Statement by Members of the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights

Source: (author), 30/07/10

·         Human Rights Defenders

We consider it our duty to give a public assessment to the vile outbursts that have taken place at the youth camp on Lake Seliger where a portrait of Ludmila Mikhailovna Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group and a member of the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, was displayed in Nazi garb on an ‘anti-Russian board of shame,’ along with similar images of more than a dozen other public and political figures.

This is not just a moral monstrosity and a challenge to society. This has taken place in front of thousands of young people in an event held under government auspices and using public money. And it is evidence of a catastrophic failure in the work of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs and the Ministry of Sport, Tourism, and Youth Policy.

How can the strategic goal of modernizing Russia, to which this forum was dedicated, be combined with such a disgraceful, medieval barbarism? Talks about the future of the country by leading public figures have taken place along with this exhibition indicative of Stalinist times, and or even those of Ivan the Terrible.

For us there is no doubt, that:

- Firstly, with the knowledge of the official curators of the project, public rudeness is openly permitted against those who defend the victims of arbitrariness, defend citizens' rights and expose the perpetrators of violations. In this way, young people, protected by high authorities, are being brought up to take a cynical attitude to what is proclaimed in the Russian Constitution (Article 2);

- Secondly, by so doing the government cultivates aggressive radicalism among young people, despite the fact that the demonstration of Nazi symbolism under current legislation constitutes a manifestation of extremism and is an offence under the law;

- Thirdly, the government tutors of these young people who set them on against a deservedly respected individual must understand how much damage they cause to the reputation of Russia and its leaders. Throughout the world, Ludmila Alekseeva is recognized as one of the founders of the Helsinki movement. For more than forty years she has worked to protect victims of arbitrary abuses. In our country, it is permitted to equate a person who takes an active and genuinely patriotic stance in upholding civil rights and political freedoms to the Nazis.

Such a direct challenge to our society can only remain unpunished if we keep quiet. In fact, perhaps, that is what is being counted on: that people will meekly accept such a humiliation.

We insist on an appropriate and the only possible response by senior government officials to this wild outburst, including the immediate dismissal of the head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs. Anything less would mean that the initiators and organizers of the youth forum at Lake Seliger are conducting a deliberate policy to disregard basic constitutional values, to bring about a new isolation of Russia from the civilized world, and with the connivance of the leadership of the country.


Members of the Council:

L. Ambinder, S. Gannushkina, V. Gefter, A. Golovan, Yu. Dzhibladze, K. Kabanov, S. Karaganov, S. Krivenko, T. Morshchakova, E. Panfilova, B. Pustyntsev, A. Simonov, M. Fedotov, I. Yasina