Week-ending 2 July 2021
On 26 June 2021 police officers searched the home of Ernest Mezak, a prominent human rights defender and lawyer from Syktyvkar in the Komi Republic, and that of his mother as part of an investigation against him for ‘insulting a judge’ (Article 297, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). Mezak represents victims of violations of law enforcement agencies in the domestic courts and also at the European Court of Human Rights. Mezak is a laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group Human Rights Award and has previously worked as a lawyer for Public Verdict Foundation.
In a statement, Front Line Defenders said: “Front Line Defenders condemns the judicial prosecution of Ernest Mezak and the searches of his and his elderly mother’s homes. Front Line Defenders believes that he is being targeted solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful human rights work. Front Line Defenders considers the case against Ernest Mezak as an attack on freedom of expression and believes that these actions will have a chilling effect on the work of lawyers and human rights defenders in Russia. Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned by the continued targeting of human rights defenders in the country for carrying out their legitimate and peaceful human rights work, defending the right to peaceful assembly and association.”
Front Line Defenders, 30 June 2021: On 26 June 2021, the house of human rights defender Ernest Mezak and the house of his elderly mother were searched by police officers as part of the investigation in the criminal case against him for “insulting a judge” (Part 2, Article 297 of the Criminal Code). During the searches, five computers, including those of his wife and son, four work smartphones, three hard drives, five USBs and routers were confiscated. Later on the same day, Ernest Mezak was summoned to the investigator in Syktyvkar for questioning, which will happen on 1 July 2021.