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Nizhny Novgorod: Ombudsman Calls for Prosecution of Rights Defender for 'Insulting Public Official'

29 June 2013 


Source: HRO.org (info
Nizhny Novgorod’s human rights ombudsman, Vasily Olnev, has called for the Investigative Committee to open a criminal case against the well-known human rights defender Igor Kalyapin, head of the Committee Against Torture. The ombudsman expressed his indignation at Kalyapin’s sharply negative assessment of lawmakers who passed the notorious law on ‘foreign agents.’ 

‘In my view his groundless statement was a humiliating, rude, and public insult against representatives of the highest government authority in connection with the manner in which they carry out their official functions...’ Olnev wrote to the investigative authorities. ‘He said that he “would very much like to look at these cowardly scoundrels who passed this law,” which means, according to the dictionary, that these are people who are dominated by a feeling of fear, are unworthy, degraded people.’ 

‘I am writing to you,’ the Nizhny Novgorod ombudsman goes on to explain his action, ‘because I, as a citizen Russia (“ashamed for our Great Power!”), an elector (I voted for worthy people, and not for “cowardly scoundrels”) and a human rights defender, have been seized by a feeling of great alarm at such a demonstrative and provocative comment by this individual, who has shown his complete lack of discretion, his mania of superiority over everyone else, and his notion that he is the ‘highest judge’ over the legislators.” 

‘I am for evaluating criticism of officials in a humane manner, but I completely share the view of one of the thinkers of the past who said, "The feeling of humanity must not be like a pair of down-at-heel slippers, in which any unworthy person can easily put their dirty feet”,’ the ombudsman concluded with emotion. Olnev expects that a criminal case will be opened against Kalyapin under Article 319 of the Criminal Code (insulting a public official) for the interview he gave to the newspaper Kommersant (31 May 2013). 

The Committee Against Torture has posted the following comment on its website: ‘Mr Olnev has long been known as a protector of police accused of torture and corruption, to whom he gives legal support at taxpayers’ expense. This time he intends to defend something of his own invention, namely the "constitutional rights of public officials to the protection of their own persons." The summer heat is indeed taking its toll. What more can be said.’ 

The full text of Olnev’s statement has been published on the website of the Committee Against Torture

Vasily Olnev was appointed human rights ombudsman of Nizhny Novgorod region in 2004. Before this for ten years he headed the legal department of the region’s legislative assembly. He has received an official award for his work as a lawyer, and in Soviet times worked in various departments of the Gorky Regional Executive Committee. Human rights defenders in Nizhny Novgorod have often pointed out that Olnev speaks out in defence of law enforcement officers charged with inflicting torture or degrading treatment. One of the more recent cases where human rights defenders came into conflict with the ombudsman was that of Vladimir Samsonov, deputy head of the Avtozavodsk district police department in Nizhny Novgorod, for whom Olnev sought to obtain bail. ‘I do not assert that Samsonov is absolutely innocent, but only that there are no reasons to place him in pre-trial detention,’ the ombudsman said. Human rights defenders assessed the actions of the ombudsman differently. Olga Sadovskaya, deputy head of the Committee Against Torture pointed out: ‘All the time the Committee Against Torture has existed, despite frequent requests, not once has he spoken out in support of any of our clients who have been victims of torture...’ (Regnum, 19 February 2013).
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