Urgent Appeal

Russia: Upcoming trial against HRDC Memorial co-chair Oleg Orlov


Tomorrow, a trial against Oleg Orlov will commence in the Koptevskiy District Court in Moscow. The co-chair of Memorial Human Rights Defence Center (Memorial HRDC), a member organisation of FIDH, faces criminal charges and risks three years of imprisonment for his opposition to the war in Ukraine. FIDH and OMCT, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection for Human Rights Defenders, urge the authorities to dismiss all charges against him.

Paris, Geneva, 7 June 2023. When Oleg Orlov titled his article “They wanted fascism, they got it,” he likely foresaw the consequences but stood unwavering. In an online article published on the French-based blogging platform Le Club de Mediapart in 2022, he wrote vehemently – in his capacity as co-chair of HRDC Memorial – about Russia’s totalitarian spiral. For him, the war in Ukraine was more than mass killings and destruction, it epitomised his country’s final descent into fascism. He is now prosecuted on the charge of “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of armed forces of the Russian Federation” (Article 280.3(1) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). His trial will open tomorrow, on June 8, 2023, at the Koptevskiy District Court in Moscow.

“Oleg Orlov’s sharp analysis of his country’s political situation does not warrant criminal charges. The authorities only validate his conclusions regarding the rise of fascism in Russia by putting him on trial for a mere blogpost. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right, and we will continue to fight for it,” stated Anastasia Garina, Executive Director of Memorial.

Oleg Orlov is a prominent advocate for human rights in Russia. He was awarded the European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Expression in 2009, and the 2012 Moscow Helsinki Group Award for his “historic contribution to the defence of human rights and the human rights movement”. For decades, and with his organisation HRDC Memorial, Oleg Orlov has monitored and denounced violations of human rights and humanitarian law in armed conflicts involving the Russian armed forces. These efforts were largely ignoredgiving free rein tothe Russian authorities, and perpetuating the culture of impunity in the country. The very same culture has led to the current increasingly violent repression in Russia and, ultimately, to war in Ukraine.

Because of Oleg Orlov and Memorial HRDC’s activism, they have been continuously targeted by the Russian authorities, enduring numerous acts of harassment and obstacles to their work, including fines, physical attacks, and searches on their premises across the country.

The ongoing judicial harassment of Oleg Orlov serves as further evidence of the Russian authorities' relentless persecution of HRDC Memorial, even after its arbitrary liquidation in December 2021. We unequivocally condemn these actions and call for all charges against him to be immediately dropped,” said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary-General.

For live updates on the opening of Oleg Orlov's trial, please follow the @OBS_defenders Twitter account on Thursday, June 8, 2023.


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