HRO.org in English
2 October 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
In an interview with Zaks.ru, he expressed his hope that the Investigative Committee would be able to sort everything out and that the President's statement would not prevent it reaching an independent judgement.
Pivovarov said he did not expect to get an assessment of his case at such a high level.
“I can honestly say that I was very surprised by the President’s statement. I had not at all expected to be able to watch a discussion of my case at this level,” Pivovarov told Zaks.ru. “But the situation continues to be absolutely clear to me: I gave no bribes, and neither I nor the police officer intend to give false testimony against ourselves. None of the things about which the President spoke actually happened.”
At a session of the Human Rights Council on 30 September 2015 the President let it be understood that he was well informed about the details of the case against Pivovarov. “He went into the data base and paid money for it, that’s a bribe. The police officer has testified about the offence,” Pavel Chikov, chair of the Agora Human Rights Association quoted the President as saying.
Andrei Pivovarov hopes that Putin’s statement won’t influence the course of the case.
“Of course, taking into account that in our country the power vertical is very strong and pressure is put on local authorities, a statement of this kind by the President gives grounds for concern. I hope that the investigative authorities will sort it all out and discover for themselves that none of the things about which the President spoke happened,” Andrei Pivovarov told Zaks.ru.
According to Pivovarov, Putin's statement was not necessarily provoked by the desire of the investigation to salvage a case that had been trumped up from the very beginning.
Andrei Pivovarov commented, “We are responsible people and not fools. It’s not necessary to engage in such a distortion of the facts. I don’t think it’s worth saying my case is so flimsy that it required the intervention of the President. Most likely, it was someone’s eagerness to report on work done. Of course, I was surprised by the format of the comment. Usually comments are limited to the statement that ‘the investigators will sort things out, the court will decide.' But here the charges against me were virtually cited in full.”
Andrei Pivovarov and police officer, Aleksei Nikanorov, were arrested in Kostroma on the night of 28th July 2015. According to information supplied by law enforcement agencies, Pivovarov, who was chief of staff of the Democratic Coalition in the elections to the legislative assembly of Kostroma region, decided to check the validity of signatures collected. To do this, he allegedly illegally used a police database. After his arrest, the police officer, Aleksei Nikanorov, confessed to the charges, but, later during an interrogation on 31st July, he denied them.
In mid-August, in Kostroma Andrei Pivovarov was charged under two articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation "Illegal access to computer information" (Article 272, Part 3, of the Criminal Code) and "Incitement to abuse of office" (Article 33, Part 4; Article 286, Part 1, of the Criminal Code). Aleksei Nikanorov was charged with ‘abuse of office’ ( Article 286, Part 1). Kostroma court ruled that Nikanorov and Pivovarov be remanded in custody for two months.
Andrei Pivovarov was released on 28th September from Kostroma pre-trial detention centre. Sverdlovsk district court in Kostroma found no grounds for keeping Pivovarov in detention and ordered his release on bail of one million roubles. Funds were provided by Open Russia on Saturday, 26th September 2015.
Translated by Graham Jones
Sergei Lukashevsky: 'It is not fitting for an organization that bears the name of Sakharov to blacken its own reputation'
24 September 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
Statement by Sergei Lukashevsky, director of the Sakharov Centre
Yesterday [22 September 2015 - ed. HRO.org] our Sakharov Centre, as expected, lost its appeal to the Moscow City Court on a complaint against the actions of the Ministry of Justice, which in December 2014, added us to the ‘foreign agent’ register.
In court we repeated our arguments. We pointed out again that we were never shown the allegation that served as grounds for the unscheduled inspection, which led to our inclusion in the register. I also asked my oft- repeated question: how was it that the Ministry of Justice found no violations in our activities in 2013 but then suddenly discovered violations in 2014, although our activities have not changed one iota: the same debates, the same discussions. We maintained our basic position: our work is not political.
Representatives of the Ministry of Justice at federal and Moscow city levels, for their part, went on and on that our activity is political, but they are not obliged to show us the allegation they had received. Any assessments of public issues, any value judgments expressed in whatsoever discussions accessible to a wide range of individuals, constitute influence on public opinion and political activity. The incriminating allegation was unavailable to us on the basis of the law on personal data and at the request of the applicant not to disclose them (although we were ready to go into closed session, and indeed we had no need to know the personal data of that individual - only the content of the document).
They kept banging on with the same trick questions of interest to all courts: why do we receive money? No, these funds are not payment for any specific work. We don’t agree our activities with anyone at all.
The trio of arbitrators retired literally for just three minutes. Our appeal remained without satisfaction, and we will obtain the full text of the court’s decision later. We have no illusions, and from the beginning we set our sights on the European Court of Human Rights. But if need be we shall also take our appeal to the Supreme Court.
This court judgment is only one of our three legal cases - and apparently the most hopeless. And the two other cases may not be quite not so irredeemable.
One is the case regarding the fine for refusing to sign ourselves on to the register of foreign agents. The court could have paid attention to our argument that the inspection in August had found no violations. We did not know that, according to them, we are foreign agents. We ad based ourselves on the position taken by the state supervisory authority. But even if the court had supported us, we are already on the register in any case, and they will not let us off it. Anyway, we have appealed against the fine.
Yet another case involved the issue of labelling all our publications as the work of ‘foreign agents.’ We have to some degree refused to use this label out of our general aversion to lying, because we are not agents, and because in general one cannot be an agent of unspecified persons. On top of that, all of the decisions in our case had been appealed against and had not yet entered into legal force.
The Ministry of Justice on these grounds issued us a warning. We, for our part, reported on our website about the decision of the Ministry of Justice, although we did not agree with it. However, the Roskomnadzor in addition to the warning from the Ministry of Justice charged us with violating the law. There has already been one court hearing in this case. But until now, no decision has been reached. Moreover, we feel that the warning itself is an unjustified double punishment since it allows the Ministry of Justice to raise the question of the shutting down of our organization.
That is why we are absolutely opposed to them calling us foreign agents.
We believe that it is not fitting for an organization that bears the name of Sakharov to blacken its own reputation. They propose that we say we are carrying out someone else’s wishes, and are acting in the interests of third parties, while we operate only in the public interest. No donors have ever told us, "Do this, do that." If our application coincided with their objectives, then we get a grant, if not – we do not get it.
This is the moral dimension, but there are still practical aspects. The introduction of this label is at the same time the introduction of a special legal status. With this designated group of organizations it is possible to do anything, introducing additional limitations and encumbrances. And they are on the increase.
Today we are left without Russian funding. As for foreign financing, two very important sources of funding for us - the Mott Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation – have stopped their work in Russia, fearing, as it would seem, to be put on the list of undesirable organizations. Taken all round, our work is becoming harder and harder. But for the time being it is still possible to continue almost everything we do.
P.S. With thanks to Public Verdict Foundation and personally to the lawyer Maxim Krupsky from the Moscow law firm Liptser, Stavitskaya and Partners for legal support
Translated by Graham Jones
2 October 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
"Repeal this harmful law. You don’t have to suspect us [human rights defenders] of things of which we are not guilty,” Liudmila Alekseeva said, addressing the session of the Human Rights Council attended by President Putin. Alekseeva underlined that NGOs only use money attracted from abroad to help people in Russia live better.
Rights defender Liudmila Alekseeva, who was recently awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, also asked President Putin to encourage wealthy Russians to donate money to Russian NGOs' projects.
Head of the Presidential Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov, also criticized the ‘foreign agent’ law in his speech at the Council session. He noted that there are already more than 90 organizations in the register of so-called ‘foreign agents’, and that the majority of them are human rights groups, women’s groups and environmental organizations.
Translated by Jo Anston
29 September 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
DW: Congratulations on receiving the prize. What does it mean for you?
Liudmila Alekseeva: First of all, for me it means a lot that this prize is named after Vaclav Havel. I had the honour of knowing him, as he was the founder of Charter-77 which started the human rights movement in Czechoslovakia. Secondly the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe gave me this prize – at the very moment when our own country is moving away from Europe and the whole civilised world.
The Russian human rights movement, including the Soviet period, is 50 years old. From the very beginning I took part in this movement and I know at first hand all about the difficult conditions of work. I am sure that in giving me this prize they had in mind all those who take part in the human rights movement in our country. Am I the only one? As we know, one person can’t win a war.
- How do you see the situation of democracy in Russia? Has there been regression in this respect?
When the Soviet Union collapsed we moved towards democracy. And if we take the constitution, especially its second chapter where it talks about the human rights and freedoms, then we have rights and freedoms no less than in civilised countries.
Over the recent years we have gone back. But this can be explained, given that my country over its history has almost never known periods of freedom. This period from 1987 to the middle of the 2000s I dare say has been the longest period of this kind ever. Moreover, when the USSR collapsed, we all gained these rights and freedoms almost for free – well, the Soviet Union itself collapsed. And whatever you receive easily, you lose easily. We did not win our freedoms. And so now we will slowly and painfully gain them.
Most likely I will not live to see the day when Russia becomes a democratic state under the rule of law, but it will definitely come. Because we are a European country. In terms of geography, history, religion and culture, and the educational level of the people. And we will unavoidably become a democratic country based on the rule of law! For myself I am not really disappointed because not everyone lives to see something or other. What’s important is not to live to see something, but how one lives. For myself I have a clear conscience – for a half century I have worked hard for Russia to become a country where people are valued. And Russia will be such a country, of that I’m certain.
Photo: Council of Europe
- So it’s a mistake to say that at the end of the ‘80s and ‘90s people in Russia strove harder to reach democracy than now?
People thought at the time: well, we shall get rid of the communists and we’ll live as they do in America. The dean of the Moscow University economics faculty, Aleksandr Auzan recently said, and quite rightly: my fellow countrymen and women at that time were not aiming for democracy, but for a consumer society so that there would be no shortages. But this is still not democracy.
And so we have become a consumer society. At least we’ve stoped being hungry, standing in queues for bread, potatoes, butter – which is humiliating for people. Now it is even possible to think about freedom. It is important that people understand that the television lies, and become indignant that we, grown up people, are having the wool pulled over our eyes. This will be the way to enlightenment.
Soon I shall fly to Moscow because on 1st October there is a meeting of the Presidential Human Rights Council with the president. Such a meeting happens about twice a year. And I myself have chosen the topic I shall talk about this time – the law on foreign agents. Although the Moscow Helsinki Group, fortunately, has not been labelled as one, many very worthy organisations have appeared in this outrageous, unjust list. I want to try and convince the president to change something in this respect.
When I address the Council I want to ask this question: “Vladimir Vladimirovich, explain why, let’s say, if Gazprom or some industrialist or other finds means abroad, this investment is considered laudable. Our government also borrows money abroad, and this is also laudable. But when a non-profit organisation receives money from abroad, for some reason it is considered a foreign agent, although we are doing the same thing and also in the interests of our country. Why is there such a difference?” I cannot find any answer to this question. I do not understand why we are not trusted, why we are so suspected of being spies or traitors.
- How do you regard Russia’s participation in the conflict in the east of Ukraine?
It just makes me cry. In my opinion there is not one person among us who does not have relatives, friends, favourite places in Ukraine. It’s as if brothers and sisters quarrel amongst themselves. This is a completely incredible, unimaginable situation which should not be happening. When I start to think about what is happening or hear news from there, it makes me weep.
Translated by Frances Robson
2 October 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
* * *On 30 September 2015 the Russian Federation entered into the war in the Middle East. According to the Ministry of Defence, Russian aircraft conducted ‘surgical strikes’ against the positions of the Islamic State terrorist organization.
Almost immediately media and social networks were reporting that the attacks targeted the Syrian opposition not linked with the Islamic State, but, on the contrary, opposed to it. It was reported that residential areas had been hit, and that dozens of civilians had been killed, including children.
Without access to verified information, and even more without our own reliable sources, we are unable to confirm or deny these statements.
However, our own experience in Russia, the experience of two Chechen wars, obliges us to take seriously our worst possible fears.
First of all, announcements of ‘surgical strikes’ against ‘bandits and terrorists’ in Chechnya, when checked, in a very large number of cases proved to be mass and indiscriminate bombing and shooting of residential districts.
The rocket attack on the centre of Grozny on 21 October 1999, the air strike on a column of refugees near the village of Shami-Yurt on 29 October that year, and the bombing and strafing of the village of Katyr-Yurt on 5 February 2000 are only the best known instances, the list can be continued (for further information see the links below).
Secondly, although the military operation in Chechnya was called a ‘counter-terrorist’ operation, from the start of military action the main enemy and ‘military target’ were separatists, and not terrorists at all.
The Russian Ministry of Defence has itself confirmed our fears in reporting that targets had been hit in the areas around the cities of Homs and Hama, controlled by the Syrian opposition, where there are no forces of the Islamic State.
All this obliges one to seriously ask, who are the Russian planes in Syria in fact bombing, and who will be the victims of these attacks?
Addendum. Chechnya: some examples of indiscriminate attacks by federal forces, as a result of which civilians were killed:
"Surgical strikes": Indiscriminate use of force by federal forces. September – October 1999.
"Surgical strikes": a short chronicle of bombings and shootings, 1 November — 14 December 1999.
Grozny, 21 October 1999. A "Surgical" Atrocity.
Bombing of a Column of Refugees in Goryacheistochenskaya, 29 October1999
Bombing of a Column of Refugees in Shami-Yurt.
Report by Memorial Human Rights Centre on the Bombing of Katyr-Yurt 4 February 2000. The European Court of Human Rights rules in favour of the applicants in the case of Katyr-Yurt.
Rigakhoi, 9 April 2004 (Photos 18+). Judgment of the Еuropean Court of Human Rights in the case of Rigakhoi.
Bombing of the village of Zumsoi 14 August 2008
Bombing of the village of Starye Atagi, Grozny (rural) district of Chechnya 9 November 2005.
On the Human Rights Situation in the Republic of Chechnya, June-July 2000. — some examples of attacks on civilian areas.
Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow)
Translated by Simon Cosgrove
Radio Svoboda hosts discussion about meeting of President Putin with members of Human Rights Council (video, in Russian)
2 October 2015
Video [in Russian].
On 2 October 2015, President of Russia Vladimir Putin met members of the Presidential Human Rights Council. Will this meeting influence in any way the human rights situation in Russia and the fates of specific individuals who have faced the injustice of the Russian state? Taking part in the discussion are human rights defenders Andrei Yurov, Aleksandra Bukvareva, Sergei Kovalev and Valentin Gefter.
28 September 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
The Moscow City Court has upheld a decision by Zamoskvoretsky district court refusing to recognise as unlawful the inclusion of the Public Verdict Foundation on the list of “foreign agent” NGOs.
The Director of the Public Verdict Foundation, Natalya Taubina, posted the following on her Facebook page:
"Moscow City Court ignored the fact that the Zamoskvoretsky district court had failed to inform us of the date on which the case would be heard, and that the hearing took place in our absence (according to the Zamoskvoretsky district court records, we apparently asked for the appeal to be heard in our absence!!!), and that the case was heard before the entry into force of the court ruling on our appeal against the Public Prosecutor’s order which formed the basis for our inclusion on the Ministry of Justice’s list. In a nutshell, the Moscow City Court did not see fit to allow us to exercise our right to legal defence.
The presiding judge demonstrated a great deal of interest in our sources of funding and the amount of money we had received, but was completely uninterested in the dates involved. He also seemed interested in whether our exercise of the right to freedom of association could be deemed a political activity, and entirely uninterested in our provision of legal assistance.
The Ministry of Justice representative laid a great deal of emphasis on the fact that we had received funding from NED. She completely forgot to mention the dates involved, but she did not forget to mention that NED is a banned organisation. The court took only 30 seconds to agree on its decision. Now all that remains to be seen is how the court will manage to account for all of these circumstances in the text of its ruling in order to justify its recommendation to ‘leave the decision of the Zamoskvoretsky district court unchanged’.”
Public Verdict lodged an appeal in April asking for the decision by the Zamoskvoretsky district court to be overturned.
NED (National Endowment for Democracy) was included in the list of “undesirable organisations” at the request of the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office.
Translated by Joanne Reynolds
24 September 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
‘Moscow should not be home to a street, nor to a square, a park, to anything that is named in honour of individuals who were active, as leaders or participants, in the politics of terror’, Arseny Roginsky, historian and human rights activist, leader of the International Memorial Society, told Interfax on 24 September 2015. In his view, the renaming of the Voikovskaya metro station is not the most fundamental issue in Moscow. ‘But it is one of the very many questions that arise as regards making changes to the place names of Moscow, the historian emphasized.
The mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, said on the radio station Moscow FM, on Thursday, that at present Muscovites are opposed to changing the name of the Voikovskaya metro station. In response, Arseny Roginsky commented that Muscovites may object to the renaming simply because they do not know who Petr Voikov was. ‘It’s true, Muscovites are used to the name. But then no one has undertaken to provide a clear explanation of why it is necessary to change certain place names, including the case of Voikovskaya metro. It could easily be done through the district newspapers,’ Roginsky said.
Memorial is the leading Russian non-governmental organization which focuses on the study of political repressions in the former USSR, Interfax commented.
Previously an initiative to rename the Voikovskaya metro station and the city district had come from the House of the Romanovs. ‘The names of those who were party to the repressions and organized the execution of the tsarist family must be removed from the map of Moscow’, German Lukyanov, lawyer for the House of the Romanovs, told Interfax.
‘Petr Lazaarevich Voikov was a member of the emergency commission, and, appointed by the Urals soviet to guard Nicholas II and his family, was directly involved in organizing the execution. It was Petr Voikov, as the Urals soviet regional commissar for supplies, who authorized the issuing of five poods of sulphuric acid from the warehouse in order to destroy the bodies of the emperor’s family and their faithful servants’, German Lukyanov pointed out.
Translated by Mary McAuley
28 September 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)/2015
Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize for her contribution to the protection of human rights. The prize was presented by the presidenet of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Anne Brasseur on Monday, 28 September, at a session of the PACE.
Anne Brasseur said that Alekseeva had become ‘a symbol of the struggle for human rights in Russia.’
"I am not very confident that there will be a rapid change in the political climate in my country, but my long term prediction is optimistic. Russia is a European country […] Therefore we shall definitely become a democratic country and a state governed by the rule of law. I believe this with all my heart,” Liudmila Mikhailovna Alekseeva said in her acceptance speech, according to RBK.
The international Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize was established in December 2011 jointly by the Library of the former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, the Charter-77 Foundation and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Photos: Moscow Helsinki Group
Rally in support of voting rights and the release of political prisoners. Report and photos by HRO.org
21 September 2015
On 20th September 2015 a rally took place in Moscow’s Maryino district in support of voting rights, freedom of speech and for the release of political prisoners.
The demonstrators also called for an end to military action in east Ukraine and for measures to combat corruption.
Originally the organisers of the protest had planned to hold a march in the city centre – along Boulevard Ring – and end the demonstration with a rally on Andrei Sakharov Prospect. But the city authorities did not agree to this plan on the grounds that the Moscow marathon would pass through the same locations.
Volunteers standing at the entrance to Bratislavskaya metro station and on Pererva Street told those arriving how to get to the rally.
One of the slogans featured was “No to the war in Ukraine! Yes to education, health care, science, culture, and song.”
Those who came were offered badges in support of people convicted in the 'Bolotnaya Square case' and also in support of Aleksei Pichugin, a political prisoner who is a former employee of the Yukos Oil Company.
The master of ceremonies at the rally was the actress Oksana Mysin. Demonstrators listened to a recorded message by Oleg Navalny, brother of the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Aleksei Navalny. He finished by addressing them with words of solidarity and support.
Anna Gaskarova, wife Aleksei Gaskarov who has been imprisoned as a result of prosecution in the “Bolotnaya Square” case, read out extracts of the “last words” in court by her husband, as well as the Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov and some other prisoners.
The Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow) has recognised Oleg Navalny, Aleksei Gaskarov, and Oleg Sentsov as political prisoners.
Activists in the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners collected donations to help the families of political prisoners.
Speaking of the pressure on independent mass media, speakers at the rally cited the cases of the severe beatings of the journalist Oleg Kashin and Lev Shlosberg, editor of a newspaper and member of Pskov region assembly, who investigated the deaths of soldiers based in Pskov in Ukraine and published articles about his research in the local press.
Participants in the rally demanded that law enforcement agencies carry out an objective investigation into these crimes, and likewise into the murder of Boris Nemtsov, regardless of whether high-ranking officials were involved or not.
A minute of silence was held in memory of Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered on 28th February 2015 on Moskvoretsky Bridge.
“Don’t be afraid, in spite of what has happened,” Evgenia Albats, editor of The New Times, urged, “Crawling on one’s stomach is shameful.”
Many of the speeches were devoted to protecting citizens’ voting rights.
The actress Elena Koreneva read out a poem by Marina Tsvetaeva:
Distances: miles, versts…
They’ve set us apart, and dispersed,
Rendered us silent, terse,
At two different ends of the earth.
Distances: versts beyond compass…
They unglued us, unwelded us,
Pulled us apart, crucified us
Not knowing this alloy is tough
As a sinew, inspired …
They did not make us quarrel, they cast us aside.*
The famous writer and journalist Dmitry Bykov was also among the speakers, as well as 76-year old civil activist Vladimir Ionov (who is being prosecuted for “repeated violations of the regulations concerning large public events”), Aleksei Navalny and others.
According “White Counter,” an independent organisation that estimates the number of people taking part in public events, around seven thousand people took part in the demonstration. However, Moscow police claimed that approximately four thousand people attended the rally.
Photos of the rally by Vera Vasilieva can be viewed HERE
Translated by Kate Goodby
Рас-стояние: версты, мили...
Нас рас-ставили, рас-садили,
Чтобы тихо себя вели,
По двум разным концам земли.
Рас-стояние: версты, дали...
Нас расклеили, распаяли,
В две руки развели, распяв,
И не знали, что это сплав
Вдохновений и сухожилий...
Не рассОрили – рассорИли.