Russia: Sentencing and arbitrary detention of Lev Ponomarev, “For Human Rights” movement’s Director

Urgent Appeal

RUS 004 / 1218 / OBS 141
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
December 11, 2018

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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing and arbitrary detention of Mr. Lev Ponomarev, Executive Director of the Moscow-based “For Human Rights” movement [1], for his support to peaceful rallies organised to protest the criminalisation of youth groups under anti-terrorist laws.

According to the information received, on December 7, 2018, the Moscow City Court confirmed in appeal the conviction of Mr. Ponomarev pronounced two days before by the Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court for organising a rally. However, due to Mr. Ponomarev’s health condition, the sentence was reduced to 16 days of detention, including the time already served.

The court found Mr. Ponomarev guilty under part 8 of Article 20.2 of the Administrative Code of Russian Federation of “repeated violation of the established procedure for conducting a rally” for reposting on his Facebook page a public call encouraging citizens to attend a peaceful rally outside of the Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters in Moscow. According to the Federal Law N 54-FZ “On Assemblies, Meetings, Demonstrations, Rallies and Pickets”, any call to participate in a rally amounts to its organisation.

The charges relate to the reposting on October 25, 2018 by Mr. Ponomarev of an earlier announcement made on the website of the radio station Echo of Moscow calling for participation in the October 28, 2018, action called “For your children and ours!” [2], organised in solidarity with a group of more than 20 young activists detained on trumped-up ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’ charges [3]. Mr. Lev Ponomarev was also instrumental in seeking the approval for the peaceful marches with the authorities, which was denied.

More than 1,000 people participated in the rally on October 28, 2018, in four Russian cities. 58 persons were arrested in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

According to the same information, Mr. Ponomarev had previously faced harassment for his actions of protest against the harassment of the same youth groups. On July 31, 2018, Mr. Lev Ponomarev was fined with 10,000 rubles (around 130 Euros) for holding a one-man picket in support for two female activists accused in the “Novoye Velichiye” case, which made the presently impugned offence “repeated”. Moreover, on December 10, Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court rejected Mr. Ponomarev’s request to attend the funeral of the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, human rights defender Lyudmila Alekseeva, who died on December 8, 2018, at 92 years old.

The Observatory notes that the current established procedure for conducting a rally contradicts existing, standards on freedom of assembly at European and international level, as stated by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights [4], as well as the European Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission) [5].

Lawyers at “For Human Rights” have filed an application requesting the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to intervene in the case of Mr. Lev Ponomarev. They asked the ECtHR to consider the appeal on a priority basis (in accordance with Rule No. 41 of the Rules of Court) and to urge the Russian government not to keep Mr. Ponomarev under arrest (Rule No. 39).

The Observatory strongly condemns the sentencing and arbitrary detention on Mr. Lev Ponomarev, as it seems only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of assembly and expression. The Observatory calls on the Russian authorities to end any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russia asking them to:

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

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Lev Ponomarev, as his detention is arbitrary and merely aimed at punishing him for his 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. Amend the legislation regulating freedom of assembly so as to uphold the highest international human rights law standards in line with the recommendations issued by the Venice Commission and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights;

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, December 11, 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

[1] Mr. Ponomarev has defended human rights since the 1980s. Among others, he participated in the creation of the Russian historical and civil rights society “Memorial”, was a member of coalition “the Other Russia”, and is a former member of Parliament.
[3] Between October and November 2017, the FSB detained 11 young men on suspicion of participating in a terrorist community called the “Network” under article 205.4 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The case is based primarily on confessions extracted by the FSB agents, and several suspects say they were tortured into incriminating themselves. In March 2018, the Russian authorities brought criminal charges against another group of young men and women for having allegedly organized an extremist community called the “Novoye Velichiye” (“New Greatness”).

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