Today, the European Court of Human Rights (the ECHR) issued a ruling with regard to the complaint of Stanislav Dmitriyevsky against the violation of Article 10 of the European Convention (“freedom of expression”). The Strasbourg court established that the Russian Federation violated Dmitriyevsky’s right for expression, with regard to that it awarded him 10 000 euro as a compensation of moral damage. Lawyer with the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, who represented the interests of the applicant at the European Court, thinks that today’s decision might become a ground for reviewing the criminal case of Dmitriyevsky on extremism at the national level.
The complaint of Stanislav Dmitriyevsky referred to the verdict against him under Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation which was initiated against him (“incurring hatred or strife or abasement of human dignity”) for a publication of Aslan Maskhadov and Akhmed Zakayev’s statements in newspaper “Pravo-Zaschita” (“Legal protection”), of which he was the editor. Both statements criticized the Russian authorities in relation to the lingering military conflict in the Chechen Republic. The texts were considered extremist, and Dmitriyevsky was imposed to two years of conditional sentence for their publication.
The applicant and his representative insisted that Dmitriyevsky’s verdict violated his freedom of speech, provided by Article 10 of the European Convention; today the ECHR fully agreed to this.
Let us point out that the Society of the Russian-Chechen friendship, which issued “Pravo-Zaschita” newspaper, and also declared extremist by the Russian court, repeatedly assisted the Committee for the Prevention of Torture to collect the data on violations against the human rights, committed mainly by the military in the period of the first and the second Chechen conflicts.
Let us remind you that the issue of initiating criminal case against Stanislav Dmitriyevsky was sorted out at the level of the Prosecutor of the Nizhegorosky region Vladimir Demidov, and the ground for this was the conclusion of the Head of the Department of the World Politics and International Law of the Nizhegorodsky State University Olga Khokhlysheva, which, in the opinion of the applicant, contained offensive and discriminative characteristics.
In addition, during the analysis of the case, it was revealed that the protocol of the court hearing, signed by judge Bondarenko, did not correspond to the court hearing which was taking place in reality, and thus, the prosecution was based on distorted statements.
In today’s ruling the ECHR paid a special attention to the status of the applicant, the character of the articles which he published and their wording, the context in which they were published as well as to the approach of the Russian courts to the justification of intervention.
As a result, the court concluded that the opinions expressed in the articles cannot be regarded as instigation to violence; neither can they be interpreted as call for hatred or intolerance which might provoke any violent actions. The court did not see in the texts in question anything except for criticism of the Russian government and its actions in the Chechen Republic, which does not go beyond the acceptable limits.
The court also pointed out that the rulings of the national courts for Dmitriyevsky case were not justified: not only the courts failed to provide the appropriate and sufficient arguments for the applicant’s judgement of conviction, but also they rejected all the arguments in defence of the applicant as “inacceptable from the legal point of view”, claiming that it was his attempt to “protect himself from the punishment”. Therefore, the court came to the conclusion that the applicant was deprived from the procedural protection which he had the right to use according to Article 10 of the Convention.
In addition, the court pointed out that the conviction of the applicant and the severe sanctions applied against him might have had negative impact on the freedom of expression of journalists in Russia and prevent the press from openly discussing the issues which attract public’s attention, including the events related to the conflict in the Chechen Republic.
“It is important that Dmitriyevsky’s verdict was one of the first (possibly, the first one) of this sort. And it has become the beginning of the attack against the freedom of speech and expression in Russia, – Olga Sadovskaya thinks. – I hope that the court’s stance, formed as a result of examination of this case, will find its development in other rulings on complaints on unjustified use of Article 282 with regard to the articles, which represent the implementation of freedom of expression exclusively. Today’s ruling of the ECHR may become the ground for re-examination of the criminal case against Dmitriyevsky”.