18.04.24
Urgent Interventions

Russia: Illegal transfer of Oleg Orlov to a remote detention centre

© Анна Артемьева "Новая Газета" via Wikicommons

URGENT APPEAL – THE OBSERVATORY

New information
RUS 001 / 0323 / OBS 017.5
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
At risk of torture and ill-treatment
Russian Federation
April 18, 2024

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the illegal transfer to another region of arbitrarily detained human rights defender Oleg Orlov, co-chair of Memorial Human Rights Defence Center (HRDC “Memorial”), a member organisation of FIDH. A prominent figure in the defence of human rights in Russia, Mr Orlov was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Expression in 2009, and in 2012 the Moscow Helsinki Group Award for his "historic contribution to the defence of human rights and the human rights movement”.

In the night of April 11 to April 12, 2024, Oleg Orlov, who has been arbitrarily detained since he was sentenced to two years and six months in prison on February 27, 2024, was transferred from detention center № 5 «Vodnik» in Moscow to pre-trial detention center-1 in the city of Samara, more than 1,000 kilometers away from his hometown, without being given any reason or justification. He was not allowed to prepare for the several days transfer and did not have the basic necessities with him. He was also unable to take with him the numerous letters that supporters had written to him. Neither his relatives nor his lawyer were informed about the transfer, and, to date, they have not been provided with the reason for this decision.

On April 17, 2024 the human rights defender was transferred again to pre-trial detention center-1 in the city of Syzran, 900 kilometers away from Moscow. Orlov's lawyer filed a request to the Federal Service for the Execution of Punishments with a demand to explain and stop the arbitrariness.

The verdict against Oleg Orlov has not yet entered into legal force and is not final as his defense attorney appealed the decision of the Golovinsky District Court of Moscow on March 18, 2024. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, the court hearing on the appeal had not yet been scheduled. Oleg Orlov will now participate in the examination of his appeal by video conference, which violates his right to a fair trial, as he will not be able to confidentially consult with his lawyer.

According to Article 73 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation, "Convicts sentenced to imprisonment shall serve their sentences in correctional institutions within the territory of the subject of the Russian Federation in which they resided or were convicted." Thus, the authorities were not entitled to transfer Orlov to either pre-trial detention center-1 in the city of Samara or pre-trial detention center-1 in the city of Syzran.

The conditions of deportation of prisoners in Russia amount to torture and inhuman treatment : people are moved in packed cells of special wagons; due to the cramped conditions, prisoners have to take turns sleeping; it is forbidden to use the toilet during long stops; there is no opportunity to eat properly on the train, and there is often a lack of water, fresh air and light. The European Court of Human Rights issued a quasi-pilot judgement on prisoner transportation conditions in 2019, but the Russian authorities have not reacted to it in any way. Given this background, it is highly likely that Mr Orlov was himself subjected to torture and ill-treatment during his transfer.

In addition, since Orlov's wife, Tatyana Kasatkina, remains in Moscow, the transfer makes it particularly challenging for her to visit her husband. On April 11, 2024, the day the transportation began, the judge granted Tatyana Kasatkina permission to see her husband the following week in the pre-trial detention center in Moscow. The judge could not have been unaware that Orlov would be sent to the colony on the same day, and no visit would take place, which demonstrates a clear intention of the authorities to morally harass the defender's relatives.

The Observatory recalls that on February 27, 2024, the Golovinsky District Court of Moscow sentenced Oleg Orlov to two years and six months of imprisonment in a correctional colony on politically motivated charges of “repeatedly discrediting” Russia’s armed forces , under Article 280.3 (1) of the Russian Criminal Code. This accusation is based on an article written by Oleg Orlov titled “Russia: they wanted fascism, they got it” (“Russie : ils voulaient le fascisme, ils l’ont eu”) published on the French blogging platform Le Club de Mediapart on November 13, 2022.

The Observatory further recalls that his labelling as a ‘foreign agent’ by the Russian Ministry of Justice on February 2, 2024, already compromised his right to a fair trial by preventing him from calling witnesses.

Moreover, the Observatory recalls that the judicial harassment against Oleg Orlov is long-standing. In 2022, Oleg Orlov was fined five times for holding solitary anti-war demonstrations to protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary transfer of Oleg Orlov to a remote prison and calls on the Russian authorities to immediately transfer him back to a prison in Moscow and grant him unhindered access to his relatives and his lawyer.

The Observatory further urges the authorities in Russia to immediately and unconditionally release Oleg Orlov, acquit him and stop all acts of harassment, including at the administrative and judicial levels, as well as to carry out an immediate, through and impartial investigation into the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment against him during his transfer, while ensuring his protection, and bringing the perpetrators to justice in accordance with international standards.

The Observatory finally calls on the authorities in Russia to guarantee in all circumstances the right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in international human rights standards, and particularly in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of the Russian Federation, urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Oleg Orlov and all human rights defenders in the country;

ii. Immediately transfer Oleg Orlov back to a prison in Moscow and grant him unhindered access to his relatives and his lawyer;

iii. Immediately and unconditionally release Oleg Orlov, as his detention is arbitrary;

iv. Acquit Oleg Orlov and put an immediate end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial and administrative levels, against him, as well as against all human rights defenders in the country;

v. Carry out an immediate, through and impartial investigation into the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment against Oleg Orlov during his transfer, while ensuring his protection, and bringing the perpetrators to justice in accordance with international standards.

vi. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @KremlinRussia_E
  • Mr. Mikhail Mishustin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter:@GovernmentRF
  • Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, E-mail: ministry@mid.ru
  • Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, Email: pressa@genproc.gov.ru
  • Mr. Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Federal Security Service (FSS), Email: fsb@fsb.ru
  • Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
  • Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
  • Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Email: russia.coe@orange.fr

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Russian Federation in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, April 18, 2024

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • E-mail: alert@observatoryfordefenders.org
  • Tel. FIDH : +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
  • Tel. OMCT : +41 (0) 22 809 49 39