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Latest ‘Strasbourg Get-together’ discusses violations of property rights, patriotism and gaps in the law
12 March 2015
Lawyers, applicants to the ECtHR and experts taking part in the discussion included Karinna Moskalenko, Maria Samorodkina, Elena Nakhimova, Svetlana Gladysheva and Ilyas Vakhitov.
As is well-known, execution of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights involves the adoption by states, firstly, of measures of an individual character for the purpose of removing the consequences of violations against the applicant. Secondly, execution involves introducing measures of a general nature for the purpose of preventing similar violations of the Convention in the future. And if the issue is approached from these general positions, then it must be recognized that since 1998 when Russia became a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, our country has fully executed only a small number of rulings by the ECtHR.
As Karinna Moskalenko pointed out, an application to the ECtHR ‘against Russia’ is sometimes incorrectly interpreted as directed against one’s own country, as ‘unpatriotic’. At the same time, head of the projects at the International Protection Centre stated:
“In reality, we don’t in any way detract from the role of the state, but only seek to stimulate it into defending its own citizens without waiting for problems to be resolved at the international level. We apply on behalf of our state because we are helping the development of Russian law-enforcement practice and the judicial system so that the rights of each person as laid down in the Convention are protected above all at the national level.
"The decisions of the European Court of Human Rights are obligatory for the Russian Federation since the European Court is as much Italian as Russian, and as much Finnish as Russian, and as Georgian as it is Russian. This is a court of all 47 states that are members of the Council of Europe, it is a common court for all member states. It was created not to punish one state or another, but to protect the rights of each and every citizen of the 47 states that are members of the single home, where there exists a single standard for the minimum protection of human rights.
You cannot apply to the European Court if you have not exhausted all effective means of legal defence within a given country. And only when, in the name of the Russian Federation, a final court rules in a manner incompatible with the European Convention can the mechanism of the European Court start to work.
“The decisions of the European Court serve to improve the situation where it can be shown that a violation of human rights results from a bad law, or from bad law enforcement practice, that it is possible and necessary to put right – in the interests of Russian citizens.”
Svetlana Gladysheva gave a specific example of the consequences of bad law and gaps in legislation. In 2005 she purchased an apartment, but four years after the acquisition officials discovered that the initial privatization of this and a number of other properties had been carried out by means of falsified documents. Those responsible for the fraud were not found, the court ruled that while the new owner of the apartment had acquired it in good faith, nonetheless the property should be returned to public ownership and the owner should be evicted without compensation or offer of other accommodation.
In 2012 году the European Court ruled in the case of Svetlana Gladysheva that those who buy apartments and other property that was at one time in public ownership cannot be held to answer for the legality of the procedures by which they were initially privatized and subsequently resold.
Photo (c) Vera Vasilieva, HRO.org. From left to right: Ilyas Vakhitov, Svetlana Gladysheva, Maria Samorodkina, Karinna Moskalenko
"As a formal basis for the seizure of apartments from citizens and their eviction into the streets, government agencies rely on the fact that formerly these apartments had been stolen from government property. At the same time it is recognized in practice that the citizens whose apartments are confiscated have no relation to the theft. Property is being taken away without any compensation from completely innocent people,” Svetlana Gladysheva said.
Another aspect of the problem, in her opinion, is that the theft of the apartments from public ownership did not happen without a certain connivance on the part of “public officials who are responsible for the maintenance and use of public property,” including “representatives of the law enforcement agencies, of housing organizations and staff of passport-issuing offices.”
Moreover, according to Svetlana Gladysheva: “An important role in the legalization of stolen apartments is played by the wrongful execution by state registration bodies of their direct duties in registering apartments. The courts without any doubt have confiscated and continue to confiscate apartments from citizens and return them to public ownership. At the same time, in the great majority of cases the representatives of the state, directly or indirectly involved in the theft of the apartments, are not held responsible for their actions in any way.”
Ilyas Vakhitov also pointed out that in the great majority of cases apartments are confiscated from people who have purchased them in good faith.
“This is not merely unfair, it is wrong from the point of view of law,” he said. “The courts in taking such decisions must abide by the Constitution and also by the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, because the latter is an intrinsic part of our legal system.”
The lawyer Elena Nakhimova said that the root of the problem lies in the imperfection of Russian law. Russian law does not contain any adequate definitions, in particular, of a ‘purchaser in good faith’:
“What does ‘in good faith’ mean? A judge sitting in one Moscow district court has one view of ‘good faith’, but a judge sitting in another district has a different view. Judicial practice urgently requires clarification of this term. Lack of good faith, paradoxically, is easier to define.”
A lawyer with the International Protection Centre, Maria Samorodkina, agrees with her. She gave as an example the case of Stolyarova v Russia.
On 29 January 2015 the European Court of Human Rights issued a judgment which held that there had been violations of Protocol No. 1 (‘protection of property’) to the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and of Article 8 (‘right to respect of private and family life’) of the Convention.
The European Court of Human Rights concluded that the apartment the applicant had acquired had been privatized by means of fraud, but ruled that government agencies should have established that this fraud had taken place. And that the applicant was a purchaser in good faith since she could not and need not have known about the existence of these problems.
“In this case the European Court repeats the conclusions it came to in the case of Gladysheva,” Maria Samorodkina commented. “Either there is a gap in the law, or a failure in law enforcement practice. The Court says: respected Government, you have this problem; resolve it, please. How you resolve it is up to you. Solutions in terms of current Russian law do not exist,”
“Judges are not heroes, they want to make decisions on the basis of national law that is well written,” Karinna Moskalenko added. “As a result of these gaps in national legislation the European Court of Human Rights at first makes hundreds of similar rulings on similar applications, and then finally issues a so-called ‘pilot’ decision. In these cases the applicants can appeal to the European Court of Human Rights under a simplified procedure, citing the precedent (for example, the case of Gladysheva) to show they have no effective means of legal redress in Russia. And the Court proposes that the Government, in a certain timeframe, does not investigate the case, but simply pays compensation to the applicant.”
Karinna Moskalenko points out that such an approach concerns not only those cases concerning apartments, but also the conditions in places of detention and torture: “For the state it is very insulting if the Court finds that torture at the time of detention and preliminary investigation is a systemic issue. And we shall continue to work to bring our message home in this way, via Strasbourg, so that we can reach the heart, mind and conscience of our authorities.”
16 March 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
* * *News had reached Memorial’s Tver branch that the district council in Rzhev district had approved a proposal to create a museum to Iosif Stalin in a house situated in Khoroshevo village. The project was put forward by the Russian Society of Military History, and the museum’s opening would coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Russian victory in World War II.
Why this house? It was in the Rzhev region on the 4-5 August 1943, five months after the region was liberated from German occupation, that the Supreme Commander Stalin made his one appearance on the frontline (not even the battlefield) during the war. The house where the commander stayed, owned by Kondratevaya, a collective farm worker, still stands in Khoroshevo today. In 1945 the Kalinin regional committee of the Communist Party, by order of the committee's first secretary I P Boitsov, decreed that the house was to be preserved 'as a monument of military historical importance.'
Modern-day followers of Stalin want to go one step further. They want Stalin to be painted as a 'symbol of Soviet success and victory.' They talk about erecting in Khoroshevo a small memorial to the creator of one of the most brutal political regimes the world has ever known. The 'framework for the execution of the project for the house-museum in the name of I V Stalin (Khoroshevo, Rzhev district, Tver region)' puts forward fourteen themes that will make up the proposed exhibition, only four of which are somehow linked with the arrival of the Supreme Commander in the very building that houses the museum. The other ten sections defend and hero-worship Stalin, presenting him as not only the ‘creator’ of victory in the Great Patriotic war and a symbol of success and victory,’ but also as a political actor, whose decisions 'over decades defined the fate of the post-war world.'
The great victory will take centre stage in the museum, which will ignore the heavy price Russians paid for this victory; a price all too familiar to the inhabitants of Rzhev. The ground here is soaked in the bloodshed of war, where up to two million soldiers and officers lost their lives on the battlefield.
A significant portion of these victims are the direct consequence of the Supreme Commander’s skills (as marked in point 8 of the ‘Framework,’) ‘as leader and organizer in selecting the team to do the job.'
It would seem they could not fit in even a quick reminder of Stalin’s role as perpetrator of mass repression, crimes against humanity, man-made famines, the punitive deportation of entire ethnic groups- his ‘bright side’ takes up too much room!
The ‘Framework’ reflects a clear distortion of history: point 13 of the document proposes to uncover the role Stalin played in the rebirth of Russian Orthodoxy - the same Orthodoxy whose leaders he destroyed and institutions humiliated.
Educating visitors about their country’s history is of no concern to the authors of this exhibition and its sponsors. Their aim is the very opposite: to paint over our history, to present one of the most tragic periods as a never-ending newsreel of successes and victories, to inspire nostalgia for a totalitarian past.
Of course, it is impossible to create a fully-fledged ‘Stalin-museum’ in a village house. But this is another attempt to break down the still shaky defences erected following the fall of the communist regime, which aim to protect against a return to lawlessness and tyranny. It is the attempt to create a small museum as a precedent, a platform, which can be transformed into a place of pilgrimage and centre around which the followers of the ideology of the ‘iron fist’ can rally, unite their forces and try to turn the march of history back to its totalitarian past. However unlikely they are to succeed, such attempts could cause considerable harm to public opinion.
The inhabitants of Tver region will be as the first victims of the intended return to totalitarianism. It is difficult to find a family in the region among whose ancestors there are not individuals who did not suffer from illegal repressions, whether they were exiled, sent to the camps, or simply killed.
After all it was precisely this machine of mass repression, created thanks to 'Stalin's skills as leader and organiser in selecting the team to do the job,' that became his greatest and most remarkable historical 'achievement.'
This Stalin museum, as proposed by its creators, does not have a place either in Tver region or anywhere in the world. Evil should not be praised as something that is deserving of respect and imitation.
Tver regional branch of the Russian Memorial Society
The board of the Russian Memorial Society
Jointly adopted on 13th March 2015
Translated by Holly Jones
17 March 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
statement by the political prisoner, Nadezhda Savchenko.
Open Russia has published a translation of the document. In particular, Nadezhda Savchenko writes:
“..I am not an uncompromising person, but I cannot and will not trade conscience and truth…I stopped my hunger strike for 10 days, from March 5 to 15, in order to show good people that I appreciate your attention!
“But I can no longer do that since I would simply cease to respect myself. From March 16, I will resume my hunger strike until the day I am returned to Ukraine or until the last day of my life in Russia…”
Elected as a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for the ‘Fatherland’ party, Savchenko is held in a Moscow remand centre accused of involvement in the murder of two Russian journalists in the Donbass region. She was allegedly assisting the Ukrainian army’s weapons find their targets. According to the investigation, Savchenko was detained in Russia when she tried to cross the border without documents and posing as a refugee.
Savchenko herself claims to have been illegally kidnapped by Luhansk People’s Republic militants before the deaths of the journalists and to have been illegally taken into Russian territory with a bag over her head.
In protest against her arrest, Savchenko has been on a long-term hunger strike. Her condition is causing serious concern among her lawyers and relatives.
Nadezhda Savchenko has been recognised as a political prisoner by the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Centre.
For more information about the position of the Memorial Human Rights Centre in the Nadezhda Savchenko case, read here.
Translated by Nathalie Corbett
17 March 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
On 16 March 2015, Zamoskvoretsky district court in Moscow held that the inclusion of the NGO For Human Rights in the list of “foreign agent” NGOs was lawful.
As reported by RAPSI, the Ministry of Justice added the not-for-profit organisation to its list of foreign agents in mid-December 2015, and For Human Rights filed an appeal with the court on 29 December.
According to statements given by Ministry representatives at the hearing, checks had revealed that the organisation received foreign donations on a number of occasions in 2013 and 2014, "and its members ran public campaigns calling for legislative changes, or in other words were engaged in political activities".
For these reasons, the representatives of the Justice Ministry said, For Human Rights should be added to the register of ‘foreign agents’. At the same time, they argued that this did not put in doubt the existence of the organization: “The ministry does not intend to close the NGO down and has no grounds to do this.”
The representatives of For Human Rights stressed that the activities of the organization could not be classified as political, not least because the law does not lay down any clear criteria in this respect.
According to the lawyer Genri Reznik, "The very fact that the Ministry has called on an expert in political science to clarify the underlying meaning of the law makes a mockery of the actions taken against ‘For Human Rights’. Laws should be comprehensible to everyone, not just to a select number of experts in a particular field. The Ministry is exploiting the law’s inadequacies to eliminate all activity that may be critical of government.”
He also drew the court's attention to the fact that the ruling in this case would be handed down against a backdrop of legal uncertainty, since Russia’s Supreme Court had not yet elucidated the nature of political activities.
A law was adopted in November 2012 requiring NGOs that engage in ‘political activity’ and are in receipt of foreign funding to register as ‘foreign agents’. In June 2013, the Ministry of Justice was authorised to designate NGOs as foreign agents’ at its own discretion. Russian NGOs have repeatedly made known their opposition to the law and lodged appeals against it, inter alia at the European Court of Human Rights. Human rights defenders have stressed that the law is blatantly discriminatory and has extremely negative historical overtones.
Nevertheless, the harassment of independent NGOs in Russia continues apace.
Translated by Joanne Reynolds
Ministry of Justice seeks to include the Centre for Independent Social Research in the register of NGO – ‘foreign agents’
16 March 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
Radio Svoboda correspondent, reports.
The director of CISR, Viktor Voronkov, stated ‘This warning from the Ministry is laughable. What is considered ‘political activity’ in Russia? Yes, we receive grants from abroad, because science knows no boundaries. And those foundations from different countries, which support us, support science, academic research projects, without any obligations from our side.
We have been accused of being involved in political activity. From their point of view, everything that comes under academic research on politics, is itself ‘politics’. In particular, the warning describes as ‘political’ the publication of a brochure in which we recommend that justices of the peace should take part in psychological stress reduction training in order to maintain their impartiality. We were told that we were accusing the justices of the peace of being biased, i.e., we were creating ‘a negative image of the judge for the reader’.
A second accusation is that, at an academic gathering, a member of CISR gave a paper on political claims by trade unions. Yes. We undertook research on Russian trade unions, which included their political activities. The academic research was presented.
It turns out that the study of politics, of social policy, is itself ‘politics’..
The third point made in the Ministry of Justice’s warning – this is really laughable. We participated in the presentation of a book on the protests of 2011-12. The book was the work of people who collaborate with us. They are not even our members. There is no reference in the book to the Centre for Independent Social research. We did not produce the book. But on our site there was an announcement about the presentation. The officials seem to think that the presentation of a book on protests is political activity, that it constitutes exercising political influence on the authorities.
In principle, everything is seen as political influence. Russia becomes a country where any action becomes political’.
Viktor Voronkov stated that the organization which he heads will take the Ministry of Justice to court.
‘We have to fight. It will restrict the scope of our academic activity. Government institutes will not work with us. Those whom we wish to interview will be suspicious of us. But, if we do not go to court, and are entered into the list of foreign agents, then we escape a fine of half a million rubles. But that means playing by their rules, we should not be acting in solidarity with the rest of the third sector, or with the human rights activists, who at present are engaged in legal proceedings’, said Viktor Voronkov.
Translated by Mary McAuley
16 March 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
By Elena Masiuk, Novaya gazeta columnist, member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, member of Public Oversight Commission for Moscow
On 14th March (2015) we, as members of the Moscow Public Oversight Commission (POC), Aleksandr Kulikovsky and Elena Masiuk, visited those held in the Lefortovo pre-trial detention facility over the murder of Boris Nemtsov: Zaur Dadaev and the brothers Anzor and Shahid Gubashev.
The case investigator demanded from us a signed agreement on the non-disclosure of evidence from the preliminary investigation. I refused. I don’t know anything that has been forbidden yet, but they are already threatening me with criminal charges.
The investigator went on to say that we don’t have the right to disclose to any “third person” anything we find out. We asked: but if we know about the violation of the law regarding those who are arrested and accused, then shouldn’t we inform the prosecutor? The investigator, without hesitating for one second answered: “You also cannot tell the prosecutor: he’s a third person!”
Highly-placed staff members of the Lefortovo pre-trial detention centre, accompanying the members of POC, continually interfere in the conversation between the observers and the detainees, interrupting, and then banning discussion about everything except the toilets, food and beds.
In such circumstances I can regard the demand of the investigator about the signed statement only as an attempt to inspire fear and put pressure on the members of the POC.
Now to be more specific about those arrested.
Zaur Dadaev, Anzor and Shahid Gubashev confirmed to the members of POC the circumstances of their arrest, previously stated in the report from Human Rights Council member Andrei Babushkin. Zaur Dadaev said that they held him for perhaps three days in a cellar, handcuffed to a radiator. They applied electric shocks to him, and put a sack over his head. Dadaev’s statements about this were not registered in the proper manner by the staff of the pre-trial detention centre, and were not referred to the correct quarters.
The members of the POC believe that these violations of the process of registration and consideration of oral evidence about illegal actions of unidentified persons with regard to Dadaev must be eliminated. The circumstances of arrest outlined by Dadaev are not connected with the criminal case with respect to which he is being investigated, and must be considered in accordance with Articles 144 and 145 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. In the presence of staff of the Lefortovo pre-trial detention centre and before a video camera, Zaur Dadaev accepted the offer of the Committee Against Torture to make use of their lawyers to begin a criminal investigation into the facts related to their torture and the use of violence.
Zaur Dadaev and Shahid Gubashev are asking their relatives to hire lawyers for them. The state-assigned lawyer met with Dadaev twice. The first time was 7th March at the Investigative Committee and the second time was on 13th March in the pre-trial detention centre. According to Shahid Gubashev, no lawyer at all has been to see him.
In addition, Dadaev is asking relatives to send him clothing, since he has none of his own in Lefortovo.
Zaur Dadaev complains that at night he has severe leg pains which prevent him from sleeping. His cellmate confirms this. In the words of Dadaev, the leg pains came after the electric shocks.
From an editorial in Novaya gazeta:
'All evidence which has been given by the suspects in the murder of Boris Nemtsov regarding the circumstances of their arrest must categorically must be investigated. At the same time, we would like to point out that the interrogation of Zaur Dadaev is recorded on video and the jury members can, if the case gets to court, make a full assessment of the state of the accused Dadaev during the investigation. However at the moment it is important for the public to get an objective assessment from independent medical experts on the state of health of those arrested in the murder case of Boris Nemtsov. Moreover, Zaur Dadaev was arrested on 5th March 2015 in Ingushetia and remanded in custody by the Basmanny court in Moscow on 8th March – how does this relate to the Dadaev’s words about being held in a cellar for the duration of three days?'
Source: Novaya gazeta
Translated by Frances Robson
13 March 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
And so, after the May holidays, ‘Novaya' will in all likelihood be forced to suspend publication of the print edition of the newspaper, writes the publication.
"It is crucially important to us that we bring out a special edition of the newspaper for 9 May that will publicise lists of those awarded for fighting real, and not imagined, fascism," remarked Muratov.
All of the paper’s commitments to its readers will be met. Muratov also confirmed that the sale of a stake in the Novaya gazeta publishing house will soon be announced.
The editor-in-chief is to report details of the situation surrounding Novaya gazeta in an address to its readers, the date of which will become known in a few days.
Translated by Lindsay Munford
12 March 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
"At about 9.30 p.m., three representatives of the security services arrived at Eva Merkacheva's flat", according to the website of the Moskovsky Komsomolets (MK) newspaper. The visitors explained to Eva's husband that they "intended to have a conversation with Eva Merkacheva". They said that that the aim of the conversation was to clarify to the MK journalist the correct position to take on a number of topical issues.
According to Novaya gazeta newspaper, the investigators were not able to have their conversation with Eva Merkacheva: after her husband had explained that Eva was not at home and that, in any case, she would only talk to security service officers in the presence of a lawyer and during the daytime, the officers left.
However, security service officers did succeed in having a conversation with Andrei Babushkin, a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council.
"I was questioned as a witness in the case into Boris Nemtsov's murder", Babushkin told the TASS news agency. The human rights activist remarked that the questioning took place in a friendly atmosphere and that he had already informed the Investigative Committee about visiting the prisoners.
After being questioned, Andrei Babushkin said that, as a witness in the case, he was no longer permitted to visit either the suspects in the Boris Nemtsov case nor Lefortovo prison where they are being held. According to Babushkin, Eva Merkacheva has also been given the status of a witness in the case.
On the previous day, the Investigative Committee published a statement in which it sharply criticised the activists for visiting the men accused of Nemtsov's murder. The statement said that the activists' involvement "can be interpreted as interference in investigators' work with the aim of obstructing a comprehensive, complete and objective investigation of the case".
On 10 March, Moskovsky Komsomolets published material which stated that the activists, as representatives of the Public Observer Commission, had visited Zaur Dadaev, the man suspected of the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. During his conversation with the activists, Dadaev stated that he was not guilty of the murder and that he had been tortured. The members of the Public Observer Commission did indeed record numerous injuries on the suspect's body.
Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts
5 March 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
Despite all the efforts of the board of directors of the ANO (Autonomous Non-commercial Organization) Perm-36 to convince the governor Viktor Basargin, despite all our demands (and we collected more than 70,000 signatures), a decision has been taken to change course. Now ‘Perm-36’ is to be a museum that will tell the story of the hard and noble work of valiant GULAG staff, of the technology they used to defend our great people from fifth columnists and Ukrainian Nazis.
Just imagine – I am quite serious! The first exhibition in the new ‘Perm-36’ is devoted to ‘guarding’, to the technical means of holding in custody the dastardly nationalists, fascists, and those who betrayed the motherland
In October there was a meeting which Mikhail Fedotov and Vladimir Lukin attended. It was thought that agreement had been reached with the administration, all that needed to be done was to draw up a contract for cooperation between the non-profit and government bodies. But when the steam had been let out, everyone fell silent, closed meetings began to take place, pressure was exerted… It’s a strange story. It seems that in discussions in the President’s Administration there was talk of the need to preserve the museum in its existing form, and to end the bureaucratic tangle. Many promises were made. But it seems that there was an intervention by some ‘unknown forces’. It’s a shameful and dirty business.
People have been left with no option but that of dissolving the non-profit organization. Although there have been constant attempts to give the ANO the status of ‘a foreign agent’, and a stream of cavils and fines, the main reason for such a decision is the new management’s commitment to changing the museum’s course, to change its profile.
The whole scandalous affair started when there was talk of ‘Perm-36’ becoming part of a federal programme for the commemoration of the victims of political repressions. This would have guaranteed financial support of the order of 500 million rubles [approx. £5 million]. What followed was the equivalent of a corporate raid: a state organization was quickly set up without the knowledge of the non-profit organization, the museum’s director was changed, and only then was the ANO ‘Perm-36’ informed. This despite the fact that it was the NGO which created the museum, established it through its efforts; I personally was involved in laying the first foundations.
Now the issue has arisen – should the ‘new’ museum be a commemorative site or not? UNESCO has been interested in the fate of this cultural site. Decision to give Perm-36 the status of a historical memorial of world significance was just about to be taken. What is the response of the Perm Memorial Society? At the forthcoming meeting of the International Memorial Society on 19-20 March we shall propose that the museum, in its present form, should not be included in the programme for the commemoration of the victims of repressions, nor in the UNESCO list.
There was a time when Perm was referred to as the capital of civil society. Now it’s a place in decline and decay. Just, by the way, as is the whole of Russia. The story of ‘Perm-36’ blends in to the background of what is happening in Russia today: war, Nemtsov’s murder…It’s difficult to breath.
Aleksandr Kalikh, member of the board, International Memorial Society
Original source: Grani.ru
Translated by Mary McAuley
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