AI Index: EUR 46/028/2010
11 August 2010
Amnesty International is calling for the criminal case against Oleg Orlov to be dropped.
On 6 July 2010, the head of the Russian human rights centre Memorial, Oleg Orlov, was charged with slander against the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a crime under Russian law punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment.
A year ago news broke about the kidnapping and murder of a leading member of Memorial in
Oleg Orlov’s words were published in a quote on Memorial’s website, and were widely cited in the Russian and foreign media.
President Kadyrov filed a civil libel suit against Oleg Orlov and Memorial and took action to initiate a criminal investigation of slander against Oleg Orlov. As the head of Memorial explained in court, his words did not implicate Ramzan Kadyrov directly in the murder of the human rights defender Natalia Estemirova, but were implying his guilt “in the political and social sense” and were expressing his opinion about President Kadyrov’s role in creating the perilous conditions for human rights defenders in
On 6 October
During the libel hearing, Oleg Orlov and his colleagues presented the court with a number of public statements made by President Kadyrov and his closest associates in which they were issuing threats against human rights defenders and other critics of the leadership of
In February 2010, the media widely reported that President Kadyrov had “retracted” his complaint against Oleg Orlov suggesting the criminal case may be dropped. However, the criminal investigation proceeded, and on 6 July Oleg Orlov was charged under Article 129 of the Criminal Code.
Amnesty International stresses that human rights defenders have a right to speak out on the grave human rights violations taking place in
The killings of NGO activists in
Human rights defenders in
Amnesty International is greatly concerned that direct words of threat towards human rights defenders in
In its judgment of 8 July 1986 on Lingens v Austriain 1986, the European Court of Human Rights stated: “The limits of acceptable criticism are (...) wider as regards a politician as such than as regards a private individual. Unlike the latter, the former inevitably and knowingly lays himself open to close scrutiny of his every word and deed by both journalists and the public at large, and he must consequently display a greater degree of tolerance. No doubt Article 10 para. 2 enables the reputation of others - that is to say, of all individuals - to be protected, and this protection extends to politicians too, even when they are not acting in their private capacity; but in such cases the requirements of such protection have to be weighed in relation to the interests of open discussion of political issues” (paragraph 42).
The UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions require that “[s]uperiors, officers or other public officials may be held responsible for acts committed by officials under their authority if they had a reasonable opportunity to prevent such acts” [Principle 19].