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Tenacious Russian Activist Girds For Yet Another Battle

Stanislav Dmitriyevsky: Activist or "extremist"?
Russian human rights activist Stanislav Dmitriyevsky is no stranger to harassment, persecution, threats, and attacks.

-- In February 2006, he was convicted of fomenting national hatred for publishing articles by Chechen separatist leaders, receiving a two-year suspended sentence.

-- In October 2006, a court in Nizhny Novgorod ordered that his rights organization, the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, be shuttered.

-- In 2008, a brick was thrown through a window of Dmitriyevsky's apartment and his building covered with abusive graffiti.

-- In March 2012, he was sentenced to nine days of administrative arrest for disobeying police orders during a protest rally in Nizhny Novgorod.

-- Also in March, the Group of Free People in Nizhny Novgorod was the target of an arson attack. Dmitriyevsky is in charge of the group's International Criminal Justice Online project.

-- In November, unknown assailants attacked Dmitriyevsky's office and apartment in Nizhny Novgorod. Says Human Rights Watch (HRW):
Two men attacked Dmitrievsky’s apartment at 4:30 a.m. on November 4 while Dmitrievsky was away and his wife and teenage daughter were home alone. The assailants wore hooded jackets, face masks, and gloves, and were armed with heavy hammers. They broke the apartment windows of the ground floor apartment and manipulated the lock on the door so that his family could not get out. Their actions were recorded by video cameras that Dmitrievsky, a frequent victim of harassment and attacks, had installed on his door and windows.
-- And on December 6, in the latest attempt to muffle the voice of one of Russia's most tenacious rights activists, the Dzerzhinsk city court in Nizhny Novgorod will hold a hearing on a petition filed by the local prosecutor's office.

The charge?

That a 1,200-page book edited and co-authored by Dmitriyevsky, titled "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" be banned as "extremist" literature.

HRW says the case "is part of the growing misuse of antiextremism legislation against civil society activists" and is urging the Russian authorities to withdraw their petition.

The book is an exhaustive examination of rights violations by all parties to the conflict in Chechnya from the standpoint of international criminal law and pays particular attention to the responsibility borne by the top Russian leadership.

Says Hugh Williamson, the director of the Europe and Central Asia division at HRW:

Dmitrievsky’s book is based on meticulous desk research and is an important source of information on the Chechen conflict. The authorities’ efforts to ban the book as "extremist" have no basis in international human rights law and seem aimed at punishing Dmitrievsky for his human rights work. … There has been an unprecedented crackdown on civil society in the past six months, and this seems to have sent the authorities a signal that it’s all right to go after Dmitrievsky with a new zeal. In the past, he clearly demonstrated that he wouldn’t be intimidated into silence by arrests and attacks, so now they’re trying to silence him by banning his monograph, which Dmitrievsky considers his life’s work.

HRW says that banning the book would violate Russia’s legal obligations to respect and protect freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Russia is a party to both treaties.

-- Grant Podelco

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