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Rapporteur expresses concern over harassment and trial of Russian human rights defender Oleg Orlov and others who oppose Russia’s war of aggression

Oleg Orlov

“Today Oleg Orlov, co-chair of Memorial, the prominent Russian human rights group and Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate, is facing trial for repeatedly discrediting the Russian armed forces, and risks being sentenced to three years of imprisonment,” said PACE’s General Rapporteur for Political Prisoners Thórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir (Iceland, SOC).

“This accusation is based on his social media post in which he shared his article entitled: ‘Russia: they wanted fascism, they got it’, published on a French blogging platform in November 2022. He was also arrested in March 2022 for holding a sign that read: ‘Peace for Ukraine, Freedom to Russia’.

I am appalled that such a highly-regarded human rights defender, who also received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Expression on behalf of Memorial in 2009, is facing judicial harassment simply for exercising his right to freedom expression and protesting against the current regime and its ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine.

If he is sentenced to imprisonment following today’s trial, he will sadly join the list of political prisoners in Russia, according to PACE’s definition of ‘political prisoner’. Orlov’s would be the latest of hundreds of sentences being handed down for protesting against Russia’s war of aggression, under the 2022 amendments to the Criminal Code.

As I will explore in my upcoming report The arbitrary detention of Vladimir Kara-Murza and the systematic persecution of anti-war protesters in the Russian Federation, Russia’s 2022 amendments to the Criminal and Administrative Codes violate international human rights standards and are being used to systematically persecute all forms of expression that do not conform with official Kremlin propaganda.”