Memorial has not yet been “liquidated”

Until the rulings issued on 28-29 December 2021 come into force, neither International Memorial nor the Memorial Human Rights Centre (HRC) has been dissolved. The interval between the verdict and its implementation allows, as always, an opportunity for the accused to appeal.

In Petrozavodsk, for instance, the City Court announced on 10 January that it had received Victor Anufriev’s appeal against the way in which his client Yury DMITRIEV was convicted on 27 December and sentenced to 15 years in a strict-regime penal colony.

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There have been international protests over the threatened closure of Memorial.

On 29 December, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, acting with uncharacteristic speed, applied an emergency interim measure, ordering the Russian government (since 1998 a co-signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights) to halt the abolition of the two organisations.

At 11 pm on 31 December 2021, the foreign ministry of the European Union released a statement supported by the United States, the 27-member European Union, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom calling on Russia “to uphold its international human rights obligations and commitments“.

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Now is the time to support the petition!

Sign if you have not already done so

if you have, circulate it to all your friends, colleagues and acquaintances.

As of mid-January 2022, the “Hands off Memorial!” petition had attracted 141,415 signatories worldwide. The text is presently available in 13 languages: Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Polish, Estonian, Latvian, Czech and Hebrew; English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

WHY DMITRIEV? (1)

In 2002, five years after the tragic death of Ivan Chukhin, Yury DMITRIEV published the Commemorative Lists of Karelia. This Book of Remembrance named 14,308 individuals — most of them shot (11,275); others sent to the Gulag (1,958). The task on which Chukhin and Dmitriev had embarked almost a decade earlier was completed.

Why we should admire Yury Dmitriev

Police investigator and Duma deputy Chukhin also gained access to detailed execution reports in the local FSB archives. These indicated the approximate location of thirteen execution and burial sites scattered across Karelia.

Most were small but two were of particular size and importance. Over 3,000 had been shot, “near Petrozavodsk”, the capital of Karelia. The other site, “near the Medvezhya Gora rail station”, accounted for several thousand more and was located not far from the headquarters of the White Canal camp system (Belbaltlag). Shortly after Chukhin’s death, Dmitriev together with Irina Flige and the late Veniamin Joffe found and identified the killing field near Med Gora, today famous as Sandarmokh. Soon afterwards locals led him to a similar site 20 miles from Petrozavodsk: this became the Krasny Bor memorial complex.

30 October 2021, Krasny Bor

Dmitriev’s achievements could not be gainsaid. Russian and foreign awards followed: in 2005 he was given the new Golden Pen of Russia award; in 2015 he was awarded Poland’s Gold Cross of Merit; and in November 2016, the month before his arrest, he received the Honorary Diploma of Karelia, the highest award in the gift of the head of that Republic.

Why the FSB hates and detests him

Long before 2016 there were signs of official irritation with what Dmitriev did and said.

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“He deserves a medal for what he did!” [1]

Over the past five years Yury DMITRIEV has become known far beyond his native Karelia, throughout Russia and around the world.

He has received prizes since his first arrest in December 2016, from the Moscow Helsinki Group and most recently the Norwegian Sakharov Award.  His work was recognised earlier by awards in Russia (2005), Poland (2015) and in Karelia itself (2016), where the head of the republic Hudolainen gave him its highest award.

Dmitriev with his foster daughter Natasha, b. 2005 (photo Novaya gazeta)

The exclamation quoted in the title of this post refers not to Dmitriev’s work on the Karelian Book of Remembrance, however, or to his discovery of Sandarmokh and Krasny Bor and their transformation into memorials, but to the crimes of which he has been accused.

A British acquaintance with good Russian and a direct knowledge and experience of children’s homes in Russia was indignant when she heard of his case. He had rescued and restored to health a neglected little girl, just as he himself had been rescued in childhood from a similar fate: “They should give him a medal, not put him in prison!” she exclaimed.

JC

He deserves a medal for what he’s done [2]

Dmitriev awarded Franco-German Prize

“Every year since 2016, to mark Human Rights Day* [10 December], Germany and France have jointly presented the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law. Whether they be a human rights defender, a journalist or a lawyer: this award recognises the efforts of all those who work tirelessly every day to advance the causes of human rights and the rule of law,” wrote the website of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs a few days back.

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