URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY
RUS 003 / 0818 / OBS 109.2
Arbitrary detention /
Sentencing / Judicial harassment
October 2, 2020
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership ofFIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received newinformation and requests your intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources aboutthe sentencing and ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Yuri Dmitriev, anhistorian and representative of “Memorial” International Historical,Educational, Human Rights and Charitable Society in Karelia, northern Russia.
According to the information received, on September 29,2020, the Supreme Court of Karelia increased the sentence of historian Mr. YuriDmitriev from 3.5 to 13 years of imprisonment. The Supreme Court overturned thePetrozavodsk City Court verdict of July 22, 2020, and sentenced him underArticle 132.4(B) of the Criminal Code (“violent actions of a sexual characteragainst a person under 14 years old”).
In addition, the Supreme Court sent the case back to thePetrozavodsk City Court for review under the Articles 135.1 and 242.2 of theCriminal Code (“production of child pornography” and “indecent assault withoutresort to violence against a person under 16 years old”) and article 222.1(“possession of weapons”), for which Mr. Dmitriev was previously acquitted. Ifconvicted under those additional charges, Mr. Yuri Dmitriev’s 13-year sentencecould be extended. The defense will appeal this verdict.
On July 22, 2020, the Petrozavodsk City Court had found Mr.Yuri Dmitriev guilty of “sexual violence” against his adopted daughter,sentenced him to three and a half years in prison, and acquitted him of chargesof “possession of weapons”, “production of pornography” and “indecent assault”,in a trial that began on December 18, 2018 (see background information).
Considering the time he had spent in pre-trial detention,Mr. Dmitriev was expected to be released in November 2020. Both the defence andthe prosecution appealed the July-22 verdict, with the former seeking Mr. YuriDmitriev's acquittal and the latter seeking a 13-year prison sentence.
Having contracted Covid-19, Mr. Dmitriev’s lawyer could notattend the appeal hearing on September 29, 2020. Despite the requests by thedefence, the Court refused to postpone the hearing and Mr. Dmitriev, who wasonly allowed to attend the hearing via a video-conference call of poor quality,was given an appointed lawyer. Mr. Dmitriev asked to decline the appointedlawyer but the Court waved his request.
On the eve of the trial, renowned media “Novaya Gazeta”published a public petition, signed by over 250 public persons (includinghistorians, journalists, actors and academics) requesting to change the placeof the consideration of the appeal in the case of Mr. Yuri Dmitriev from theSupreme Court of Karelia to another Court; the request was, however, rejectedby the Court.
The Observatory strongly condemns the new sentencing and thecontinuing arbitrary detention of Mr. Yuri Dmitriev, which seem to be onlyaimed at sanctioning him for his legitimate human rights activities. TheObservatory calls on the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionallyrelease Mr. Yuri Dmitriev, and to put an end to any act of harassment,including at the judicial level, against him and all the human rights defendersin the country.
Mr. Yuri Dmitriev has dedicated his life to locating anddocumenting the remains of victims of Stalinist repressions. In 1997, Mr.Dmitriev was part of a team that uncovered a mass grave in Sandarmokh(north-west Russia), which attracted significant national and internationalattention, in the form of commemorative actions, but angered Russian officials’intent on marginalizing Soviet-era crimes. Up until the time of his arrest in2016, Mr. Dmitriyev had been very active in efforts to memorialize the victimsof Soviet-era human rights repressions and documented abuses throughexhumations and tireless compilation of archives.
In December 2016, Mr. Dmitriev was charged with childpornography (under Articles 135 and 242.2 of the Criminal Code), for takingnaked pictures of his adoptive daughter between 2008 and 2015 when the girl wasbetween two and nine years old. Mr. Yuri Dmitriev claimed in court that thepictures were made to monitor her health. He also faced an illegal armspossession charge for keeping an old hunting rifle in his home.
During the trial that started in June 2017, held in camera,an expert evaluation found the incriminated pictures non-pornographic and apsychological examination of the girl established that Mr. Yuri Dmitriev hadcaused no harm to his child. The conclusions of the psychiatric examination ofMr. Dmitriev found no paedophile inclinations.
On April 5, 2018, the Petrozavodsk City Court acquitted Mr.Yuri Dmitriyev on child pornography charges but found him guilty on illegal armpossession charges and condemned him to two years and six months of restrictionof movement. By the time of the acquittal, he had spent over one year inarbitrary detention.
On June 14, 2018, Karelia’s High Court overturned theruling, after the Prosecutor’s office reportedly presented a new psychologicalexamination of Mr. Dmitriyev’s adoptive daughter, made after the decision ofacquittal. Neither Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev nor his lawyer were notified about thenew examination or apprised of the results. The case was simply sent forretrial on the basis of “newly discovered circumstances”.
On June 27, 2018, Mr. Yuri Dmitriev was arrested by trafficpolice while he was travelling out of Petrozavodsk. He was then placed inpre-trial detention. On June 30, 2018, he was charged with “violent acts of asexual nature in relation to a person who has not reached the age of fourteen”under paragraph "B" Part 4 of Article 132 of the Criminal Code.
On August 21, 2018, the Petrozavodsk City Court extended thepre-trial detention of Mr. Yuri Dmitriev until October 26, 2018. On thefollowing day, Mr. Dmitriev’s lawyer was informed of the completion of thepreliminary investigation and was given five days, until August 27, 2018, toget acquainted with the case materials.
On September 11, 2018, the local Ombudsman confirmed thatMr. Dmitriyev was stripped of guardianship rights over his adoptive daughter.
On October 9, 2018, the two criminal cases against Mr.Dmitriev were merged by the Petrozavodsk City Court, and the Prosecutor ofPetrozavodsk informed that the pre-trial detention of Mr. Yuri Dmitriev wasprolonged.
On December 18, 2018, the new trial against Mr. Dmitrievopened in Petrozavodsk City Court. Mr. Dmitriyev was facing two sets ofcharges, both related to his adoptive daughter: the first, a referral for thealleged “production of child pornography”, and the second for “violent acts ofa sexual nature in relation to a person who has not reached the age offourteen”.
Please write to the authorities of Russia asking them to:
i. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Yuri Dmitrievas well as all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country;
ii. Put an end any act of harassment, including at thejudicial level, against Mr. Yuri Dmitriev, as well as against all human rightsdefenders in the country;
iii. Ensure in all circumstances that human rights defendersin Russia are able to carry out their legitimate activities without anyhindrance and fear of reprisals;
iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United NationsDeclaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly onDecember 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1 and 12.2;
v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights andfundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standardsand international instruments ratified by the Russian Federation.
· Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495606 3602; + 7 495 625 3581
· Mr. Mikhail Mishustin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter:@GovernmentRF
· Mr. Sergueï Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the RussianFederation, Fax: + 7 495 644 2203
· Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva,Switzerland. E-mail: email@example.com
· Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council ofEurope, France. Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the RussianFederation in your respective countries.
Paris-Geneva, October 2, 2020
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of thisappeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of HumanRights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is toprevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDHand OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the EuropeanUnion Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civilsociety.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
- E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
- Tel FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
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