Russia: Administrative harassment and stigmatisation of Oleg Orlov

31/03/2022
Urgent Appeal
Egor Lyfar

RUS 003 / 0322 / OBS 014.2
Administrative harassment / Fine /
Violations of the rights to freedom
of association and assembly /
Stigmatisation
Russian Federation
March 31, 2022

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), 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 imposition of a fine on prominent human rights defender Mr. Oleg Orlov, as well as the acts of stigmatisation against him. Mr. Orlov is a member of the Council of the Human Rights Center “Memorial” (HRC “Memorial”) and head of its “Hot Points” program. The harassment against him takes place amid the brutal crackdown on peaceful anti-war demonstrators, human rights defenders, and civil society organisations, that followed Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which started on February 24, 2022.

On March 28, 2022, Mr. Oleg Orlov was fined 20,000 Rubles (approximately 203 Euros) by the Izmailovskiy District Court of Moscow, after he was found guilty of “violating the established procedure for arranging or conducting a meeting, rally demonstration, procession or picket” (Article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Offences) for an anti-war picket on March 6, 2022. On the same day, the door of Oleg Orlov’s house was daubed by unknown individuals with the pro-war symbol “Z” and with a sign that read “Collaborator” over a photo of Mr. Orlov.

The Observatory recalls that Oleg Orlov was arbitrarily arrested by law enforcement officers on March 6, 2022, at Manezhnaya Square for holding a sign that read “Peace for Ukraine, Freedom to Russia”. On the same day, Ms. Svetlana Gannushkina was arbitrarily arrested by law enforcement officers for allegedly attending an anti-war protest on February 27, 2022. They were both charged with “violating the established procedure for arranging or conducting a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession or picket”. Ms. Gannushkina was fined 10,000 Rubles (approximately 102 Euros) by the Tverskoy District Court of Moscow on March 15, 2022.

The Observatory underlines that as of March 29, 2022, over 15,108 peaceful anti-war protesters have been arbitrarily detained in 147 cities across Russia, according to OVD-Info, an independent human rights media project which has been targeted by the authorities in reprisal for its work documenting violations of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and other human rights in Russia. It has been reported by the independent media that some of these detainees were subjected to torture by the police.

The Observatory further recalls that the Russian authorities approved a bill criminalising the dissemination of “fake news” about Russian military operations in order “to prevent the discrediting of the armed forces of the Russian Federation during their operations to protect the interests of the country and its citizens”.

In this framework, independent journalists and media outlets reporting on the war have been heavily targeted by the Russian authorities, both in Russia and in Ukraine. On February 26, 2022, Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media regulator, published a statement ordering media to remove reports describing the attack on Ukraine as an “attack”, “invasion” or a “war”. Should media outlets fail to comply with this order, they will face fines of up to 5 million rubles (approximately 53,200 Euros) and blockages.

The Observatory further recalls that, on December 29, 2021, HRC Memorial was dissolved by the Russian authorities. HRC Memorial appealed this decision and the appeal hearing is scheduled for April 5, 2022 before the First Court of Appeal of Moscow.

The Observatory condemns the sentencing, administrative harassment, targeting and stigmatisation of human rights defenders and independent journalists, including Oleg Orlov and Svetlana Gannushkina, as well as the increased crackdown on human rights defenders, independent media and civil society organisations in Russia.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the blatant violations of the rights to freedom of expression, information and assembly perpetrated by the Russian authorities, including the censorship imposed on independent media operating in the country by the Russian media regulator.

The Observatory urges the authorities to put an immediate end to all acts of stigmatisation and harassment, including at the judicial and administrative levels, against Oleg Orlov, Svetlana Gannushkina and all human rights defenders, peaceful protesters, and independent journalists and media outlets 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. Finally, the Observatory calls on the authorities to immediately repeal the above-mentioned new law and to reverse all restrictive measures implemented by Roskomnadzor.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russia, urging them to:

i. guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Oleg Orlov, Svetlana Gannushkina and all human rights defenders and independent journalists in the country;

ii. put an immediate end to all act of harassment, including at the judicial and administrative levels, against Oleg Orlov and Svetlana Gannushkina, as well as against all human rights defenders and independent journalists 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;

iv. immediately repeal the above-mentioned new law criminalising the dissemination of “fake news” about Russian military operations, and reverse all restrictive measures implemented by Roskomnadzor, including the blockages of independent media outlets.

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, Email: 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, Email: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
• Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium, Email: 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, March 31,2022

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 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:
• Email: appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel. FIDH: +33 (0)1 43 55 25 18
• Tel. OMCT: +41 22 809 49 39

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