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In the run-up to the EU-Russia Forum, human rights activists in Nizhny Novgorod faced intimidation

Source: (info), 09/06/11

· Human Rights Defenders · Ministry of Internal Affairs · Prosecutor's Office · Nizhny Novgorod Region

On 8 June in the run-up to EU-Russia Forum in Nizhny Novgorod, almost all the law enforcement agencies in the region took an unusual interest in the work of human rights and civil society activists. Particular incidents that took place with regard to human rights defenders are evidence of a purposeful intimidation by the authorities.

According to the Committee Against Torture, Olga Sadovskaya, vice chair of the Committee and a member of the Coordinating Council of the EU-Russia Civic Forum, was summoned to the Public Prosecutor’s Office to give evidence regarding events planned to take place during the Forum.

While Olga Sadovskaya was at the Nizhny Novgorod District Prosecutor’s Office, the licence plate was removed from her car, and a nearby traffic police officer ignored the fact when it was reported to him. Moreover, 30 minutes later, the same traffic police officer, now in another car, stopped Olga Sadovskaya for driving without a licence plate and drew up a protocol on an administrative offence.

The Committee Against Torture also claims that Olga’s car was being followed: some time before the incident an unknown VAZ car with a licence plate 508 and of a grey metallic colour had been following Olga’s car.

During the whole day on 8 June representatives of various law enforcement agencies either visited or telephoned other human rights defenders and civil society activists. For instance, in the morning of 8 June Stanislav Dmitrievsky, head of the Foundation to Support Tolerance, received a phone call from the Public Prosecutor’s Office requesting him to come to the Office for a conversation. Stanislav Dmitrievsky refused as he had not received any official notification. The same morning law enforcement officers paid a visit to Ilya Shamazov, a staff member of the Foundation to Support Tolerance, presumably, to conduct “a preventive conversation at home”. Similar facts were documented both in Nizhny Novgorod and in the towns of the region, for example in Dzerzhinsk.

All these events can be considered as acts of intimidation aimed at independent civil society in the run-up to the EU-Russia Summit. One further confirmation of this was the news that the organisers of a press-conference on the Russia-EU Civil Forum, planned for the day before, had been denied a venue.

Unfortunately, it has to be said that in the run-up to major international events taking place in the regions of Russia, a systematic intimidation of human rights defenders, civil society activists and members of the political opposition has become the norm. This is particularly evident during the regular EU-Russia summits, at which the issues of rule of law and respect for human rights, as well as mutual adherence to international obligations in the human dimension, are a key aspect of cooperation with the EU.
Rights in Russia,
14 Jun 2011, 01:08