Publication of a judicial observation report on the trial against the Human Rights Centre "Memorial" and the Chairman of its Board, Mr. Oleg Orlov

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After the 2009 European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded on December 16 to the Human Rights Centre "Memorial" as well as to Mr. Oleg Orlov, Mr. Sergei Kovalev and Ms. Lyudmila Alexeyeva, three of its representatives, 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), publishes today its judicial observation mission report on the trial against the Human Rights Centre "Memorial" and Mr. Orlov.

On October 6, 2009, the Civil Court of Moscow Tverskoy District sentenced the Memorial Human Rights Centre and its chairman, Mr. Oleg Orlov, to fines of respectively 50,000 and 20,000 roubles for "defamation", in a civil action initiated by Chechen President Ramazan Kadyrov. The Representative for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Freedom of the Media Mr. Milklos Haraszti pointed out that "statements like Orlov’s are perfectly legitimate in a democracy and should be subject neither to civil-law nor to criminal-law sanctioning". The trial followed statements Mr. Orlov had made in the aftermath of the assassination in Grozny of human rights advocate Ms. Natalia Estemirova, on July 15, 2009.

In addition, on October 20, 2009, the Moscow Central Directorate of Internal Affaires (GUVD) opened a criminal investigation against Mr. Orlov, following a complaint lodged by Mr. Kadyrov.

Whereas the appeal of the civil suit has just been scheduled for January 12, 2010 before the Moscow City Court, the Observatory calls for the end of the judicial harassment against the Memorial Human Rights Centre and its representatives as well as of any act of harassment against all human rights defenders, in conformity with relevant international and regional human rights instruments.

The Observatory further calls upon the Russian authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Russia.

The report is available in English and French. The Russian version will follow shortly.

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