Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Prosecution of human rights activists in Ulan-Ude (Buryatia), by Stephen Shenfield

On April 23, 2009, the procuracy of the Republic of Buryatia in Ulan-Udecharged two local human rights activists and members of the Democratic Union, journalist Nadezhda Nizovkina and lawyer Tatyana Stetsura, with the offence of ³inciting social hatred² under Article 282 of the Criminal Codeof the Russian Federation, on the grounds that three texts written and disseminated by them ³incite hatred on social grounds toward officers of thepolice, procuracy, Federal Security Service, army, and prison service.²

Article 282, which carries penalties of up to five years of imprisonment,was originally directed solely against the incitement of hatred on ethnic,racial, or religious grounds. Anti-fascist activists often complained that the authorities were too reluctant to press charges under the Article against hate propagandists.

In 2003, however, the scope of Article 282 was expanded to cover incitementof hatred on grounds of sex, language, origin, or ³membership in any socialgroup.² It is now common practice to charge activists of various politicalorientations with "inciting social hatred." As critics have pointed out, protesting against anyone and anything can be construed as inciting socialhatred. For instance, protesting against or simply publishing information about murders can be construed as inciting hatred against members of the"social group" of murderers.

Nizovkina and Stetsura are graduates of the law faculty of Buryatia State University. They have engaged in protests against abuses committed by various state agencies, including the cruel treatment of minors held inclosed institutions, and in defense of ethnic minorities and Buryat autonomy. They have also spoken on local television.

The three texts on which the charges are based were written, posted on websites, distributed as leaflets, and published in the journal "Svobodnoeslovo" (Free Word) between November 2008 and March 2009.

The first text was in defense of Imam Bakhtiar Umarov, who initiated the construction of a mosque in Ulan-Ude and was arrested on charges of "terrorism." The authors argued that the charges against him were fabricated.

The second text marked the 65th anniversary of Stalin's deportation of Chechens, Ingush, Crimean Tatars, Volga Germans, and nine other ethnic groups in 1944. The authors stated that the force structures still commit atrocities against members of ethnic minorities today and that the perpetrators are rewarded with medals and bonuses.

The third text was in defense of Volgograd journalist Elena Maglevannaya, who was being sued for defamation by the managers of Penal Colony No. 15 after publishing a series of articles alleging that Chechen political prisoners were being tortured in the colony. She had focused especially on the case of Zubair Zubairayev, who had been sentenced on (as she argued)fabricated charges of possessing weapons and making an attempt on the lifeof a law enforcement officer.

On September 4, 2009, Nizovkina and Stetsura were examined at the Transbaikal Laboratory of Judicial Expertise (under the Ministry of Justice) by psychologist Yuliya Malinina and linguist Galina Sudoplatova, who chairs the Russian Language Department at Buryatia State University. Based on the examination and linguistic analysis of the three texts, Malinina and Sudoplatova issued an All-Sided Judicial Psychological-Linguistic Expert Appraisal. Nizovkina and Stetsura were found to be immature personalities exhibiting "chronic malice and unhappiness" and "sociopathic tendencies." Since then two further appraisals have been conducted.

On February 18, 2010 Nizovkina and Stetsura went to Moscow to take part in a law seminar. As they went without permission from the investigator, they are afraid of being arrested if they return to Ulan-Ude. They have therefo reremained in Moscow (though of course they may be arrested there too). They plan to appeal to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that Article 282 is unconstitutional.

Source: documents and e-mail communications from Nadezhda Nizovkina

Stephen D. Shenfield

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