IBA condemns detention of Russian lawyer who spoke out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
The International Bar Association (IBA) condemns the arrest and pre-trial detention of Russian lawyer Dmitry Talantov (pictured), President of the Bar Association of the Republic of Udmurtia, following comments he posted on the social media platform Facebook on 3 April 2022 that criticised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Talantov is charged with the dissemination of ‘deliberately false information’ under a new Russian law: Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code, which covers ‘Public dissemination of knowingly false information about use of the Russian Armed Forces abroad and execution by the Russian government bodies of their powers, committed with motives of enmity or hatred.’
On 19 August 2022, the Cheryomushki Court of Moscow extended the detention of Talantov to at least 23 September 2022. The hearing had initially been set to take place on 23 August. Talantov has been detained since being arrested on 28 June 2022.
IBA President Sternford Moyo commented: ‘The IBA calls for the release of Dmitry Talantov and for all charges against him to be dropped. The arrest and prolonged detention of Mr Talantov is an example of the authorities in Russia disregarding the country’s Constitution. Article 29 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees freedom of thought and speech to everyone. It contains the right to freely seek, receive, transmit, produce and disseminate information in any legal way. Under the Constitution, freedom of the media is guaranteed, and censorship is prohibited. However, the reality is very different. The introduction of the new law under which Mr Talantov has been charged can only be viewed as an attempt by Russia’s authorities to undermine the Constitution with the objective of silencing dissent and controlling the thinking of the Russian people. Mr Talantov and all Russian citizens should be free to express their opinions without fear of arrest and detention. The IBA condemns the arrest of Mr Talantov and calls for the repeal of Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code.’
Talantov was arrested in Izhevsk, west-central Russia on 28 June 2022 and taken to the Investigation Committee of the Republic of Udmurtia for questioning. It is reported that he did not have access to his lawyer during questioning, that law enforcement officers carried out searches of four premises linked to him including his dwellings and the Udmurtia Bar Association’s office, and that during the search documents and data storage devices that contain information subject to attorney-client privilege were confiscated. On the same day, Talantov was transferred to Moscow.
On 29 June, Talantov was remanded in custody until 21 August by the Moscow Cheryomushki District Court. Ahead of a court session in which it was determined that Talantov should not be allowed out on bail, the prosecutor claimed that the case contained ‘state secret information protected by the law’ and an investigative search report by police, and as such the proceedings should take place behind closed doors. Talantov’s counter argument that none of the evidence contained state secrets was disregarded. It is reported that the conditions in which Talantov is being held are poor and that he has been denied medical assistance.
The IBA is also aware that Talantov represented journalist Ivan Safronov, who is currently on trial for treason. Safronov’s other lawyer fled Russia out of fear of persecution and is now reportedly labelled as a ‘foreign agent’ by the Russian authorities.
The Russian Federal Bar Association, which has the remit to protect the professional rights of lawyers, has taken no significant action to protect Talantov’s rights. The organisation’s position has been to remain ‘neutral’ on violations of the rule of law, human rights and access to justice. Talantov, a past member of the Council of the Russian Federal Bar Association (2009–2011), has spoken out against this policy of ‘neutrality’ and is therefore unlikely to receive any assistance from the Federal Chamber in his own case.
IBA Executive Director Dr Mark Ellis said: ‘The criminal prosecution and pre-trial detention of Dmitry Talanov is an indisputable violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” The charges against Mr Talantov expressly undermine his freedom of expression. Furthermore, his detention appears to criminalise his legitimate activities as a lawyer.’
Dr Ellis added, ‘Although the Federal Bar has failed to act in support of Mr Talantov’s release, more than 500 members of Russia’s legal profession have signed a petition defending Mr Talantov’s professional accomplishments and expressing outrage at this criminalisation of expression. The representatives of the legal profession who have signed the petition seek to uphold and protect the rule of law, access to justice, human rights and the professional rights of lawyers in Russia. In what is a repressive political and legal environment these professionals should be applauded for their integrity and bravery.’
The right to freedom of expression is further protected under international law, including under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, if a guilty verdict is passed on Talantov he faces five to ten years imprisonment.
Pavel Maguta, a past Director of the International Division of the Russian Federal Bar Association (2003–2017), said: ‘The targeting and systemic persecution of lawyers by the Russian state forms a worrying trend that includes judicial harassment, office searches and seizures that violate attorney-client privilege, disciplinary penalties and disbarment threats. These actions have contributed to the rapid shrinking of civil society space in Russia. The arrest and detention of Dmitry Talantov is a gross violation of freedom of expression. It is crucial to speak publicly about this case and the generally disgraceful situation faced by the legal profession in Russia. Both demand reaction from the international legal community.’
Notes to the Editor
- The full text of Article 29 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation:
- Everyone shall be guaranteed freedom of thought and speech.
- Propaganda or agitation, which arouses social, racial, national or religious hatred and hostility, shall be prohibited. Propaganda of social, racial, national, religious or linguistic supremacy shall also be prohibited.
- Nobody shall be forced to express his thoughts and convictions or to deny them.
- Everyone shall have the right freely to seek, receive, transmit, produce and disseminate information by any legal means. The list of types of information, which constitute State secrets, shall be determined by federal law.
- The freedom of the mass media shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be prohibited.
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