The Observatory has been informed about the opening of criminal proceedings against Oleg Orlov, co-chair of Memorial Human Rights Center (HRC “Memorial”), a member organisation of FIDH, as well as the raid on his and at least seven members of the dissolved NGO International Memorial’s homes or family’s homes, namely: Yan Rachinsky, head of the management of International Memorial; Nikita Petrov, deputy chair of the organisation; and employees Alexandra Polivanova, Alexandre Guryanov, Galina Jordanskaya, Alena Kozlova and Irina Ostrovskaya.
On March 21, 2023, early in the morning, officials of the Investigative Committee and the Main Directorate for Countering Extremism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Center “E”) raided the homes of Oleg Orlov, Yan Rachinsky, Nikita Petrov, Alexandre Guryanov, Galina Jordanskaya, Alena Kozlova, Irina Ostrovskaya, as well as Alexandra Polivanova’s mother’s home in Moscow. Lawyers were not allowed to enter the premises. During the searches, computers, phones, flash drives, documents and items with the logo of Memorial, including a calendar and a face mask, were confiscated. The searches were based on an investigator’s warrant but not a court order, due to alleged "time-sensitivity” of the case.
After the search, the eight human rights defenders were taken to the Investigative Committee of the Tverskoy District, Moscow, for questioning. On the same day, all of them, except Oleg Orlov, were released pending investigation under witness status, and were given an order of non-disclosure of details of the case. Mr Orlov was released pending investigation under suspect status and had to sign a statement of intention not to leave the country.
According to the search warrants, on March 3, 2023, Russian authorities initiated a criminal case for “exoneration of Nazism” against “unidentified employees” of HRC Memorial and International Memorial under Article 354.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The case is based on the fact that International Memorial’s database on victims of political repression, which includes over 3 million records, contains the names of three men who allegedly collaborated with the Nazi authorities during the Second World War. Information on the men was based on so-called "memory books" listing the victims of political repressions. Regional state authorities, including the regional offices of the Federal Security Services (FSB), were involved in the publication of these books. The Observatory notes that data verification related to the alleged crimes these three individuals would have committed cannot be conducted as public access to archived criminal case files is restricted in Russia.
On March 21, the Investigative Committee opened criminal proceedings against Oleg Orlov on charges of "public actions aimed at discrediting the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation" (Article 280.3(1) of the Criminal Code) for writing an article 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. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, the investigation was ongoing.
The Observatory recalls that on December 28, 2021, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled to liquidate International Memorial for allegedly violating the “Foreign Agent” Law. The Presidium of the Supreme Court dismissed International Memorial’s appeal on February 28, 2022, and a supervisory appeal to the Presidium of the Supreme Court was likewise dismissed. HRC Memorial was likewise liquidated by the authorities following a series of appeals and despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights requiring Russia to halt liquidation proceedings with respect to both organizations pursuant to Rule 39.
The Observatory further recalls that this is not the first time Oleg Orlov is targeted for his legitimate human rights work and that he has already been found guilty and been charged twice under administrative law for “discrediting the Russian Armed forces” (Article 20.3.3 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences) for his anti-war pickets.
The Observatory strongly condemns the raid on the homes and the judicial harassment of Oleg Orlov, Yan Rachinsky, Nikita Petrov, Alexandre Guryanov, Galina Jordanskaya, Alena Kozlova, Irina Ostrovskaya and Alexandra Polivanova, as well as the ongoing brutal crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society organisations in Russia, which further escalated after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The Observatory urges the authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial and administrative levels, against Oleg Orlov, Yan Rachinsky, Nikita Petrov, Alexandre Gurianov, Galina Jordanskaya, Alena Kozlova, Irina Ostrovskaya, Alexandra Polivanova and all human rights defenders in the country.
The Observatory further urges the authorities to 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.
Please write to the authorities of Russia, asking them to:
i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Oleg Orlov, Yan Rachinsky, Nikita Petrov, Alexandre Guryanov, Galina Jordanskaya, Alena Kozlova, Irina Ostrovskaya, Alexandra Polivanova, their families, and all human rights defenders in the country;
ii. Put an immediate end to all act of harassment, including at the judicial and administrative levels, against Oleg Orlov, Yan Rachinsky, Nikita Petrov, Alexandre Guryanov, Galina Jordanskaya, Alena Kozlova, Irina Ostrovskaya, Alexandra Polivanova, as well as against all human rights defenders in the country;
iii. 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.