Sign a Petition to Save Yury Dmitriev
Please join us in signing this petition to help end the illegal detention of Yury Dmitriev, a 64-year old historian and a political prisoner, whose deteriorating health is now gravely endangered by the coronavirus pandemic. More
Please join us in signing this petition to help end the illegal detention of Yury Dmitriev, a 64-year old historian and a political prisoner, whose deteriorating health is now gravely endangered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Yury Dmitriev is a renowned Russian historian who has dedicated his life to uncovering and documenting Soviet-era executions and mass graves.
The harrowing evidence scrupulously and painstakingly reconstructed by Dr. Dmitriev over the years – piece by piece, bone by bone and name by name – rendered a deadly blow to the ideology of the Russian government seeking to rewrite history and whitewash the criminal deeds of the Soviet regime.
Unable to intimidate or silence him by legal means, in 2016 Putin’s regime moved to prosecute Dr. Dmitriev on false criminal charges and has kept him in prison since. On April of 2018, the court issued a non-guilty verdict for Dr. Dmitriev. In response, the authorities quickly moved to come up with new charges, a new investigation, and a new court case, that have now been underway for almost two years.
In Fall 2019, Dr. Dmitriev’s health began seriously declining, and he has been continuously sick ever since. On March 23, 2020, Yury Dmitriev was sentenced to three additional months of detention to be served at a Petrozavodsk penitentiary where he has been held since 2018. This means that the ailing historian will face the peak of the growing coronavirus epidemic in prison in unsanitary conditions, without access to medical care of even proper nutrition.
Russian prisons are severely overcrowded and unable to facilitate observation of even minimal hygienic measures. Once an incarceration facility is penetrated by the coronavirus, it can spread like a wildfire and infect the entire prison population. Statistics show that the risk of infection for people over 60 years old is very high, and the consequences of such infection can be extreme and even deadly for this demographic.
The COVID-19 guidance issued by the World Health Organization on March 24, 2020, recommends that: “Enhanced consideration should be given to resorting to non-custodial measures at all stages of the administration of criminal justice, including at the pre-trial, trial and sentencing as well as post-sentencing stages. Priority should be given to non-custodial measures for alleged offenders and prisoners with low-risk profiles […] Older people, and those with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.”
Yury Dmitriev, unjustly persecuted for his principles and for his work to restore historical memory, does not present even the slightest risk to society, whereas his health and his life, are at great risk under the current circumstances.
PLEASE HELP US BY SIGNING THIS PETITION TO CALL FOR A CHANGE DR. DMITRIEV’S CUSTODY FROM PRETRIAL IMPRISONMENT TO HOUSE ARREST, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY AND REMAINING IN FORCE UNTIL HIS COURT CASE IS OVER.
Dr. Yury Dmitriev is the Chairman of the Karelian Branch of the Russian Historical, Educational, and Human Rights Society “Memorial” (which is related to, but legally distinct from, the Memorial Human Rights Center).
In December 2016, Dmitriev was arrested and subsequently charged under Articles 132, 135, and 242.2 (child pornography), relating to nine photographs he took of his adopted daughter. She was malnourished when Dmitriev and his wife took her in, and the photos documented the child’s health and development to avoid any issues with social services. Moreover, each photograph had a note about the child’s height, weight, and general health.
Dmitriev was acquitted of sexual offenses in April 2018. A higher court overturned the acquittal and sent the case back for retrial. In June 2018, additional criminal charges were filed against Dmitriev, this time under Article 132(4)(b) (violent acts of a sexual nature committed against a person under fourteen). His prosecution comes amidst the government’s efforts to rehabilitate the image of Soviet-era Russia. In June 2017, Putin himself proclaimed that the “excessive demonization” of Stalin is a “means of attacking the Soviet Union and Russia.”
The Memorial Human Rights Center considers the prosecution of Yury Dmitriev politically-motivated, intended to end to his professional and scientific activities in commemorating the victims of Stalin’s political repression, as well as to attack the reputation the International Memorial Society, its member organizations, and the Society’s historical, educational and human rights work.
Dr. Dmitriev’s work has been recognized internationally:
- In 2015, he received the Gold Cross of Merit from Poland for his work in locating mass burials at Sandarmokh and on Solovki, and identifying the victims they contained: ethnic Poles in the Soviet Union were one of the nationalities targeted during the Great Terror.
- In 2016, Dr. Dmitriev was awarded an Honorary Diploma of the Karelian Republic by the Administration of the new head of Karelia, Alexander Hudilainen.
- On December 31, 2017, Yury Dmitriev was one of 16 journalists, bloggers, writers and historians, imprisoned or otherwise persecuted by the authorities, who were recognized at the annual Sakharov awards for “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”.
- In the fall of 2019, a delegation from 22 European embassies came to Sandarmokh to pay respects to his work, to honor the memory of those killed.
- In April 2020, Dmitriev was a laureate of Dahlbäck’s Memorial Fund based in Sweden for civic courage in the fight for human rights.