Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial’: St. Petersburg artist Aleksandra Skochilenko is a political prisoner 

3 June 2022

The artist Aleksandra Skochilenko was remanded in custody on charges of disseminating ‘fake news’ about the Russian army after a performance protest in which she replaced price tags in a shop with anti-war leaflets

Source: Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial’

The Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international criteria, considers the St. Petersburg artist Aleksandra Skochilenko a political prisoner. She was remanded in custody for an artistic performance opposing the war against Ukraine. Her prosecution violates her right to freedom of expression and is intended to intimidate all Russian opponents of the war against Ukraine.

We demand that Aleksandra Skochilenko be released immediately and that the charges against her be dropped.

What are the charges against Skochilenko?

On the evening of 31 March 2022 anti-war flyers appeared in a Perekrestok store in St. Petersburg. The flyers, inserted in place of price tags, were noticed by a customer, a 75-year-old pensioner, who immediately went to the prosecutor’s office ‘to seek justice.’

On 11 April law enforcement officers detained St. Petersburg artist Aleksandra Skochilenko. After her home was searched and she was interrogated, she was charged with disseminating inaccurate information about the Russian military, motivated by political hatred or hostility (Article 207.3, Part 2[e], of the Russian Criminal Code).

On 13 April Aleksandra Skochilenko was remanded in custody despite the fact she has been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder and coeliac disease – a genetic intolerance to gluten that requires a strict diet. Skochilenko faces up to ten years in a penal colony if convicted.

Why do we consider the prosecution of Skochilenko politically motivated?

We are certain that Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code on disseminating information known to be false about the actions of the Russian army contradicts the Russian Constitution, Russia’s international commitments and fundamental principles of law.

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: ‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression.’ Restrictions on the exercise of these rights ‘shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.’ Similar norms are enshrined in Article 29 of the Russian Constitution. The restrictions on freedom of expression introduced by Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code do not serve any of the aforementioned purposes and are a form of censorship.

Article 207.3 criminalises any statements about the use of the Russian armed forces and the activities of Russian government agencies abroad. In the course of an armed conflict, it is often not possible to establish the accuracy of information disseminated by various sources. It is even less possible to establish whether or not it is known that information is false. These defects determine the unlawful nature of Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code.

The timing and context of the introduction of Article 207.3 into the Russian Criminal Code – after the beginning of large-scale Russian military aggression against Ukraine – allow us to assert that this article was created specifically as a means to prosecute critics of the Russian authorities, one of whom is Aleksandra Skochilenko. 

Finally, it is important to note the particular cynicism of the court’s decision to remand Skochilenko in custody despite the vulnerable state of her health. As a result, the artist’s friends and relatives are now trying to ensure she receives a special diet in the remand centre. The absence of a gluten-free diet is a direct threat to Skochilenko’s health and could lead to serious complications, including cancer.

More information about the case of Aleksandra Skochilenko and the position of the Human Rights Project are available on our Telegram channel.

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

How can you help?

You can write to Aleksandra Skochilenko at the following address:

In Russian: 195009 г. Санкт-Петербург, ул. Арсенальная, 11, СИЗО №5 УФСИН по СПб и Ленинградской области, Скочиленко Александре Юрьевне, 1990 г.р.

In English: Aleksandra Yurievna Skochilenko (born 1990), Remand Centre No. 5, Federal Penitentiary Service for St. Petersburg and Leningrad region, 11 Arsenalnaya Street, St. Petersburg, Russia, 95009.

You can support political prisoners by making a donation to the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via YooMoney.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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