Preliminary report on the trial of Yulia Tsvetkova in Russian Federation
Human Rights Embassy is monitoring the criminal prosecution of artist and human rights activist Yulia Tsvetkova in the Far East of the Russian Federation as part of the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch initiative. Tsvetkova faces up to six years in prison under Article 242 of the Russian Criminal Code, which prohibits the dissemination of pornography to minors over the Internet. While the Central District Court of Komsomolsk-on-Amur has closed the proceedings, this decision is inconsistent with Tsvetkova’s right to a public trial.
The trial comes after more than seventeen months of investigation, four of which Tsvetkova spent under house arrest. The criminal charges stem from Tsvetkova’s posting of drawings of female genitalia (in a series called "A woman is not a doll”) on a social media page she administered entitled “Vagina Monologues.” The drawings were part of a body-positive women’s empowerment campaign.
Tsvetkova’s trial, which started on April 12, has been closed to the public. According to credible sources, the court has justified this decision based on the “pornographic” nature of the images as well as on the presence of minor victims. The decision to close the trial has not been made public.
The right to a public trial is guaranteed by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). Russia is party to both treaties.
In accordance with the right to a public trial, any closure of criminal proceedings must be strictly necessary, balancing the right of an accused to public scrutiny of his or her trial and the protection against potential abuse that such scrutiny entails with the countervailing interest at issue. In the present case, it does not appear that the images posted on the “Vagina Monologues” page, which are not violent, do not feature minors, do not feature real individuals, and do not depict degrading treatment, justify closing the trial on the basis of public morals.
Further, the victims listed in the indictment – individuals who viewed the page when they were minors – are no longer minors and, in any event, it is unclear how testifying publicly about having viewed the “Vagina Monologues” page would cause such individuals harm. As such, the protection of juvenile interests is inapposite.
Even if the court decides that either the public morals or juvenile persons exception applies, there can be no justification for closing the entirety of the trial. International and regional standards require that courts close only the portions of a trial necessary to protect whatever public interest has been invoked. In this case, the court could examine certain witnesses and evidence in camera and hold the remainder of hearings in public.
As such, in order to comply with its obligations under the ICCPR and ECHR, at the upcoming hearing on May 24 the Central District Court of Komsomolsk-on-Amur should grant the defense’s petition to open the proceedings or, at the very least, should close only certain portions of the trial to the general public.
For a full Preliminary report on the trial please see HERE
The link to the Clooney Foundation for Justice's press statement on the report is HERE