The case of Norwegian journalist Thomas Nilsen's ban on entering Russia

posted 26 Oct 2017, 02:12 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Oct 2017, 02:44 ]
17 October 2017


Pictured below: Thomas Nilsen

The 'Team 29' group of human rights lawyers has lodged an appeal against the non-admission into Russia of Norwegian journalist Thomas Nilsen, whom the Security Services have banned from travelling into the country for five years.

Thomas Nilsen is editor-in-chief of The Barents Observer, which regularly covers Russia, and the travel ban will significantly impair the work of the publication.

In March this year Thomas Nilsen was refused entry into Russia by guards at the Russia-Norway border, who informed him that he was banned from travelling into Russia. The border guards, it should be noted, broke the law: as a minimum, they had a duty to show Nilsen the travel ban decision and to provide him with the details of the decision, along with an interpreter. Strangely enough, none of that happened, reports the prominent lawyer Ivan Pavlov.

Thomas Nilsen had an accreditation and a five-year Russian visa, but this did not stop anyone. It later transpired that the relevant decision had been made by the FSB, but the reasons for it are anyone's guess. Entry was denied, "on grounds of national security," but of course no explanation as to exactly what threat the journalist posed to Russia was given.

The human rights defenders have since filed a complaint against the actions of the border guards with the Pechengsky district court, Murmansk region. The latter refused to recognise the actions of the border guard officials as unlawful but did provide the details of the FSB decision, which they had been refusing to hand over to Nilsen all this time. The lawyers have now brought a suit to Moscow's Meshchansky district court and are challenging the security services’ decision itself.

The FSB decision violates the journalist's rights to travel into Russia and the right to freedom of expression, including the right to practise as a journalist. Needless to say, the "threat to national security" allegedly posed by Nilsen is among the most elastic concepts in Russian legislation, and the authorities prefer not to explain to citizens what threat it is that they allegedly pose.

A preliminary hearing in the case will be held at midday on 18 October 2017 in the Meshchansky District Court, Moscow. Human rights defenders invite journalists to support their colleague. ‘Team 29’ lawyer Max Olenichev is working on the case.

Translated by Lindsay Munford