Political Prisoners today

There are now at least 117 political prisoners in Russia, says Memorial, and the number continues to grow.

<< No 25 (258), 26 June 2017 >>

memorial-blue-logoAs the Memorial Human Rights Centre explains, it has begun to divide its periodic lists in two. Some have been prosecuted for political reasons (51 individuals); others have suffered harassment and denial of their rights because of their religion (66 individuals), and it makes sense to distinguish between the two.

Definition and number of political prisoner (List 1)

We regard as political prisoners those individuals who are serving a term of imprisonment (either in a penal colony or a prison), or are held in custody or under house arrest as a form of pre-trial detention, in relation to the kind of charges described below.

Fifty-one individuals are named in our latest list. The names of those who have been persecuted mainly for asserting their right to freedom of religion (66 individuals) can be found in List Two.

List 1 is far from complete.

It includes only those individuals and cases for which we have managed to collect and analyse sufficient information to draw a convincing conclusion about the politically-motivated and illegal nature of their criminal prosecution. At present, the list does not contain the names of many people who have been deprived of their liberty: their prosecution contains indications of illegality or political motivation, but for those cases we have yet to receive the necessary information, or subject it to a full analysis.

A year ago, the list of similar prisoners contained 39 names.

The types of political prisoner

The political prisoners represent a wide range of groups that have become victims of political repression by the State.

The ‘Ukrainian trail’ can be clearly traced in the following cases:

— the Crimean Tatars Akhtem Chiygoz, Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy;

— the Ukrainian citizens Stanislav Klykh, Andrei Kolomiyets, Alexander Kostenko, Oleg Sentsov, Alexander Kolchenko and Sergei Litvinov;

— the Russian citizens Andrei Bubeyev, Darya Polyudova, Rafis Kashapov and Natalya Sharina whose cases have been linked to the anti-Ukrainian campaign of the Russian authorities.

As before, one of the most important goals of politically-motivated incarceration remains restriction of the right of assembly. The place of three Bolotnaya Square defendants who have been released, has been taken by two new defendants: Dmitry Buchenkov and Maxim Panfilov. Ivan Nepomnyashchikh, Dmitry Ishevsky, Sergei Udaltsov remain imprisoned. Darya Polyudova has also been deprived of her liberty based on charges of taking part in public events.

Vitaly Shishkin was sentenced for calling on people to take part in mass protests; Dmitry Bogatov was taken into custody after the mass protests of 26 March 2017 under false allegations of making calls to participate in such protests. They can also be added to this group.

The attack on freedom of expression and the dissemination of information has further intensified, especially for those using the Internet. Among those convicted for trying to exercise this right are: Andrei Bubeyev, Darya Polyudova, Airat Dilmukhametov, Robert Zagreyev, Igor Stenin, Vadim Tyumentsev, Alexei Moroshkin, Natalya Sharina and Ruslan Sokolovsky.

These means of unlawful repression provide an instrument for suppressing any types of civic activity that are displeasing to the authorities. For example, victims have included Ivan Barylyak who defended housing rights as well as Sergei Nikiforov who sought to protect environmental rights.

Cases of high treason serve the objectives of propaganda by representing Russia as a country encircled by enemies. The list of their victims includes the names of Svyatoslav Bobyshev, Gennady Kravtsov, Petr Parpulov, Inga Tutisani, Anik Kesyan and Marina Dzhandzgava.

Political repression and the law

Dozens of different articles of the Russian Criminal Code have become the instrument of political repression. The persecution of citizens whom we judge to be political prisoners over the past year has made use of 41 different Articles of the Russian Criminal Code. The most widely used Articles refer to

“Extremism” — incitement of hatred and enmity; public appeals for extremist activity; organization of the activities of an extremist organization – in 20 cases;

“Terrorism” — terrorist acts; complicity in terrorist activity and justification of such an activity; organization of a terrorist group – in 16 cases;

“Public gatherings” — mass riots; multiple violations of the established procedure for organising gatherings; use of force against a representative of the authority – in 32 cases.

Rights in Russia will publish the two lists of individuals shortly.

First published by Memorial HRC
on 25 May 2017