wait for the U.S. government to take action to gain Paul's release. We take some hope that Ms. Zakharova's statement that the Russian government is open to discussing prisoner exchanges can be taken at face value. Now we will see if the U.S. and Russian governments, perhaps with the help of Governor Richardson, can find a solution to bring Paul home.
The Executive Order signed by President Biden appears to be huge progress. It animates the spirit of the Robert Levinson Act and puts teeth into the U.S. government's approach to wrongful detentions of Americans. It will not in and of itself bring Paul home. But it is a good first step to start to attempt to deter future wrongful detentions of Americans. Our family is grateful for the President's leadership and hope that other signatories to the 2021 Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention will follow his example, including Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. We will submit names to the U.S. government in Paul's case and look for them to punish the perpetrators in the Russian government who have wrongfully detained Paul and abused his human rights. Believe me, we've kept receipts.
It is worth noting the relative speed with which the Biden Administration is moving. It took the US government over 3 years to provide our family with a letter saying Paul was wrongfully detained. In the last 18 months, the U.S. government appears to be moving more quickly to label cases as wrongful detainment and this Executive Order gives some hope that they will be similarly rapid in response to nation-state hostage-taking of Americans. Hopefully, the bite will be worse than the bark.
I was particularly grateful for this acknowledgment of the families of wrongful detainees:
This E.O. is informed by our regular communications with the families and other stakeholders who have undertaken incredible advocacy efforts on behalf of their loved ones. The Biden-Harris Administration appreciates the continued diligence of such families and considers them essential partners in our efforts to bring Americans home.
FACT SHEET: The Biden Administration Builds on Efforts to Bring Home American Hostages and Wrongful Detainees
The Executive Order is a good next step. Hopefully, it will mean that other Americans will not have to spend 1,300 days in a hostile government's prisons.