Oleg Orlov’s trial a textbook example of politicisation of law enforcement and justice to silence anti-war voices: Russia


GENEVA (26 February 2024) – A UN expert today condemned the ongoing judicial harassment of Oleg Orlov, co-chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organisation “Memorial”, in a politically motivated trial in the Russian Federation.

“I call on Russian authorities to immediately drop all criminal charges against Oleg Orlov, known for his unrelenting fight for human rights and research of historic truth in Russia,” said Mariana Katzarova, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation.

She stressed that the legal provisions under which Orlov faces charges of “discrediting the use of Russian armed forces” have no grounds in international law and are a flagrant violation of Russia’s international obligations to protect freedom of expression and foster a safe environment for human rights defenders.

“The entire package of laws banning so-called ‘fake news’ about the war and ‘discrediting the army’ – adopted one week into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine – must be repealed immediately,” Katzarova said.

The Special Rapporteur stated that she was closely following the decision of the Golovinsky Court in Moscow against Oleg Orlov, who faces up to three years’ imprisonment, at a court hearing scheduled for noon today, 26 February, in Moscow.

“Orlov faces prosecution and trial for voicing his anti-war position just as the world marked the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last Saturday,” she said.

After Orlov’s initial conviction and fine of 150,000 Russian roubles, the Moscow City Court overturned the verdict on 14 December 2023 and granted the prosecution’s request to return to the investigation phase in an attempt to toughen the charges against him.

“This case is an example of the intensified repression of human rights defenders in Russia, where the judiciary has given up its independence under political pressure,” the expert said.

“Orlov’s trial is not just an attack on the individual, but an orchestrated attempt to silence the voices of human rights defenders in Russia and any criticism of the war on Ukraine. It is a textbook example of a repressive system in which law enforcement and the judiciary are instrumentalised for political purposes,” she said.

Following the news of Navalny’s death, Katzarova was joined by a group of other UN Special Rapporteurs in calling on the Russian Government to immediately release all political prisoners in Russia.

She noted that Russian authorities are instead moving in the opposite direction and increasing the number of political prisoners. Since last Friday, the authorities have violently detained hundreds of peaceful citizens across Russia for laying flowers in Navalny’s honour, while putting Oleg Orlov on trial for opposing the war on Ukraine.

“The criminal proceedings against Orlov are marred by irregularities that constitute clear violations of the right to a fair trial,” the Special Rapporteur said, including the rush to prepare new charges and the endorsement of the indictment in less than 24 hours.

“Officers armed with automatic weapons were dispatched to the defence lawyer’s office to deliver the indictment, further highlighting the politically motivated nature of this case,” she said. The expert noted that the court had also significantly hindered Orlov’s ability to prepare his defence by limiting his time to review the case materials to just six days.

Katzarova, jointly with other UN Special Rapporteurs, called on the Russian authorities to drop all charges against Orlov in a letter sent in May 2023. As documented in her report to the Human Rights Council, she deplored the lack of response and the increasing crackdown on dissenting voices and peaceful anti-war expression in the Russian Federation.

“I reiterate my call for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Russia and an end to the repression of civil society and anti-war activists,” the Special Rapporteur said.

The expert: Mariana Katzarova, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation.

Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organisation. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, country page – Russian Federation

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