Stanislav Dmitrievsky Faces Ban on Book Detailing Human Rights Abuses
Russian writer, editor, and human rights activist Stanislav Dmitrievsky is once again in court, this time over a 1,200-page book on human rights abuses committed during the years of armed conflict in the Chechen Republic. At the first hearing of the trial on December 6, 2012, the Nizhny Novgorod Prosecutor’s Office delivered its petition to ban the book on grounds that its content is “extremist” in nature. PEN considers the case to be an example of the growing misuse of anti-extremism legislation in Russia to stifle legitimate expression, and part of a longstanding campaign to intimidate Stanislav Dmitrievsky through a campaign of judicial harassment.
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Dmitrievsky’s co-authors Oksana Chelysheva and Bogdan Guareli were also named as responsible parties at the December 6 hearing against the trio’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. 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.”
For a number of years, PEN has been closely following developments with Dmitrievsky, who has faced numerous legal challenges, threats and attacks as a consequence of his writings and work as an activist. In January 2005, the Federal Security Bureau initiated a criminal investigation into his human rights organization, the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS), and charged Dmitrievsky with “inciting hatred between national groups by use of the mass media.” Simultaneously, a process of fiscal harassment was started against the RCFS by the Tax Department and the Ministry of Justice, as well as an anonymous smear campaign against Dmitriyevsky and RCFS members (particularly Oksana Chelysheva), giving their home addresses and dubbing them Chechen-funded traitors. In response to the situation PEN took on Dmitrievsky as a main case, and following an extensive campaign, he was able to escape imprisonment with a two-year suspended sentence and four years of probation.
Shortly after the end of this trial, RCFS was shut down by the Russian authorities as a consequence of Dmitrievsky’s conviction. Since then, Dmitrievsky has been subjected to intermittent harassment by police officers (when his offices were raided in March 2007 and 2008) and unknown assailants (in August 2008 a brick was thrown through his apartment window and his building was covered with abusive graffiti; between March and November 2012 his offices and home were subjected to attacks of arson, vandalism, and attempted forced entry on no less than three occasions). PEN is deeply worried that Dmitrievsky is facing a campaign of harassment as a means of penalizing him for his legitimate research and commentary, and fears that the cases being pursued against him end up singling him out as a target for violent groups politically opposed to his work as a human rights activist.
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