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Supreme Court dismisses Ministry of Justice’s suit against Memorial

posted by Rights in Russia   [ updated ]

28 January 2015

Source: (info)
Russia's Supreme Court has thrown out the Ministry of Justice's suit to close down the Russian Memorial Society for violations of the law discovered in the course of inspections. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice who appeared in court stressed that "We believe this organisation does good work which will endure".

* * * 
The ruling by judge Alla Nazarova dismisses the Ministry of Justice's case against Memorial, reports Radio Svoboda.

According to Interfax news agency, the court reached its decision today but has not yet made its reasoning public.

Earlier today, the Ministry of Justice spokesperson told the court that although the International Memorial Society had rectified its previous violations of the law, the Ministry of Justice was not prepared to retract its case for the closure of its Russian branch and was leaving it to the court to decide how to proceed.

However, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice stressed that Memorial should continue its work. According to the Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) website, she clarified the Ministry's position in the following words: "We believe this organisation does good work which will endure, and we are sure that the Russian branch of Memorial should exist".

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Petition: "Free Evgeny Vitishko!"

posted 28 Jan 2015, 13:16 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Jan 2015, 13:20 ]

27 January 2015

Source: (info)
Environmentalist and civil society activist Evgeny Vitishko was sentenced to three years in a penal colony on trumped up charges. His ‘crime’ was to openly talk about the illegal construction on the site of a nature reserve and damage to the environment caused by building in Sochi.

Evgeny Vitishko is one of the leading activists of the North Caucasus Environmental Watch. He was first given a suspended sentence after he had publicized the illegal construction of a vacation home in a forested nature reserve. Allegedly, he spoiled the fence by writing on it. The suspended sentence was changed for a term in prison not long before the start of the Olympics when he publicly stated that a report on the environmental damage caused by the Olympic construction works was being prepared for publication.

Amnesty International has recognized Evgeny Vitishko as a prisoner of conscience.

We can speed up the release of Vitishko by collecting 100,000 signatures and passing them to the Prosecutor General.

Now, when environmentalists from all over the world have spoken out in support of Vitishko, the time has come for the unlawful decisions of lower courts in Krasnodar region to be quashed by courts of appeal.

Memorial Human Rights Centre: “The order not to take prisoners is criminal”

posted 27 Jan 2015, 13:09 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 27 Jan 2015, 13:18 ]

25 January 2015

Source: (info
Statement by Memorial Human Rights Centre, Moscow

'On 23 January [2015], the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, said that he will issue an order to the armed groups of the DPR not to take any more prisoners. In doing so, he has committed a war crime.

Such an order is criminal, regardless of whether the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine is regarded as an international conflict or a civil war.

International humanitarian law expressly prohibits the issue of such orders.

Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions sets out the requirements for the parties involved in an armed conflict that is not of an international character:

Persons [...] who have laid down their arms and those placed ‘hors de combat’ by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely [...]. To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture [...].”

Article 40 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to international armed conflicts states that: “It is prohibited to order that there shall be no survivors, to threaten an adversary therewith or to conduct hostilities on this basis.

Article 41 of this Protocol prohibits an attack on any person who “a) is in the power of an adverse Party; b) clearly expresses an intention to surrender; c) has been rendered unconscious or is otherwise incapacitated by wounds or sickness, and therefore is incapable of defending himself, provided that in any of these cases he abstains from any hostile act and does not attempt to escape.

Executing the criminal order issued by Aleksandr Zakharchenko should undoubtedly be regarded as a war crime.

The responsibility for these crimes will lie with Russia, whose senior officials are openly supporting the separatists.

We demand that the Russian government takes immediate steps to bring the separatists’ leaders in eastern Ukraine to reason and induce them to revoke the criminal order.' 

Memorial Human Rights Centre, Москва

Meanwhile, as reported by the BBC, “Russia has blocked a statement by the UN Security Council condemning the rocket attacks on Mariupol. The statement called for the ceasefire agreement reached in September to be observed, as well as an investigation into the rocket attack that killed 30 people to be carried out.”

According to the OCSE, the rockets were launched from positions occupied by armed separatists in the Donetsk region.

The report by the OSCE states that: “According to the impact analysis, the Grad rockets originated from a north-easterly direction, in the area of Oktyabr (19 km north-east of Olimpiiskaya Street), and the Uragan rockets from an easterly direction, in the area of Zaichenko (15 km east of Olimpiiskaya Street), both controlled by the Donetsk People’s Republic.

We demand that the leadership of our country immediately take steps to bring the separatists’ leaders in the east of Ukraine to reason, and impel them to abolish the criminal order.

Translated by Nicky Brown

Moscow School of Civic Education closes over inclusion in 'foreign agent' register

posted 27 Jan 2015, 12:16 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 27 Jan 2015, 12:36 ]

26 January 2015

Source: (info)
The non-profit organisation Moscow School of Civic Education has shut down because of the NGO's inclusion in the 'foreign agents' register.

Novaya gazeta quotes a statement on the organisation’s website, which reads “The management of the Moscow School finds it unacceptable to conduct activities in this false status and have decided to suspend our projects”.

The School has at the same time left its archive materials openly accessible – articles, reports, books and magazines, as well as multimedia materials.

Previously the organisation called their inclusion in the list unwarranted and announced their intention to challenge it in court.

The Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation included the School in the 'foreign agents' list on 9th December 2014.

The Moscow School of Civic Education was founded with the support of the Council of Europe and had worked in Russia since the end of 1992.

The organisation’s stated mission was to promote the ideas of the rule of law and civil society, and an understanding of their importance through education.

The School organised forums with experts and Russian politicians as well as government officials.

Translated by Chloe Cranston

Vitishko’s letters held up by prison management

posted 26 Jan 2015, 03:49 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Jan 2015, 04:00 ]

21 January 2015

Source: (info)
The management of Tambov Penal Colony No 2 has held back letters written by its inmate Evgeny Vitishko, a member of the board of Ecological Watch for Northern Caucasus, who has been named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International having been sentenced to three years behind bars on grounds of ‘damage’ to the fence of the Krasnodar Governor’s ‘dacha.’

Evgeny Vitishko’s supporters reported these developments on social media on 19 January 2015, according to

On 20 January the activists posted the following: "We learned from the public prosecutor today that letters sent a month ago by Vitishko to the court and the public prosecutor are still being held at the penal colony. The political officer is withholding them for some reason, and only allowing them to be sent in the presence of the public prosecutor. Is this some new approach to handling prisoners’ official letters? We have not yet been able to find out what has happened to Vitishko’s applications to the Supreme Court and Tuapse town court.”

Evgeny Vitishko, considered a political prisoner by Russian human rights activists, is serving a term in the penal colony after having sprayed slogans such as “This is our forest” on the fence surrounding the holiday complex built in a nature reserve, together with another activist, Suren Gazaryan. Environmental activists claim that the governor of the Krasnodar region has built his dacha on the complex.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds  

Moscow march in memory of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova (19 January 2015)

posted 25 Jan 2015, 13:47 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 25 Jan 2015, 14:57 ]

20 January 2015

By Vera Vasilieva 

On 19 January 2015 a march took place in Moscow in memory of the human rights lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, and the journalist Anastasia Baburova, both killed by neo-Nazis six years ago that day, Vera Vasilieva reports for

The march began at 19:00, moving from Novopushkinskii Square, along Tverskoi, Nikitskii and Gogolevskii boulevards. The participants eventually gathered at no.1, Prichistenka Street, where Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova were killed. Many people laid flowers and lit commemorative candles.

Among those who took part in the march were antifascists, human rights activists, members of the LGBT community, as well as civil society and political activists. The march was organized by the Party of 5 December.

The participants held banners with the inscription “Antifascism is ours” and posters saying: “I'm Stas Markelov”, “I'm Nastya Baburova”, “I'm Vanya Khutorskoi”, “I'm Ilya Dzhaparidze”. The names of other antifascists who were victims of hate crimes also echoed throughout the crowd.

The demonstrators chanted: “No to fascism in all its forms: from the streets to the authorities!”, “It’s a multi-coloured world and not the colour of fascism!”, “Skin colour is not important – say no to Nazism!” amongst other slogans.

A few incidents took place during the march on Gogolevsky Boulevard. An unknown person threw a firework into the crowd, which went off without harming anyone, and then ran away. In addition another young person, who was displeased by the slogans being chanted in favour of the LGBT community, began shouting out: ‘Moscow is not Sodom’.

After this, as police began to arrive at the scene of the incident, the instigator of the conflict disappeared. Towards the end of Gogolevsky Boulevard, near the rows of little shops, the demonstrators were met by a group of around 20 people, shouting: “Maidan will not pass” and “Russia! Homeland! Putin!” In the upshot, law enforcement officers had to clear the way towards Prechistenka.

Over 500 people took part in the event.

Stanislav Markelov was a Russian lawyer who worked on criminal cases related to gross violations of human rights by law enforcement agencies in Chechnya. He also represented antifascists in several court cases. He worked with the Novaya gazeta journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who was assassinated in October 2006 in Moscow, and with Natalia Estemirova, an employee of the Memorial Human Rights Centre in Grozny, who was killed in July 2009.

Translated by Sian Valvis

Two more NGOs added to ‘foreign agent’ list

posted 25 Jan 2015, 13:09 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 25 Jan 2015, 13:12 ]

17 January 2015

Source: (info
The Russian Ministry of Justice has put the "Committee against Torture" in Nizhny Novgorod and the Ekaterinburg branch of Memorial onto the list of "foreign agents", according to RBC (RusBusinessConsulting) journalist Anastasia Lyalikova, who cited a press release by the Ministry.

At the end of December 2014 searches were carried out at the "Committee against Torture". After the attack by militants in Grozny in December last year, Kadyrov called for the militants’ relatives to be expelled from the republic and for their houses to be destroyed. These words met with sharp criticism from the head of the Committee against Torture, Igor Kalyapin. He asked the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation and the Prosecutor General to assess the head of Chechnya’s words. Afterwards a fire broke out at the Grozny office of the Committee against Torture, which was in a residential building, and the organisation’s staff were detained and searched.

Igor Kalyapin wrote on his Facebook page:

"The prosecutor’s submission, signed by O. Ponasenko, prosecutor of Nizhny Novgorod region, says that Committee staff publicly spread information about specific instances of police misconduct and of incompetence on the part of the Investigative Committee, in order to try to CHANGE state policy, and that the Committee against Torture is therefore a ‘foreign agent’ ".

It's all true: we did distribute this information and each fact was confirmed by a court ruling. By the way, the prosecutor has not cast doubt on the reliability of the information we distributed".

Anna Pastukhova, chair of Ekaterinburg Memorial, has described the timeline of the inspections of her organization:

"The Sverdlovsk region prosecutor’s office carried out an inspection in April 2013. After a year of legal proceedings, the prosecutor’s submission and his assessment that the NGO came under the definition of ‘foreign agents’ were declared unlawful.

Then in September 2013 the Ministry of Justice carried out an inspection at our organisation. No activities which would come under the definition of ‘political activities’ were identified in our work.

The Ministry of Justice declared that the organisation's expenses to pay for the use of premises and other infrastructure overheads were a misuse of funds, regardless of the fact that our donor considered them appropriate.

Eighteen months of monthly legal proceedings followed over this matter.

On Wednesday 17 December 2014 the Court of Appeal (of the regional court) found in favour of the Ministry of Justice, without explaining in what way the law had been breached, nor what could be done to reverse the Ministry of Justice’s assessment.

And on Monday 22 December 2014, after this court ruling, the Ministry of Justice informed us that there would be another, unscheduled inspection of the organisation."

Commentary by Anna Pastukhova:

The unscheduled inspection of documents held at our premises began the day before European Christmas Eve (23 December) and finished on 30 December, when we were handed a hastily produced document which said that our modest educational activity was declared to be... political.

And this, a year after the very same work had been declared to be non-political by the same Ministry of Justice... And just six months after our victory in two courts!

Incidentally, three new complaints were added this time, two of which the Regional Prosecutor's Office had tried in vain to attach to our case during the hearing at the Court of Appeal. The icing on the cake of this document was now the argument that the director of the organisation had carried out a one-person picket on Russian Federation Constitution Day with a placard which read ‘12 December is Russian Federation Constitution Day. Are you celebrating it? I am!

... "and handed out flyers which contained the following: ‘...Not everyone shares the view that the basis of a society's social and economic development allowing people’s needs to be met consists in pulling down barriers which prevent the free development of human initiative. Instead, it is usual these days to think of people as a means for attaining the state's aims and to dismiss a person's rights to decide their own way of life as despicable individualism...’, and also an appeal to the people of Ekaterinburg to share their views on the following questions: Is the Constitution an important document for you and was its adoption a significant day? Do you know the articles of the Constitution in which your rights are enshrined? Do you notice when there are violations of your rights?"

The suddenness of the attack, the feverish rush of preparing the document on the eve of the day before the clock struck and brought in the New Year, and also the fact that arguments were repeated which had already been thrown out once in court, have convinced us that an order must have been issued to give us the honorary title of ‘foreign agent’, on the successful implementation of which they had to immediately report... The language is familiar – ever since 1937, over 20 000 ‘foreign agents’ have been lying buried just 12 km from our offices!

We have contested this document, of course, and will never agree that protecting the constitutional order and human rights, educating people about the past and seeking to understand tragic periods in the recent past are political activities. A new series of court hearings are to come, and we're ready for them.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Human rights defender Igor Kaliapin: "For us to work with the status of ‘foreign agent’ is unacceptable and insulting"

posted 22 Jan 2015, 12:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Jan 2015, 12:16 ]

19 January 2015

Source: (info)
On 16 January 2015 late in the evening the website of the Ministry of Justice published a statement that the NGO Committee Against Torture had been added to the register of non-profit organizations designated as ‘foreign agents’.

The basis for this designation, evidently, was the notice issued by the prosecutor of Nizhny Novgorod region, Oleg Ponasenko, on 29 December last year, instructing the organization to remove violations of federal law.

"The prosecutor accuses us of being ‘foreign agents’ because we openly tell the public and inform the authorities about instances of torture by the police, and about how badly the Investigative Committee investigates these cases. And in doing this they say we are trying to change government policy,” Igor Kaliapin, chair of Committee Against Torture, told Novaya gazeta.

“In other words, in the logic of the prosecutor, it turns out that government policy is police torture and the covering up of torture by the investigative bodies.”

"So, for example, in the prosecutor's notice we are accused of engaging in political activity by, among other things, holding a picket each year on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture and publishing information about this event: 'Studying the given materials allows us to conclude that the actions of the Organization were targeted at attracting the attention of government bodies and civil society, intended directly to create a negative public opinion for the purpose of influencing decision-making by government bodies, in other words, changing the policy of the government in the realm of criminal prosecution.' "

"Since neither the use of torture, nor the ineffective investigation of instances of torture, are government policy in our country, consequently, our actions cannot be directed at changing government policy. Therefore, without doubt, we shall lodge an appeal against this notice issued by the prosecutor of Nizhny Novgorod in the courts”, the Committee Against Torture has stated.

“If the outcome goes against us, our organization will be dissolved. However, we shall continue our human rights work. For us to work with the status of ‘foreign agent’ is unacceptable and insulting.”

Application lodged with European Court of Human Rights against Boris Stomakhin’s second conviction

posted 18 Jan 2015, 07:41 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 18 Jan 2015, 07:45 ]

16 January 2015

Source: (info)
Damir Gainutdinov, a lawyer with the Agora Human Rights Association (pictured), has lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in connection with the second criminal case against the journalist and activist Boris Stomakhin. The latter was sentenced to six and a half years in a maximum-security facility as a result of his Internet-based and self-published writings. According to the opposition activist Gennadiy Stroganov, as reported by, the appeal was lodged on 14 January and should be registered within one or two months.

The appeal states that Russia’s handling of the Stomakhin case represents a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression); “The applicant wishes to draw the Court’s attention to the fact that all of the materials published related to issues which are manifestly in the public interest.”

At the same time, the appeal highlights the fact that neither the prosecution nor the court presented any concrete material facts in relation to the case, limiting themselves instead to a formal indication of the danger posed to society by the crimes which the writer is accused of committing. It also notes the absence of any grounds for the harsh sentence handed down to Stomakhin given the lack of objective evidence that his articles had ever been viewed as a genuine incitement to violent or unlawful actions, unjustifiable regardless of their potential danger to the public.

The second case against Stomakhin was opened in mid-2012 on the basis of statements lodged by Roman Nosikov, a member of Kurginyan’s “Essence of Time” movement. Stomakhin was detained on 20 November 2012 and remanded in custody two days later.

Yury Kovalevsky presided over the sentencing at the Butyrsky district court in Moscow on 22 April 2014. Stomakhin was found guilty under Article 205.2 (1) of the Criminal Code (public justification of terrorism), Article 280 (1) (public incitement to extremism), Article 282 (1) (incitement of hatred or enmity) and Article 30 (1) and Article 205.2 (2) (use of the mass media to support the public justification of terrorism). The Collegium of the Moscow City Court, composed of the presiding judge Aleksei Marinenko as well as Irina Sinitsina and Galina Filippova, on 15 July upheld Kovalevsky's ruling.

All of the charges related to the publication of articles on Stomakhin’s private blog hosted on “Zhivoi zhurnal [LiveJournal]”, on the website “Soprotivlenie [Resistance]”, and in the small-scale periodical “Radical Politics”.

In late August, it was reported that Stomakhin had been transferred to correctional institution IK-10 in the Perm region. In September and October the political prisoner was moved to a solitary confinement cell three times on various pretexts, the first two times for 15 days and the third time for 10 days. In November he was moved to a strict-regime correctional detachment, and only a few days later to an individual cell within the penal colony’s own internal prison.

In mid-December Stomakhin was then transferred back to Moscow for investigations into the third case against him. On 25 December the political prisoner was officially charged, again under Article 205.2 (1) of the Criminal Code.

Stomakhin served a first five-year sentence between 2006 and 2011, again solely on the grounds of his writings. The writer attempted to evade detention by escaping from a window of his flat using a rope, but broke his legs and two vertebrae after the rope broke. He has not yet recovered from the effects of these injuries.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

Moscow authorities permit January 19 march in memory of Markelov and Baburova

posted 18 Jan 2015, 06:40 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 18 Jan 2015, 06:51 ]

15 January 2015

Source: (info)

An annual demonstration in memory of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova is to take place in Moscow on 19 January, the day of their murder in 2009. 

As Mediazona reports, the event has been announced on VKontakte by the Committee of January 19. “The march will begin at 19:00 at the start of Tverskoi Boulevard by Novopushkinskaya Square. Demonstrators will walk along Tverskoi, Nikitsky and Gogolevsky Boulevards to Prechistenka Street, where flowers will be laid and candles lit at the site where Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov were killed,” says the statement.

The organisers of the march point out that other murdered antifascists and victims of hate crimes will also be remembered on the day marking the killing of Markelov and Baburova. 

Translated by Nicky Brown

For more about Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, see In Memoriam.

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