Rapid Reaction Centre to Protect Human Rights Defenders Begins Work

Source: HRO.org (info), 07/11/11

· Human rights defenders

On 4 November Moscow Helsinki Group and the international Youth Human Rights Movement announced the creation of a Rapid Reaction Centre for the protection of human rights defenders in Russia.

The idea of creating a centre of this kind in Russia has been under discussion since 2009 when Stanislav Markelov and Natalya Estemirova were killed. At that time the large number of instances of threats and intimidation of human rights defenders showed that systematic measures were necessary to protect human rights defenders.

The first partners of the Centre are Memorial Human Rights Centre, Agora Human Rights Association, Human Rights Network (Human Rights in Russia web portal) and the Independent Centre for Legal Expertise. Members of the Centre’s Public Council are human rights defenders Ludmila Alekseeva, Valentin Gefter, Yury Dzhibladze and Andrei Yurov.

The main goals of the Centre are: 
  • Timely collection and making public of information about cases of intimidation of human rights defenders throughout Russia; 
  • Supporting (and where necessary, coordinating and organizing) the actions of civic and human rights organizations in concrete cases of intimidation of human rights defenders and human rights organizations; 
  • Working with government authorities, including law enforcement, and international bodies to protect human rights defenders. 
The Centre does not seek to take over the role of any other organizations working to protect human rights defenders. It is being created to strengthen the influence of human rights organizations and civic organizations and improve their coordination in reacting to specific cases of intimidation and threats against human rights defenders in Russia.

In its work the Centre will base itself on the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and will take up cases of intimidation of individuals or organizations systematically engaged in the protection of human rights, and, in the first instance, fundamental rights and freedoms.

The Centre has established a Hotline that human rights defenders who have been threatened or persecuted can turn to for support, writes Civitas.ru.

Cases of intimidation of human rights defenders or human rights organizations can also be reported by e-mail or on Skype: sos-center.