A Russian citizen has posted several texts and photographs on his page on the social network about the war crimes of the Russian army in Ukraine. The investigator of the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case under the recently entered into force article of the Criminal Code 207.3 “Public dissemination of deliberately false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, the exercise of their powers by state bodies of the Russian Federation.”
The investigator ordered a linguistic examination. The expert wrote that in the texts of the defendant “statements were identified containing the attribution of purposefully hostile, violent actions to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (including the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin) … attribution of war crimes to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation … “. However, the expert did not directly conclude that this person disseminated knowingly false information.
The lawyer asked me to answer three questions: “Is the information disseminated by the accused knowingly false?”, “Does the expert’s conclusion justify the deliberately false nature of the information?”, “Are there signs of political motivation in the criminal prosecution of the accused?”.
The main thesis of my expert opinion on the first question was the following: information that is not true is obviously false, and not any other information. A person can disseminate information that does not correspond to the information of authorities, officials, journalists and other people. Such a discrepancy does not make the information deliberately false. The inconsistency with reality is not obvious, it must be proven. For such evidence, it is necessary to convincingly confirm that other events actually occurred. But in our case, the investigator only pointed out that the information disseminated by the accused did not correspond to the information of the Russian Ministry of Defense.
On the second question, I pointed out that linguistic expertise cannot substantiate the falsity of any information. Such a task goes beyond the scope of linguistics as a science. An expert linguist does not have the right to draw a definite conclusion about the deliberate falsity of any information.
On the third question, I stated that this criminal case is without a doubt politically motivated. All political motives known to us are reduced to the following: the retention of power and the strengthening of power, as well as the involuntary termination of a person’s public activities. The investigator wrote in the indictment that the defendant disseminated information “in order to undermine authority, trust and respect, as well as to form a negative attitude towards the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and state authorities in general.” The dissemination of information by citizens about the activities of the authorities is part of a normal political process. This information may be true or false, it may contain negative or positive assessments of the authorities. In itself, the dissemination of information cannot be the basis for the persecution of a citizen by the authorities. Restrictions on the right to disseminate information are provided for in paragraph 3 of Art. 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Such restrictions must be prescribed by law and they must be necessary: for respect of the rights or reputations of others; to protect state security, public order, public health or morals.
Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation provides for criminal liability for actions that are not related to the rights and reputation of other persons, to the protection of state security, public order, public health or morals. This article provides for responsibility for the dissemination of information that harms the authorities and their representatives, which entails consequences in the form of loss of power or its weakening. This is important because it makes it possible to draw the following conclusion: political motivation is provided for by the very composition of Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The application of this article to any person makes his criminal prosecution politically motivated without any additional justification. The persecution under this article is aimed at retaining and strengthening the power of the people who are currently in power in the Russian Federation.
An additional ground for recognizing this criminal prosecution as politically motivated is the obviously unfair trial of the actions of the accused. There is no evidence of guilt in the investigator’s decision to bring a person as an accused, as well as in the expert’s opinion. Despite the lack of evidence of the deliberate falsity (inconsistency of reality) of the information, the criminal prosecution of the person has not been terminated to date.
In the photo: Residential building in Irpin Kyiv region. I took this photo in early May 2022.