Russia: ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment against Yuri Dmitriyev

Urgent Appeal

New information
RUS 003 / 0818 / OBS 109.1
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
October 19, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your intervention in the following situation in Russia.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment against Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev, a historian and representative of “Memorial” International Historical, Educational, Human Rights and Charitable Society in the northern republic of Karelia, in Russia.

According to the information received, on October 19, 2018, the new trial against Mr. Dmitriyev opened in Petrozavodsk City Court. Mr. Dmitriyev is facing two sets of charges: the first, a referral for the alleged “production of child pornography”, and the second for “violent acts of a sexual nature in relation to a person who has not reached the age of fourteen” (see background information). Both cases concern Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev’s adoptive daughter. If found guilty, Mr. Dmitriyev faces up to 20 years of prison.

On October 9, 2018, the two criminal cases against Mr. Dmitriyev were merged by Petrozavodsk City Court and the Prosecutor of Petrozavodsk informed that the pre-trial detention of Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev was prolonged, yet different reports exist as to its end date.

Mr. Dmitriyev remains separated from his adoptive daughter, with whom he cannot maintain any contact. On September 11, 2018, the local Ombudsman confirmed that Mr. Dmitriyev was stripped of guardianship rights over his adoptive daughter. The results of the psychiatric assessment of Yuri Dmitriyev done in August 2018 in Saint Petersbourg - the third since judicial harassment against him began in the end of 2016 - have not been communicated to the parties yet.

Mr. Dmitriyev continues to deny charges of child pornography and maintains that the nude pictures were made to monitor his daughter’s health and not for pornographic purposes. It is important to recall that in April 2018, the Petrozavodsk City Court acquitted Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev of charges of production of child pornography, yet the latter decision was later turned down in Karelia’s High Court . Moreover, Mr. Dmitriyev claims he has never committed any sexual acts with his adoptive daughter. The Observatory has sound reasons to claim that the charges are spurious and that Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev is being targeted to stop him from conducting human rights activities.

The Observatory recalls that on June 27, 2018, the European Union External Action Service (EEAS) published a statement [1] requiring the Russian authorities to abide to their human rights commitments and drop all the charges against Mr. Dmitriyev. Mr. Dmitriyev’s lawyer filed a complaint regarding his client’s detention before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on June 29, 2017 [2]. The case is still under investigation.

The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment against Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev and calls on the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him, as well as end any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him.

Background information:

Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev has dedicated his life to locating and documenting 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 international attention, in the form of commemorative actions, but angered Russian officials’ intent on marginalizing Soviet-era crimes. Up until the time of his arrest in 2016, Mr. Dmitriyev had been very active in efforts to memorialize the victims of Soviet-era human rights repressions and documented abuses through exhumations and tireless compilation of archives.

In 2016, Mr. Dmitriyev was charged with child pornography (under Articles 135 and 242.2 of the Criminal Code), for taking naked pictures of his adoptive daughter between 2008 and 2015 when the girl was between two and nine years old. Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev claimed in court that the pictures were made to monitor her health. He also faced an illegal arms possession 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 a psychological examination of the girl established that Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev had caused no harm to his child. The conclusions of the psychiatric examination of Mr. Dmitriyev found no paedophile inclinations. In April 2018, the Petrozavodsk City Court acquitted Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev on child pornography charges but found him guilty on illegal arm possession charges and condemned him to 2,5 months of restriction of movement. By the time of the acquittal, he had spent over one year in arbitrary detention.

On June 14, 2018, Karelia’s High Court overturned the ruling, after the Prosecutor’s office reportedly presented a new psychological examination of Mr. Dmitriyev’s adoptive daughter, made after the decision of acquittal. Neither Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev nor his lawyer were notified about the new examination or apprised of the results. The case was simply sent for retrial on the basis of “newly discovered circumstances”.

On June 27, 2018, Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev was arrested by traffic police while he was travelling out of Petrozavodsk. He was then placed in pre-trial detention. On June 30, 2018, he was charged with “violent acts of a sexual 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.

In mid-July 2018, the historian was transferred to Saint Petersburg for a psychiatric expertise that was supposed to end on August 8, 2018. While the results thereof had to be made known to his lawyer on August 22, 2018, no information has been made available to the lawyer or the public so far.

On August 21, 2018, the Petrozavodsk City Court extended the pre-trial detention of Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev until October 26, 2018. On the following day, Mr. Dmitriyev’s lawyer was informed of the completion of the preliminary investigation and was given five days, until August 27, 2018, to get familiarised with case materials.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russia asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev and all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev, as his detention is arbitrary and merely aimed at punishing him for him human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country and guarantee in all circumstances their right to a fair trial;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

v. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, 6(a), 9, 11 and 12.2;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Russia.


Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 606 3602; + 7 495 625 3581
Mr. Dimitri Medvedev, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @MedvedevRussia
Mr. Sergueï Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 644 2203
Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 734 40 44, E-mail:
Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 374 26 13. E-mail:
Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Fax: (+33) (0) 3 88 24 19 74. Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Russia in your respective countries.

Paris-Geneva, October 19, 2018

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, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29


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