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Prosecutors to report on results of investigation into attack on Lev Shlosberg

posted by Rights in Russia   [ updated ]

24 October 2014

Source: (info)
The General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation has ordered the prosecutor’s office in Pskov region to conduct a review of the criminal investigation into the attack on Lev Shlosberg, editor of the newspaper Pskovskaya guberniya and leader of the region’s branch of the Yabloko party, and subsequently to report on the results of its review to the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights.

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.

Human rights defender Ivan Pavlov: Ministry of Justice has jumped the gun

posted by Rights in Russia   [ updated ]

24 October 2014

Source: (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.

The attack on Memorial: “We’ll cut your head off because you’ve had a bad haircut"

posted 23 Oct 2014 13:27 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Oct 2014 13:29 ]

14 October 2014

Source: (info)
Kristina Gorelik: Russia's Supreme Court may close down the Russian Memorial Society in November in line with a demand from the Ministry of Justice. Memorial stresses that it will not stop its work, even if the court agrees with the Ministry of Justice’s demand.

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'

posted 22 Oct 2014 13:45 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Oct 2014 13:59 ]

22 October 2014

Source: (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.'

Video about the life of Sergei Kovalev (Part 1)

posted 22 Oct 2014 12:06 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Oct 2014 13:14 ]

21 October 2014

Source: (info)
The journalist and writer Natella Boltyanskaya has released the first part of a video trilogy about the life of the famous Russian human rights activist, Sergei Kovalev. The directors are Ksenia and Kirill Sakharnov.

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, 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

International Memorial Society wins Vittorio Foa prize

posted 21 Oct 2014 13:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Oct 2014 13:38 ]

20 October 2014

Source: (info)
The award ceremony took place on 18 October 2014 in the Italian city of Formia. The award was accepted by chair of the board of the International Memorial Society, historian Arseny Roginsky.

The award was established in 2013 in honour of Vittorio Foa (1910-2008), an anti-fascist activist and member of the Italian Resistance, one of the most respected figures in the Italian and European left movement of the 20th century, trade unionist, politician, journalist, and author of numerous historical research publications.

The stated objectives of the prize include supporting the study of history, especially 20th century Italian and international political history, and encouraging the younger generation to engage in reading and critical and historical reflection.

Translated by Natascha Kearsey

Journalists assess Putin's conversation with human rights activists

posted 17 Oct 2014 13:20 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Oct 2014 13:29 ]

15 October 2014

Source: (info
The press is discussing the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of the Human Rights Council (HRC) which took place at the Kremlin on 14 October 2014. notes that a whole series of topics that traditionally belong to the sphere of interests of the human rights community were not addressed at the meeting. For example, there was no time to discuss the fate of the missing paratroopers, nor were the issues of the media rights and freedom of expression raised.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes that the President called the HRC the most important human rights instrument in the country.

Head of the HRC Mikhail Fedotov called on the President to use the high approval rating of the authorities to put a halt to the information war with Ukraine and to demilitarise public awareness, writes Novye Izvestiya.

Sergei Karaganov talked of how difficult it was proving to implement the programme to commemorate the victims of repression. He mentioned the Perm-36 Gulag Museum and thanked the President for helping to save it.

The Russian President expressed surprise that in Moscow there was still no memorial to the victims of repression, writes the BBC. The President found the situation surrounding the federal targeted programme to commemorate the victims of repression rather comical. As president, Medvedev supported the programme but when he became Prime Minister his cabinet mothballed the proposal. "This is a manifestation of the omnipotence of bureaucracy. It's not all Medvedev's fault," Putin explained to members of the HRC.

"The goal is to not forget this subject, not sweep it under the carpet. As to how best to organise this work, there are competing points of view. But that in no way means that the idea of the federal programme to commemorate the victims of repression itself is completely dead. Let's come back to this subject and think it through together. <...> I will put together an instruction to the Administration and the Government so that together you can come up with the best solution to this problem, so that we can move forward and not argue endlessly about how it should be done, because it's time to start acting," the President stressed in his speech.

Journalists from RBC decided to ask why the meeting participants had sidestepped so many thorny issues in their conversation with the President.

Member of the Human Rights Council Elena Masyuk explained that the question of the missing and dead paratroopers rested with her colleagues, which is why she did not ask the question herself.

The conversation about the situation regarding freedom of expression was supposed to have been initiated by Secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists Leonid Nikitinsky, but he was not given the opportunity to speak.

And retired judge of the Constitutional Court Tamara Morshchakova complained that there was hardly any time left to discuss her proposal to control the investigative authorities.

In his column on the Novaya gazeta website, Nikitinsky explained that the problem lay in the fact that the President only met with the HRC once a year and it was simply not possible to discuss all the pressing issues in the space of two and a half hours. Furthermore, the meeting was held in a hall in the Kremlin where the acoustics were so bad that a lot of what people were saying could not be made out.

Nikitinsky among other things mentioned one important point: members of the HRC had succeeded in drawing President Putin's attention to the need to clarify the concept of "political activity" in relation to the "foreign agent law." No objections were raised to this.

Kirill Kabanov delivered a report on corruption. He put forward a strange proposal, which would have made more sense coming from the Investigative Committee rather than the Human Rights Council, to increase sentences for corruption from 10 to 20 years and make it more difficult to get parole. Irina Khakamada, however, literally speaking up just as Putin was getting ready to leave, said that this was not the opinion of the Council but of Kabanov personally.

"In addition, some time ago these people were different. Passionate you could say. And now they've cooled. They've probably realised that you either have to leave the HRC or stay so that you can do something, because at every one of these meetings you feel the monstrous administrative resource that suddenly appears in their hands and eyes for a couple of hours thanks to direct contact with the President. Later it turns out there wasn't any resource but just a chance to have their say, but that's not clear straight away," writes special correspondent for Kommersant Andrei Kolesnikov.

The Pravoslavie i Mir (Orthodox Christianity and the World) website focuses on the President's promise to provide high-tech healthcare for citizens of other countries who do not have refugee status. "I didn't even realise such a problem existed," Putin said in reply to a request by the head of the Spravedlivaya Pomoshch (Fair Aid) organisation Elizaveta Glinka, and promised to look into the matter.

On the whole, thinks Nezavisimaya gazeta, despite the fact the President reacted positively to most of the human rights campaigners' requests, it was clear that he was putting particular emphasis on the activities of the HRC in southeastern Ukraine. It was for drawing the attention of the Russian and global communities to the victims of the military conflict that he thanked the human rights activists and even advised them to take more care over their own safety.

A review of publications about the recent meeting can be found on the Zagolovki website.

Translated by Natascha Kearsey

US journalists victims of arbitrary treatment in St. Petersburg

posted 16 Oct 2014 12:45 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Oct 2014 12:52 ]

16 October 2014

Source: (info)
Jo Bergantino, director of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, and Randy Covington, director of Newsplex, a center for the study of new media techniques at the University of South Carolina, were detained in St Petersburg at the Socos hotel during a seminar on methods and ethics of investigative journalism.

Two people who introduced themselves as officers of the St. Petersburg department of the Federal Migration Service stated that the tourist visas, the basis for the US journalists being on Russian territory,  ‘did not give the right to conduct educational activity’, Radio Svoboda reports.

The visas of Jo Bertantino and Randy Covington were not usual tourist visas, but visas issued for a specific purpose, in line with the recommendation given to them by the US consulate in Moscow.

Aleksandr Gorshkov, chief editor of the internet portal and organizer of the seminar, said that the US journalists were at the Vasilyevsky Island district court where it is expected their future will be decided. 

The US journalists had planned to speak at the seminar on 17 October.

The St Petersburg department of the Federal Migration Service refused to give any information about the detention of the US journalists.

Human Rights Council criticises NGO Law for violating Civil Law Code

posted 15 Oct 2014 11:57 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Oct 2014 12:01 ]

13 Ocotober 2014

Source: (info
Russia’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights has criticised the NGO Law for violating the Civil Law Code and called for the law to be revised, according a report by RIA Novosti quoting Mikhail Fedotov, Chair of the Council. 

In Fedotov’s words, "The Council believes that wholescale changes must be made to the Law on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), because in its current form it violates the recently amended Civil Law Code.” reported him as stating that this opinion was also shared by the Presidential Commission for the Codification of Civil Law. 

According to Fedotov, the focus should be on socially oriented non-governmental organisations working to protect the rights of persons with disabilities, children, homeless people, pensioners and national minorities. “We should revise the entire law and change its focus from ‘foreign agents’ to socially oriented non-governmental organisations, or in other words those which provide genuine assistance to citizens." 

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

Prison conditions toughened for prisoner of conscience Evgeny Vitishko

posted 15 Oct 2014 11:53 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Oct 2014 11:55 ]

9 October 2014

Source: (info
There has been no contact with Evgeny Vitishko for more than a week now at the open-regime penal colony No. 2 (KP-2) in Tambov region where he is serving his sentence.

Fears have now been confirmed that, on the initiative of the colony’s management, the process to transfer Vitishko to a general-regime penal colony has begun.

North Caucasus Environmental Watch reports that on 24 September 2014 in Krasnodar regional court the prosecutor’s petition to annul the ruling of Tuapse town court that would change Vitishko’s suspended sentence to a term of imprisonment in a penal colony was heard.

The court dismissed the prosecutor’s petition and Vitishko, who had been brought to a pre-trial detention centre in Tambov city to take part in the court hearing by video link, returned to the penal colony on 29 September.

The same day he phoned his friends and said that he was in a quarantine block. Since then there has been no contact with Evgeny.

To obtain some clarity about what is happening with Evgeny, today Dmitry Gutov, member of the board of North Caucasus Environmental Watch, asked the Public Oversight Commission of Tambov region to find out what is happening.

Members of the Public Oversight Commission contacted the Tambov department of the Federal Penitentiary Service and were told that official procedures had begun to tighten the conditions of detention of the political prisoner by transferring him from an open regime penal colony to a general-regime penal colony, and that his placement in a quarantine block was related precisely to this development.

Andrei Rudomakha, coordinator of the North Caucasus Environmental Watch, commented on what has happened as follows: “Everything, unfortunately, is going according to the very worst scenario. After the regional court issued its latest unjust decision in relation to Evgeny, and he was not released as the Krasnodar region prosecutor had demanded, there were immediate moves to tighten his conditions of detention.

“This is revenge by the penal colony’s management for his actions in defence of other prisoners. They want to deprive Evgeny of the ability to keep in touch with friends and human rights defenders. Most important, they want to remove him from the penal colony altogether. Not even his lawyers were told about the planned transfer to a general regime penal colony,” Rudomakha said.

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