Dunja Mijatović calls on Russia to end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

October 1, 2020

Yuri Dmitriev

Yuri Dmitriev

On 30 September 2020 the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg issued the following statement:

“Yesterday’s judgment against Yuri Dmitriev, a Russian historian and human rights defender, sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment in a high-security prison having been acquitted earlier on the same charges, raises serious doubts as to the credibility of his prosecution”, says today Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/24/gulag-historian-yury-dmitriyev-returns-to-prison/]

Mr Dmitriev is widely known in Russia and beyond for his research and his work focusing on the commemoration of victims of past political repression. The harsh verdict delivered by the Karelian Supreme Court in the absence of the legal counsel chosen by Mr Dmitriev cannot be deemed to have complied with fair trial guarantees and is a further illustration of a broader pattern of judicial harassment against human rights defenders, journalists and other independent or critical voices, which has been growing in the Russian Federation in recent years.

Once again I urge the Russian authorities to reverse this alarming trend of targeting Russian civil society. As a matter of urgency the criminal prosecution of a number of human rights defenders, journalists and civil society activists, including those of Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev, Yulia Tsvetkova, Anastasia Shevchenko [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/22/in-russia-first-criminal-case-under-undesirable-organizations-law/%5Dand Semyen Simonov for engaging in legitimate civil society activities, must stop. As a Council of Europe member state, Russia should also adopt structural measures at the political, legislative and practical level which genuinely create a safe and enabling environment for the work of human rights defenders, as required by European human rights standards. Instead of intimidating and harassing civil society, the Russian authorities at all levels should effectively co-operate with them and publicly acknowledge their essential role and invaluable contribution to society’s democratic development.”


 Commissioner website

3 Responses to “Dunja Mijatović calls on Russia to end judicial harassment of human rights defenders”


  1. […] Yury Dmitriev, Russian historian of repression [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/01/dunja-mijatovic-calls-on-russia-to-end-judicial-harassm…] […]


  2. […] Dmitriev is currently serving a 13 years prison sentence and is considered a political prisoner by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and other leading human rights organizations. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/01/dunja-mijatovic-calls-on-russia-to-end-judicial-harassm… […]


  3. […] In 2020, the official historical narrative was set in stone in the Constitution, which was amended contrary to domestic and international law. In the Constitution, Russia is presented as the “successor” regime of the Soviet Union, which must “honour the memory of the defenders of the fatherland” and “protect the historical truth.” This narrative is actively promoted by government institutions. On the other hand, the authorities have stigmatised and penalised internationally supported civil society organisations, such as International Memorial, with the likes of foreign agent laws; it has criminalised interpretations that diverge from the state’s interpretation of history through the adoption of “Exoneration of Nazism” and other memory laws; and it has organised show trials against independent historians like Yuri Dmitriev, who received a draconian 13-year sentence for his tireless work to identify and commemorate victims of the Great Terror. Seae also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/01/dunja-mijatovic-calls-on-russia-to-end-judicial-harassm… […]


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