Human rights violations in the Nikitin case may last for ever

On April 14, four months have passed since the release of Alexander Nikitin. During this time not a single official body has informed Nikitin about the developments within the case. The charges still stand against Nikitin. He is deprived of the freedom of movement, after having been forced by the Russian Security Police – FSB – to sign a document obliging him to stay in St. Petersburg.

It was in the wake of Nikitin’s Goldman Environmetal Prize award yesterday, that Nikitin, his lawyer Shmidt and human rights organization Citizen’s Watch held a press conference in St. Petersburg this morning.

After a number of enquiries the defence council finally got hold of a letter from the Deputy Prosecutor of St. Petersburg in the beginning of April, informing them that the investigation was prolonged for a total period of 18 months, from its beginning on October 5 1995. Hence, the latest official statement actually limits the investigation to April 5 1997. Logically, the defence council assumes that the General Prosecutor’s office has further prolonged the investigation, although no official explanations were submitted.

According to Nikitin’s lawyer Yury Shmidt, Russian legislation does not limit the term for additional investigations, as long as the accused is released from custody. Nor are the official bodies obliged to inform an accused or his defence council on the proceedings within the case. As a result, the basic human right of freedom of movement can be violated in connection to Nikitin as long as the investigating body wants.

Retired Naval officer Alexander Nikitin was arrested in February 1996, accused of high treason after co-authoring the Bellona Foundation report The Russian Northern Fleet – Sources to radioactive Contamination. Due to lacking evidence of any crime committed by Nikitin, he was released from solitary confinement in December 1996. In January 1997 the Prosecutor General transferred the case back to the FSB for additional investigations.