Russia: Ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Yuri Dmitriev

Urgent Appeal
Olga Maltseva / AFP

New information
RUS 003 / 0818 / OBS 109.3
Arbitrary detention /
Sentencing / Judicial harassment
Russian Federation
April 15, 2022

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the transfer to Mordovian camps and the rejection of the appeal of Mr. Yuri Dmitriev, an historian and representative of “Memorial” International Historical, Educational, Human Rights and Charitable Society (International Memorial) [1] in Karelia, northern Russia [2].

On March 30, 2022, Yuri Dmitriev was transferred from pretrial detention center SIZO-1 in Petrozavodsk, where he was arbitrarily detained for five years while the trial on his case was ongoing, to a strict security penal colony for recidivists in the Nadvoitsy settlement in northern Karelia, to serve the remaining ten years of his prison sentence.

On March 15, 2022, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Karelia rejected the appeal made by Yuri Dmitriev against the 15-year prison sentence handed down against him by the Petrozavodsk City Court on December 27, 2021. The Russian Supreme Court has also denied all attempts to overturn the sentence. Having exhausted all domestic remedies in Russia, Mr. Dmitriev’s lawyer intends to bring the case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The Observatory recalls that the judicial harassment of Yuri Dmitriev dates back to December 2016, when he 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. Yuri Dmitriev 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. On April 5, 2018, the Petrozavodsk City Court acquitted Yuri Dmitriyev on child pornography charges, but found him guilty on illegal arm possession charges and sentenced him to two years and six 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, and on June 27, 2018, Yuri Dmitriev was arrested and 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. On October 9, 2018, the two criminal cases against Mr. Dmitriev were merged by the Petrozavodsk City Court, and his pre-trial detention was prolonged by the Prosecutor of Petrozavodsk.

On October 19, 2018, the new trial against Mr. Dmitriev opened in Petrozavodsk City Court. Mr. Dmitriyev was facing two sets of charges, both related to his adoptive daughter: 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”.

On July 22, 2020, the Petrozavodsk City Court found Yuri Dmitriev guilty of “sexual violence” (Article 132.4(B) of the Criminal Code) against his adopted daughter, sentenced him to three and a half years in prison, and acquitted him of charges of “possession of weapons” (Article 222.1 of the same Code), “production of pornography” (Articles 135.1 of the same Code) and “indecent assault” (Article 242.2 of the same Code). Considering the time he had already spent in pre-trial detention, Mr. Dmitriev was expected to be released in November 2020 but, on September 29, 2020, the Supreme Court of Karelia overturned the verdict and increased his sentence to 13 years of imprisonment under Article 132.4(B) of the Criminal Code (“violent actions of a sexual character against a person under 14 years old”). Additionally, the Supreme Court of Karelia sent the case back to the Petrozavodsk City Court for review under “production of child pornography”, “indecent assault without resort to violence against a person under 16 years old” and “possession of weapons”, charges for which Mr. Dmitriev was previously acquitted.

The Observatory notes with concern that the judicial harassment against Yuri Dmitriev takes place in a context of increased harassment against the Memorial movement. The Observatory recalls that on December 29, 2021, the Human Rights Center “Memorial” (HRC Memorial) [3] was dissolved by the Moscow City Court for allegedly violating the “Foreign Agent” Law, one day after the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation had ordered the liquidation of International Memorial on the same grounds. On April 5, 2022, the dissolution of HRC Memorial was confirmed by the First Court of Appeal in Moscow.

The Observatory strongly condemns the transfer to a penal colony of Yuri Dmitriev and expresses its concern over the high risks for his health and safety in these premises. The Observatory further condemns the rejection of Mr. Dmitriev’s appeal as the latest act of judicial harassment against hims as well as his continuing arbitrary detention, which seem to be only aimed at sanctioning him for his legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory calls on the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Yuri Dmitriev, to guarantee its physical integrity and psychological well-being, and to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all the human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russia asking them to:

 guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Yuri Dmitriev, as well as of all other human rights defenders in Russia;

 immediately and unconditionally release Yuri Dmitriev as well as all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country;

 put an end any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Yuri Dmitriev, as well as against all human rights defenders in the country and ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Russia are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.


 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:
 Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, Email:
 Mr. Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Federal Security Service (FSS), Email:
 Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email:
 Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium, Email:
 Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France, Email:

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

Paris-Geneva, April 15, 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, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
 Tel FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
 Tel OMCT: +41 (0) 22 809 49 39

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