Status: Under Threat
On July 2, 2013, Judge Olga Khaydukova of the Dzerzhinsk Town Court of the Nizhny Novgorod Region rejected a petition to ban Stanislav Dmitrievsky’s 2009 book, International Tribunal for Chechnya: Prospects of Bringing to Justice Individuals Suspected of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity During the Armed Conflict in the Chechen Republic. The petition, filed on December 6, 2012, under Article 13 of Russia’s Federal Law on Countering Extremism, sought to ban the book on the grounds that it was “exremist” in nature. Court-ordered expert evaluation by Andrey Smirnov and Gelena Mazhnik concluded that the study was scientific and not extremist.
Internationally-acclaimed Russian human rights lawyer Karinna Moskalenko said of the book in a July 2009 review that “it [presents] unique fundamental research at the junction of contemporary history, international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law,” while Hugh Williamson of Human Rights Watch says that it is “based on meticulous desk research and is an important source of information on the Chechen conflict.”
There are fears that, regardless of the verdict, the case represents a growing misuse of anti-extremism legislation in Russia to stifle legitimate expression, and is part of a longstanding campaign to intimidate Stanislav Dmitrievsky through a campaign of judicial harassment.
On October 3, 2017, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Russian Federation violated Dmitrievsky’s right to freedom of expression and granted him €10,000 in moral compensation. Dmitrievsky filed a complaint that Russia had violated Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (freedom of expression). This concerned his conviction under Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code, for publishing “extremist” content.
Stanislav Dmitrievsky is a human rights advocate and the editor-in-chief of Pravo-zashchita (Rights Defense), a monthly newspaper of the now banned Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS). The Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance, a local human rights NGO, was founded in 2007 by Dmitrievsky and other activists to continue the human rights work of its predecessor, the RCFS. Dmitrievsky is also the chief director of the Russian-Chechen Information Agency, an independent media outlet. Stanislav Dmitrievsky and his colleague Oksana Chelysheva received the Amnesty International 2006 Special Award for Human Rights Journalism Under Threat.
The Federal Security Bureau initiated a criminal investigation of the RCFS and its executive director, Stanislav Dmitrievsky, in January 2005 on charges of inciting hatred between national groups and attempting to overthrow the government for publishing statements in the newspaper in March and April 2004 by Chechen rebel leaders, including the late Aslan Maskhadov.
On September 2, 2005, Dmitrievsky was charged under Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code for “actions aimed at inciting hatred or hostility and at disparagement of either an individual or a group of people according to their gender, race nationality, background religious beliefs, as well as belonging to any social group that are committed publicly or through mass media outlets.” On February 3, 2006, he was found guilty at the Soviet District Court in Nizhny Novgorod of “inciting interethnic hatred by using the mass media” and was sentenced to four years of probation with a two-year suspended sentence.
The RCFS has also been subject to what is described as fiscal harassment by the federal tax department and ministry of justice. On September 22, 2005, Dmitrievsky was summoned for questioning in relation to the alleged fiscal irregularities. On November 15, 2005, a British lawyer, Bill Bowring, was denied entry to Russia, just prior to the November 16 opening of the trial against Dmitrievsky. Several members of the RCFS and the NSHR appeared as witnesses, and the trial was adjourned to November 25.
Dmitrievsky fears for the future of the RCFS under the new NGO law introduced in January 2006 which bars people “convicted and incarcerated by the decision of a court of law” from involvement in such organizations. The Nizhny Novgorod court ordered that the Society be closed because of Dmitrievsky’s conviction in February. Under the new legislation, no person who has a conviction can head an NGO. On January 23, 2007 the Russian Supreme Court upheld the ruling to shut down the RCFS.
In addition, from February to April 2005, RCFS members and Stanislav Dmitrievsky and colleague Oksana Chelysheva in particular, were subjected to a smear campaign that was launched in mass media venues of Nizhny Novgorod. On March 14, 2005, threatening leaflets were distributed in the neighborhood of Nizhny Novgorod where RCFS editor Oksana Chelysheva lives. The leaflets, which gave her home address, labeled Chelysheva as a traitor, a supporter and a helper of “terrorist” activities carried out by Chechen fighters, and claimed that she was financed by them. The authors of these leaflets are yet to be identified.
On March 22, 2007, police officers in Nizhny Novgorod came to the office of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance, with the apparent intention of detaining Dmitrievsky and Chelysheva. The police was deterred when Dmitrievsky and Chelysheva informed them of their intention to contact international human rights organizations and foreign diplomats in Moscow. On the same day Dmitrievsky’s mother received another visit by a policeman, who claimed to have a list of alleged skin-heads that included her son’s name, which is unlike Dmitrievsky. After a longer conversation and some phone calls he apologized and explained that he was following an order.
As a consequence of his 2005 four-year probation and two-year suspended sentence, Dmitrievsky was at risk of immediate imprisonment at any time. During the four-year period of his sentence, Dmitrievsky had to inform the authorities as to any change of residence or travel plans and had to report regularly to the local authorities. Any violation of these conditions or a further criminal conviction could have resulted in him being imprisoned for two years.
On March 20, 2008, the authorities in Nizhny Novgorod launched a new wave of raids on the offices of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance. The police confiscated all computers as well as the mobile phone of Dmitrievsky and then sealed off the building until further notice. These recent raids have completely paralyzed the work of the Foundation, which was busy developing a project initiated by the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society on the application of international law to the assessment of the armed conflict in Chechnya. According to Dmitrievsky, the order to search the offices of the Foundation to Support Tolerance was signed by Vladimir Kozitsyn, chief investigator at the regional prosecutor’s office, and a special unit has been formed at the regional prosecutor’s office to investigate the case. Reports indicated that Dmitrievsky and a number of his colleagues remain subject to constant police surveillance.
On April 8, 2008, Stanislav Dmitrievsky, was threatened at his home by court officers. They threatened to confiscate his property to “cover the debts of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society,” which was shut down in Russia in January 2007 and later registered in Finland.
On April 27, 2011, Stanislav Dmitrievsky was summoned for questioning by the Anti-Extremism Center, a bureau of the General Department of Internal Affairs of Nizhny Novgorod, in relation to a monograph published under his direction entitled “International Tribunal of Chechnya: Legal prospects of initiating individual criminal proceedings against persons suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the course of the military conflict in the Chechen Republic.” The monograph comprises two volumes and presents current information available about human rights violations committed in Chechnya.
According to our information, Dmitrievsky refused to give information about the monograph, which he co-wrote with Oksana Chelysheva and Bogdan Gaureli. When he inquired as to the reasoning behind the interrogation, he was told that “an expert” would have declared that the monograph was extremist in its sentiments.
It was feared that this pre-investigation verification may lead to a criminal investigation against Stanislav Dmitrievksy and the other authors of the “International Tribunal of Chechnya.” It was believed that the recent questioning is directly linked to Dmitrievsky’s continued peaceful protest against the human rights abuses in the Chechen Republic and his call for those responsible to be brought to justice.
On December 6, 2012, the Nizhny Novgord Prosecutor’s Office delivered a petition at a hearing seeking to ban Dmitrievsky’s book on the grounds that its contents were “extremist.”