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.

HRO.org goes on summer vacation

posted 19 Jul 2014 08:31 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Jul 2014 08:48 ]

12 July 2014

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 – routes by water and over mountains, fishing, to clear streams and the peace and quiet of lakes :) 

We wish you happy summer vacations! 

Until we meet again!

In Memory of Valeriya Ilyinichna Novodvorskaya

posted 19 Jul 2014 08:23 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Jul 2014 08:27 ]

12 July 2014

Source: HRO.org (info)
Valeriya Novodvorskaya, dissident, political prisoner in the Soviet era, founder of the first opposition democratic party in the USSR (Democratic Union) writer, has died in Moscow.

Valeriya Ilyinichna Novodvorskaya (17 May 1950, Baranovichi, Belorussian SSR, USSR - 12 July 2014, Moscow).

In 1968 she completed high school in Moscow with a silver medal. She studied to be a translator and teacher of French at the Maurice Thorez Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages.

She organized an underground student group discussing the need for the overthrow of the Communist regime.

On 5 December 1969 Valeriya Novodvorskaya disseminated leaflets with anti-Soviet verses of her own composition, ‘Thank you, Party!’ in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses. She was immediately arrested by the KGB and charged with anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda (Article 70 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR) for distributing leaflets criticizing the invasion by Warsaw Pact forces of Czechoslovakia.

She was put in solitary confinement in Lefortovo prison. When Daniil Lunts, head of the diagnostic department of the Serbsky Institute of Forensic Medicine, visited her there she told him that he was ‘from the Inquisition, a sadist and a collaborationist.’

She was subjected to punitive psychiatric measures for political reasons. From June 1970 until February 1972 she was held in a special psychiatric hospital in Kazan and subjected to forcible treatment.

She was released in February and immediately started to print and distribute samizdat.

From 1973 to 1975 she worked as a teacher in a children’s holiday home. From 1975 to 1990 she translated medical literature at the Second Moscow Medical Institute.

In 1977 she graduated from the evening faculty of foreign languages at the Krupskaya Moscow Region Pedagogical Institute.

In 1977 and 1978 she sought to create an underground political party to fight against the CPSU. On 28 October 1978 she was one of the founders of the Freed Inter-Professional Association of Workers (Russian acronym: SMOT).

She was frequently and systematically harassed by the authorities: placed in psychiatric hospitals, subjected to questioning, and her apartment was searched.

In 1978, 1985 and 1986 Novodvorskaya was prosecuted for dissident activities. From 1987 until May 1991 she organized anti-Soviet rallies and demonstrations in Moscow without official permission, for which she was detained by the police and imprisoned a total of 17 times.

In 1988 she participated in the creation of the political party Democratic Union.

In May 1991, and in January and August 1995 Novodvorskaya was prosecuted, although charges were subsequently dropped.

In 2000 she worked as a journalist and educationalist..

She published articles in Grani.ru, Ekho of Moscow, and The New Times.

She is author of a number of books: Beyond Despair, Catcher in the Lie, My Carthage Must Be Destroyed, Farewell of the Slavic Woman, Poets and Tsars

Based on the materials of Wikipedia

Statement by the Congress of Intelligentsia: "Freedom of speech is for everyone"

posted 17 Jul 2014 06:35 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Jul 2014 06:39 ]

11 July 2014

Source: HRO.org (info
Differences of opinion about events happening in our country have caused a split to take place in our society. While the majority of the population supports the government's actions, not everyone does, and many of those in disagreement are people whose opinion particularly matters.

State television channels are paid for with taxpayers' money. All of us contribute. These channels should present a range of opinions about what is going on in our country. They should not be the government's private property, its mouthpiece.

Mass media which explain events in a one-sided, biased way dumb down the population and distort the very essence of a democracy.

An infamous, tragic example of how mass media can be used to help manipulate the public occurred in the 1930s. A crowd of 40 000 people, of whom a significant proportion were students at Humboldt University, took part in a mass "Action against the un-German spirit" and burnt books. This proved to be a prologue to the Second World War.

There is an urgent need for the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) to produce a programme which gives thinking people the chance to discuss issues openly in front of a television audience of many millions of viewers.

The so-called public television channel (OTR) which was set up [in 2013] with state funding fulfils a purely decorative function. It has not lived up to the hopes placed in it.

Instead, it is worth remembering that VGTRK was created more than 20 years ago and succeeded in overcoming divisions in the country during volatile times. It is clearly necessary for television to fulfil this function again. We have the right to ask the State to subsidise a programme of this sort which would air a whole range of views. There are plenty of highly qualified people around who could get involved.

Andrei Lipsky, Ludmila Alexeeva, Liya Akhedzhakova, Andrei Makarevich, Ludmila Ulitskaya, Irina Prokhorova, Lev Ponomarev, Alexei Simonov, Svetlana Gannushkina, Valery Borshchev, Andrei Smirnov, Victor Shenderovich, Andrei Piontkovsky, Natalya Fateeva, Tatiana Lazareva, Vladimir Mirzoyev, Alexander Belavin, Leonid Nikitinsky, Andrei Zubov, Leonid Gozman, Alexei Yablokov, Sergei Kovalev, Mark Urnov, Boris Dubin, Vladimir Kara-Murza senior, Yevgeny Tsymbal, Alexander Ryklin, Igor Irtenyev, Igor Yakovenko, Marietta Chudakova, Konstantin Azadovsky, Lev Gudkov, Elena Movchan, Grigory Amnuel, Leonid Chubarov, Igor Glek, Vladimir Volkov, Ashraf Fattakhov, Nikolai Prokudin, Natalya Nikolskaya, Elena Grishina, Svetlana Ezerskaya, Anatoly Vershik, Valentin Zhuravel, Elena Raskina, Marina Gromova, Yevgeny Kalakin, Irina Bogantseva, Alexander Obolonsky, Valery Kombarov, Maria Dmitrieva, Arkady Kuznetsov, Vladimir Rikhter, Vladimir Raskin, Vladimir Krzhevov, Stanislav Shipunov, Andrei Zbarsky, Mikhail Lavrenov, Ernst Chorny, Sergei Karamov, Elena Boeva, Elena Raskina, Boris Sokolov, Irina Sitkova, Elena Bukvaryova, Nina Dymshits, Alexei Vasiliev, Victor Vasiliev, Dennis Gutsko, Nina Katerli, Ekaterina Prigoreva, Alla Nazimova, Victor Sheinis, Irina Levinskaya, Greta Vyborna, Grigory Pasko, Lev Timofeev, Petr Obraztsov, Veronika Dolina, Igor Yarkevich, Olga Timofeeva, Sergei Gandlevsky, Konstantin Kedrov, Elena Katsyuba, Oleg Klebnikov, Marina Boroditskaya, Margarita Khemlin, Varbvan Varzhapetyan, Elena Chizhova, Victor Esipov, E. Logvinskaya, Marina Ashikhmina, Valery Mastyuk, Tatiana Borozheikina, Efim Khazanov, Marina Davydova, Yury Vdovin, Olga Maxakova, Grigory Kruzhkov, Ekaterina Gaidamachuk, Tatiana Romanenko, Anna Dadeko, Alexander Filippenko, Marina Ishimbaeva, Max Armai, Natalya Ivanova.

This statement was published in Novaya gazeta.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Detained film director Oleg Sentsov: “I am not a serf to be transferred from one landowner to another along with the land.”

posted 15 Jul 2014 12:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Jul 2014 12:54 ]

11 July 2014

Source: HRO.org (info)
Bulgarian lawyer Yonko Grozev has submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) about the detention, torture and remand in custody of the Ukrainian film director, Oleg Sentsov, whom the FSB has accused of “preparing to commit acts of terror”.

Grani.ru, citing ScreenDaily, reports that Grozev has asked the Court to take measures binding the investigators to allow access to the case of Sentsov. This, he explains, is essential since the lawyer Dmitry Dinze, who is also defending the film director Oleg Sentsov, has been obliged to give an undertaking not to publicize matters relating to the case.

In the meantime, Russia has refused Sentsov any access to the Ukrainian consul, on the basis that after the annexation of Crimea, it is alleged that the director has “automatically” become a Russian citizen, since he has not formally refused Russian citizenship, the Ukrainian human rights ombudsman, Valeria Lutkovskaya, reports, citing the answer she received to her appeal from her Russian colleague, Ella Pamfilova.

The press secretary of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Evgeny Perebeinis, commented on the position taken by Moscow: “No matter how much the Russian authorities play around with the idea of citizenship, Sentsov was and will remain a citizen of Ukraine.”

Perebeinis added that the Ukrainian authorities have received no official statements from the Russian side to the effect that the political prisoner has been given Russian citizenship. ‘Moreover,’ he added, ‘over the course of two months we have not received any answer to over 25 diplomatic notes and requests that we have sent.”

The Ukrainian film director himself, Oleg Sentsov, appearing in court on Monday regarding his detention, confirmed that he remains a citizen of Ukraine. Sentsov said, “I do not recognise the annexation of Crimea or the military seizure of Crimea by the Russian Federation and I consider any treaties that are now made by the illegitimate government of Crimea with the Russian Federation to be invalid. I am not a serf to be transferred from one landowner to another along with the land.”

Translated by Frances Robson

Perm Memorial Society activists meet with Perm Region Governor

posted 14 Jul 2014 08:19 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Jul 2014 08:24 ]

9 July 2014

Source: HRO.org (info
After several appeals to the region's leaders, members of the Perm branch of Memorial Society have finally been given the chance to meet with the head of Perm Region, Viktor Basargin,

First and foremost, the Memorial activists were able to express their dismay and outrage about the events surrounding the Perm-36 Gulag Museum. Honorary chairman of the Memorial Society Aleksandr Kalikh said that the dubious initiative of the regional authorities to establish a budgetary organisation designed to edge out and disavow the Perm-36 NGO looked like an attempt to radically alter the museum's course. Thanks to this "idea", officials from the regional administration are unashamedly applying the most ham-fisted and crude methods to put pressure on the activists, the museum's founders and those who have helped them over the past few decades.

Fundamental principles of partnership with civil society have been violated. The cooperation agreement between the regional government and the Perm-36 NGO, worked out through lengthy discussions, has been cast aside. The museum is to all intents and purposes closed to the public. The museum director, Tatyana Kursina, has been unlawfully dismissed. By order of the Culture Minister for Perm Region Igor Gladnev, the only excursion to have taken place in the last few months was for a TV crew from the sensationalist TV channel NTV. What's more, this group was accompanied by supervisors of the former political zone. In the programme shown on NTV the culture minister took a most active part, more or less advocating the destruction of everything that had been built up by the public museum.

Aleksandr Kalikh and Chairman of Memorial Robert Latypov appealed to the governor with a proposal to resurrect the jointly developed agreement, a document that takes account of the positions of all the parties in the conflict, outlining the functional rights and obligations of the budgetary organisation and the Perm-36 NGO.

Others present at the meeting, members of Memorial Varlen Kleyner, Angelina Bushueva and Evgeny Mochilin, defined their own personal relation to the museum as a memorial to their fathers and mothers who suffered during the years of Stalinist terror, who ended up in the Gulags or were shot in the period 1937-1938. Destroying the museum would mean trampling on this memory. Victims of repression tried to impress upon the governor that, intentionally or not, he was participating in a campaign to rehabilitate Stalinism and a campaign to denigrate the rights and dignity of those who suffered repression.

In response, Viktor Basargin assured the meeting participants that the regional leadership had never set itself the task of changing the course of the activities of the Perm-36 Gulag Museum. No one was trying to destroy the museum, it was continuing its operations in its entirety. The regional budget has provisions for its upkeep, which has not been the case in previous years.

The regional governor admitted that during the reorganisation serious mistakes had been made which could put the partnership principles of cooperation with the activists in doubt. In the coming days all interested parties would be presented with the final version of the agreement, containing all the points that had been agreed with the museum's management.

Viktor Basargin assured veterans that the rights and interests of the victims of political repression have been and will remain under his sphere of attention and control.

Aleksei Frolov, who was involved in the discussion with the governor, said that the regional administration had nothing to do with the sensationalist broadcast of NTV. As regards the excursion that was organised for representatives of this television channel, this has to be understood and the appropriate conclusions drawn. Aleksei Frolov assured those present that the regional administration was prepared to cooperate with the museum's founders and leaders. He noted that in many ways the conflict was not as significant as it appeared: it was being inflated by certain sections of the press as well as politically motivated organisations. It should be noted that at the time of the meeting 50,000 Russian citizens had already signed a petition to the Governor of Perm Region demanding that the destruction of this unique museum be halted and persecution of its founders stopped.

The next issue on the meeting agenda concerned problems relating to social provision for victims of political repression. Robert Latypov, chairman of the regional branch of Memorial, spoke to the meeting, saying that many of the state's obligations in terms of social provision were not being fulfilled.

For instance, for one reason or another in Perm Region both regional and federal law was being violated with regards to implementing legal benefits to compensate travel costs for victims of repression to travel around the country, and for paying medical costs for creating and repairing dentures. The allocations from the regional budget for housing improvements for victims of repression were unacceptably low. Those who suffered political repression had practically no opportunity for getting priority entry to health and spa centres, unlike many other sections of the population on benefits.

Robert Latypov put forward concrete proposals from Memorial which could alter the situation if they were implemented. A working group should be set up, made up of experts capable of developing draft documents for the legal bodies of the administration to consider, both at the federal and regional level. The governor promised that he would issues instructions to look into how feasible it would be to implement these initiatives.

Human Rights Commissioner for the Perm Region, Tatyana Margolina, also spoke at the meeting. The Perm branch of the Memorial Society would like to thank her for her active participation in organising and holding this meeting.

Translated by Natascha Kearsey

European Court of Human Rights orders Russia to guarantee applicant's safety

posted 14 Jul 2014 08:10 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Jul 2014 08:15 ]

2 July 2014

Source: HRO.org (info)

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has granted a request by lawyers from the Committee against Torture for measures to be taken to ensure an applicant's safety in detention and has called on the government of the Russian Federation to take all necessary measures.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has granted a request by lawyers from the Committee against Torture. The ECtHR also requested that the applicant should immediately be examined by medical experts independent of the penal system, in order to ascertain the circumstances under which he allegedly received the injuries described in the complaint submitted by human rights activists.

As the Court has issued an urgent request, the government of the Russian Federation has until 18 July to respond to numerous questions and provide official documents as evidence:

– when and why the applicant was transferred to GUFSIN FKU (Federal Penal Institution) IK-14 in Nizhny Novgorod region (hereafter IK-14). The authorities must provide documentary evidence for why transfer to this prison was necessary;

– the authorities must provide copies of all medical documents relating to the applicant's condition on arrival at IK-14;

– where exactly the applicant was held in IK-14. The government must give the room number and provide details of the extent to which IK-14's pre-trial detention facility (hereafter PFRSI in Russian) is separated from the rest of the prison;

– whether prisoners have access to the pre-trial detention facility, the quarantine rooms and the enclosed exercise yard;

– whether the applicant has had access to doctors and a lawyer since 10 April 2014. The State must provide relevant documents and also all medical records relating to the applicant's condition in April, May and June 2014;

– the authorities must also describe what measures have been taken for the applicant's protection since the first occasion when the applicant was assaulted;

– whether the applicant was seen by a doctor after the assault on 12-13 June 2014. The authorities must state whether a report was made detailing the injuries to the applicant's body and head. Photographs of these injuries have been provided to the Court;

– whether a prison paramedic refused to see the applicant on 20 June 2014 although this had been requested by a member of the Public Monitoring Commission for human rights in detention centres in Nizhegorodskaya Region (hereafter ONK in Russian, PMC in English);

– whether the applicant's representatives were granted access to the applicant's medical records.

The government of the Russian Federation must also supply the ECtHR with copies of all materials relating to investigations, or any criminal trial, initiated as a result of the applicant's injuries.

The government must supply full details of measures taken to investigate the afore-mentioned incident and measures taken to ensure the storage of evidence: for example, whether a video recording was made of the relevant buildings and whether these video recordings have been kept.

Given the very personal nature of the circumstances described in the complaint which are to do with sexual assaults, the European Court has decided to apply Rule 47 of the ECtHR's Rules of Court to the present case and to keep the applicant's identity secret. The applicant's name is currently known only to the applicant's representatives, the ECtHR and the Russian authorities.

None of the parties involved in this ECtHR case has the right to divulge the applicant's identity.

The Public Monitoring Commission for human rights in detention centres in Nizhegorodskaya Region (hereafter ONK in Russian, PMC in English) was contacted by an individual who is being detained before his trial. He reported many incidents of appalling abuse to which he was subjected in prison IK-14 (in the town of Sukhobezvodnoe in Nizhegorodskaya Region).

Human rights activists then sent a report to the General Prosecutor's Office, the Investigatory Committee and the FSIN [the penal service] with a request for the individual in question to be protected from abuse and for a thorough investigation to be carried out into the reported incidents. They also informed the victim's lawyer.

However, although the report on the crime was submitted to Semyonovsky Interregional Investigatory Department in Nizhegorodskaya Region on 11 June, its director, Alexei Yuzhin, did not initiate an investigation until 19 June, and only then after repeated requests by the applicant's lawyer.

On 23 June Mr Yuzhin extended the duration of the pre-investigation enquiry to 30 days.

As the applicant was in real danger, "Committee against Torture" lawyers made a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, asking the Court to take whatever measures it could.

Olga Sadovskaya, deputy president of the Committee against Torture and director of its section for international legal protection, made the following comments: "As Rule 39 of the ECtHR's Rules of Court is rarely used by the Court [ie. imposing interim measures], we can conclude that in this case the applicant's situation is extremely serious. I do not think this would change even if the prisoner was transferred to another prison. Given that the prisoner is alleged to have committed a non-violent crime which did not endanger society, I consider that he would be suitable for house arrest.

"It is also worth noting that the management of IK-14 has attempted to put pressure on lawyer Evgenia Gubina. Human rights activists had arranged for her to defend the applicant's rights. It transpired that a complaint was made against the lawyer for not informing prison staff of the content of documents signed by the applicant and intended for the European Court. Without a shadow of a doubt, demands of this sort by prison staff breach the guarantees of legal protection to which any victim of human rights abuse is entitled, according to the ECtHR.

"In 2010, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation decreed, in accordance with ECtHR rulings, that censorship of correspondence between a prisoner and his or her lawyer is only allowed in cases where prison management have reasonable grounds to suspect that the correspondence contains money intended for illegal investment (in which case the correspondence is only to be checked in the presence of the person under suspicion); or if it is suspected that the lawyer is abusing his or her right to legal secrecy; or if the correspondence threatens the prison's safety; or if it is illegal in any other way. Unfortunately, staff at IK-14 do not know the first thing about Constitutional Court rulings".

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Mikhail Savva on the machinery of repression: Discreditation

posted 14 Jul 2014 07:01 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Jul 2014 07:09 ]

9 July 2014

Source: HRO.org (info
The machinery of repression of the Russian state falsifies criminal cases. Naturally, this is impossible to hide so long as someone who comes under the blows of this machinery says at least something about their case. That is why the first task of the ‘asphalt-layer’ is to ensure a complete news vacuum.

But if the victim does not behave themselves as a victim should, but resists, the machinery moves on to a second task, that of discrediting the person concerned. This is according to the principle: ‘Who is talking about our crimes? You are no better yourself!’ On the way to discreditation the officials in epaulettes cannot help but violate the law. After all they have not yet managed to remake the country's laws to suit themselves, despite all the efforts of the ‘crazed printer’ – as the State Duma has become known.

I shall talk more about these violations on the basis of my personal experience that, I hope, will help others to protect themselves. The attempts to discredit you can in fact badly damage those who are falsifying the case against you.

On the last day of my trial, Kuban TV, the local branch of the federal state broadcasting company, reported on the sentence. The report contained one line that simply amazed me. Its sense was that Savva is not a political prisoner since the European Court of Human Rights in its response to his application has not given him this status.

In the first place, this was strange because the European Court of Human Rights does not take decisions of that kind – it has no powers to do so. The second strange thing is that the European Court of Human Rights does not pass judgments on the merits of a case in so short a time as a month and a half. Well, we can examine the professionalism of the staff working at Kuban TV later. What is more interesting for the time being is a third strange thing, namely, that I had not received from the European Court of Human Rights any response to my application concerning the unlawfulness of my pre-trial detention in Remand Centre No. 5 in Krasnodar. I had sent my application via my lawyer at the end of September 2013. After all, it is truly interesting who told the journalists about the contents of a response from the European Court of Human Rights addressed to me, when I know nothing at all about this response, and my lawyer knows nothing either.

I needed to find out what had happened. My first step was to obtain an official letter from the head of Remand Centre No. 5 in Krasnodar, Mr Agarkov, dated and numbered, confirming that a response to my application had been received by Remand Centre No. 5 and had been redirected to my home address. My second step was to get an official letter from the director of Kuban TV, Mr Tovanchev, that a representative of Remand Centre No. 5 during the journalists’ investigation had told a staff member of Kuban TV about the contents of the response from the European Court of Human Rights.

Thanks from a political prisoner to the journalists for their support! This was an instance when they caught an official in a trap. Because the representative of the Remand Centre who spoke to the journalists, cited in the answer as one Ms Tovancheva, committed a crime. Article 138 of the Criminal Code concerns the violation of the right to privacy of correspondence. If the commission of this crime involves an abuse of one’s official position, then the punishment is up to four years in prison. And this had indeed been the case concerning the letter addressed to me.

What should one do in such a situation? Report the crime in accordance the Article 141 of the Criminal Procedural Code, both to the Prosecutor’s Office and to the region’s Investigative Committee. It is necessary to make the second report since it concerns a crime committed by a law enforcement officer. A copy of the report of the crime should be sent to the director of the Federal Penitentiary Service.

Colonel-General G.A. Kornienko, recently appointed to this position, ought to know what is happening in his department. The Public Monitoring Commission should also be told of what has happened. As a body whose designated function concerns public oversight of the observance of human rights in places of detention, the Commission can conduct its own inspection of alleged violations of constitutional law.

I stress that I am not naïve. All my previous reports of violation by law enforcement officers had been denied by their colleagues in other departments. But it is necessary to identify attitudes of this kind. Even if the result is an official refusal to do anything. Let someone from among these officials in epaulettes put their signature beneath this refusal. As in the good old romantic song: ‘We must get ourselves ready for the spring!’ 

I never did receive a response from the European Court of Human Rights to my application concerning the unlawfulness of my pre-trial detention. But even without this it is clear that the attempts to discredit me involved the commission of a crime.

Professor M.V. Savva

Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre takes its case to the European Court of Human Rights

posted 14 Jul 2014 06:49 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Jul 2014 06:56 ]

7 July 2014

Source: HRO.org (info
Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) in St Petersburg, having been judged in court to be an NGO which "fulfils the functions of a foreign agent" and been forced to close down, has now taken its case to the ECtHR.

According to the NGO "Article 20", the Memorial ADC's human rights report entitled "Roma, migrants, activists: victims of political arbitrariness" which it submitted to the UN Committee against Torture in November 2012, was classified as political activity.

The application lodged with the ECtHR cites violation of three articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Firstly, regarding Article 10, the right to freedom of expression: Memorial ADC asserts its right to criticise the activities of the police and other state bodies, and to publish recommendations for changes to legislation. The report entitled "Roma, migrants, activists: victims of political arbitrariness", which was submitted to the UN Committee against Torture, contributes to public discussion of socially significant issues such as the government's attitude towards vulnerable groups of the population, defence of LGBTI rights, and whether the police always behaves lawfully. Civil society is entitled to participate in the activities of international bodies which protect human rights.

Secondly, Memorial ADC claims that there has been a violation of Article 11, the right to freedom of assembly and association. Given the history of the struggle against "foreign" ideas under the Soviet Union and the negative connotations of the very term "agent", "foreign agent" status inevitably means that the activities of any NGO with this label will be falsely considered to be using foreign money to promote interests alien to Russia. In practice this means that "foreign agent" NGOs will be forbidden to collaborate with state bodies and other organisations.

Lastly, Memorial ADC claims that there has been a violation of Article 14, the prohibition on discrimination. "Memorial" ADC believes it is being persecuted because of its anti-discriminatory convictions, particularly its support for the rights of groups which are discriminated against (Roma, migrants and LGBTI people).

"Memorial" ADC maintains that these groups should be given equal rights, that homophobic laws should be repealed and that public gatherings in defence of LGBTI rights should not be prevented from taking place; that information about human rights abuses which is reported by Roma is credible; that the practice of ethnic profiling of minorities who look different (Roma, migrants from Central Asia and countries in the Caucasus) should be discontinued, particularly police raids codenamed "Migrant" or "Roma".

Incidentally, Memorial ADC's attitude towards disadvantaged groups became the basis of allegations of "political activity": the prosecutor's case against the NGO stated that a human rights report based on "so-called narratives and stories by representatives of the Roma minorities" could not possibly be credible.

The prosecutor, and subsequently the courts of both instances, stressed that demanding a repeal of homophobic laws is itself a "political" act. The municipal court of St Petersburg, which made the final judgment on 8 April 2014, found no discrimination against "Memorial" ADC, so an appeal against a violation of Article 14 has been lodged with the European Court of Human Rights.

As a precedent, a violation of Article 14 was recognised in the case of "Alexeev v. Russia" (recognition of a discriminatory ban on holding street events due to the sexual orientation of the person applying for permission) and in a very recent ECtHR judgment in the case of "Georgia v. Russian Federation" (on 3 July 2014, eight years after the events in autumn 2006), which condemned the illegal discriminatory practice whereby citizens of Georgian nationality are ethnically profiled by the police and other state bodies in the Russian Federation.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Human Rights Council drafts amendments to media law to strengthen protection of journalists

posted 14 Jul 2014 06:21 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Jul 2014 06:22 ]

4 July 2014

Source: HRO.org (info)
The Presidential Council of the Russian Federation on Civil Society and Human Rights (‘Human Rights Council’) reports that a draft federal law ‘On amending Articles 47 and 49 of the federal law “On the media” ’ has been introduced to the State Duma of the Russian Federation.

The text of this bill was developed by the Human Rights Council, but as the Council does not have the power to introduce the bill to Parliament, it has been introduced dto the Duma by deputies Mikhail Markelov, Vadim Dengin, Yaroslav Nilov, Boris Reznik and Robert Shlegel.

The draft bill, published on the Council’s website on 20th June 2014, sets out the responsibilities of editorial staff and mass media founders to ensure for the staff, in cases of assignments to conflict zones, counter-terrorist operations and military operations:

· means of individual protection, relevant specialist equipment and ‘Press’ markers;

· the possibility of gaining specialist safety training;

· an agreement on insurance cover in case of illness, injury, repatriation or death;

· voluntary DNA registration;

· an international ID for ‘Journalist on dangerous assignment certificate’ as provided for by the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Convention of 12th August 1949 regarding the protection of victims of international armed conflicts (in the event of travel beyond Russian Federation borders).

Head of the Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov, welcomed the introduction of the bill in to the State Duma. He is currently taking part in a Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting of the OSCE on the promotion of freedom of expression regarding rights, responsibilities and OSCE commitments in Vienna.

The text of the draft bill amending the Russian federal law on the media will be distributed to all those participating in the conference. Delegates include the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, Chairman-in-office of the OSCE Permanent Council, Swiss Ambassador Thomas Greminger, chief of section for freedom of expression at UNESCO, Silvie Coudray, President of Reporters Without Borders Switzerland Thérèse Obrecht Hodler, Judge of the European Court of Human Rights Luis López Guerra and the Head of the Executive Committee of the International Press Institute Galina Sidorova.

Translated by Elisabeth Wright

"We have a moral imperative to counteract a growing social evil" - Statement on Ukraine by Congress of Intelligentsia

posted 7 Jul 2014 03:58 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 7 Jul 2014 04:04 ]

27 June 2014

Source: HRO.org (info)
Novaya Gazeta has published a statement on events in Ukraine by the Congress of the Intelligentsia: 

"The 'cold' civil war in Russian society since the early 1990s has recently worsened, due - in psychological terms - to the crisis in the neighbouring country of Ukraine, mobilisation and the polarisation of public opinion regarding events there, followed by bloody armed confict in eastern Ukraine.

There has been a sharp split in society as a whole and in the sector commonly called the intelligentsia. It is now clear that many people who consider themselves part of the intelligentsia have succumbed to a 'patriotic' frenzy (some unwittingly, some calculatedly). Along with regular Kremlin propagandists and pro-government ideologues, they have virtually joined the anti-Ukrainian campaign, which is marked not only by subversive activities against neighbouring countries, but which also worsens the socio-political climate in Russia itself and increases social tension.

More and more restrictions on freedom and democracy are being introduced under the smokescreen of ultra-patriotic propaganda. Such restrictions are rapidly turning the clock back to totalitarian methods of government.

People on all sides of the public debate are equally affected by the restoration of totalitarianism, no matter what opinion people have of Western liberalism, the territorial jurisdiction of the Crimea and the Donbass, and Stalin's role in history.

The internal conflict in Ukraine has escalated into an actual, bloody war in which Russia too is embroiled. Victims of this war are already arriving in Russia in coffins, like in the film "Cargo 200", and it is apparent that the government is hiding their bodies and their names and preventing decent burials from being held. The government, together with the agitators who appear on our TV screens calling for greater intervention in the affairs of a sovereign country, the violation of its borders, military aid and for volunteers to be sent to certain death, bears responsibility for these people's deaths. Those who actually manage to stay alive return to Russia mentally scarred, perhaps also physically handicapped, with a dreadful experience of civil war. Their presence only brings the growing animosity in Russia closer to a confrontation.

Although the government has been obliged, under pressure from the international community, to make some reconciliatory gestures, albeit partial ones, and despite the President having relinquished the right he had been granted to invade Ukraine, the conflict goes on. It touches all aspects of people's lives in both our countries.

There was a time when the Russian intelligentsia was thought of as the nation's conscience. Now it has split, and a significant proportion of people who technically belong to the intelligentsia are too quick to fulfil the government's every desire and approve its foolish, even self-destructive actions. But those who do still adhere to the notions of honour, conscience, and responsibility to their country, their people and their history must not give up in despair. They must tell people the truth in every way possible, expose lies, seek peace in their own society and actively oppose those who are consciously or mindlessly creating a great evil: pushing us into a new civil war. Intellectuals today have a duty to try to help compromises to be found and to faciliate meaningful dialogue those who are capable of it on both sides of the dispute.

It is time for intellectuals, academics, writers, human rights activists, politicians, public figures, journalists and all thinking people to realise that there is now a very real danger of a resurgence of totalitarianism or even a bloody civil confrontation.

We have a moral imperative to counteract a growing social evil which could be deadly for everyone." 

Vladmir Voinovich, Andrei Lipsky, Ludmila Alexeeva, Liya Akhedzhakova, Andrei Makarevich, Ludmila Ulitskaya, Irina Prokhorova, Lev Ponomarev, Alexei Simonov, Svetlana Gannushkina, Tatiana Lazareva, Valery Borshchev, Andrei Smirnov, Viktor Shenderovich, Igor Irtenyev, Alexander Belavin, Leonid Nikitinsky, Andrei Zubov, Leonid Gozman, Mark Urnov, Boris Dubin, Vladimir Kara-Murza senior, Alexander Ryklin, Igor Yakovenko, Andrei Piontkovsky, Natalya Fateeva, Marietta Chudakova, Konstantin Azadovsky, Lev Gudkov, Evgeny Tsymbal, Elena Movchan, Grigory Amnuel, Leonid Chubarov, Igor Glek, Vladimir Volkov, Ashraf Fattakhov, Nikolai Prokudin, Natalya Nikolskaya, Elena Grishina, Svetlana Ezerskaya, Anatoly Vershik, Valentin Zhuravel, Elena Raskina, Marina Gromova, Evgeny Kalakin, Irina Bogantseva, Alexander Obolonsky, Valery Kombarov, Maria Dmitrieva, Arkady Kuznetsov, Vladimir Rikhter, Vladimir Raskin, Vladimir Krzhevov, Stanislav Shipunov, Andrei Zbarsky, Mikhail Lavrenov, Alexei Vasiliev, A. Fattakhov, Ernst Chorny, Sergei Karamov, Elena Boeva, Elena Raskina, Boris Sokolov, Elena Bukvaryova, Nina Dymshits, Gleb Shulpyakov, Lyubov Summ, Oleg Khlebnikov, Veronika Dolina, Lev Timofeev, Natalya Mavlevich, Mikhail Eisenberg, Viktor Esipov, Viktor Yaroshenko, Evgeny Sidorov, Marina Boroditskaya, Olga Ilnitskaya, Konstantin Kedrov, Elena Katsyuba, Maxim Nemtsov, Alina Vitukhnovskaya, Irina Balakhonova, Alexander Gelman, Tatiana Kaletskaya, Viktor Vasiliev, Nina Katerly, Sergei Kovalev, Ekaterina Prigoreva, Alla Nazimova, Viktor Sheinis, Irina Levinskaya, Greta Vyborna, Marina Vishnevetskaya, Petr Obraztsov, Lev Timofeev, Igor Yarkevich, Sergei Gandlevsky, Varvan Varzhapetyan, Margarita Khemlin, E. Logvinskaya, Valery Mastyuk, Tatiana Vorozheikina, Efim Khazanov

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

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