Russian NGOs Inform UN Special Rapporteur about Freedom of Assembly in Russia

Source: (info), 06/02/12

· Right of Assembly  · Human Rights Defenders

On 4 February 2012 Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, was presented with a summary of a report on the observance of freedom of assembly in Russia in 2011. The report was prepared by a coalition of Russian human rights NGOs.

A summary of the report was also passed on to the OSCE/ODIHR Panel of Experts on Freedom of Assembly for the attention of Neil Jarman, Chairman of the Panel and Michael Hamilton, Secretary to the Panel.

The report cites numerous violations by the Russian authorities of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and instances where pressure has been applied on activists and the organisers of peaceful protests. It is clear that the Russian authorities are not ready politically to acknowledge the public’s right to freedom of assembly. This is confirmed by the constant attempts to legislatively restrict the right to protest, the 'show' arrests and the beatings received by those who take part in peaceful demonstrations. Courts are involved in falsifying administrative cases, handing down prison terms for organisers. All this leads to the radicalisation of protests, convinces the public of the futility of filing notices which will never be "approved", and even that aside, further weakens their already low level of faith in the courts.

During the December protests, the authorities used the whole spectrum of traditional violations of Russian law and international obligations against participants and organisers. Consecutive periods of imprisonment of up to 30 days in succession became the new form of repression (Sergei Udaltsov, Philip Kostenko and others) as well as raids on 'objectors'.

English and Russian versions of the report summary are on the Moscow Helsinki Group website.

The UN Special Rapporteur was also informed that the coalition of Russian NGOs has set up a 'hotline' for the protection of civic activists which they can call for help or advice:
+7 (915) 041-25-19 .

On 3 - 5 February 2012, a regional consultation took place in Tbilisi (Georgia) between representatives of NGOs from Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Great Britain, Norway and Uganda and Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. The meeting was organised by the Human Rights House Foundation (Norway). Russian NGOs were represented by the International Youth Human Rights Movement, the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers and the editorial board of the journal Dosh.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association was established by the UN Human Rights Council last year. The Special Rapporteur is currently preparing his first annual report for the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly.

The report was produced as part of a project called "Promoting respect for the right to freedom of expression of opinion and freedom of association: strengthening and broadening the potential of human rights defenders in Russia" which is being conducted by a partnership of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Memorial Human Rights Centre, Agora Human Rights Association, International Youth Human Rights Movement, Independent Council for Legal Expertise and the Human Rights Network, with the financial support of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights of the European Union.