Concerns about the situation of an imprisoned human rights activists have been mounting for more than 30 days. Sustained campaigns on social media, creative protest and actions by activists, journalists and citizens have helped keep the authorities under pressure
Even though authorities from the Russia’s penitentiary system said that they would reveal where imprisoned activist, Ildar Dadin, was transferred, his current location remains unknown. For over 30 days human rights activists, liberal politicians and citizens in St Petersburg have demanded to know the location of Ildar Dadin, who has not been heard of since 2 December 2016.
“The behaviour by the Russian authorities is irresponsible and illegitimate,” said Boris Vishnevsky, lead legal expert of the Yabloko party in St Petersburg’s city parliament. “I have sent a letter to the Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS) demanding that the authorities reveal Dadin’s location,” Vishnevsky told Prospekt Magazine. He is not alone; the European Union (EU) has drafted a resolution not only demanding to publish the location but to release the activist.
Dadin’s case is controversial to begin with. “He was convicted in December 2015 for conducting street protests without official permission, an activity criminalised under a statute known as Article 212.1” explains the director of the Russian branch of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Tanya Lokshina. This law was approved by Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2014 to curb any form of public dissent not approved by authorities. “Dadin was the first to receive criminal punishment under this law” adds Lokshina.
The social media campaign
Mr Dadin’s case has received widespread attention among social media users since his disappearance and St Petersburg’s activists have been campaigning to draw attention to the case since November 2016. Members of the Democratic Youth Movement (VESNA) have staged a series of protests. Their latest action was a symbolic welcoming of Dadin in the form of a gathering at Ladozhsky railway station in St Petersburg on 24 December, Zoe, a member of the group, told Prospekt Magazine. “As his wife, family and friends must be very worried,” the group planned the gathering to highlight his situation.
This week on 3 January, the topic started trending on Twitter. Social media users demanded to know the whereabouts of Dadin. Activists, politicians and citizens increasingly shared photos and videos under the hashtag “#ГдеИльдарДадин” (#WhereisIldarDadin) in support of the activist’s wife Anastasia Zotova, who is a journalist working to locate him
— !Alliance | Альянс! (@hetero_for_lgbt) January 3, 2017
— Движение Весна (@spb_vesna) January 4, 2017
— Динар Идрисов (@DinarSpbRu) January 3, 2017
What we know about the case of Ildar Dadin
- Ildar Dadin was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment in December 2015 for participating in illegal anti-government protests. He was convicted under a new law which criminalises public assembly, and was given a three-year sentence; later, it was cut to two and a half years.
- In September 2016 he was moved from Moscow’s Medvedkovo prison to a penal colony to the northern Karelia region.
- Shortly after in a letter Dadin accused the penal colony’s staff of torture. His attorney smuggled the letter out of the camp to his journalist wife Anastasia Zotova. The full letter was translated into English and published by medusa.io on 1 November 2016.
- In an interview with medusa.io, deputy head of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS) Valery Maksimenko said that Dadin was taken off the train and put in a prison shortly before New Year’s. Allegedly this was done to provide him with a shower, soup, and to celebrate the holiday in a comfortable environment. Maksimenko did not elaborate upon where exactly this detention centre was situated.