15 May 2020
Genri Reznik, Senior Vice President of the Moscow City Bar Association and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Senior Vice President of the Moscow City Bar Association and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group Genri Reznik has labelled as excessive the initiation of criminal proceedings against persons who posted photographs of leaders of Nazi Germany on the website “Immortal Regiment.”
The attorney is convinced that law enforcement will have a difficult time proving that the bloggers intended to glorify Nazism. In his opinion, the article of the Criminal Code criminalizing the rehabilitation of Third Reich leaders is often used for political purposes.
“I believe that the norm [on the prohibition against Nazi propaganda] in the Criminal Code is superfluous. It carries with it a large portion of guesswork, a great risk that anything could fall under it. That publication [of a Hitler photo] is some kind of joke, right? And if they’ve initiated an investigation then they’ll figure out what motivated these people. But in and of itself the action can be considered a joke – it’s another question whether it was a successful one,” Genri Reznik told the Daily Storm.
“The prosecution will find it hard to prove that these people were pursuing the objective of glorifying Nazis. In the general context, it doesn’t match up with common sense,” Reznik stated.
The Investigative Committee has stated that, no later than 10 May, unknown individuals published a photograph of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, calling him Col. V. M. Alekseev. A photograph of Adolf Hitler was also posted, with the commentary that it depicted a participant in the Great Patriotic War named “Adol Aloiso Hitle.” The provocation did not go unnoticed by the public. Among those expressing their indignation at the blogger’s action were prominent lawyers and human rights activists.
Mikhail Barshchevsky, plenipotentiary representative of the Russian Federation for the Judiciary, told the Daily Storm,“If it were up to me, I would give them ten years for that joke. Some things are sacred; you can’t joke about them or make light of them. If they’re adolescents, I’d send them to a youth detention centre.”
On 14 May an official representative of the Investigative Committee, Svetlana Petrenko, stated that criminal proceedings had been opened based on indications of an offence under Article 354.1, Section 1, of the Criminal Code (rehabilitation of Nazism, i.e. approval of crimes as established by verdict of the Nuremberg Military Tribunal).
The following day, Petrenko indicated that the investigation had identified ten citizens from various regions of the Russian Federation suspected of having posted portraits of Nazis. She elaborated that law enforcement had identified the suspects based on the IP addresses of their computers.
Article 354.1 of the Russian Criminal Code (on the rehabilitation of Nazism) criminalizes approval of crimes established by verdict of the Nuremberg Military Tribunal. Such people face up to 300,000 rouble fines, forced labour, or confinement up to three years.
In mid-December 2018 the head of the State Duma Committee on Culture, Elena Yampolskaya, and the head of the Duma Committee on Security and Corruption, Vasily Piskarev, prepared draft legislation decriminalizing the use of Nazi symbols for educational purposes. A year later, in November 2019, the State Duma passed the law in its third and final reading. It allows for the use of the swastika in works of art, literature, scholarship, and mass media communications.
Translated by Mark Nuckols