HRO.org in English

Welcome to this page containing translations of publications by HRO.org.
 
Readers are recommended to visit the website of HRO.org (Human Rights in Russia).
 
Since its inception, Rights in Russia has by agreement translated materials first published in Russian on HRO.org.

Summer vacations - a message from the HRO.org team

posted 26 Jul 2015, 14:59 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Jul 2015, 15:07 ]

20 July 2015

Source: HRO.org (info


Dear Readers, 

Most of the members of the HRO.org team are going on vacation. We are taking various – and long awaited – trips by water and over mountains, to fish in clear streams and peaceful lakes :) 

We wish you happy summer vacations! 

Until we meet again



















Photos of the island of Sonostrov

Events held in memory of Valeriya Novodvorskaya

posted 23 Jul 2015, 03:35 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Jul 2015, 03:51 ]

13 July 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)
On 12 July 2015 a rally was held in St Petersburg to commemorate the anniversary of the death of the writer, dissident and political prisoner of the Soviet era, Valeriya Novodvorskaya. In addition, online donations are being collected for the publication of a three-volume collection of Novodvorskaya’s writings.

Radio Svoboda correspondent, Tatiana Voltskaya, reports that activists from the St Petersburg branch of the Solidarity movement, the Republican Union and the Libertarian Party, in a coalition named Democratic Petersburg, decided to mark the anniversary of the death of Valeriya Illinichna Novodvorskaya.

They did so by going to the Solovetsky Stone in Troitskaya Square with candles, flowers and portraits of Valeriya Novodvorskaya, as well as many homemade posters. These featured photographs of times when Valeriya Illinichna herself stood with posters at various street rallies, starting in the 1980s until 2014 when she took part in protests against the war with Ukraine.

Next to these photographs, people could read quotes from her speeches and articles.

Olga Smirnova, a St Petersburg Solidarity activist, said: “We have selected quotes from her speeches, and now want to spread the photographs of our posters online so that people can see these amazing photographs and read her words.”

Meanwhile, on the well-known website, Planeta.ru, donations are being collected for the publication of a three-volume collection of Valeriya Novodvorskaya’s writings. Donations will be used to collect and digitise materials, for pre-publication preparations, and the printing costs of publication.

Translated by Nathalie Corbett

Kirill Koroteev on the recent decision of the Constitutional Court with regard to the European Court of Human Rights

posted 20 Jul 2015, 04:20 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Jul 2015, 04:34 ]

16 July 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)
This week the Constitutional Court ruled that ‘decisions of the European Court of Human Rights are subject to implementation only in cases where the supremacy of the Constitution has been recognized.’ Kirill Koroteev, a lawyer from the Memorial Human Rights Centre in Moscow, is of the view that as regards activists who have been suffered from repression and turn to the European Court on Human Rights this makes for little change.

As Kirill Koroteev told OVD-Info, the Constitutional Court’s decision is in no way binding for the European Court of Human Rights, and as for Russian courts, ‘they have not previously been paying too much attention to the European Court.’

Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, as before, remain binding in accordance with international law – Article 46 of the Convention on Human Rights. As long as Russia remains a signatory to the Convention, decisions of the European Court are binding regardless of the opinions of the country’s judges. Otherwise international law cannot work.

‘The Constitutional Court’s decision was taken so as to provide grounds for the non-payment of money in cases similar to the Yukos case,’ Kirill Koroteev says. ‘It is possible that sums of between 5,000 euros and 20,000 euros awarded to demonstrators will still be paid as before. Russian courts have previously ignored decisions of the European Court of Human Rights that required that a case be reviewed. Russian courts are not prepared to take decisions, basing themselves on the Convention on Human Rights, that could create new cases for the European Court. Now the Russian courts will simply be able to cite the decision of the Constitutional Court’.

Translated by Mary McAuley

Igor Kalyapin on government policy, torture and the 'foreign agent'

posted 17 Jul 2015, 10:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Jul 2015, 11:57 ]

8 July 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)

On 8th July 2015 Nizhny Novgorod regional court’s board of appeals upheld the decision of Judge Olga Tonenkova, sitting in Soviet district court of Nizhny Novgorod, which recognised as lawful the inclusion of the Committee Against Torture by the Russian Ministry of Justice in the register of non-profits “fulfilling the role of a foreign agent”.

Igor Kalyapin, chair of the Committee Against Torture:

“Respected Court, I will not waste your time by repeating the arguments of my colleagues. I fully agree with them. I’ll allow myself a short resume. The Committee Against Torture always and everywhere has maintained that it fights the practice of torture which exists in our country despite the Constitution, federal law and official instructions.

"To the credit of our legislators and heads of law enforcement agencies, it is essential to say that in Russia there never have been any attempts to legalise torture. Torture in Russia has always been considered a grave crime. And government policy was always focussed on its prevention. That is exactly why the assessment of the prosecutor of Nizhny Novgorod region that our work is directed towards changing government policy seems to me absurd.

"Respected Court, I have always tried in my own practical activities to conscientiously study and understand the position of my opponent, no matter how absurd their arguments. I want to report that I have conscientiously tried to understand the position taken by the prosecutors in this case. I have tried to find in our work some sort of side effect, some sort of social or political function which we are carrying out, perhaps even without intending to do.

"And I think that our organisation really did have such a secondary function. And insofar as I have sincere suspicion that my speech is the “last word” that our organisation will be given, I want to say something about this secondary function.

"For the whole fifteen years of our existence we have demonstrated to the public in concrete examples that arguments and conflicts with official bodies, with government agencies, even such critical ones that touch upon illegal use of force, can and SHOULD be resolved not through barricades, nor at rallies, but in the courtroom. We have always advocated, both formally and informally, for all questions and conflicts be resolved within the field of law. Therefore we have tried, as far as our modest resources have allowed, to develop and refine the judicial mechanisms allowing citizens to stand up for their rights in a civilised manner with the help of legal, judicial process.

"It is precisely for this that I have worked in the Public Monitoring Committee, the Governor’s Committee on Human Rights, and the Presidential Human Rights Council. Precisely for this reason our organisation has prepared and published tens of thousands of brochures and manuals with the aim of raising the level of legal knowledge for all of Russia’s citizens.

"Figuratively speaking, we have always tried to lead people away from the street and bring them into the courtroom. It is precisely this function of our organisation that the prosecutor’s office has considered “the function of a foreign agent”, thereby asserting that government policy in our country is directed towards something or other…. In another direction. I don’t know… I have always sincerely thought that this was not the case. It’s for you to decide….”

Source: Committee Against Torture

Translated by Frances Robson

The Russian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights

posted 17 Jul 2015, 09:53 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Jul 2015, 09:58 ]

14 July 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)
Russia’s Constitutional Court (CC) has ruled.that in Russia the decisions of the Strasbourg Court "must be executed with due regard to the supremacy of the Constitution." What this is about is, in effect, how not to execute certain decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in Russia.

The Constitutional Court has determined that Russia's participation in an international treaty does not mean surrendering State sovereignty. "The European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as well as the legal positions of the European Court of Human Rights that are based on it, may not take precedence over the Constitution," says the ruling, announced by Judge Sergei Mavrin.

"The decisions of the European Court of Human Rights may only be executed with due regard to the supremacy of the Russian Constitution," noted CC judge Mr. Mavrin.

He said that the Human Rights Convention forms part of Russia's legal system, but that "Russia may deviate from the obligations imposed on it when such a deviation is the only way to avoid a violation of the Basic Law".

"It is the national authorities who should deal with the matter of applying national legislation," said the CC judge.

Nevertheless, "Russia remains under the jurisdiction of the Strasbourg court and will not opt out of executing its decisions," said Russia's Constitutional Court.

As RAPSI reports, Russia's CC ruled in its 14 July 2015 session on whether Russia should execute all decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights. According to representatives of the Russian authorities, the Russian Federation "is under no obligation to blindly follow the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, especially where they are contrary to the Constitution ".

"By signing the Human Rights Convention, Russia has accepted the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights," noted the CC. "Everyone is entitled to appeal to the international courts to defend their rights, and Russia is prepared to implement the international treaties that it has ratified," says the ruling by Russia's Constitutional Court.

Translated by Lindsay Munford

Exhibition in memory of human rights defender Natalya Estemirova

posted 15 Jul 2015, 14:05 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Jul 2015, 14:08 ]

14 July 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)
On 15 July 2015 Memorial Human Rights Centre opens an exhibition entitled ‘Endless History’ about violence in the North Caucasus. The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of the Chechen human rights defender, Natalya Estemirova, abducted and killed in July 2009.

As International Memorial Society reports, the exhibition has been prepared by the Czech non-profit organizations, People in Need that has worked in the North Caucasus for many years.

The exhibition presents, in an artistic form, the stories of 12 individuals. These are stories of abductions, murders, torture, and fabricated criminal cases. One of the stories is about the abduction and murder of the human rights defender Natasha Estemirova.

The crimes that are the themes of the exhibition remain unsolved, and no one has yet been punished for them – just as the case with thousands of other similar crimes .

The exhibition will be opened on 15 July 2015 at 17:00 at the conference room of the International Memorial Society – House 5/10, Karetny Ryad, Moscow.

At the opening ceremony there will be a round table in which participants will include: Svetlana Gannushkina, member of the board of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, chair of the Civic Assistance Committee and member of the Expert Council of the federal Human Rights Ombudsman; Igor Kalyapin, chair of Committee Against Torture, member of the Presidential Human Rights Council; Tatyana Lokshina, programme director at Human Rights Watch and a member of the Expert Council of the federal Human Rights Ombudsman; Oleg Orlov, board member of the Memorial Human Rights Centre and a member of the Ombudsman’s Expert Council; Vadim Prokhorov, lawyer acting for the family of Boris Nemtsov; and Aleksandr Cherkasov, chair of the board of Memorial Human Rights Centre and a member of the Ombudsman’s Expert Council.

Among the questions the round table will discuss, are:

Why are those guilty of crimes not brought to justice? What are the consequences of impunity? What could be its consequences for Russia?

For accreditation at the round table, please write press@memohrc.org

The exhibition will be open to the public until 31 July 2015; opening hours from 13:00 to 19:00.

Via this link a video broadcast of the opening ceremony of the exhibition can be seen, starting at 17:00 on 15 July 2015.

European Court of Human Rights declares applications by victims of the Beslan terrorist attack admissible

posted 13 Jul 2015, 10:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Jul 2015, 10:11 ]

6 July 2005

Source: HRO.org (info)
On 2 July 2015 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that seven appeals brought by 447 victims of the hostage-taking which took place at Beslan’s School No. 1 in September 2004 were admissible. The applications were lodged with the ECtHR between 2007 and 2011 and subsequently consolidated into a single case (Tagayeva and Others v Russia).

The ECtHR held a hearing on the case on 14 October 2014, at which some of the victims were represented by Kirill Koroteyev and other lawyers from the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Centre and the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC, London).

The ECtHR found that the majority of the appeals brought against infringement of the right to life and the right to an effective remedy were admissible. It will therefore proceed to examine their merits and issue a separate judgment in this regard.

"This is a highly significant ruling, and I view it as a key milestone in the appeal proceedings. The parties will now be able to submit new arguments and demands for fair compensation, after which the Court will issue a ruling on the merits of the case,” said the lawyer Kirill Koroteyev to the Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

According to the lawyer, as quoted by the Kommersant newspaper, "The applicants did not initially demand compensation for material and moral damages. Now that the appeals have been found admissible, these demands will be lodged and the harm suffered in connection with the relevant infringements will need to be assessed.”

The applicants believe that the authorities did not fulfil their obligation to protect the hostages’ right to life. In particular, they believe that the following infringements were committed:

The security agencies had received information regarding a planned terrorist attack, but failed to take adequate measures to protect the civilian population.

The federal security forces had warned the regional authorities about the risk of a terrorist attack and entrusted the local police with taking preventive measures. On the basis of the information available at the time, however, the federal security forces should also have taken action to avert the risk.

The authorities had failed to put adequate safety measures in place on Beslan’s roads.

The safety procedures followed at School No. 1 were inadequate.

The operation to release the hostages was not planned properly. There was no clear coordination between the operational headquarters and the other agencies involved during the operation. Some of the risks to which the hostages were exposed were not taken into account, and some of the weapons used posed excessive risks.

There was no effective investigation into the events surrounding the hostage-taking, and the exact cause and circumstances of death of a number of hostages have never been properly established. None of the guilty parties has been held accountable for their actions, and the applicants have found it difficult to gain access to the case materials.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

Aggression against NGOs discredits Russia in the international arena

posted 13 Jul 2015, 08:42 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Jul 2015, 08:43 ]

8 July 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)
On 8 July 2015 Russia’s Federation Council (the upper chamber of parliament), meeting in plenary session appealed to the Prosecutor General, the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Justice to examine a list of organisations – foreign and international NGOs – it hopes to ban for patriotic reasons and which could be included on the list of so-called 'undesirable organisations'. Not a single deputy voted against this motion, which discredits Russia in the international arena. TASS news agency reports that all 156 deputies present at the session voted unanimously for the motion.

The wording of the appeal is consistent with a Cold War mentality. Members of the upper chamber allege that the Russian Federation today "is facing the strongest attack on our national interests, values and institutions in the last quarter of a century", with the principal aim, in their opinion, of influencing Russia's domestic situation, "undermining the patriotic unity" of the nation, and also disrupting Russia's role in the process of integration taking place within the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The Federation Council's appeal to prosecutors repeated almost word for word the statement made on the previous day by Valentina Matvienko, chair of the Federation Council, about supposed "pressure on Russia via foreign NGOs", notes Newsru. She even talked about "aggression towards Russia".

For the same reason, the Federation Council has asked the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor General and the Ministry of Justice "to examine the patriotic 'stop-list', which includes foreign or international non-governmental organisations", with the aim of possibly bringing them into the ambit of the law on "undesirable organisations".

Radio Svoboda reports that 12 organisations are on the Federation Council's 'stop-list': the Soros Foundation (Open Society Foundations), the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the MacArthur Foundation, Freedom House, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Education for Democracy Foundation, the East European Democratic Centre, the Ukrainian World Congress, Ukrainian World Co-ordinating Council and the Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights.

The Russian human rights activist Andrei Yurov, who is the leader of the Crimean Field Mission and a member of the Human Rights Council, has said that the Crimean Field Mission is not an organisation but merely an initiative by a group of volunteers. Accordingly, he does not understand how a group which is not legally registered can be subject to restriction under the law on "undesirable organisations", reports the BBC Russian Service.

Independent observers comment that "in the current pseudo-patriotic and militaristic hysteria, the law is being perverted and turned into an instrument of discrimination for the use of those in power, the 'siloviki'. Laws and human freedoms, as we can see, are now under direct threat".

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Human rights defenders protest outside the Duma against new police law: “Don’t shoot!” (with photos)

posted 13 Jul 2015, 07:54 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Jul 2015, 08:01 ]

6 July 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)
On 6 July 2015 Valery Borshchev, a member of Moscow’s Public Monitoring Committee and of the Soviet dissident movement, Lev Ponomarev, director of the movement “For the Rights of Man”, and Svetlana Gannushkina, president of the Civic Assistance Committee and a member of the board of the International Memorial Society, staged single-person pickets outside the State Duma building in protest against the scandalous bill widening the rights of police to use firearms.

Newsru.com
, citing TASS, reported that the activists were holding placards with the slogan “Don’t shoot! Legislators, don’t allow them to shoot at people!”

The bill significantly widening police powers was introduced to the State Duma on 1st July 2015 by the notorious State Duma deputy Mrs Yarova and immediately roused a stormy public debate.

The general public, in particular, expressed concern because of the amendments to the law “On the police” regulating the use of service weapons.

What has turned out to be particularly alarming is the proposal to allow police in an emergency situation to shoot women if there are no visible signs of pregnancy. According to current law, police officers are forbidden to shoot at women in any circumstances. Another dangerous aspect of the proposals is to allow police to use firearms in places of mass gatherings. 

Photo; Lev Ponmarev, Valery Borshchev, Svetlana Gannushkina

The proposed bill has angered human rights activists to the extent that they decided to stage one-person pickets. “International norms forbid the use of firearms at mass gatherings because there are no guarantees whatsoever that peaceful citizens won’t be harmed. On the contrary, it can be guaranteed that people will die,” Valery Borshchev explained to TASS the reasons for protest.

The well-known human rights activist also lambasted the proposed amendment concerning the “presumption of good faith” with regard to the police. “This limits oversight of the police not only on the part of the public, but also on the part of the prosecutors,” Valery Borshchev thinks.

In addition, according to the Valery Borshchev, in practice the courts in any case take the side of the police. In Borshchev’s opinion, “the system clearly does not fight violations, but now is strengthening them by means of the law.”

The police said that the moves to broaden police powers were 'necessary for the service'.

Photo: Svetlana Gannushkina

Translated by Frances Robson

Statement by members of Council of Human Rights Activists on searches at Golos

posted 8 Jul 2015, 11:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 8 Jul 2015, 11:53 ]

7 July 2015

Source: HRO.org (info
On 7 July 2015 members of the Council of Human Rights Activists issued a special statement on the searches and interrogations of activists working for the Golos NGO in Moscow. Golos is the leading organization in Russia for independent monitoring of elections.

The statement, in part, reads: "Searches are being conducted at the homes of our colleagues from the organization for the protection of voters’ rights, Golos. They are being conducted in a purposefully barbaric manner – at 7 am on the pretext of a water leak people burst into the apartment of Golos’ executive director Grigory Melkonyants. Then searches are conducted at the homes of the executive director of the Golos Interregional Public Foundation Tatyana Troinova and member of the Golos movement Roman Udot.

“At the same time searches began in the organization’s Moscow office. A pretext for the searches was a case of failure to pay taxes by one of the members of the organization in Samara. The case should have been closed under the amnesty. However, it is being used for purposes of harassment. The searches are accompanied by confiscation of computers and documentation. They are clearly designed to prevent the creation of a new ‘Map of Electoral Violations’ before the upcoming regional elections in which candidates from a democratic coalition will participate” – the authors of the statement assert.

"We express our solidarity with our persecuted colleagues. We are convinced that the harassment of Golos has a clearly defined political character”, the statement stressed.

Authors of the statement are prominent civil society activists and human rights defenders Liudmila Alekseeva, Valery Borshchev, Yury Vdovin, Svetlana Gannushkina, Sergei Kovalev, Lev Ponomarev and Liliya Shibanova. 

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