19 October 2022
Statement by the board of Memorial Human Rights Defence Centre
Human Rights as Terrorism: Twenty Years in Prison for Appealing to Strasbourg?
During the court hearing on 17 October 2022 concerning the extension of custody on remand of Bakhrom Khamroev, it became known that a new charge has been laid against him.
Bakhrom, a member of Memorial Human Rights Centre that has been closed down by the authorities, is our comrade. He was arrested on 24 February and remanded in custody on charges of ‘public incitement of terrorism, public justification of terrorism, and propaganda of terrorism’ (Article 205.2, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). These absurd charges are based on several of his Facebook posts which contain no evidence to support the alleged offences. They contained no incitement to violence.
We are certain that Bakhrom Khamroev is being prosecuted for the human rights activities which he regularly conducted as part of the Yordam [Help] Foundation for Legal and Social Support of Migrants. However, for the FSB his prosecution became an important means of putting pressure on Memorial. It was within the framework of Bakhrom’s criminal prosecution that the FSB conducted searches of Memorial’s offices in March 2022.
Bakhrom Khamroev has long been recognized as a political prisoner.
Now, as it turns out, a new criminal case has been opened against Khamroev under Article 205.5, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code – ‘organisation of the activities of a terrorist organisation.’ This refers to Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organisation declared terrorist in Russia in 2003 in the absence of any evidence of terrorist or violent activities on its part.
The making of sweeping accusations of belonging to Hizb-ut-Tahrir is a widespread practice in Russia and Crimea and a common tool of repression used against Muslims. Those convicted in such cases make up the largest group of political prisoners in Russia.
However, even against this background, the latest criminal prosecution of Bakhrom Khamroev plumbs new depths of lawlessness. The Investigative Committee claims that the basis for the charge was, in particular, that Khamroev, ‘not having the status of a lawyer with a right to represent clients in court, and without having been entrusted with the defence of suspects or accused persons, prepared documents justifying the activities of members of this organisation and thereafter sent them to the European Court of Human Rights, law enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation and other States for the purpose of preventing such persons from being held criminally responsible for terrorist offences and also to prevent their extradition to the territory of the state that possesses evidence about the crimes committed.’
Here, in the language of a procedural document, is a description of Khamroev’s legitimate human rights activities. Bakhrom, like any citizen of Russia, has the right to criticise the decisions of investigative agencies and the courts and to question the legitimacy and basis of any charges brought against individuals or organisations.
He did not send the arguments, facts and materials that made up the basis of his legal opinion to terrorist organisations. He sent them to the Russian authorities and to an international court whose jurisdiction at the time was recognized by our State. His appeals were not aimed at justification of terrorism.
The new charge against Khamroev is a continuation and development of the position of the prosecutor’s office in the case of the liquidation of Memorial Human Rights Centre. At that time, one year ago, our public condemnation of political repression was declared to be ‘justification of terrorism and extremism.’ And now the protection of the rights of suspects, the accused and convicted persons is called ‘organising the activities of a terrorist organisation.’
We emphasise that not a single law of the Russian Federation prohibits human rights activities, including making complaints and appeals to law enforcement agencies and international organisations. The new charge against Khamroev directly contradicts the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the international commitments of our country. Such brazen disregard for legal rights on the part of the Russian authorities has become the norm since 24 February 2022 (the very day Bakhrom was detained).
In the current tragic situation, we draw the attention of Russian citizens and the whole world to the fate of human rights defender Bakhrom Khamroev and demand an end to his unlawful prosecution.
Translated by Rights in Russia