The Observatory has been informed about the conviction of Mr Oleg Orlov, co-chair of Memorial Human Rights Center (HRC “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”.
On October 11, 2023, the Golovinsky District Court of Moscow found Oleg Orlov guilty of “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of armed forces of the Russian Federation” (Article 280.3(1) of the Criminal Code) and fined him 150,000 roubles (approximately 1,409 Euros). His lawyers are planning on appealing the decision to the Moscow city court.
The Observatory recalls that on March 21, 2023, the apartments of Oleg Orlov and eight other members of Memorial were searched as part of an investigation for alleged “exoneration of Nazism” (Section 354.1 (2) (c) of the Criminal Code). They were subsequently taken to the Investigative Committee of the Tverskoy District, Moscow for interrogation. All of them were released pending investigation under witness status, and were given an order of non-disclosure of details of the case.
On the same day, the Investigative Committee opened criminal proceedings against Oleg Orlov on the charge of "public actions aimed at discrediting the use of armed forces of the Russian Federation". 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. Mr Orlov was subsequently placed under travel restriction for an unknown period of time and he was formally charged in early April 2023 for his involvement in anti-war movements.
On April 29, 2023, Oleg Orlov was presented with a final accusation report by the Russian Investigative Committee in Moscow, in the presence of his lawyer, for the charge of “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of armed forces of the Russian Federation” and his trial began on June 8, 2023 in front of the Golovinsky District Court.
The conviction of Oleg Orlov is another blow to the Russian human rights organisation Memorial, which had been dissolved by the authorities in December 2021. This arbitrary dissolution was later confirmed in appeal in April 2022. It is also part of a broader crackdown on anti-war protesters who oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Observatory recalls that in 2022, Orlov was fined five times for holding solitary anti-war demonstrations. Two of these convictions were under the law on "discrediting the army" (Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation).
The Observatory strongly condemns the conviction of Oleg Orlov, and calls on the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally acquit him and to stop all acts of harassment, including at the administrative and judicial levels, against him and all human rights defenders and organisations in Russia.
The Observatory further 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.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Russia, asking them to:
- Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Oleg Orlov and all human rights defenders in the country;
- 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;
- Guarantee, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- 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: email@example.com
- Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Federal Security Service (FSS), Email: email@example.com
- Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: email@example.com
- Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Russia in your respective country.