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New trial date for human rights defender Oleg Orlov

Status: 
New trial date
About the situation

On 7 February 2024, human rights defender Oleg Orlov received a closing indictment following the renewed investigation into human rights defenders’ motives when committing the alleged repeated “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” a criminal offence envisioned by Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The human rights defender reported that on 6 February 2024, the representative of Tverskoy Inter-district Prosecutor's Office in Moscow reached out to him and rushed to hand over the indictment and even offered to come to Oleg Orlov’s home, as the representative was told that there was a rush and Orlov needed to receive the indictment as soon as possible. Following the handover of the indictment, the new trial date for Oleg Orlov to be judged on his intentions when publishing the article that condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine is set for 16 February 2024.

On 2 February 2024, human rights defender Oleg Orlov reported that the Tverskoy District Court in Moscow ruled to limit the timeframe for him and his lawyer, Kateryna Tertukhina, to study the case file with the investigation documents until the evening of 5 February, 2024. This comes after the Investigative Committee wrapped up the “renewed” investigation, aimed at identifying the motive Oleg Orlov had when committing the alleged repeated “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” a criminal offense envisioned by Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. On the same day, 2 February, 2024, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation listed Oleg Orlov as a foreign agent.

On 27 December 2023, human rights defender Oleg Orlov was summoned for questioning.

On 14 December 2023, the Moscow City Court simultaneously reviewed two appeals to the decision of Golovinsky Disctrict Court dated 11 October 2023, that found human rights defender Oleg Orlov guilty of “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation.”

On 14 December 2023, Moscow City Court will hear human rights defender Oleg Orlov’s appeal to the Golovinskiy District Court’s decision to fine the human rights defender RUR 150,000 (approx. 1500 EUR). This ruling corresponds to alleged “public actions” carried out by Oleg Orlov “aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” a criminal offence envisioned by Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The human rights defender maintains his innocence.

On October 26, 2023, human rights defender Oleg Orlov and his lawyer, Katerina Tertukhina, appealed the decision of the Golovinskiy District Court in Moscow to fine the human rights defender for RUR 150,000 (approx. 1500 EUR) for the so-called “repeated discreditation of the Russian armed forces.” On the same day, they found out that the Office of the Prosecutor General also appealed the decision. Despite the fact that in the First Instance Court the Prosecutor requested a fine of RUR 250,000, now the Prosecutor’s Office requests 3 years of prison time for the human rights defender. This sentence is a maximum sentence envisioned by the Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, a war-time censorship law.

On 11 October 2023, Golovinskiy District Court of Moscow ruled to fine human rights defender Oleg Orlov for RUR 150,000 (approx. 1500 EUR).

On 21 March 2023, Russian law enforcement authorities launched a criminal case against human rights defender Oleg Orlov for repeated “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation.”

On 8 June 2023, Golovinskiy District Court of Moscow started reviewing the criminal case against human rights defender Oleg Orlov. The human rights defender is on trial for repeated “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” including a 2022 article that he posted on Facebook criticising Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

On 30 May 2023, Golovinskiy District Court of Moscow announced June 8 2023 as the starting date of the trial against human rights defender Oleg Orlov. On 21 March 2023, Russian law enforcement authorities launched a criminal case against human rights defender Oleg Orlov for repeated “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation” a criminal offence, envisioned by the Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

On 21 March 2023, Russian law enforcement authorities launched a criminal case against human rights defender Oleg Orlov for repeated “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation” a criminal offence, envisioned by the Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

About the HRD

Oleg Orlov is a human rights defender and council member of the Human Rights Defence Centre “Memorial” (HRDC “Memorial”) that was established after the Russian authorities shut down the Human Rights Centre “Memorial.” The human rights defender is also the head of the HRDC "Memorial" "Hot Spots" programme that was established by the Human Rights Centre “Memorial” in 1990. This programme works in zones of armed conflict, as well as in post-conflict situations, researching the observance of international human rights and humanitarian law. In 2009, he was awarded the Sakharov Prize “For Freedom of Thought” and in 2012, he won the award of the Moscow Helsinki Group “For historical contribution to the protection of human rights and the human rights movement.”

13 February 2024
New trial date for human rights defender Oleg Orlov

On 7 February 2024, human rights defender Oleg Orlov received a closing indictment following the renewed investigation into human rights defenders’ motives when committing the alleged repeated “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” a criminal offence envisioned by Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The human rights defender reported that on 6 February 2024, the representative of Tverskoy Inter-district Prosecutor's Office in Moscow reached out to him and rushed to hand over the indictment and even offered to come to Oleg Orlov’s home, as the representative was told that there was a rush and Orlov needed to receive the indictment as soon as possible. Following the handover of the indictment, the new trial date for Oleg Orlov to be judged on his intentions when publishing the article that condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine is set for 16 February 2024.

6 February 2024
Oleg Orlov limited in his right to access the investigation documentation; labeled a foreign agent the same day

On 2 February, 2024, human rights defender Oleg Orlov reported that the Tverskoy District Court in Moscow ruled to limit the timeframe for him and his lawyer, Kateryna Tertukhina, to study the case file with the investigation documents until the evening of 5 February, 2024. This comes after the Investigative Committee wrapped up the “renewed” investigation, aimed at identifying the motive Oleg Orlov had when committing the alleged repeated “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” a criminal offense envisioned by Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. On the same day, 2 February, 2024, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation listed Oleg Orlov as a foreign agent.

Oleg Orlov is a human rights defender and council member of the Human Rights Defence Centre “Memorial” (HRDC “Memorial”) that was established after the Russian authorities shut down the Human Rights Centre “Memorial.” The human rights defender is also the head of the HRDC "Memorial" "Hot Spots" programme that was established by the Human Rights Centre “Memorial” in 1990. This programme works in zones of armed conflict, as well as in post-conflict situations, researching the observance of international human rights and humanitarian law. In 2009, he was awarded the Sakharov Prize “For Freedom of Thought” and in 2012, he won the award of the Moscow Helsinki Group “For historical contribution to the protection of human rights and the human rights movement.”

Oleg Orlov reported, that on 30 January, 2024, he and his lawyer, Kateryna Tertukhina, commenced the process of studying the results of the “renewed investigation.” On 2 February, 2024, the human rights defender and his lawyer found out that the Investigator filed a motion to the Tverskoy District Court in Moscow to limit the human rights defender’s rights to study the results of the “renewed investigation” until the evening of 5 February, 2024. The court hearing to rule on a motion was scheduled for Friday at 12:30; the human rights defender reported that he and his lawyer only found out about it a couple of hours before the scheduled hearing. Oleg Orlov was able to submit a motion to counteract the Investigator’s motion, and a request to reschedule the hearing, as the lawyer, Kateryna Tertukhina had a different court date. The Court, however, held the hearing in absentia and satisfied the motion of the Investigator.

On 2 February, 2023, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation listed Oleg Orlov as a foreign agent, specifically because he opposed Russia’s war in Ukraine. In response, HRDC “Memorial” published a statement, suggesting that listing a human rights defender as a foreign agent is an action aimed at weakening and discrediting Oleg Orlov’s position within the framework of the criminal proceedings against him. The statement argued that listing a human rights defender as a foreign agent “violates the presumption of innocence since inclusion in the register of “agents” could influence the judge who will hear the criminal case.”

On 29 January, 2024, the Investigator, Ilya Savchenko, finalized the “renewed” investigation into Oleg Orlov’s motives when committing the alleged repeated “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” a criminal offense envisioned by Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The investigation concluded that when publishing an article in the French media outlet “Mediapart” Oleg Orlov guided himself by “ideological hostility against traditional Russian spiritual, moral and patriotic values” and “hatred towards the social group military personnel of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”

Front Line Defenders condemns the continued persecution of Oleg Orlov for his peaceful and legitimate human rights work and urges the Russian authorities to immediately drop all charges against the human rights defender. Front Line Defenders reiterates that the set of articles in the Russian Federation's Criminal Code that criminalize the “discreditation” of, and the use of “fakes” to undermine the Russian military, is unconstitutional, and in contravention of Russia’s international human rights obligations. These laws foster censorship in the country and are disproportionately used to target human rights defenders and journalists. The organization also condemns the Russian authorities for listing Oleg Orlov as a foreign agent as a form of defamation in the events of his persecution. Front Line Defenders also reiterates an overall concern with the Russian Government's continued use of foreign agents laws to suppress human rights work in the country.

2 January 2024
Oleg Orlov summoned for 15-minute questioning as part of renewed investigation into his case

On 27 December 2023, human rights defender Oleg Orlov was summoned for questioning. This inquiry took place in the context of a renewed investigation into the alleged offence by the human rights defender, namely “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation.” The goal of the additonal investigation is to establish the motive of Oleg Orlov when he committed the alleged violation. The inquiry lasted about 15 minutes, as the Investigator only asked him one question, specifically: “Explain for what purpose you wrote and published an article titled “They wanted fascism? They Got It.” The Investigator also informed the human rights defender that the investigation decided to commission the Institute of Forensic Science of the Federal Security Service to carry out an additional linguistic forensic examination.

18 December 2023
Decision to fine Oleg Orlov rejected; Renewed investigation into human rights defender

On 14 December 2023, the Moscow City Court simultaneously reviewed two appeals to the decision of Golovinsky Disctrict Court dated 11 October 2023, that found human rights defender Oleg Orlov guilty of “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation.” Oleg Orlov appealed the decision maintaining his innocence, while the Procecutor General requested that the human rights defender’s punishment be increased from the fine in question to a 3 year prison sentence. The Moscow City Court rejected the decision of the Golovinsky District Court and ruled to return the case to the Prosecutor’s office, to conduct an additional investigation.

The Moscow City Court simultaneously reviewed two appeals to the decision of the Golovinsky District Court. On 11 October 2023, the Golovinsky District Court found Oleg Orlov guilty of “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” a criminal offence as per Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The Court fined him RUR 150,000. Oleg Orlov and his legal team appealed the decision, maintaining the human rights defender’s innocence. The Office of the Prosecutor General also appealed the decision, requesting a more severe punishment for the human rights defender of 3 years in prison.

On 14 December 2023, the Moscow City Court rejected the decision of the Golovinsky District Court and ruled to return his case to the Prosecutor’s office where an additional investigation would be conducted. The Court established that the motive that drove the human rights defender to commit his alleged crime was not considered. During the hearing, the Representative of the Officer of the Prosecutor General argued that Oleg Orlov, when allegedly committing “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces”, was motivated by his political and ideological hatred of the Russian authorities. In this address to the Court, Oleg Orlov stated that his goal is for Russia to become a country where the rule of law is the basis of its statehood.

Front Line Defenders condemns the continued persecution of Oleg Orlov for his peaceful and legitimate human rights work and urges the Russian authorities to immediately drop all charges against the human rights defender. Front Line Defenders reiterates that the set of articles in the Russian Federation's Criminal Code which criminalise the “discreditation” of, and the use of “fakes” to undermine the Russian military, is unconstitutional, and incontravention of Russia’s international human rights obligations. These laws foster censorship in the country and are disproportionately used to target human rights defenders and journalists.

8 December 2023
Appeals date set for human rights defender Oleg Orlov

On 14 December 2023, Moscow City Court will hear human rights defender Oleg Orlov’s appeal to the Golovinskiy District Court’s decision to fine the human rights defender RUR 150,000 (approx. 1500 EUR). This ruling corresponds to alleged “public actions” carried out by Oleg Orlov “aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” a criminal offence envisioned by Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The human rights defender maintains his innocence.

On the same day, Moscow City Court will also consider the appeal of the Office of the Prosecutor General to the aforementioned decision of the Golovinskiy District Court. In their appeals claim, the Prosecutor’s Office requests that the punishment for the human rights defender be increased from the fine in question to a 3 years of prison sentence. This sentence is the maximum sentence envisioned by Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, a war-time censorship law. Moscow City Court will consider both appeals within the framework of one trial.

26 October 2023
The Prosecutor’s Office requests 3 years of prison time for human rights defender Oleg Orlov in the Court of Appeals

On October 26, 2023, human rights defender Oleg Orlov and his lawyer, Katerina Tertukhina, appealed the decision of the Golovinskiy District Court in Moscow to fine the human rights defender for RUR 150,000 (approx. 1500 EUR) for the so-called “repeated discreditation of the Russian armed forces.” On the same day, they found out that the Office of the Prosecutor General also appealed the decision. Despite the fact that in the First Instance Court the Prosecutor requested a fine of RUR 250,000, now the Prosecutor’s Office requests 3 years of prison time for the human rights defender. This sentence is a maximum sentence envisioned by the Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, a war-time censorship law.

Oleg Orlov is a human rights defender and council member of the Human Rights Defence Centre “Memorial” (HRDC “Memorial”) that was established after the Russian authorities shut down the Human Rights Centre “Memorial.” The human rights defender is also the head of the HRDC "Memorial" "Hot Spots" programme that was established by the Human Rights Centre “Memorial” in 1990. This programme works in zones of armed conflict, as well as in post-conflict situations, researching the observance of international human rights and humanitarian law. In 2009, he was awarded the Sakharov Prize “For Freedom of Thought” and in 2012, he won the award of the Moscow Helsinki Group “For historical contribution to the protection of human rights and the human rights movement.”

The Prosecutor stated that such a soft punishment doesn’t match the gravity and the “public danger” of the crime, allegedly committed by Oleg Orlov. The text of the appeal, however, doesn’t properly explain a sudden change of heart of the Prosecutor, as the same Office previously requested to simply fine Oleg Orlov for his so-called “repeated discrediting of the Russian armed forces.” The text, submitted by the Prosecutor’s Office contradicts the argumentation and the statements made by the Public Prosecutor during the trial against the human rights defender. Now, the Prosecutor’s Office claims that their decision to request a maximum sentence in the Court of Appeals derives from the fact that human rights defender Oleg Orlov displays “ideological hatred towards the Russian Federation.” It states that Oleg Orlov and Memorial “continue to destabilize the civil society in the country,” and argues that the human rigths defender has exhibited “persistent illegal behavior.” In support of this argument, the Appeals Claim, turns to the 2009 trial against Oleg Orlov, where the Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov accused the human rights defender of slander, after Orlov publicly blamed Ramzan Kadyrov for the killing of the woman human rights defender Natalia Estemirova. Despite the Court acquitted Oleg Orlov and found him not guilty of slander, the Prosecutor’s Office uses it as an example of Orlov’s systemic “criminal” activity and calls for his “isolation from the society.”

On October 11, 2023, Golovinskiy District Court in Moscow ruled to fine human rights defender Oleg Orlov for RUR 150,000. The Judge Kristina Kostriukova found the human rights defender guilty of “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” a criminal offence envisioned by Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The human rights defender was put of a stand for his Facebook post dated 14 November 2022, for a translation of an article titled “They Wanted Facism – They Got It” published in the French media outlet “Mediapart.” While the Public Prosecutor asked for a fine of RUR 250,000 the Judge decreased the amount by RUR 100,000. The human rights defender disagree with the decision and maintains his innocence.

Front Line Defenders condemns the continued persecution of human rights defender Oleg Orlov for his peaceful and legitimate human rights work and calls for his immediate and full acquittal. Front Line Defenders affirms that the expansion of the Russian Federation's Criminal Code with a set of articles against “discreditation” and “fakes” against the Russian military fosters censorship in the country and is being disproportionately used to target human rights defenders and journalists. The organisations urges the Russian Authorities to cease the continued attack against the human rights defender and civil society in Russia.

11 October 2023
Oleg Orlov fined for RUR 150,000

On 11 October 2023, Golovinskiy District Court of Moscow ruled to fine human rights defender Oleg Orlov for RUR 150,000 (approx. 1500 EUR). The judge Kristina Kostriukova found the human rights defender guilty of “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” a criminal offence envisioned by Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. While the Public Prosecutor asked for a fine of RUR 250,000, the judge decreased the amount by RUR 100,000. The human rights defender disagrees with the decision and maintains his immocence; he and his attorney will appeal this decision.

On 21 March 2023, Russian law enforcement authorities launched a criminal case against human rights defender Oleg Orlov for repeated “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation.” The human rights defender was put on a stand for his Facebook post dated 14 November 2022, for a translation of an article titled “They Wanted Facism – They Got It” published in the French media outlet “Mediapart.” In the text of the Court ruling, the judge Kristina Kostriukova stated that she found Oleg Orlov guilty relying on the expert review of the said article and the testimonies of the representatives of the organisation “Veterans of Russia.” Human Rights Defence Center “Memorial” reported that the testimonies of different members were almost identical, yet the judge didn’t see it as an issue. While the judge stated that testimonies of various human rights defenders on Oleg Orlov’s behalf were not related to the subject of the accusation, Oleg Orlov’s long-term human righst work was taken as a mitigating circumstance in the case.

9 June 2023
Oleg Orlov’s trial begins in Moscow

On 8 June 2023, Golovinskiy District Court of Moscow started reviewing the criminal case against human rights defender Oleg Orlov. The human rights defender is on trial for repeated “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” including a 2022 article that he posted on Facebook criticising Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. During the hearing, Oleg Orlov stated that the nature of the accusations against him are not clear to him and he made no admission of guilt. The next hearing is scheduled for 3 July 2023.

Oleg Orlov is a human rights defender and council member of the Human Rights Defence Centre “Memorial” (HRDC “Memorial”) that was established after the Russian authorities shut down the Human Rights Centre “Memorial.” The human rights defender is also the head of the HRDC "Memorial" "Hot Spots" programme that was established by the Human Rights Centre “Memorial” in 1990. This programme works in zones of armed conflict, as well as in post-conflict situations, researching the observance of international human rights and humanitarian law. In 2009, he was awarded the Sakharov Prize “For Freedom of Thought” and in 2012, he won the award of the Moscow Helsinki Group “For historical contribution to the protection of human rights and the human rights movement.”

On 8 June 2023, in the Golovinskiy District Court of Moscow, the judge Kristina Kostriukova started reviewing the criminal case against human rights defender Oleg Orlov. The human rights defender is on trial for repeated so-called “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” a criminal offence envisioned by Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Woman human rights defender and lawyer Katerina Tertukhina is Oleg Orlov’s defence attorney. During the hearing, the human rights defender and his attorney submitted a motion to the Court to allow human rights defender, journalist and editor-in chief of the “Novaya Gazeta” newspaper Dmirtiy Muratov to act as Oleg Orlov’s public defender. The judge accepted the motion, despite the prosecutor’s objection. During the hearing, Oleg Orlov stated that the nature of the accusations against him are not clear to him and he made no admission of guilt.

Oleg Orlov’s attorney filed another motion to the Court to pause the review of the human rights defender’s case, as he has submitted a complaint to the Constiutional Court of the Russian Federation concerning the article in the Administrative Code on so-called “discreditation,” claiming it is unconstitutional. Since 24 April 2023, at least 20 persons have submitted identical complaints to the Constitutional Court. Katerina Tertukhina argued that to justly review the case against Oleg Orlov, the Golovinskiy District Court of Moscow needs to have the decisison of the Constitutional Court. Both the Disctrict Court and the Constitutional Court are reviewing the same events and this could lead to two radically different conclusions. Judge Kristina Kostriukova declined the motion and also refused to request the information from the Constitutional Court concerning Oleg Orlov’s complaint.

Katerina Tertukhina also filed a motion to return Oleg Orlov’s case to the prosecutor, as the prosecutor failed to explain what information from Oleg Orlov’s article can be defined as criminal. The prosecutor didn’t include the text of the article that is the basis of the human rights defender’s repeated persecution, nor did the prosecutor state what specific “public threat” it posed. The lawyer argued that the lack of clarity on the charges limits the opportunitites for the defence. Moreover, she mentioned that the final indicment of the human rights defender stated that Oleg Orlov is being seen by a narcologist and a psychiatrist, which is a mistake by the prosecutor as this is not the case. The defence team argue that this is defamatory information and could be misused by the public to discredit the human rights defender. The judge denied this motion.

Since the introduction of the discreditation laws in 2022, Oleg Orlov has been charged twice. On 30 March 2022, the Tverskoy City Court charged Oleg Orlov with “discreditation” for protesting against the war in Ukraine. The human rights defender held a picket in Moscow city centre with a poster saying “Crazy Putin pushes the world into a nuclear war.” On 12 May 2022, the Tverskoy City Court once again charged Oleg Orlov with “discreditation” for his anti-war protests. On this occasion, the human rights defender was arrested with a poster saying “USSR 1945 – a country that combated facism. Russia 2022 – a country where facism won.” Oleg Orlov was charged under Article 20.3.3 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation.

On 21 March 2023, Russian law enforcement authorities launched a criminal case against the human rights defender for repeated “public actions aimed at discreditation of the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” a criminal offence envisioned by the Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The human rights defender is being charged for his Facebook post dated 14 November 2022 of the Russian version of his own article article titled “They Wanted Facism – They Got It,” originally published in the French media outlet “Mediapart.” The article criticised Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. If convicted, Oleg Orlov could face up to three years in prison.

Front Line Defenders condemns the continued persecution of human rights defender Oleg Orlov for his peaceful and legitimate human rights work and urges the Russian authorities to immediately drop all charges against the human rights defender. Front Line Defenders affirms that the expansion of the Russian Federation's Criminal Code with a set of articles against “discreditation” and “fakes” against the Russian military are unconstitutional, contradict Russia’s international human rights obligations, foster censorship in the country and are being disproportionately used to target human rights defenders and journalists.

7 June 2023
Trial date set for human rights defender Oleg Orlov

On 30 May 2023, Golovinskiy District Court of Moscow announced June 8 2023 as the starting date of the trial against human rights defender Oleg Orlov. The hearing is scheduled for 3 pm Moscow time. The human rights defender is on trial for repeated “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation,” a criminal offence envisioned by Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. After the charges were brought against him, the authorities placed travel restrictions upon the human rights defender for an unidentified period of time.

On 29 May 2023, Oleg Orlov filed a complaint to the Constitutional Court, stating that Article 20.3.3 of the Code of Adminstrative Offences, which prohibits so-called “discreditation of the armed forces,” is unconstitutional and violates the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Russian constitution. This article was introduced immediately following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. In his complaint, the human rights defender stated that the introduced article violates the constitutional guarantees of ideological and political pluralism (Article 13, Parts 1-3); freedom of conscience (Article 28); freedom of speech (Article 29); and the right to peaceful assembly (Article 31).

Oleg Orlov also pointed to the fact that the Constitution of the Russian Federation states that the Russian authorities should not introduce laws that abolish or diminish human rights and freedoms (Article 55). The Constitutional Court emphasised that rights may be limited by federal law in order to protect constitutionally significant values, subject to the observance of the principles of necessity and proportionality. Restrictions should not encroach upon the very essence of constitutional rights nor prevent citizens from openly and freely expressing their views, opinions or demands.

24 March 2023
Human rights defender Oleg Orlov faces criminal charges on “discreditation of the Russian army”

On 21 March 2023, Russian law enforcement authorities launched a criminal case against human rights defender Oleg Orlov for repeated “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation” a criminal offence, envisioned by the Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The latest targetting of the human rights defender is in relation to his Facebook post from November 2022. The maximum penalty for a repeated offence is a prison sentence up to 3 years. The authorities placed the human rights defender under a travel restriction for unidentified period of time.

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Oleg Orlov is a human rights defender and council member of Human Rights Defence Centre “Memorial” (HRDC “Memorial”) that was established after the Russian authorities shut down Human Rights Centre “Memorial.” The human rights defender is also the head of the HRDC "Memorial" "Hot Spots" programme, that was established by the Human Rights Centre “Memorial” in 1990, which works in zones of mass conflict that may escalate into armed conflict, as well as in post-conflict situations, researching the observance of human rights and international humanitarian law. In 2009, he was awarded the Sakharov Prize in the category of “For Freedom of Thought” and in 2012, the award of the Moscow Helsinki Group in the category “For historical contribution into the protection of human rights and human rights movement.”

On 23 March 2023 at approximately 7am Moscow time, Oleg Orlov’s apartment was raided by law enforcement, and he was brought in for questioning. The raids and questionings are sanctioned in the framework of an investigation against “unidentified staff members” of “Memorial” – concerning the “revival of Nazism” a criminal offence envisioned under Article 354.1 Part 2.B of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. At least eight other former representatives of International Memorial and Human Right Centre “Memorial” were targeted with raids and questionings. During the raid, the law enforcement authorities seized Oleg Orlov’s laptop, 3 hard drives, a number of falsh drives, a phone, “Memorial” branded stickers, a pin badge with “No War” sign, and a book on Crimes committed during the first Chechen War.

On the same day, after the raid, the representatives of the Investigative Committee brought human rights defender Oleg Orlov the Investigative Department in the Tverskoy District in Moscow. Russian law enforcement authorities launched a criminal case against human rights defender Oleg Orlov for repeated “public actions aimed at discreditation of the use of Russian Federation armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation” a criminal offence envisioned by the Article 280.3, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The human rights defender is being charged for his Facebook post dated 14 November 2022, for a translation of an article titled “They Wanted Facism – They Got It” published in the French media outlet “Mediapart.” The article discussed Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Oleg Orlov’s colleagues reported that he was released from the interrogation but he will remain a witness in the investigation concerning the “revival of Nazism” – which was the initial reason why he was brought into questioning on 21 March 2023.

The investigation stated that the human rights defender had a “criminal intent” when he published the Facebook post. Moreover, according to the study made by the Forensic Expertise Centre (ECC) of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on 9 December 2022, Oleg Orlov in his Facebook post described the activities of Russian military forces as “related to genocide, killings, destruction of economy and infrastructure” and “directed at existing Constitutional order.” During the questioning, the human rights defender stated that he published his own opinion about the events in the Russian Federation and the world. He refused to provide further details to the investigation, citing Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which sets out that no one shall be forced to testify against themselves.

Since the introduction of the discreditation laws, Oleg Orlov has been charged two times. On 30 March 2022, the Tverskoy City Court charged Oleg Orlov with “discreditation” for protesting against the war. The human rights defender held a picket in Moscow city centre with a poster saying “Crazy Putin pushes the world into a nuclear war.” He was convicted on 17 May 2022, after Oleg Orlov appealed it in the Moscow City Court. On 12 May 2022, the Tverskoy City Court once again charged Oleg Orlov with “discreditation” for his anti-war protests; this time the human rights defender was arreasted with a poster saying “USSR 1945 – a country that combated facism. Russia 2022 – a country where facism won.” Oleg Orlov was charged under Article 20.3.3 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation. He was officially convicted on 28 June 2022, after Oleg Orlov appealed it in the Moscow City Court.

Front Line Defenders condemns the continued persecution of human rights defender Oleg Orlov, for his peaceful and legitimate human rights work. Front Line Defenders urges that the expansion of the Russian Federation's Criminal Code with a set of articles against “discreditation” and “fakes” against the Russian military fosters censorship in the country and is being disproportionately used to target human rights defenders and journalists.