Russia: ongoing judicial harassment against Yuri Dmitriyev

Urgent Appeal
Vladimir Larionov / Reuters

RUS 003 / 0818 / OBS 109
Continued arbitrary detention
Judicial harassment
September 3, 2018

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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention and the ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev[1] , 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 August 21, 2018, the Petrozavodsk City Court extended the pre-trial detention of Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev, whose judicial harassment began in December 2016, 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. The trial hearing is scheduled for September 18, 2018. If found guilty, Mr. Dmitriyev faces from 12 to 20 years of prison.

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.

Back in 2016, Mr. Dmitriyev was charged with child pornography, 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 and was closed to the public, 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 pedophile 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 Petersbourg 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 is publicly available so far.

The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment against Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev and calls on Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him, as well as drop all charges against him, as they are only aimed at punishing his legitimate human rights activities.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russia asking them to:

i. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev, and 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;

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

iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the right to a fair trial of Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev and all other human rights defenders in the Russian Federation;

iv. 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;

v. 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, September 3, 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:
· E-mail:
· 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

[1] In June 2018, the European Union urged Russia to drop all “dubious” charges against Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev. Earlier, he was recognized a political prisoner by the Human Rights Center “Memorial”, which demanded his immediate release. For more information see: / .

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