Natalia Sharina, a Russian librarian, was placed under house arrest for allegedly “inciting hatred” because the library contained books banned under Russian anti-extremism laws. Ms. Sharina was detained and may be tried as an attempt to intimidate librarians.
The Committee of Concerned Scientists has written to President Putin requesting that he take all steps necessary to ensure that charges be dropped and that she be released and any items confiscated be returned to her.
December 16, 2015
Mr. Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
23, Ilyinka Street
Dear President Putin:
We are writing on behalf of the Committee of Concerned Scientists, an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We write with great concern for Natalia Sharina, a 58-year old Director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature, a scholarly institution based in and partially funded by the City of Moscow.
On October 30, Ms. Sharina was placed under house arrest pending trial for “inciting hatred” because the library allegedly contained books banned under Russia’s anti-extremism laws. She is appealing her arrest, but could face up to 5 years in prison if convicted of permitting access to books by authors like Ukrainian ultra-nationalist writer, Dmytro Korchynsky. She, and others, claim the books in question were planted. She argued to a courtroom that “books cannot constitute extremism, because in my opinion extremism is an action.”
On October 28, Natalia Sharina was detained as police, according to Human Rights Watch, searched her apartment, raided the library and seized books and documents. We are concerned that the detention and possible trial of Ms. Sharina may be part of a broader attempt to intimidate librarians in Russia. On October 29th the Central Librarian Directorate reportedly ordered Moscow’s First Popular Scientific Library to remove a prominent academic study on nationalist movements in Central Asia. And a Moscow school teacher told HRW that the school’s librarian was told to remove all politically sensitive items.
A librarian is an essential citizen of the world of scholars and scientists. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Russia is a state party, protects libraries and librarians by guaranteeing the right to receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds. No librarian should be detained or harassed or put on trial for exercising that right on behalf of herself and her community. We urge you to take all steps necessary to ensure that charges against Natalia Sharina be dropped and that she be immediately and unconditionally released from house arrest and all materials confiscated be returned to her institution.
Sincerely,Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich,
Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
- Russia raids Ukrainian library in Moscow, arrests head (reuters.com)
Russia: Librarian Locked Up (hrw.org)