Russian Federation: Sentencing and arbitrary detention of Mr. Konstantin Kotov

06/09/2019
Urgent Appeal
Vlad Dokshin / Novaya Gazeta

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

RUS 004 / 0919 / OBS 069
Arbitrary detention/
Sentencing
Russian Federation
September 6, 2019

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by Memorial Human Rights Centre about the sentencing and arbitrary detention of Mr. Konstantin Kotov, member of the Moscow-based “For Human Rights” movement and of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, and a volunteer for OVD-Info — an independent media outlet and a public organisation defending the rights of those detained, accused or condemned on politically motivated charges [1]. Apart from participating in numerous protests himself, he has organized peaceful assemblies and trained protesters on how to behave during such gatherings and when facing arrest.

According to the information received, on September 5, 2019, Judge Stanislav Minin of the Tverskoy District Court of Moscow condemned Mr. Kotov to four years in a penal colony for repeated violations of the procedure for holding public assemblies (Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code of Russian Federation or, as it is known today, the “Ildar Dadin” Law). His conviction contradicts the Russian Constitution: in January 2017, Russia’s Constitutional Court, while holding Article 212.1 constitutional, ruled that a criminal case cannot be instituted solely on the basis of repeated violations of the procedure, regulated by provisions of the Administrative Code, finding that criminal liability can only be applied if the actions of a protester caused, or have a real chance to cause, harm to citizens or public safety[2].

Previously, on August 12, 2019, police officers arrested Mr. Konstantin Kotov not far from his home and searched his apartment without a court order. He was subsequently taken to the Moscow Headquarters of the Investigative Committee and charged with “repeated violation of the regulations for organising a public assembly, rally, demonstration, march or picket” (Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code). This followed his participation in three peaceful protests to support political prisoners earlier in 2019. In connection with this summer’s protest movement in the leadup to the September 8 Moscow City Council elections, Mr. Kotov was detained for calling on his Facebook audience to join a rally on Trubnaya Square on July 19, 2019 to protest the denial of registration of several opposition members for the elections, and for taking part in a march demanding an end to political repression[3] and registration of independent candidates to the elections, which took place on August 10, 2019.

On August 14, 2019, Moscow’s Presnensky District Court ordered Mr. Konstantin Kotov to be remanded in custody until October 12, 2019.

On August 15, 2019, Mr. Konstantin Kotov’s lawyer, Ms. Maria Esmont, reported that only 50 hours after her client’s arrest, the case investigator informed her that the preliminary investigation on Mr. Kotov was closed and the case sent to the Tverskoy District Court of Moscow.

On August 16, 2019, Moscow’s Presnensky District Court, on a request by the Investigative Committee, restricted the time allowed to Mr. Kotov and his lawyer to prepare the defense in the criminal case, setting a limit at 12:00 on August 19 (only 72 hours, of which 48 fell on a week-end), therefore restricting Mr. Konstantin Kotov’s right to a legal defense.

The judicial harassment of Mr. Konstantin Kotov takes place in the context of the repression of pro-democracy protests which began in Moscow on July 14, 2019, after election commissions denied registration of several opposition members as candidates for the Moscow City Duma elections on the ground that documents submitted by them contained numerous violations. Since then, around 100,000 people took peacefully to the streets in Moscow to protest. The authorities detained close to 3,000 peaceful protesters and opened dozens of administrative and several criminal cases, including the so-called “Moscow Case” charging 14 with organizing “mass unrest”.

The Observatory recalls that Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code, as well as Article 20.2 Section 8 of the Administrative Law Code (“repeated violation by a participant in a public event of the established regulations for holding a picket”), contradict the right to freedom of association and assembly as enshrined in Article 21 and 22 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Criticism over the application of those articles[4] has previously been expressed by the Head of the Presidential Human Rights Council[5] and the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation[6].

Mr. Konstantin Kotov is the second individual criminally condemned for the mere participation in a peaceful assembly under Article 212.1. Until today, Mr. Ildar Dadin, a political activist and prisoner of conscience, was the only person to have been prosecuted for holding three individual pickets. He spent one year in a penal colony, where he was allegedly tortured. On February 22, 2017, the Supreme Court of Russia overturned Mr. Dadin’s conviction and ordered his release. [7]

Article 212.1 contains no distinction between violent and peaceful assemblies, essentially allowing for a person to be imprisoned for a mere failure to notify the authorities of a demonstration they organized or for taking part in such a demonstration, therefore contravening on its face a number of international and regional human rights instruments, including the ICCPR and the ECHR.

The Observatory strongly condemns the sentencing and arbitrary detention of Mr. Konstantin Kotov, which seem to be only aimed at sanctioning him for his legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls on the Russian authorities to immediately end any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Konstantin Kotov, and all the human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russia asking them to:

i. Immediately and unconditionally end any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Konstantin Kotov, as well as against all human rights defenders in the country;

ii. Respect in any circumstances Mr. Konstantin Kotov’s rights to a legal defense;

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

iv. Comply with all their international obligations to respect the exercise of the citizens’ right to freedom of association and assembly, as established in the ICCPR, in particular its Articles 21 and 22, specifically by amending Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code so as to establish a distinction between violent and peaceful assemblies;

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 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 the Russian Federation.

Addresses:

· 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: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
· Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 374 26 13. E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
· Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Fax: (+33) (0) 3 88 24 19 74. Email: russia.coe@orange.fr

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

***

Paris-Geneva, September 6, 2019

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:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· 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] The Human Rights Centre Memorial, an FIDH member organization, has recognized Mr. Konstantin Kotov as a political prisoner.
[2] https://www.consultant.ru/document/cons_doc_LAW_212659/
[3] For more information on the current context of political repression bsee FIDH Report, “ Russia: Pro-democracy protesters undeterred by repression”, published in September 2019: https://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/russiemoscow738aweb_.pdf.
[4] See https://memohrc.org/ru/news/novoe-zakonodatelstvo-unichtozhaet-svobodu-sobraniy-v-rossii
[5] https://www.interfax.ru/russia/491985
[6] https://ria.ru/20170227/1488805872.html
[7] Decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation No. 43 – P17, 22 February 2017.

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