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Lukin: There Were No Riots on Bolotnaya Square

Source: (info), 02/07/12

· Right to assembly  · Ombudsmen  · Repression of activists  · Public protests  · Moscow and the Moscow region

Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin has said that the events on Bolotnaya Square should not be considered riots. In the ‘Commissioner’s Comments’ section of the ombudsman’s official website, he expressed his bewilderment at the Investigative Committee’s claims surrounding the case, and compared the actions of the Russian authorities to those in Belarus, reports.

Lukin stressed that “no evidence has been established of violence towards civilians, pogroms, arson, the destruction of property, the use of firearms or explosive devices or armed resistance to government representatives, which are the factors that according to Article 212 of the Criminal Code constitute a crime”. “Whatever our opinion may be of the events that took place on 6th May 2012 in Bolotnaya Square, my duty is to bear witness - they were not riots. Simply because if none of the exhaustive list of factors that legally constitute riots takes place, they are not riots”, he said in his statement.

The ombudsman noted that a year and a half ago similar accusations were levelled against those taking part in events in Belarus. He remarked that the inquiry then did not prove that those accused had actually taken part in unlawful actions. The approach of the Belarusian justice system, in his words, “clearly contravened the principle of fault-based liability and represented nothing less than a throwback to the practice of objective imputation. To put it simply, innocent people were subjected to criminal sanctions”.

In his statement, Lukin draws parallels between the actions of the Belarusian authorities and the accusations of rioting levelled against the members of the Russian opposition. “In the aftermath of the events in Belarus, it seemed that the methods described above would be a good lesson to everyone on how not to apply the law. This makes it all the more deplorable that something similar is now happening in Russia, during the investigation into the actions of the participants and organisers of the protest in Bolotnaya Square”.

“In light of these observations I would also like to know which statutory provisions the official representative of the Investigative Committee of Russia was following when he publically suggested that everyone who recognised themselves in the images from Bolotnaya Square should turn themselves in”, the ombudsman concluded. “As far as I know, Russian criminal law requires the investigation of the guilt of a specific person for a specific action in a specific situation. Anything else is clearly beyond the scope of the law”.

In total, 11 people have been arrested in connection with the case. Student Aleksandra Dukhanina was placed under house arrest. Aleksandr Kamensky, a supporter of the unregistered The Other Russia party, and the opposition activist Maria Baronova, signed a pledge to the investigation they would not leave Moscow.

As part of the investigation into the events at Bolotnaya Square, Maksim Luzyanin, Andrei Barabanov, Stepan Zimin, Denis Lutskevich, Aleksandra Dukhanina, Yaroslav Belousov, Artem Savelov and Mikhail Kosenko have been charged with participating in mass disturbances and using violence against a government representative. Oleg Arkhipenkov, Rikhard Sobolev, Vladimir Akimenkov and Fedor Bakov are only accused of participating in mass disturbances, whilst Maria Baronova has been charged with inciting mass disturbances.