Mr. Oleg Orlov charged with criminal offence

Press release
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The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), denounces the ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Oleg Orlov, Chairman of the Board of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial”.

On July 6, 2010, Mr. Oleg Orlov was summoned to appear before the Investigation Division of Investigatory Department at the Department of Internal Affairs (UVD) of the Central Administrative District of the city of Moscow. He was then charged with criminal offense of “libel”, under Parts 2 and 3 of Article 129 of the Criminal Code, on criminal case No. 310555 and questioned as an accused for more than two hours and a half.

These criminal proceedings against Mr. Orlov are related to the criminal lawsuit for “libel” that the President of the Republic of Chechnya, Mr. Ramzan Kadyrov, initiated against him after the publication of a statement on July 15, 2009 in which Mr. Orlov indicated he believed Mr. Kadyrov was responsible for the murder of Ms. Natalia Estemirova, Head of Memorial office in Grozny.

On October 20, 2009, the Moscow Central Directorate of Internal Affairs (GUVD) opened a criminal investigation against Mr. Orlov. Although Mr. Kadyrov had publicly announced on February 9, 2010 that he would withdraw the criminal proceedings he had filed against Mr. Orlov, the latter was informed on June 18, 2010 that the charges against him were still pending, and that his case had been referred to the Investigation Division of the Investigatory Department at UVD of the Central Administrative District for further inquiry. Mr. Orlov’s lawyer, Mr. Henry Reznik, insisted that Mr. Orlov had not committed a criminally punishable offense.

The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Oleg Orlov, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning him for exercising his legitimate right to freedom of expression and preventing him from carrying out his human rights activities, and recalls that as pointed out by Mr. Miklos Haraszti, High Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), in October 2009, “statements like Orlov’s are perfectly legitimate in a democracy and should be subject neither to civil-law nor to criminal-law sanctioning”.

Therefore, the Observatory calls upon the Russian authorities to put an end to the judicial harassment against Mr. Oleg Orlov, and to conform in all circumstances with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as international and regional human rights instruments ratified by the Russian Federation.

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