HRO.org in English
31 October 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
Memorial Human Rights Centre. There were 71 names on the list.
On the list published today there are 46 names.
As the website of the organization explains, the significant decrease in the number of political prisoners is due to the amnesty which affected 35 people from last year's list, 30 of whom are members of the Arctic Sunrise crew. Another two people, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, were pardoned. Ten people were set free because they had served their terms, had been released on parole, or were given punishments that did not entail imprisonment.
During the last year, 24 new names have been added to the list, which include political activists, a female human rights defender, an environmental campaigner, members of the international pan-Islamic political organisation, Hizb-ut Tahrir and journalists.
The last names added to the list earlier this month were those of the Ukrainian officer Nadezhda Savchenko, the opposition candidate and municipal deputy from Moscow Konstantin Yankauskas and of the opposition activist from Krasnodar Darya Poliudova.
As always, the list of political prisoners is not exhaustive and complete, and the inclusion of a person in the list does not imply Memorial’s agreement with their statements or actions.
The full list of those people recognised as political prisoners in Russia by Memorial can be found here.
Memorial Human Rights Centre
Translated by Ana-Maria Sibur
29 October 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
From 10am until 10pm, one after the other, at the Solovetsky Stone in Moscow on 29 October, people come and read the names of those shot in Moscow in the years of Soviet terror. Memorial is holding the ‘Return of the Names’ event for the eighth time. The names of those shot sound out for 12 hours without a break, but have not yet reached the middle of the list. In the years of terror in Moscow alone more than 40,000 people were shot dead.
27 October 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
A new song by Andrei Makarevich has appeared on the Internet. The musician, who has recently been attacked over his position on the Ukraine situation, speaks out about the harassment in the new song.
The recording on YouTube is not accompanied by a video, it is just an audio-file with a photo background.
In an ironic lyrical style Makarevich sings about the harassment he has experienced and about how some sections of society reacted to it: "Why have you suddenly found your voice, my dear? Who asked you to do that?"
Rosbalt reports that the song has been published on the personal news website of journalist and writer Oleg Kashin.
The harassment of Andrei Makarevich began after he performed in front of Ukrainian refugees in Sviatohirsk on 12th August and took part in the Moscow Peace March. Following this concert the Duma deputy Evgeny Fedorov suggested that Makarevich should lose all his state awards. The leader of “Mashina Vremeni” has had many concerts cancelled in Russian cities due to his anti-war stance.
Translated by Chloe Cranston
23 October 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
They alleged that they had received a complaint about the activities of the organisation, and insisted that the prosecutor’s office be provided with a long list of documents – documents which in any case have been with the prosecutors since this spring.
When Tatiana Dorutina, the chair of “The League of Women Voters”, invited the visitors to present their IDs, they all responded to her request, apart from the “representatives of the public”, whom she insisted should leave the premises.
“I remember well that we took to the prosecutor’s office all the requested documents on 4th May because it was Easter, but we had to go to work given the fact that they called to tell us to bring the documents immediately, having threatened an enormous fine –of 100,000 or 200,000 roubles.
So we immediately collected the documents and brought them over, and until now they have been lying around there and they have not done anything with them. At that time the officials from the prosecutor’s office just like that, but now they are saying that there is a complaint against us. When I asked to be shown this complaint, they answered that they didn’t have it with them, but didn’t explain anything to us – neither who had written it, nor what we had been accused of. They also kept the names of the “representatives of the public” secret, citing protection of personal data,” said Tatiana Dorutina.
In the near future she is planning to visit the prosecutor’s office accompanied by a lawyer.
Just at the time of the visit of the prosecutor’s representatives to the office of “The League of Women Voters” there was a meeting going on of the organising committee of the “March Against Hatred” – a traditional day of action for St Petersburg, earmarked for 2nd November. It is dedicated to the memory of the ethnologist Nikolai Girenko who was murdered by neo-nazis.
Some of the organising committee members believe that the unexpected appearance of the prosecutor’s officials could be connected with the forthcoming march, but Tatiana Dorutina is rather more inclined to perceive the visit as the start of a new wave of inspections of NGOs.
Radio Svoboda correspondent Tatiana Voltskaya comments that on the same day prosecutors also visited the organisation Citizens’ Watch.
Managers at Citizens’ Watch were given the very same reasons for the visit – allegedly a complaint of an unknown nature, submitted against the organisation by unknown persons.
Translated by Frances Robson
18 October 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
Soon four non-profit organizations in the list of foreign agents will close down. The other ‘agents-against-their-will’ are trying to continue their work, but suffer from problems with financing, prosecutors’ inspections, tax claims and numerous court cases.
By the end of this year Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms (JURIX) will close down, Anita Soboleva, the leading expert of the organization and member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, told RBK.
This will happen because of the enforced inclusion of the organization in the list of ‘foreign agents’ in July, Soboleva said (the Ministry of Justice was given this power in the summer).
The organization specializes in court cases relating to violations of constitutional rights. For example, the group’s lawyers lodged appeals with the Constitutional Court on the rights of voters to appeal against the outcomes of elections, and also has taken cases of Russian citizens to the European Court of Human Rights.
JURIX will not reregister in another form, Soboleva said. ‘We have lost the ability to attract funding, to conduct activities, to publish books, to hold training schools for students, since we do not want to put the stigma of ‘foreign agents’ on the reputation of respected academics and experts. Under the ‘foreign agent’ law we must announce this fact everywhere,’ she explained.
The July notice issued by the Ministry of Justice against JURIX did not specify exactly which of the organization’s activities had been found to be political in nature.
The Kostroma Centre for Civic Initiatives, the Centre for Social Policy and Gender Studies, and the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information Foundation have also begun procedures to close down, their representatives told RBK.
The Kostroma Centre does not have the means to pay the fine for not entering the register, the chair of the organization Nikolai Sorokin said.
The Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information will exist in a new format, said the chair of the organization’s council, Ivan Pavlov, whose wife, a US citizen, was deported from Russia for ‘creating a risk to national security’ in August.
The first non-profit to decide to close itself down was the Golos Association for the Protection of Voters Rights in June 2013. However, this did not result in the ending of its activities since the founders of the organization reorganized it into the Golos Movement for the Protection of Voters’ Rights.
This, however, did not stop the Ministry of Justice in July 2014 including in the register of ‘foreign agents’ both the association itself and one other legal entity linked with it – the Golos Public Organization for the Protection of Democratic Rights and Freedoms (registered in Moscow, the organization continues to operate).
The Saratov charity Partnership for Development, added to the register on 2 October, because of legal procedures that have been taking place, has almost ceased functioning since last summer, said Aleksei Glukhov, a lawyer acting for the organization. He did not exclude that the organization would be forced to close down if it were to be fined.
The law against funding
Adoption of the law on ‘foreign agents’ in the summer of 2012 brought about a reduction in the level of funding for non-profits from abroad the following year, RBK has calculated. The funding from abroad of nine of the organizations included in the register of ‘foreign agents’, whose accounts are accessible on the website of the Ministry of Justice, fell by 1.2% in 2013 in comparison with 2012 (from 201 million roubles in 2012 to 198 million roubles in 2013). At the same time in 2012 there had been a 12% rise from the previous year (179 million roubles in 2011). The figures for 2014 will be available at the beginning of 2015.
It is impossible to know exactly how many organizations in total have closed down as a result of the law on ‘foreign agents’, says Pavel Chikov, chair of the Agora Human Rights Association which defends non-profit organizations in court, because the reasons for closure are not indicated in the documents. By mid October the Ministry of Justice had managed to include 15 organizations in the register. Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, in his report to the upper chamber of the Russian parliament reviewing the year 2013, said prosecutors had identified 24 non-profits that were ‘foreign agents’.
On the edge
The Russian Memorial Society is also under threat of closure this October as a result of an application to the Supreme Court by the Ministry of Justice. The case is to be heard on 13 November. The Ministry of Justice does not like the fact that the names of most regional organizations that are members of Memorial do not include the phrase ‘branch of the Russian Memorial Society’. Only 17 organizations out of 56 are officially designated by name as branches of the national organization, and this is not a large enough number for an organization to have the status of a ‘national’ organization.
If the court rules in favour of the Ministry, the Russian Memorial Society will be obliged to reregister, and 17 of its branches will have to close down, human rights activists believe.
On Thursday Memorial asked the Ministry of Justice to withdraw its suit from the Supreme Court since the Society plans to hold a conference with the participation of its regional branches on 20 November for the purpose of resolving the issues pointed out by the Ministry. Meanwhile, one of the most influential branches of Memorial, the Memorial Human Rights Centre based in Moscow, has been added to the register of ‘foreign agents’.
A third of the organizations included in the ‘foreign agent’ register will close down of their own volition in the near future. As a rule, these are small groups that have now lost funding and are obliged to end their existence.
Larger and better known groups such as Golos, Agora and Memorial Human Rights Centre will be forced to reregister or to contest the decision to add them to the register in the courts.
Last year the non-profit organization For Human Rights headed by Lev Ponomarev came under threat. In July 2013 the organization was evicted by force from its Moscow office in Maly Kislovsky Pereulok. However, by September the group had succeeded in reaching an agreement with City Hall that enabled it to rent an office for the next 49 years. In March 2014 the Ministry of Justice suspended the operations of For Human Rights for six months on similar grounds to those brought against the Russian Memorial Society. In May the organization held a congress, but the problems were ironed out only in the middle of August, Lev Ponomarev told RBK.
Non-profits added to the register of foreign agents in the summer must, by October, provide financial reports on the third quarter of the financial year to the Ministry of Justice. This is causing considerable problems for them, Pavel Chikov says. ‘The Ministry of Justice itself does not know itself how the documentation they have created for reporting should be filled out, and the organizations will be obliged to send them ‘zero-activity accounts’ since de jure they have not been closed down (this process is only under way), but de facto they are no longer working. Soon this register risks being transformed into a ‘register of “dead agents” ’, Chikov says with irony, since there is no mechanism in practice for an organization to be taken off the register.
After the latest in the series of measures against non-profits, Golos was forced to completely refuse foreign funding, says its co-chair, Grigory Melkonyants. Now Golos is funded by presidential grants and donations from the public, but, according to Melkonyants, these sources only provide one third of the funds that Golos was receiving before it decided to do without foreign funding. It is hard for Golos to plan for the future because grants from funding competitions are given only for projects that last no more than a few months. The lack of funds makes it hard to support regional branches.
Moscow Helsinki Group also exists only on presidential grants, says its chair Ludmila Alekseeva. The budget of the Moscow Helsinki Group has fallen several times over in comparison with the period when it was receiving foreign funding, she says. In the new conditions the organization was forced to reduce its staff from 17 to five. Having rejected foreign funding, Moscow Helsinki Group succeeded in avoiding inclusion in the register of ‘foreign agents’.
Those organizations that have succeeded in maintaining foreign funding without being included in the register are facing problems with getting funding in the regions. These difficulties are being faced by Memorial. ‘Previously many regional branches were getting foreign grants, and now they have difficulty in obtaining them. Most foreign funding is focused in Moscow,’ says Arseny Roginsky, member of the board of the Russian Memorial Society. He characterizes the proportions of foreign and domestic funding in the budgets of organizations as 3 to 1. Memorial does not intend to refuse foreign assistance, he says.
Stuck in the courts
Apart from the obligatory reporting, so-called ‘foreign agents’ have to spend a lot of effort on the court cases, representatives of non-profits say. Just in the last year, according to Pavel Chikov, Agora’s lawyers have taken part in more than 30 legal cases related to non-profits, from district courts in the regions to the Constitutional Court, and a joint application has been made to the European Court of Human Rights.
The main legal case in which human rights defenders placed their hopes has been the appeal lodged against the law on ‘foreign agents’ at the Constitutional Court. However, the Court ‘found no contradictions in the law’ and merely lowered the minimum level of fines.
Following the judgment of the Constitutional Court, courts dismissed appeals by a number of non-profits against rulings by prosecutors ordering them to register as ‘foreign agents’. Those who lost appeals included Memorial Human Rights Centre, Golos, JURIX and Public Verdict Foundation. ‘The court hearings take up a lot of time and hinder the organizations from doing their work,’ says a lawyer with Agora, Ramil Akhmetgaliev. ‘Even when the non-profits hire outside lawyers, their staff still need to take part in the preparations for the hearings.’
In the near future cases will be heard that non-profits have brought against the Ministry of Justice challenging their inclusion, against their will, in the register of ‘foreign agents’. According to Pavel Chikov, organizations appealing against the Ministry of Justice’s decisions are Public Verdict Foundation, Memorial Human Rights Center, EcoDefence and Women of the Don. Agora, which has also been included in the ‘foreign agent’ register, shortly intends to lodge an appeal itself against the Ministry of Justice.
In addition, five non-profits are suing the tax inspectorate in the commercial courts for a total of 30 million roubles, Pavel Chikov says. Tax inspectors believe that foreign funding means that these resources are not being used for socially useful purposes, and therefore cannot be considered tax-free donations.
Even once they have got through the courts, the bureaucracy, and found funds to do their work, non-profits face problems with carrying out their work. In September on the eve of voting day the Central Electoral Commission issued a statement that the presence at polling stations of observers that are from ‘foreign agents’ will ‘discredit the institution of election observers. As a consequence, independent observers accredited with Golos were not allowed into polling stations in four regions.
At the annual meeting President Vladimir Putin holds with his Human Rights Council which took place last Tuesday the issue of the pressure being put on non-profits was not discussed. On the eve of the meeting Council members told RBK that the agenda is determined by the presidential administration. According to Mikhail Fedotov, chair of the Council, the ‘law on non-profits must be completely rewritten, it has outlived its usefulness.’
At the meeting Mikhail Fedotov raised the question of creating a new law on non-profits that would provide for additional benefits and stimuli for the support of socially-oriented non-profits.
Earlier the secretary of the Public Chamber, Aleksandr Brechalov, had proposed dividing non-profits into two groups, social and political, in order to provide systematic support for the first group.
According to political scientist Tatyana Stanova, Mikhail Fedotov is seeking to seize the initiative from the hardliners who want to tighten the screws. ‘Fedotov is proposing banning foreign funding for political parties and their surrogates, organizations such as Left Front, Young Guard, United Russia and so on, while including human rights groups and organizations such as Golos in the group of socially-significant non-profits. It is possible he is trying to protect non-profits from yet more severe restrictions,’ Tatyana Stanovaya said.
Source: This is an abridged version of an article published by RBK
24 October 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
On 1 September the head of the Council, Mikhail Fedotov, had made an appeal to this effect on the Council’s website as soon as attack on the well-known civil society activist was reported in the media. The Council stated in their appeal: "There are reasons to suppose that the attack in question could be linked with the activities of L. M. Shlosberg either as a journalist and as a civil society activist, and if that is the case then there is clear evidence of a serious crime under Article 144 of the Criminal Code (Section 3) or even a very serious crime under Article 277”.
Lev Shlosberg was attacked on the night of 29-30 August after his newspaper had published an investigation into the deaths of paratroopers who, it was suggested, had possibly been killed in the course of the conflict taking place on the territory of south-east Ukraine.
24 October 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
The Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information, based in St. Petersburg, has received from the St Petersburg city branch of the Ministry of Justice a letter informing them that they are in breach of the legislation on ‘foreign agent’ NGOs, Ivan Pavlov, chair of the board of the organization, has written on his Facebook page.
The Ministry of Justice considers that the Institute did not provide it with the quarterly report on its activities which it is obliged to submit in accordance with the Russian law on ‘foreign agents’.
The Institute has stated that it does not agree with the Ministry's warning since the letter was dated 3 October while the deadline for providing the report is 15 October. Article 20 reports that the Institute may take the case to the courts.
14 October 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
Memorial turned 25 years old this year. It was created in 1989 as a national association of regional organisations. When the USSR dissolved, Memorial split into two – an International Organisation and a Russian Organisation. The Russian organization brought together the regional organisations located in Russia.
With this organizational structure Memorial has successfully worked for more than 20 years, until two years ago when the campaign against NGOs began. Part of this campaign involved the mass inspections by prosecutors of various civil society organisations, especially human rights organisations.
During one of such inspections the Ministry of Justice filed claims against the Russian Memorial Society. A member of the board of Memorial, Aleksandr Cherkasov, explains what these claims consisted of:
"The Ministry of Justice believed that the organisations, which are part of Memorial, are wrong, because they do not have in their titles the words 'Branch of the Russian Memorial Society' ”
And this is demanded by law?
"No. But it is just like the introduction of a school uniform. If you don't have the school uniform, then you aren't a student. The majority of organisations were created in their local areas, they have their own charters. It isn't a structure created from top to bottom, which would impose its own charter and strictly manage things from the centre.
The legal battle between the Russian Memorial Society and the Ministry of Justice has lasted almost two years – Memorial lost in the district court, and then in the city court as well.
A national conference has been designated for the end of November at which Memorial planned to honour the demand from the Ministry of Justice and had written to officials about it.
But a session of the Supreme Court of Russia has been unexpectedly scheduled for 13th November, i.e. literally a week before the conference, to hear the demands of the Ministry of Justice that the Russian Memorial Society is liquidated.
Memorial stresses that even if the Supreme Court agrees with the Ministry of Justice's arguments, this does not mean the end of the organisation's activities. However, Aleksandr Cherkasov recognises that such a decision would seriously complicate their work:
It will seriously harm the opportunities for cooperation, if not the work in one team, then at least in a single network, as well as opportunities for mutual assistance. It's like saying: "We’ll cut your head off because you’ve had a bad haircut" – that’s the kind of claim that the Ministry of Justice is making about us
To what extent did this coincide with the inspection of Memorial?
It did coincide. The investigation has been going on for a couple of years now. The vector and wind changed, it blew from one side and then it blew from the other. But the problems of the Russian Memorial Society is a matter separate from the “foreign agent” issue. We need to understand that there are other ways of exerting pressure on civil society organisations apart from the “foreign agent” law. The Russian Memorial Society doesn't receive foreign money. In fact it doesn't receive any money at all. But then in this case they will get at it in other ways, for not wearing a uniform or for not having the proper haircut.
The Human Rights Centre is a separate structural division of Memorial. In the course of those same prosecutors’ inspections it was demanded that we register as a foreign agent, according to the new law on NGOS. And when the Centre refused, we were involuntarily entered on the appropriate register of the Ministry of Justice.
Source: Radio Svoboda
Translated by Chloe Cranston
Ludmila Alekseeva: 'The closure of an organization like Memorial would cause a huge international scandal'
22 October 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) Ludmila Alekseeva is convinced that the attempt to close the Russian human rights organization Memorial at the instigation of the Ministry of Justice will bring about an international scandal. She is convinced that the organization will not be closed down.
As RIA Novosti reported earlier, the Ministry of Justice has asked the Supreme Court of Russia to liquidate the national non-profit 'Russian Memorial Historical, Educational, Charitable and Human Rights Society' on the grounds that allegedly the organization has ‘on more than one occasion seriously violated the law.’
‘As soon as I heard this terrible news that Memorial is on the verge of closure I immediately said that this is madness. I don't think that this will happen,’ Ludmila Alekseeva told RIA Novosti.
'The closure of an organization like Memorial would cause a huge international scandal,' Alekseeva said.
RAPSI quotes Alekseeva as saying: 'I am not exaggerating in the least, because Memorial is internationally well-known. It is an organization highly respected throughout the world, and justly so. This would be an international shock if they try and close down an organization of this kind.'
21 October 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
Three whole programmes will be dedicated to Sergei Kovalev. The reason is that Sergei Kovalev's civil activism began in 1956 and has continued virtually non-stop since then. Kovalev's activities have always been controversial and have attracted criticism.
In 1975 Sergei Kovalev was tried in Vilnius. Recently, for his 80th birthday, he received criminal file no. 423 – his own criminal file, uncut.
For various reasons, access to Russian archives is now being restricted, so that it is becoming harder for people to find out information, even about their own criminal files in their entirety. Kovalev's file runs to 30 volumes and is a unique encyclopaedia of the dissident movement. Many materials from it were used in this series.
Kovalev's file carries the fingerprints of many events and famous people. We extend our thanks for making video materials available to us to Boris Yeltsin's Presidential Centre and to the editors of polit.ru, as well as to Lyubov Fridrikhovna Borusyak personally.
Filming was carried out in Moscow and in Dallas. Directors: Ksenia and Kirill Sakharnov. Camera work: Kirill Sakharnov, Andrei Turusov, Ksenia Sakharnov, Denis Kovalev.
Photographs used are from the Kovalev family archive. Journalist Alexei Naryshkin from “Ekho Moskvy" took part in this programme. This project is supported by OAK Foundation and the Andrei Sakharov Fund.
Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts
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