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European Court of Human Rights: Russian security services involved in abduction of rights activist and journalists

posted 20 Mar 2017, 07:27 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Mar 2017, 07:49 ]

14 March 2017

Source: HRO.org [original source: Memorial Human Rights Centre]

On 14 March 2017 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a decision regarding case No. 5632/10 ‘Orlov and others v Russia

The applicants in the case were the chair of the board of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, Oleg Orlov (at present – a member of the board), and journalists from the TV company Ren-TV – Artem Vysotsky, Stanislav Gorychikh, and Karen Sakhinov. 

The applicants were abducted by armed individuals on the night of 23-24th November 2007 from the hotel ‘Assa’ (in Nazran, Ingushetiia), they were hooded, carried off to an isolated place where they were threatened with being shot, savagely beaten and thrown into a snowy field. All their documents, money, personal belongings and computers, and the journalists’ TV recording equipment, were taken from them. 

The ECtHR found that responsibility for their illegal detention, inhuman treatment and the illegal taking of their belongings lies with the Russian authorities. The authorities are also responsible for there being no proper investigation of the crimes. The ECtHR found violations of the right to liberty and security of person (Article 5 of the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms), of the ban on inhuman treatment (Article 3 of the Convention), and of the right to property (Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 of the Convention). 

The applicants were represented by Dokka Itslaev and Kirill Koroteyev, lawyers from the Memorial Human Rights Centre, and by Bill Bowring from the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), London. 

The ECtHR noted that the authorities did not dispute the version of events presented by the applicants but argued that representatives of the State were not responsible for the crime. However, from the start of the investigation those leading it had information on the involvement of the security services in the crime. But no steps were taken to ascertain who were the concrete individuals who had been responsible for the crime. 

Among facts relevant to the case, the ECtHR drew particular attention to the removal of the security guards at the hotel Assa before the arrival of the abductors, despite the fact that high-ranking representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs were staying there. In addition the Court drew attention to statements of hotel staff that the abductors were members of the law enforcement agencies, the abductors’ interest in the personal details of the applicants while showing no interest in the other residents, the organized nature of their actions, and their travelling in a minibus, with no number plates, through the checkpoint. 

Each of the applicants was awarded 19,500 euros as compensation for moral damages. 

For more information about the case in Russian, see here.

Translated by Mary McAuley

Vera Vasilieva on the Pichugin case: "I personally cannot help feeling ashamed when a major country goes beyond mere banditry and behaves like a small-time hooligan"

posted 20 Mar 2017, 05:57 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Mar 2017, 06:06 ]

13 March 2017

By Vera Vasilieva

Source: HRO.org 

Russia’s failure to comply with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)  in the Yukos cases was criticised at the session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe which took place last week.

In the first of these cases, former shareholders in the oil company Yukos were awarded EUR 1.9 billion in compensation by the ECtHR in 2014.

The second case involves Aleksei Pichugin, the former head of the Internal Economic Security Department of Yukos, and has not attracted anywhere near as much media interest or commentary as the first “economic” case.

Aleksei Pichugin has now been recognised as a political prisoner by the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Centre, and I believe that his situation is so unjust that it should not go uncommented.

The ECtHR handed down a ruling on 23 October 2012 on the first complaint submitted by Aleksei Pichugin and his defence team in relation to the first criminal case brought against him.

The Strasbourg court found that Russia had violated Article 6 (“right to a fair trial”) and Article 5 (“right to liberty and security”) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms during the proceedings against the political prisoner Pichugin.

The unjust conviction was overturned and the case referred to Moscow City Court, since there was no other way to remedy the violations committed by the judge Natalya Olikhver in connection with Pichugin’s trial.

The rulings of the Strasbourg court are more than mere recommendations; they have a binding effect on Russia, which is part of the European legal system. Article 15(4) of the Constitution of the Russian Federal enshrines the precedence of international over national legislation.

Regardless of this fact, on 23 October 2013, or exactly one year later, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ignored the ECtHR ruling on Pichugin’s case, even though the latter had waited almost 10 years for his unjust conviction to be overturned.

The judges of the highest judicial instance in Russia (Petr Serkov, Vladimir Davydov, Magomed Magomedov, Vasily Nechayev, Nikolay Timoshin, Anatoly Tolkachenko and Vladimir Khomchik) merely annulled the conditions of extended arrest which had been imposed on the ex-Yukos employee by the Basmanny district court and the Moscow City Court during the proceedings.

Before the end of 2013, Pichugin and his defence team had appealed to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in connection with the unjust conviction.

In 2014, the Russian authorities notified the Committee (which monitors compliance by national authorities with the rulings of the Strasbourg court) that they had complied with the ECtHR ruling on the Pichugin case.

Pichugin had to spend another three and a half years waiting in a prison colony for lifers known as the “Black Dolphin” (Federal Government Institution Penal Colony No. 6 in the city of Sol-Iletstk in the Orenburg Region) and the “Lefortovo” maximum-security pretrial detention facility, which boasts the harshest conditions in Moscow.

In my personal experience as a journalist, this is unquestionably the longest wait I have ever seen for an appeal granted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to be put into effect.

Pichugin did not even receive the compensation of EUR 9,500 granted for court expenses and moral damages (which is merely symbolic, since no money can make up for the fact that an innocent person spent 13 and a half years behind bars); the money was frozen in his bank account.

Lawyers attempted in vain to find out why the money was frozen. Aleksei Pichugin, who has always protested his innocence, had long repaid any monies owed to persons found to have suffered damages in connection with the civil actions against him.

It was only on the day before the latest session of the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe that the court bailiffs unfroze the compensation which had been awarded to Pichugin by the Strasbourg court.

The defence team learned from the court bailiffs that the archives proving payment of the monies owing under the civil actions in 2007 had somehow been destroyed, which is why the account had been frozen.

So why were the documents eventually found after all? There is of course no point asking whether anyone will be held legally accountable for the unwarranted freezing of the account.

Financial compensation is naturally of secondary importance in this situation, but I personally cannot help feeling ashamed when a major country goes beyond mere banditry and behaves like a small-time hooligan.

The main task now is overturning the unlawful conviction. 

Irina Kizilova: Alternative Service Youth Are Helping You

posted 20 Mar 2017, 04:04 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Mar 2017, 04:06 ]

14 March 2017

Source: HRO.org

By Irina Kizilova, member of the board of the Perm region Office of the Memorial International Society and director of the human rights advice office 

Newspapers and letters come to your mailbox, and if you’re a pensioner, once a month the mail carrier brings your pension to your home. It may be that this responsibility has for a while been carried out not by the lady you’re used to but by a young man.

It may be you’re even surprised that this person has suddenly taken up a job like this, where, as you have heard from your mail carrier friend, they pay a little more than eight thousand roubles a month. After all, he could find something better, with a future!

Yes, of course, he could, if this youth were the usual civilian worker and not doing alternative service, that is, someone who, when he is drafted, instead of doing military service performs alternative civilian service (ACS).

At this moment, a civilian of draft age (18-27) chooses not where to work or what as but how to serve: carrying or not carrying a weapon. And this young man has chosen the latter, inasmuch as military service contradicts his convictions or beliefs.

It may be that he is keen on the pacifist ideas of the great Russian classic Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy or is steadfastly following peace-loving Christian precepts. How can he pick up a weapon and learn to kill?

No, he’s prepared to take the most unprestigious job (often alternative service workers, even those with a higher education, are sent to work as custodians or orderlies in hospitals or homes for the aged or disabled), just so he avoids the ordeal of carrying out the orders of military commanders. And it’s all right for them that ASC lasts not one year, like military service, but twenty-one months. After all, they will spend this period of time not in soldiers’ barracks but under their own roof or in the dorm their employer is required to provide.

Since 2002, Russian legislation has given citizens the right to substitute alternative civilian service for military service.

Perm Memorial put quite a lot of effort into persuading the Russian State Duma to pass the federal law “On Alternative Civilian Service.” In order to nudge Duma deputies toward this decision, our organization in the years 1998-2001 was one of the first in the country to conduct experiments on working out a Russian model for ACS. The draft federal law was written on the basis of those experiments.

This law gives this right - although the local officials in epaulets who work on military commissariats and members of draft boards far from always respect it, setting up obstacles to ACS for young men. If the boys whose rights are being violated go to Perm Memorial’s human rights advice office, which has been in operation since 1997, then here they will definitely get help. They will be told how to correctly write an application for ACS, how to take it to the military commissariat in order to meet the legally mandated deadline, and what to do if the draft board refuses to satisfy a request to substitute alternative for military service.

If required, associates of the advice office will help write a legal action to the court disputing the draft board’s incorrect decision and will themselves participate in the court’s civil hearing as the ACS applicant’s representative. And all this is totally free, since Memorial is a philanthropic organization.

And here’s what’s important: the activities of Perm Memorial connected with the defence of the rights of draft-age young men wholly corresponds to its charter objectives. Yes, our organization’s Charter says that one of the areas of its work is facilitating the development of citizens’ civic and legal self-awareness and the education of the younger generation in the spirit of a rule-of-law state. Perm Memorial not only defends the rights of draft-age youth but also provides legal education; we facilitate the development of their civic and legal self-awareness.

The idea of promoting alternative civilian service in Russia came to Perm Memorial’s directors when, in 1995, during the creation of the Memorial Museum of the History of Political Repressions “Perm-36,” we organized the first summer volunteer camp on its basis.

Among the volunteers was a young man from Germany, Tim Bose, who told us how in their country each young person, after graduating from high school, can choose how to serve: carrying a weapon or Zivildienst—civilian service. A year later, Tim came to Perm Memorial to perform his Zivildienst. He took care of lonely old women and men - victims of political repressions — in their homes and also established tender, almost familial relationships with them so that even many years later the old Perm women and men remembered with enormous warmth this young German who spoke Russian so poorly.

Looking at Tim, Perm volunteers started caring for lonely old women and men. This is how Memorial’s volunteer social service, which functions to this day, was born. Young people from this service look after lonely elderly people — victims of political repressions — and wash their apartments windows during the spring and autumn “Clean Windows” actions.

It was members of Memorial’s volunteer social service in Perm who were the first applicants for ACS. Participation in Memorial’s volunteer social service helps them prepare for the far from simple alternative civilian service.

In 2016, Perm Memorial, in connection with the “Right to an Alternative” project, which is supported by a “presidential” grant, provided free consultation for dozens of young draft-age men from all over Perm region, holding many informational and educational meetings with students at various educational institutions, organizing an interregional forum in Perm for people who were doing or applying for ACS, and publishing a booklet and brochure for teachers on how to inform pupils about their right to choose their way to serve society — carrying a weapon or in alternative civilian service.

Work on the “Right to an Alternative” project continues this year as well, moreover, not only in Perm region but also in towns in Sverdlovsk and Kirov provinces, the Republic of Mari El, Tatarstan, and Chuvashia.

Coordinators for our project are working there, creating conditions for free consultations for draft-age young men. This means that there will be more young men working in hospitals, homes for the aged and disabled, the post office, and elsewhere where there is an acute shortage of working hands felt today.

Translated by Marian Schwartz

The case of Crimean Tatar activist Ilmi Umerov

posted 13 Mar 2017, 02:25 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Mar 2017, 02:26 ]

3 March 2017

Source: HRO.org

The Investigative Committee has completed its investigation of the extremism case brought against Ilmi Umerova, a well- known activist of the Crimean Tatar people’s movement, Radio Svoboda has reported, citing Umerov’s own statement on Facebook.

The investigator provided the materials of the case to Ilmi Umerov and his lawyers with a deadline for them to examine them by 7th March 2017. They ran to three volumes of approximately 250 pages each.

After this date an indictment will be sent to the prosecutor’s office and then the case will go to court.

Umerov’s defence team expects that the trial will begin in a month.

Fifty-nine year old Umerov is accused of "Calling for the breaking up of the territorial integrity of Russia." The basis for his criminal prosecution is what he said on television: "It is necessary to force Russia to withdraw from the Crimea and Donbas". Umerov is currently under travel restrictions.

In response to requests by the infamous Russian Prosecutor of Crimea, Ms Poklonskaya, the Supreme Court of the Crimean Peninsula has adopted a declaration that the Mejlis [Council] of the Crimean Tatar people is an "extremist organization." This stance was not been successfully challenged in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

Human rights activists consider that this decision is unjust and deeply flawed. In particular, during the proceedings, they stressed that “the Mejlis is a body of democratic representation, and not an NGOm and that a legal action cannot be taken to classify such an organisaton as extremist and that its activities could not be considered extremist".

Kirill Koroteev, the senior lawyer for Memorial Human Rights Centre has stressed: "With regard to the consequences of this decision: membership of an extremist organization is a crime under to Russian law. The thirty-three members of the Mejlis are in danger, and local authorities could extend their prosecution to the members of both the regional and local mejlises, in which case the repressions could touch hundreds of lives." 

Translated by Graham Jones

International Memorial Society: Statement on the Boris Nemtsov memorial march

posted 2 Mar 2017, 02:46 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 2 Mar 2017, 02:48 ]

23 February 2017

Source: HRO.org

‘International Memorial Society calls upon all those who are not indifferent to Russia’s future to join in the March or to participate in actions in memory of Boris Nemtsov in other cities.’ 

*** 
‘Two years ago, on the night of the 27th of February 2015, in the centre of Moscow, a hundred yards from the Kremlin, Boris Nemtsov was shot dead. It was a political assassination, not the first in post-communist Russia, and there’s no guarantee that it will be the last. The responsibility for creating an atmosphere of hatred towards any dissenting opinion clearly rests with the Russian authorities. It is that hatred which results in the murders.

On 26th February, on the eve of the second anniversary of the assassination, the ‘Boris Nemtsov March’ will take place in Moscow. Its participants wish to honour the memory of Boris Nemtsov, to demand that not only the killers but also those responsible for organizing this and other political assassinations in Russia are punished, to demand the freeing of political prisoners, an end to the persecution of dissidents, and the establishment of hard and fast guarantees for civil and political rights in the country.

The March will go from Strastnoi Boulevard along the Boulevard ring road, and then along Sakharov Prospekt (almost to where it crosses the Sadovaya ring road).

Participants are to assemble between 13.00 and 14.00 p.m. at the start of Strastnoi Boulevard (metro stations Pushkinskaya, Tverskaya, Chekovskaya). Start 14.00.

The March’s organizing committee has agreed the route and time with the Moscow authorities.

International Memorial Society calls upon all those who are not indifferent to Russia’s future to join the March or to participate in actions in memory of Boris Nemtsov in other cities.’

Board of the International Memorial Society

Translated by Mary McAuley

Human Rights Council says rights defenders should have automatic right of access to pre-trial detention facilities and prisons

posted 26 Feb 2017, 09:50 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Feb 2017, 09:56 ]

16 February 2017

Source: HRO.org

The Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights will ask the State Duma to amend current legislation to permit members of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights to visit penitentiary institutions without special permission from the Federal Penitentiary Service.

The head of the Council, Mikhail Fedotov, explained this, Rosbalt reports citing RBK. The chair of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights recalled that in the last week the Federal Penitentiary Service refused to permit members of the Council to visit Karelian prisons from which human rights activists have received reports of torture.

The chair of the Council reported that the Deputy Director of the Federal Penitentiary Service, Valery Boyarinev, in response to a request by human rights activists, remarked that “members of the Council are not entitled to visit the pre-trial detention facilities located in prisons to monitor observance of the law.”

The head of the Council explained that current legislation does not establish a right to prohibit inspections of places of detention, but at the same time does not lay down that inspectors can do so visit these facilities without the permission of the Federal Penitentiary Service. “We sent the request beforehand, as we’ve always done, and each time we’ve received a completely positive response. In this instance, something went wrong,” said Fedotov.

“There is only one way out of this situation – propose that the State Duma amends the law and adds to the list of people who have automatic access to places of detention the members of the Presidential Human Rights Council. In accordance with the regulations of the Council, we are obliged to report regularly to the President on human rights in the country. We will have to tell the President that we cannot carry out the mission assigned to us, because we are not allowed in the prison colony,” said the head of the Council.

According to Fedotov, the Council will prepare a report for the President on this situation, which will also contain such a proposal.

Translated by Kate Goodby 

'Foreign Agent' law: NGO Lawyers’ Club wins quashing of fines against NGO Esvero

posted 26 Feb 2017, 09:00 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Feb 2017, 09:05 ]

20 February 2017

Source: HRO.org

The NGO lawyers’ Club has won the quashing of unjust fines imposed on the NGO Esvero, known for its activity in the field of preventing the spread of HIV infections among hard-to-reach population groups.

Moscow City Court cancelled a fine of 300,000 roubles imposed earlier by a court of first instance because the organisation did not voluntarily register on the list of so-called “foreign agents”.

From 16th May till 10th June 2016 the Ministry of Justice Department for Moscow conducted an unscheduled inspection of the Esvero Non-Profit Partnership for the Support of Socio-Medical Prevention Programmes in the Field of Public Health, in the course of which it came to the conclusion that the organisation received foreign funding and conducted political activity.

It is very surprising that the Ministry of Justice officials regarded as “foreign funding” the receipt of funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, strictly for the purposes of combatting the spread of HIV infection in Russia.

Esvero actively worked in the regions, providing support for regional organisations in their activities in preventing the spread of HIV and in their work with HIV positive people living in various corners of the country.

The donation in 2013-14 to the organisation Sotsium in Saratov region is the only fact of so-called “political activity” by Esvero referred to in the decision of the Ministry of Justice Department for Moscow. The donation was used by Sotsium for a philanthropic project to lowering the rate of growth of HIV / AIDS infections in the town of Engels and in 32 other towns. “In Russia, every day there is an increase in the number of people infected with HIV. To put a stop to the epidemic it is essential to have the cooperation of all interested parties – the government, society, NGOs”, said Max Olenichev, directed of the legal service NGO Lawyers’ Club.

“However instead of giving support, the government includes such organisations in the register of ‘foreign agents,’ which only facilitates the spread of the epidemic. We shall continue to give legal assistance to organizations working on HIV-related issues, since the position of the government that for an NGO to work on preventing the spread of the HIV virus is political activity is absurd.”

The NGO Lawyers’ Club suggests that the law “on foreign agents” negatively impacts on the existence of civil society and should be repealed.

Translated by Frances Robson

***

The period 2015-16 has seen a tightening of (often arbitrary) state control over NGOs in Russia and the creation of new legal problems threatening their existence. As pointed out in a study entitled “Contrary to the Development of Civil Activism: Russian NGOs Following the Adoption of the ‘Foreign Agents’ Law,” this has put in jeopardy both the legal existence of NGOs and their activities as an essential element of an independent civil society. 

By the end of 2015, 109 Russian NGOs had been registered as “foreign agents." Organisations named by Justice Ministry officials as “agents” have been ordered to pay disproportionately large fines. They have faced reputational and financial costs, and some have been forced into liquidation. 

The NGOs most likely to be targeted and persecuted are those working on environmental and human rights issues. At its 70th session in 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recognising the important role played by human rights defenders and their need for protection. The resolution was supported by 117 UN member-states. 

In a special report published in 2015, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, Nils Muiznieks, noted that “the new regulations have led to the closure of a whole number of human rights organisations, while other NGOs are now engaging in self-censorship, protecting themselves by refusing to take part in actions that might be defined as political.” 

The international human rights organisation Memorial underlined in a special report that “…the conception of the Law on ‘Foreign Agents’ is not based on the principle of the rule of law. There is no problem that this law would resolve. It is clear that the intentions of those who initiated this law were purely political and that the law’s wording is deliberately ambiguous. The Law effectively introduces the presumption of guilt for an artificially selected group of organisations...”. 

The world’s largest human rights organisation, Amnesty International, has argued that “the ‘so-called’ Law on Foreign Agents is one of a series of measures aimed at suppressing civil society and freedom of expression [in Russia].” 

Russian NGOs have repeatedly expressed their opposition to the law and appealed against it, including to the European Court of Human Rights. 

Human rights defenders argue that the law is clearly discriminatory and has an extremely negative historical context. Ninety members of the Russian PEN Centre, together with historians, members of the Free Historical Society and other Russian academics have appealed to the Ministry of Justice demanding an end to the arbitrary treatment of NGOs listed as "foreign agents."

‘Foreign agents’ as reflected in a sociological survey

posted 23 Feb 2017, 02:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2017, 02:41 ]

13 February 2017

Source: HRO.org 

The Yury Levada Centre has conducted a survey on Russian attitudes to the ‘foreign agent’ law and to those who have suffered as a result of its implementation.

The results of a sociological survey by the Levada Centre on public attitudes to amendments to the law ‘on non-profit organizations’ are included among materials published by the permanent commission on the development of NGOs, which is attached to the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (the ‘Human Rights Council’). The survey was carried out in December 2016 in 48 regions of the country. The results show that, despite the law having been in existence for 5 years, and 150 organizations being listed in the Ministry of Justice’s register, the majority of Russians – nearly 70% of those surveyed – are unaware of its existence. Roughly 20% of those answering the survey had heard of the law but have no clear idea of what it is about. Only 2-3% think that they do have a clear understanding.

Among those who had heard of the law, more than half (56%) are convinced that the law is intended ‘to limit the West’s negative influence on our country’. Given that few knew of the law, people were asked of their reaction to the expression ‘foreign agent’. The following emerged: the expression has a wholly negative connotation for the population (despite all the assertions of the chair of the Constitutional Court that today the phrase has lost the negative connotation it had in the Soviet period). For almost 60% of those surveyed the expression has negative associations, for 30% - none in particular – and for 3% (yes, there are such) it has a positive meaning.

The most widespread category of notions connected with the expression ‘foreign agent’, which appeared when the survey used an open question (respondents answer without suggestions offered by the sociologists) is related to espionage: in this group a foreign agent is ‘a spy working for foreign intelligence,’ ‘a CIA guy,’ ‘a double agent,’ ‘a recruiter’, and ‘an infiltrator,’ and so on. These descriptions are shared by 45% of respondents.

The next most widely held group of notions, shared by 7% of respondents, is connected with ‘an enemy of the people’ (‘an enemy of Russia’, ‘traitor’, ‘renegade’), while 4% proffered neutral images associated with economic activities. For 3% of the population the term ‘foreign agent’ is associated with the James Bond and Stirlitz films.

Even the asking of questions relating to ‘foreign agents’ produced negative and aggressive responses from some.

Translated by Mary McAuley

Public approval of Stalin highest for 16 years

posted 23 Feb 2017, 02:15 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2017, 02:18 ]

15 February 2017

Source: HRO.org

Sociologists have reported that “public approval of Stalin’s activities has reached its highest point in 16 years” among Russians surveyed in the provinces.

In January 2017, 46% of Russians surveyed approved of the dictator’s activities, reports RBK, citing the results of the survey carried out by the Levada Centre.

In March 2016, 37% of those questioned regarded Stalin with “admiration”, “respect” and “affection”.

At the same time, Dozhd notes that the number of respondents who have a negative view of his activities has increased by 4% to 21% compared with 2016.

According to Aleksei Grazhdankin, deputy director of the Levada Centre, the positive attitude of Russians towards Stalin is related to the fact that they associate him with order in the country. “The worse the situation in the country and the more challenges being faced by the state, the more a need for leaders with a hard-line position takes hold in the public consciousness,” noted Grazhdankin.

According to those questioned, their top three leaders also included Leonid Brezhnev and Vladimir Putin.

Translated by Nicky Brown

Human Rights Council monitoring prosecution of historian Yury Dmitriev

posted 23 Feb 2017, 01:56 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2017, 02:00 ]

13 February 2017

Source: HRO.org

Sergei Krivenko (pictured): The Presidential Council for Human Rights is monitoring the investigation into the case against the Karelian historian Yury Dmitriev

Sergei Krivenko, a member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights of the Russian Federation, announced during a joint meeting with the Human Rights Council of Karelia that the members of the Standing Committee of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights on Precedents are monitoring the case brought against Yury Dmitriev, the head of the Karelian branch of Memorial, against whom pornography charges have been brought.

The website of the Presidential Council for Human Rights quotes Sergei Krivenko as saying, “The committee began monitoring the case as soon as the news broke about Yury Dmitriev’s arrest. All Russian citizens are entitled to protection…. Certain groups of people, such as solicitors, lawyers, journalists and human rights activists, stand apart from the rest, and cases involving individual members of these groups should be handled with particular care in order to ensure that they are not being persecuted for their activities.”

He said that human rights activists who had visited Karelia between 8 and 10 February 2017 had discussed the case with representatives of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and Dmitriev’s defence team.

According to Krivenko, “We visited the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Child Protection Services, and we met Yury Dmitriev’s lawyer and talked to members of his family. The documents which we saw suggested that the case had been trumped up, to put it mildly. Investigations are now underway, and we very much hope that the forthcoming examination by the court will be impartial.”

According to the information provided by representatives of the agencies in charge of the custody and guardianship of minors, no criticisms were lodged during the entire period the foster child was living with Dmitriev, who acted in the capacity of official guardian; this is confirmed by the exclusively positive testimonials received by the Child Protection Services from the child’s polyclinic and school.

Yury Dmitriev is a former recipient of the literary prize “Golden Pen of Rus” and a father of three children, as well as being a leading investigator into sites of political repression in the region.

Dmitriev is most famous for his work as the driving force behind the setting up of the Sandarmokh memorial complex, the largest in Karelia, which was built on a site where thousands of political prisoners were executed and buried during the Soviet era. A Day of Remembrance and Mourning is held there every year on 5 August, attended by people from all over the world.

The Human Rights Council had previously asked the Investigative Committee to review the legality of the criminal case instigated against the human rights activist; the latter confirmed that such a review had been set in motion, and that its outcome would be forwarded to the Council.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

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