Legal Case of the Week
On 14 March 2017 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled Russia was behind a 2007 attack in Ingushetia on human rights defender Oleg Orlov and three journalists from the Russian REN-TV channel. The four individuals were in Ingushetia to cover protests over the death of a child during a security operation. The ECtHR found Russia responsible for illegal detention, inhuman treatment and illegal taking of belongings (violations of the right to liberty and security of person [Article 5 of the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms], the ban on inhuman treatment and torture [Article 3 of the Convention], and of the right to property [Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 of the Convention]. Russia was also found responsible for there being no proper investigation of the crimes. As RFE/RL reported, the European Court of Human Rights also ordered Russia to pay 84,000 euros in compensation for "illegal freedom deprivation and torture."
Oleg Orlov and the three journalists (Artem Vysotsky, Stanislav Gorychikh, and Karen Sakhinov) were staying the night of 23-24 November 2007 in the Assa Hotel in Nazran, Ingushetia, when, as Memorial Human Rights Centre reports, 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 documents, money, personal belongings and computers, and TV recording equipment belonging to the four were taken from them. 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.
'European Court Says Russian State Behind 2007 Attack On Rights Defender,' RFE/RL, 14 March 2017
'ЕСПЧ вынес решение о похищении в Ингушетии в 2007 году председателя Совета Правозащитного центра «Мемориал» Олега Орлова и журналистов телекомпании РЕН-ТВ,' Memorial Human Rights Centre, 14 March 2017
'European Court of Human Rights: Russian security services involved in abduction of rights activist and journalists,' HRO.org in English, 14 March 2017
On 3 March 2017 reports said the blogger Vladimir Luzgin, fined for stating that both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had invaded Poland in 1939, has applied to the European Court of Human Rights against his conviction. Halya Coynash writing for Human Rights in Ukraine on 6 March said, Luzgin "was left no alternative after Russia’s Supreme Court agreed that this unpalatable truth constituted ‘rehabilitation of Nazism’." Luzgin, who is from Perm, was convicted on 30 June 2016 and fined 200,000 roubles for reposting on his social network page an article entitled, ‘15 facts about Bandera supporters, or what the Kremlin is silent about’."
Halya Coynash wrote: "The Ukrainian theme, especially with respect to the Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, would have almost certainly attracted FSB [Russian security service] attention to Luzgin back in September 2015, however the criminal charges were brought over the following lines: 'The communists and Germany jointly invaded Poland, sparking off the Second World War. That is, communism and Nazism closely collaborated…' The first court considered this to be 'knowingly false information,' claiming as justification that the statement contradicted the facts set out in the Nuremberg Tribunal sentences. That verdict was upheld by Russia’s Supreme Court on September 16, 2016, the 77th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s s invasion of Poland, 17 days before the anniversary of the Soviet invasion from the east."
Luzgin became the first person to be convicted under Article 354.1 of the Russian Criminal Code. This law on ‘Rehabilitation of Nazism’, officially authored by Iryna Yarovaya, was signed into force on 5 May 2014. The law introduced a sentence of up to 3 years imprisonment for "public denial or approval of the facts established by the sentence of the Nuremberg Tribunal." As Coynash notes, "The same norm makes it possible to prosecute somebody for 'spreading knowingly false information about the activities of the USSR during the years of the Second World War'." In his application to the European Court of Human Rights, Luzgin alleges violations of Articles 10 (freedom of expression) and 7 (no punishment without law) of the European Convention. Luzgin is represented by Kirill Koroteev, senior lawyer at the Memorial Human Rights Centre.
Halya Coynash, 'Blogger fined for saying the USSR invaded Poland in 1939 takes Russia to Court in Strasbourg,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 6 March 2017
Анна Пушкарская, Евгений Хвостик, 'Страсбургский суд разберется с решениями Нюрнбергского трибунала,' Kommersant, 3 March 2017
'Legal Case of the Week: Vladimir Luzgin,' Rights in Russia, 4 July 2016German and Soviet officers in Brest, 1939, Wikipedia
On 26 February 2017 Ildar Dadin was released from prison in the Altai region, following the quashing of his conviction by the Supreme Court on 22 February 2017. As RFE/RL reported, Dadin was serving a 2 1/2 prison sentence as the first, and as yet only, person to have been convicted under a new law that introduced criminal liability for repeated violations of Russia's draconian laws on public assembly. While held in a prison in Karelia, Ildar Dadin alleged in a letter that he had been subjected to torture. As Dadin told The Moscow Times on his release. "Initially, he says, the prison authorities abused him verbally. Then, he was brought to the prison director's office, where he was hung by his wrists and threatened with rape. He was left hanging in his cell, he says, sure he would be raped. Dadin went to see the prison nurse, but she concluded there was no sign of abuse on his body. 'The problem is the sadists know how to beat [so nobody notices],' he says. Instead, the prison director beat him for appealing to the nurse and starting a hunger strike, Dadin alleges." Tom Balmforth, in an article published by Human Rights in Ukraine, reported that Dadin said he had been "broken" by the abuse he suffered in prison. Dadin says that he intends to take several months off to recover, but then intends to continue to campaign against torture in Russia.
In other news, on 3 March 2017 The Moscow Times reported that Russia had declined to fulfill recommendations by the European Court on Human Rights [ECtHR] on combating torture during police detention. In September 2016 the ECtHR had said that the Russian authorities should implement measures to combat police brutality after reviewing an application by Tatyana Shmelva, who alleges that her son, Denis Vyrzhikovsky was beaten to death in police custody in 2010. The Russian authorities have now stated they will not implement the proposed measures against torture.
On 2 March 2017 Caucasian Knot reported that Igor Kalyapin, prominent anti-torture campaigner and chair of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, has appealed to the head of the Grozny police department to open disciplinary proceedings against police officers who refused to initiate a criminal case with regard to an attack on him in the Chechen capital.
'Russian Activist Dadin Released From Prison,' RFE/RL, 26 February 2017‘ "Somebody Is Going to Be Beaten." Torture is still widespread in Russian prisons, released activist Ildar Dadin tells The Moscow Times,' The Moscow Times, 28 February 2017
Tom Balmforth, 'Freed from prison, Russian activist says he was ’broken’ by abuse,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 28 February 2017'Russia Rejects Rights Court's Recommendations for Combatting Police Torture,' The Moscow Times, 3 March 2017
'Igor Kalyapin challenges eighth refusal to institute criminal case on attack in Chechnya,' Caucasian Knot, 2 March 2017
Eva Hartog, 'Jailed Russian Dissident Pleads for His Life in Letter Home to Wife,' The Moscow Times, 6 November 2017
On 22 February 2017 the Supreme Court ordered the release of Ildar Dadin from prison, the BBC reported. Dadin has been serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence under the notorious Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code. As the BBC noted in its report, Dadin is the only person to have been prosecuted under the new Article 212.1 since its introduction. Article 212.1 penalises those found guilty of violating Russia's protest rules at least three times within 180 days. The sentence ranges from from a fine of 600,000 roubles to one million roubles and 'corrective labour' or up to five years in prison. Following a ruling on 10 February 2017 by the Constitutional Court in Dadin's case that Article 212.1 should not be applied where there was no threat to the public nor in cases where earlier court judgments concerning convictions had not entered into force, the Supreme Court decided that the criminal case against Dadin should be dismissed and he had a 'right to rehabilitation'.
However, on 24 February 2017 lawyers acting for Ildar Dadin appealed to the European Court of Human Rights for assistance in freeing Dadin, RFE/RL reported. Dadin continued to be held in a prison colony in the Altai region despite his sentence being annulled. RFE/RL reported: 'Officials in the penal colony in Altai Krai region in southern Siberia say they cannot free Dadin before they receive the original release order from the Supreme Court.'
On 26 February 2017, Ildar Dadin was finally released. On his release, as RFE/RL reported, Dadin told the independent online Dozhd channel: 'I will continue to fight against Putin's fascist regime. I will fight so that human rights are respected in Russia.'
In November 2016 Dadin alleged he had been tortured in prison in Karelia. BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford comments on the case that 'The imprisonment of Ildar Dadin had come to symbolise Russia's growing intolerance of dissent, and the fact that his sentence has been quashed does not change that. The rules on street protests are extremely strict here. People are routinely detained simply for standing in the street, as Ildar Dadin did, with a placard.'
'Ildar Dadin: Russian activist jail term quashed,' BBC, 22 February 2017'Russian Activist Ildar Dadin Released From Prison,' RFE/RL, 26 February 2017
'Dadin's Lawyers Ask European Court To Help Free Him After Sentence Revoked,' RFE/RL, 24 February 2017
Legal Case of the Week: Investigation into March 2016 attack on journalists and human rights defenders in Chechnya suspended
On 15 February 2017 Investigative Committee suspended its investigation into the March 2016 attack on a group of journalists and human rights activists in Chechnya, The Moscow Times reported. The Moscow Times quoted the lawyer acting for the victims of the attack, Andrei Sabinin, as saying that the case had instead been closed due to a lack of leads. The incident happened on 9 March 2016 when a gang of masked men attacked the minibus in which the group of journalists - Russian, Swedish and Norwegian - and members of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture were travelling near the Chechnya-Ingushetia border. They group were travelling in order to interview victims of torture and their families. Many had reported being followed by cars with Chechen number plates. The attack, which prompted international outrage and was condemned by the Kremlin, resulted in members of the group being hospitalized with broken bones. Their vehicle was torched. The Moscow Times quoted Tanya Lokshina, Russia's programme director at Human Rights Watch, as saying of the attack: "It is supposed to be a signal to journalists, including international reporters, asking them to think twice about whether it's really worth working with this organization, and going to Chechnya."
The day after the attack, as The Moscow Times reported, 'Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the country's Interior Ministry to take the case under control. He asked the ministry to probe into the circumstances of the incident and report on what happened. His statement came several hours after presidential aide Dmitry Peskov called an attack on the journalists “absolute hooliganism,” expressing “hope” Ingush law enforcement agencies would take “effective measures” to find those responsible.' For their part, Chechen authorities denied involvement in the attack, describing it as a 'publicity move' to promote the work of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture. In August 2016 Human Rights Watch issued a report on Chechnya which described journalism as 'the most dangerous profession' in the region.
Photo: Logo of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation
Source:'Russian Police Abandon Investigation Into Attack on Journalists in Chechnya,' The Moscow Times, 15 February 2017
On 10 February 2017 the Constitutional Court ruled Ildar Dadin’s case must be reviewed and the Criminal Code amended. As RFE/RL reports, Ildar Dadin was the first person convicted under 'a controversial new statute authorizing criminal prosecution of Russians who take part in more than one unsanctioned protest in a 180-day period.' Dadin is currently serving a 2.5 year sentence in a prison in Altai region, having been transferred there from a prison in Karelia where he alleged he had been the victim of torture. In its ruling, as RFE?RL reports, the Constitutional Court 'confirmed the government has the right to prosecute people for repeated noncriminal offences', however it also ruled that 'the authorities should base their application of the statue decisions on "the real scale of public danger" and only jail protesters after rallies that were not peaceful.' The Constitutional Court went on to propose that the legislation be amended accordingly.
Amnesty International issued a statement stating that the ruling of the Constitutional Court 'offers a rare glimmer of hope for the right to peaceful assembly' and called for the immediate release of Dadin, whom it has recognized as a prisoner of conscience. The same statement by Amnesty International reiterated that Dadin had been 'detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his rights.'
'Russian Constitutional Court Orders Review Of Jailed Activist Dadin's Case,' RFE/RL, 10 February 2017'Russia: Court offers "chink of light" in case brought by jailed protester Ildar Dadin,' Amnesty International, 10 February 2017
'Ildar Dadin,' Wikipedia
On 2 February 2017, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Russia to pay more than 63,000 euros in compensation to opposition politician and anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny for multiple violations of his right to peaceful protest, the BBC reported. The BBC describes Aleksei Navalny as 'Vladimir Putin's most prominent and vocal critic.' The BBC reports that in its ruling the European Court of Human Rights said Aleksei Navalny's right to peaceful protest had been violated multiple times during a series of political gatherings dating back to 2012. The ruling also said Navalny had been denied his right to a fair hearing. Navalny described the ruling as 'a kicking' for Russia's 'lying, corrupt and hypocritical justice system'.
The day before (1 February) Leninsky district court in Kirov, which is hearing the retrial of the Kirovles embezzlement case, prohibited Navalny from leaving Kirov until 10 February 2017, RAPSI reported. In February 2016, as RAPSI reports, the European Court of Human Rights had ruled that the right to a fair trial of Aleksei Navalny and his co-defendant Petr Ofitserov had been violated and 'ordered Russian authorities to compensate Navalny with €48,000 of legal costs and Ofitserov with €22,000. Additionally, Russia was obliged by court to pay 8,000 euro each in damages.' This was followed by a November 2016 ruling of the Supreme Court which, taking into account the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, set aside the convictions of Navalny and Ofitserov and sent the case for a retrial - which is now beig heard in Kirov. On 2 February the Leninsky district court in Kirov dismissed a motion by Navalny to summon all defence witnesses to give testimony at the court, RAPSI reported.
RFE/RL reported on 3 February 2017 that prosecutors on that day asked the judge to convict Aleksei Navalny and give him a suspended five-year sentence which would effectively bar him from taking part in future elections, including the presidential election in 2018. The judge said he would issue the verdict on February 8. RFE/RL reports: 'In a defiant final statement, Navalny accused "Putin's band" of stealing Russia's wealth from its people and vowed to continue his political activities regardless of the trial's outcome. He promised the judge and court staff that he would serve them and all other Russian citizens if elected president. When the judge ordered him to speak only about issues related to his case, Navalny said that everything he says is related to the case because the case is "politically motivated." "Unfortunately, in modern Russia a courtroom is the only platform where honest people, including me, are able to openly and freely express their political views," Navalny said.'
'Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny wins European human rights payout,' BBC, 2 February 2017
'Navalny’s motion for interrogation of witnesses in Kirovles case denied,' RAPSI, 2 February 2017'Navalny Denounces "Putin's Band" As Retrial Draws To Close,' RFE/RL, 3 February 2017
'Alexei Navalny', Wikipedia
On 24 January 2017 the chair of the Jehovah’s Witnesses branch in Dzerzhinsk was fined 4,000 roubles for ‘extremist’ literature. According to RAPSI, the Nizhny Novgorod Region Court announced on its website that day that the fine was imposed for 'for keeping and distributing extremist literature banned in Russia.' RAPSI reported that the materials in question consisted of two booklets, which were seized by the court. RAPSI reports that among the many legal problems the Jehovah's Witnesses have face in Russia are the following:
'On October 12, a court in the Jewish Autonomous Region ruled to ban a branch of “The Jehovah’s Witnesses” in Birobidzhan because of distributing extremist literature by the organization. On June 16, Russia’s Supreme Court declared “The Jehovah’s Witnesses of Stary Oskol” in the Belgorod Region an extremist organization and ruled to liquidate it. On June 9, the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Belgorod was banned as extremist organization. In March 2015, a court in Tyumen fined the organization 50,000 rubles ($792) and seized prohibited literature. In January 2014, a court in Kurgan ruled to ban the organization’s booklets as extremist. The books talk about how to have a happy life, what you can hope for, how to develop good relations with God and what you should know about God and its meaning. In late December 2013, the leader of the sect’s group in Tobolsk, Siberia was charged with extremism and the prevention of a blood transfusion that nearly led to the death of a female member of the group. In 2004, a court in Moscow dissolved and banned a Jehovah’s Witnesses group on charges of recruiting children, encouraging believers to break from their families, inciting suicide and preventing believers from accepting medical assistance.'
Photo of international headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses in Warwick, New York: Wikipedia
Source:'Chair of Jehovah’s Witnesses branch fined for distributing extremist literature,' RAPSI, 25 January 2017
On 19 January 2017 the Constitutional Court ruled Russia need not comply with a ruling of 31 July 2014 by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued in the case 'Yukos v Russia'. According to RAPSI, the Constitutional Court found that the ruling by the ECtHR 'contravenes the Russian Constitution.' Chair of the Constitutional Court Valery Zorkin was reported as saying that Russia is free to deviate from its obligations if it is the only way to avoid violation of the Constitution. On 12 October 2016 the Ministry of Justice made a formal request to the Constitutional Court to review the ruling by the ECtHR on the grounds that obligations placed on Russia by the ECtHR 'conflict' with the Constitution of the Russian Federation. RAPSI reports that in December 2016 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe said that it expects Russia to abide by its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and pay former Yukos shareholders the awarded compensation of €1.9 billion in compensation and €300,000 legal expenses to former Yukos shareholders.
RAPSI notes that at the end of 2015 'Russia's Constitutional Court was granted the right to recognize decisions of international courts, including Strasbourg based European Court of Human Rights, as non-executable.'
On 20 January 2017 the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Nils Muižnieks, said in a statement: 'Yesterday’s decision of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation on the Yukos case bears far-reaching consequences for human rights protection in Russia and elsewhere in Europe. Preventing the implementation of a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights weakens the safeguards for individuals and companies against possible State abuses. It also threatens the very integrity and legitimacy of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights, because it sends the signal that the standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law a State subscribes to when joining the Council of Europe can be disregarded at will. I therefore urge the Russian Government and Parliament to change the Federal law which gives the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation the power to prevent the implementation of judgments of the Strasbourg Court.'
Nils , Non-implementation of the Court’s judgments: our shared responsibility, Council of Europe, 20 January 2017
'Russia allowed not to abide by ECHR ruling on €1.9 bln compensation to Yukos,' RAPSI, 19 January 2017
On 9 January 2017 the trial began in St. Petersburg of yoga teacher Dmitry Ugai [also written 'Dmitry Ugay' in English] on charges of illegal missionary activity. RFE/RL reports that computer programmer and yoga teacher Dmitry Ugai was detained by police in St. Petersburg on 22 October 'while giving a talk at a festival about the philosophies behind yoga, a discipline for achieving physical and spiritual well-being.' RFE/RL notes, 'The 44-year-old faces a fine for allegedly conducting illegal missionary activity, an administrative offense under the new Yarovaya Law, a package of legal amendments intended to fight terrorism that is named after its author, lawmaker Irina Yarovaya. Signed by President Vladimir Putin in July, the amendments include restrictions on religious groups and missionary activity that could potentially put pressure on followers outside what the government considers "traditional" religions. The charges against Ugay are not criminal, but observers fear that a guilty verdict in the misdemeanor case against him would set a precedent for the harassment of even yoga instructors.'
The Moscow Times quoted Dmitry Ugai as telling the Meduza news website: “If I’m convicted, then it’s clear that the mere act of speaking publicly will be enough to find a person guilty, and they’ll be able to prosecute anyone just for practicing yoga."
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