‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Aleksei Semenov, an environmental activist from Komi prosecuted for ‘repeatedly discrediting’ the army, is a political prisoner

14 November 2023

The case against Aleksei Semenov was initiated for anti-war posts he published on the VK social media platform

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ considers Aleksei Semenov, a former paediatrician and an environmental activist from the village of Izhma in Komi Republic, a political prisoner in accordance with international standards. Semenov is being prosecuted for posts on his personal page on the VK social media site that were critical of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Semenov’s criminal prosecution violates his right to freedom of expression and is intended to silence the voices of those who oppose the war against Ukraine. 

We demand the immediate release of Aleksei Semenov and that all criminal charges against him be dropped.

What are the charges against Semenov? 

Aleksei Semenov lives and works in the village of Izhma, in Izhma district in Komi Republic. Since the early 1990s he has been a local paediatric doctor and then an individual entrepreneur.

In 2018, he actively participated in protests against the construction of a landfill at Shies in Arkhangelsk region, and since 2021 he has been professionally engaged in the sorting of waste for recycling and disposal.

On 22 March 2022, Semenov published a post on his VK page about children killed as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Semenov was then prosecuted for the administrative offence of ‘discrediting’ the Russian army (Article 20.3.3, Part 1, of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences). On 18 May 2022, Aleksei Semenov was found guilty and fined 30,000 roubles.

On 24 September 2022, Semenov published a post critical of mobilization in Russia.

On 28 September 2022, Semenov was jailed for failure to pay the administrative fine (Article 20.25, Part 1, of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences) and for disobeying the demands of police officers at the time of his arrest (Article 19.3, Part 1, of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences). 

On 13 October, the day Semenov was to be released, it became known he was being charged with the criminal offence of ‘repeated discrediting’ of the Russian army (Article 280.3, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code).

On 14 October, Izhemsky district court in Komi Republic placed Semenov under house arrest.

Why do we consider Aleksei Semenov a political prisoner?

Article 280.3 of the Russian Criminal Code on ‘repeated discrediting’ of the Russian army was urgently added to the Criminal Code a week after Russian forces invaded Ukraine.

Analysis of the wording of Article 280.3 shows it does not comply with the principle of legal certainty. Nowhere does the Russian Criminal Code define the concept of ‘discrediting,’ which means that citizens cannot know in advance for what actions they can be held criminally liable.

In practice, the article prohibits criticism of the Russian authorities’ actions and violates the right to freedom of expression.

In addition, Article 280.3 of the Russian Criminal Code bases the criminal offence on evidence of past administrative liability. In other words, it establishes repeated punishment for the same act.

We believe that Article 280.3 of the Russian Criminal Code on ‘repeated discrediting’ of the Russian army contradicts the Russian Constitution, Russia’s international obligations and fundamental principles of law. Article 280.3 conflicts with the very notion of the rule of law because it has been created for the purposes of political repression against the authorities’ critics and must be repealed. Any prosecutions under this article are unlawful and must be terminated.

A more detailed description of the case and the position of the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ human rights project are available on our publishing platform on Telegram.

An up-to-date list of political prisoners in Russia is available on our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

How can you help?

You can donate to support all political prisoners via the PayPal (helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com) or YooMoney accounts of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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