Court appoints new expert appraisal of book 'An International Tribunal for Chechnya'

11 February 2013

Source: (info)
On 7 and 8 February 2013 the Dzerzhinsk district court of Nizhny Novgorod region (under Judge Olga Khaydukova) continued its examination of an application by the Nizhny Novgorod public prosecutor to have the monograph An International Tribunal for Chechnya classified as extremist. During the court session on 7 February Professor Yury Dmitriev LLD, who had travelled from Moscow to take part in proceedings, was questioned as a specialist. On 8 February the court appointed a psycho-linguistic expert appraisal of the book under dispute. Memorial Human Rights Centre reports.

A Doctor of Laws, Honorary Professor of the European University, PhD (University of Oxford), Associate Member of the Russian Academy of Education, Honoured Scientist of the Russian Federation, and author of over 450 works on various topics of law and psychology, Yury Albertovich Dmitriev was summoned to court at the behest of lawyer Alexandr Manov, who is representing Stanislav Dmitrievsky. The advisory opinion prepared by Dmitriev was also entered into the case file. Having analysed the text of the monograph, the well-known Russian lawyer concludes in his advisory opinion that the monograph under dispute is a scientific publication and does not contain any characteristic features of extremism, as defined by Russian legislation. Professor Dmitriev corroborated his own findings in the course of answering questions posed by Dmitrievsky and Manov. The scientist emphasised that he was not prepared to dissect all of the conclusions of the book's authors as it was a matter for academic debate, rather than a trial. At the same time, Dmitriev said that the public prosecutor's recommendation, in which the latter argues that the monograph under dispute was allegedly aimed at undermining certain "Russian state authorities", was itself a display of extremism and great-power chauvinism.

After questioning Prof. Dmitriev, Stanislav Dmitrievsky posed a few questions to a representative of the Public Prosecutor's Office. In particular, he noted that p. 511 of the second volume of the monograph, under ‘Conclusions’, contains an appeal to departments of the Russian Public Prosecutor's Office that they view the monograph as a report on crime. Dmitrievsky enquired whether the Public Prosecutor's Office had taken measures to substantiate the facts set out in the book and to institute criminal proceedings, as required by the laws of criminal procedure. In response to a statement by the public prosecutor that their organisation was no longer an investigative body, Dmitrievsky noted the existence of the Joint Order of the General Prosecutor's Office, Internal Affairs Ministry, Ministry of Justice and FSB, dated 29.12.2005, No. 39/1070/1021/253/780/353/399, "On a uniform procedure for the registration of offences", according to which the public prosecutor is obliged in all cases to register information about a crime and refer it to the appropriate authorities for further investigation. Then, in the presence of the judge, Dmitrievsky handed the representative of the Public Prosecutor's Office a statement, in which he again demanded that the Public Prosecutor's Office ensure that Russian investigative bodies verify facts set out in the book attesting to large-scale and systematic crimes against the civilian population of Russia, institute a criminal case (cases), and bring the guilty parties to justice. A copy of the application has been entered into the case file.

At the close of the first day of the hearing, the parties commented on the appointment of an expert appraisal of the book under dispute. Without commenting on the move to conduct the expert appraisal, Dmitrievsky and Manov said that they would not challenge its appointment by the court, if the latter saw fit to do so. The representative of the Public Prosecutor's Office said that in the event that an expert appraisal is appointed, it must be conducted in the Nizhny Novgorod region, on the premises of the Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod. Stanislav Dmitrievsky, Igor Kalyapin and Alexandr Manov strongly objected to this decision. They emphasised that in those circumstances it would not be possible to guarantee the absolute objectivity of the experts.

Those parties in the trial said that they did not mean to imply that the experts might be subject to pressure from the applicant, i.e. the Nizhny Novgorod Public Prosecutor's Office. However, they reminded the court that the public prosecutor's statement had been triggered by a letter from the head of the Centre for Combating Extremism (CCE) in the Main Directorate of the Internal Affairs Ministry for the Nizhny Novgorod region, Lieutenant-Colonel Aleksey Trifonov, a department that had previously illegally seized part of the book's print run and for three years had wilfully refused to comply with a court ruling to return the books to the lawful owner. The court also heard details of other unlawful acts on the part of the CCE, in particular the illegal seizure of data storage devices belonging to a lawyer of the Committee against Torture, University Professor Anton Ryzhov, and the subsequent pressure he was subjected to by the Dean's Office, students and teachers, as well as numerous attacks on the office and flat of Dmitrievsky and other human rights defenders and civil society activists, which were most likely coordinated from above. Kalyapin asked the public prosecutor to report evidence that had surfaced of elements of a crime, and explained to the court that if the expert appraisal were to be entrusted to the Nizhny Novgorod specialists, nobody would be able to shield them from pressure - or to prevent the court from making the wrong decision. Manov's lawyer petitioned the court for the expert appraisal to be conducted in the independent not-for-profit Centre for Applied Linguistics, located in Moscow.

After an exchange of views, Judge Khaydukova adjourned the hearing until 9 a.m. the following day.

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On 8 February the court ruled to appoint a psycho-linguistic expert appraisal and commissioned experts at the independent not-for-profit Laboratory of Applied Linguistics to conduct it. Eight questions devised by Manov and Dmitrievsky and partly revised by the court were put to the experts. The court ordered that the authors of the study share the cost of the expert appraisal, and set a deadline of 45 days in which to complete it.

After delivering its ruling, the court announced that proceedings would be adjourned until the expert appraisal was complete.

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As previously reported, the application was filed by the public prosecutor in accordance with Art. 13 of the Federal Law on Combating Extremist Activity.

The two-volume An International Tribunal for Chechnya: legal perspectives on ascribing individual criminal responsibility to persons suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the armed conflict in the Chechen Republic (S.M. Dmitrievsky, B. I. Gvareli, O.A. Chelysheva, Nizhny Novgorod, 2009), which is the fruit of many years’ work by the team of contributing authors, was introduced to readers in Moscow on 5 July 2009, the day that Natalya Estemirova was murdered.

In the study the authors analyse crimes committed during the armed conflict in the Chechen Republic in the context of the norms of international criminal law, including the case law of the UN International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. After a detailed analysis of relevant legislation, dozens of documented criminal acts and a series of court rulings, the authors arrived at the thesis that the large-scale violations of international humanitarian law and fundamental human rights committed by those invovled in the conflict (Federal troops and separatists) amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity and consequently fall within the scope of the principle of universality.

Particular attention is paid to the alleged responsibility of members of the military command and senior executive authorities of Russia, including Vladimir Putin, as well as legal prospects for bringing those individuals to account. In her review of the monograph Prof. Karinna Moskalenko noted that, "it is no exaggeration to call it a unique and key work of its kind, where recent history, international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law converge".

Shortly after the book was launched it became known that in connection with its publication the Khamovnichesky Inter-district Investigations Branch was conducting an investigation into the alleged dissemination of extremist materials, in accordance with Art. 144-145 of the Russian Criminal Procedure Code. However, a criminal case was never filed.

The book was published with a small circulation of 700 copies and was posted on the Novaya Gazeta website, the Caucasian Knot portal and other online resources.

The authors of the book were summoned by the court as interested persons, as well as the head of the Inter-regional NGO Committee Against Torture, Igor Kalyapin, who on the night of 15-16 July 2009 had 12 sets of the two-volume books illegally seized from him by members of the CCE. The illegality of this seizure has been established by the Sovetsk district court of Nizhny Novgorod, however, a court order to return the property is being wilfully boycotted by police officials. Stanislav Dmitrievsky is representing himself in proceedings, as well as being represented by the lawyer Alexandr Manov. He is also representing the interests of the other authors, who are living outside Russia for the time being.

An English version of the monograph is currently being prepared for publication.