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Since its inception, Rights in Russia has by agreement translated materials first published in Russian on HRO.org.

Human rights activists call for an end to prosecution of Liudmila Bogatenkova

posted 15 Dec 2014, 09:06 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Dec 2014, 09:10 ]

4 December 2014

Source: HRO.org (info
Human rights activists have appealed to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation. They believe that the reason for the prosecution of Liudmila Bogatenkova is the fact that she gave information to the Human Rights Council about the death of ten members of the armed forces, and also that she advised contract soldiers on their rights not to carry out illegal orders.

To the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Y.Y. Chaika

Dear Yury Yakovlevich,

The law enforcement agencies of the town of Budennovsk in Stavropol region are currently carrying out an operation to identify people who at various times have received legal aid from Liudmila Bogatenkova – director of the NGO “Mothers of Prikumye”. Her lawyers have the impression that a “police commando” has been dropped simultaneously in several regions within the North Caucasian Federal District.

A number of cases area already known when investigating police officers approached those who had received assistance from Bogatenkova. In order to discredit her, they used false information, alleging that she was being placed under house arrest. Claiming that she was going to be convicted in any case, they suggested a statement be written against her. They have already succeeded doing this in two instances.

For example in 2005 – 2007 Bogatenkova gave legal aid in Vladikavkaz to former military servicemen to assist them in establishing the fact that they had served in a region where a counter terrorism operation was ongoing. A special agreement was drawn up between the sides, and those in receipt of help gave Bogatenkova power of attorney. Bogatenkova prepared the lawsuits and took part in the court proceedings, but the judges dismissed the claims.

Now two of these individuals have written a declaration that Bogatenkova had allegedly misled them and cheated them financially. (That is, according to them, there was fraud regarding the fee for the legal aid).

The demand by the lawyer and Bogatenkova herself that the civil case be withdrawn from the military court of Vladikavkaz for the purpose of establishing whether legal aid had in fact been given have been ignored by the relevant officials.

Analogous attempts were undertaken by unknown persons with regard to the mother of a conscript shot by an officer. Bogatenkova helped her with the trial proceedings related to a claim for damages from the Ministry of Defence.

Bogatenkova thinks that information about the addresses of the citizens who applied to her for help was obtained by the police in the course of their search of the office of the NGO Mothers of Prikumye. According to Bogatenkova’s lawyers, the search was conducted in violation of the procedure regarding the confiscation of documents. Complaints submitted by lawyers to the Budenovsk town court have been left unanswered.

At the moment, in spite of poor health, Liudmila Bogatenkova has resumed work and is continuing to offer legal aid to military servicemen.

We believe that the law enforcement agencies of the Stavropol region are attempting to criminalise Bogatenkova’s lawful activities with regard to legal aid to military personnel and other citizens.

We consider this to be a continuation of unlawful prosecution.

We note: 73-year-old Liudmila Bogatenkova was arrested and detained on 17th October 2014 after a search of her office. Despite the fact that Bogatenkova was unwell and she called for an ambulance several times, the officers in charge of the cells where she was held refused to pass on to her any medication.

On the Saturday, with the participation of a lawyer on duty, a judge took the human rights activist into custody. In connection with this a special transfer was organised to the pre-trial detention centre in Pyatigorsk. Moreover, the criminal investigator charged the human rights activist with fraud (Article 159, Section 3), only after she had been remanded in custory.

On 20th October, thanks to the reaction of the public, human rights activists and the mass media, and the intervention of the Presidential Human Rights Council, the Bogatenkova was granted bail on condition of travel restrictions.

We consider that the prosecution of Bogatenkova is retribution for her activities in the fields of human rights and peace-making.

According to human rights activists, the reason for the prosecution is that in August Liudmila Bogatenkova gave the Presidential Council for Human Rights information about the death of ten contracted military servicemen of the 18th motorised rifle brigade (troop unit 27777), and also that the human rights activist gave legal advice to soldiers serving on contract who did not want to take part in possibly illegal military activities, and concerning their right to refuse to carry out illegal orders.

According to human rights activists, there are grounds to believe that it is for these reasons that a criminal case is being fabricated against Bogatenkova. We strongly urge you to ensure that these criminal cases against Bogatenkova are immediately dropped because of the complete lack of evidence.

Signed in electronically by:

Aletkin, German, NGO of parents of conscripts in Tatarstan “For the Sons”
Babynina, Valentina, human rights activist from Krasnodar region
Burmitsky, Maksim, human rights group “Citizen. Army. Justice”.
Vakhnina, Liudmila, Memorial Human Rights Centre, Moscow
Garlivanova, Liubov, Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, Astrakhan region
Kalikh, Andrei, journalist.
Karakina, Elena, Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, Kostroma
Kizilova, Irina, Perm Memorial
Kotlyar, Tatiana, deputy of Obninsk city assembly
Markelova, Nelly, Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, Lesna, Sverdlovsk region
Mikhailova, Lidia, Council of Parents of Military Personnel, Udmurtiya
Mikhailova, Tatiana, Soldiers’ Mothers, Livna, Orlov region
Paikacheva, Irina, Murmansk Memorial
Ponomareva, Nina, Volgograd human rights NGO for parents of military personnel Mothers’ Justice
Salin, Anatoly, Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, Astrakhan region
Samarin, Ivan, Centre for the Legal and Medical Support of Conscripts, Moscow
Sviridova, Lidia, president of the Saratov Union of Soldiers’ Mothers
Smirnova Natalya, Committee of soldiers’ mothers, Kostroma
Tagankina, Nina, executive director, Moscow Helsinki group, Moscow
Tikhomirov, Yury, Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, Kostroma
Feldstein Emma, director, Human Rights’ Centre, Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novgorod region


Translated by Frances Robson

“The Disenfranchised”: discrimination against so-called “foreign agents” intensifies

posted 15 Dec 2014, 06:16 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Dec 2014, 06:32 ]

8 December 2014

Source: HRO.org (info
“Foreign Agent” NGOs are to be forbidden from taking any part in elections, including monitoring, writes Kasparov.ru on 8 December, citing RBC.

The amendment banning participation in elections has been included in the second reading of a bill tightening the requirements for the funding of political parties, which was submitted to the State Duma by President Vladimir Putin in June.

The Duma managed to avoid publicity while adopting the controversial bill by neither announcing nor discussing the above amendment.

The law was initiated by chairman of the State Duma’s commitee for constitutional legislation, Vladimir Pligin. It was he who proposed the ban on political parties making deals with “Foreign Agent” NGOs.

According to the new wording, “Foreign Agent” NGOs are forbidden to promote or hinder the nomination of candidates and their lists, their election or the attainment of specific results. They are also forbidden from initiating referendum proposals and from “other forms of participation in election or referendum campaigns.”

NGOs are also barred from participating in elections in the capacity of “foreign observers”, as this status is only conferred on foreign citizens and international organizations.

It is proposed that the law will come into force from the moment that the next elections, at any level, are announced.

The amendment contradicts the ruling of the Constitutional Court which forbids discrimination against “Foreign Agent” NGOs and will be appealed against. As one of the leaders of the electoral rights association Golos, Grigory Melkonyants, noted, the ban on participating in elections is a discriminatory measure directly affecting the activities of NGOs deemed “foreign agents".

Translated by Georgia Forth

Investigators visit home of writer Boris Akunin

posted 14 Dec 2014, 13:54 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Dec 2014, 14:02 ]

11 December 2014

Source: HRO.org (info

On 9 December, the writer Grigory Chkhartishvili (Boris Akunin) wrote on his Facebook page that unknown people who introduced themselves as investigators had come to his flat in Moscow.

"Some people pestered the concierge at our Moscow apartment building today. She says they came back several times, looking for me urgently. They were supposedly from the Investigative Committee. She only remembers that one of them introduced himself as Igor Nikolaevich.

Does anyone here work with Igor Nikolaevich? Please pass on to him the message that he shouldn't harass an elderly lady. I'm here. If you need anything from me, just telephone or write to me", wrote, as quoted by Novaya gazeta.

Earlier, it was announced that the Investigative Committee had called in Victor Shenderovich and the poet Lev Rubinstein for questioning. Shenderovich reported details of the summons on his social network page: a member of staff of the Investigative Committee told the writer that investigators intend to question him about the "Books in Parks" project in which he took part in the summer of 2014.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Winners of the 2014 Moscow Helsinki Group Awards (+ photos)

posted 14 Dec 2014, 13:24 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Dec 2014, 13:35 ]

10 December 2014

Source: HRO.org (info)
On 9 December – the eve of International Human Rights Day – the Moscow Helsinki Group named the 2014 winners of its annual human rights awards.

Lev Shlosberg, a civil society activist and member of the Pskov region Legislative Assembly, received the award for “Courage in the Defence of Human Rights”.




Svetlana Alekseyevna Gannushkina, chair of Civic Assistance Committee and a member of the governing board of the International Memorial Society, received the award for “A Historic Contribution to Human Rights and the Human Rights Movement”.




Andrei Makarevich received the award for “Defending Human Rights through Culture and Art”.





The journalist Aider Muzhdabayev received the award for “Journalism Promoting Human Rights Values”.





Viktor Aleksandrovich Shmyrov, director of the “Perm-36” Museum of Political Repression, received the award for “Contribution to Human Rights Education”.




Ramil Akhmetgaliyev, a lawyer for Agora Human Rights Association received the award for “Asserting Human Rights in Court”.





Lidiya Efremovna Rybina, head of the Tambov Human Rights Centre, received the award for “Success in the Development and Management of Human Rights Organisations”.




Leonid Petrashis, chair of the Public Monitoring Commission for Rostov region, received the award for “Activities in Defence of Social Rights and the Interests of Local Communities”. 




Sergei Shimovolos, head of the Nizhny Novgorod Human Rights Union, received the award for “Expert and Academic Activity in the Field of Human Rights”. 




The journalist Natella Boltyanskaya received the award for “Fostering Human Rights Traditions among Young People”.





Moscow Helsinki Group Human Rights Awards Ceremony. 9 December 2014. Moscow: Photos by Andrei Vl. Korolev and Vadim Karastelev.

The members of the Moscow Helsinki Group and its chair, Liudmila Alekseeva, would like to offer their sincere congratulations to the winners of the awards and wish them continued success in their promotion of human rights values in our country.

The 2014 Moscow Helsinki Group human rights awards ceremony took place on 9 December in Moscow.

The Moscow Helsinki Group awards have been held annually since 2009. Previous winners include the musician Yury Shevchuk, the lawyers Anna Stavitskaya and Yury Shmidt, the author Viktor Shenderovich, the actress Liya Akhedzhakova, Andrei Blinushov (chair of the Ryazan-based Memorial organization and editor of the website HRO.org), Mikhail Ugarov (artistic director of Teatr.doc), the journalists Elena Milashina, Zoya Svetova, Leonid Nikitinsky and Kristina Gorelik and the human rights defender Natalya Estmirova, who was killed in 2009.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

In memory of Vitaly Pomazov (1946-2014) - with video

posted 14 Dec 2014, 12:41 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Dec 2014, 13:18 ]

8 December 2014

Source: HRO.org (info
Vitaly Pomazov has passed away. We remember a man who was a journalist, historian, political prisoner in the Soviet era, and chair of the Serpukhov Memorial society.
Vitaly Vasilievich Pomazov was born in 1946 in the town of Pyr in the Balakhninsky district of Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod) region. He graduated from the automotive training college and secondary school with a silver medal. Thereafter he enrolled at Gorky State University (now the State University of Nizhny Novgorod) and studied in the history faculty.

In 1968 he was expelled from the university for writing and distributing a sociological work The State and Socialism and sent to serve in a manual-work army battalion, serving in Bolshevo and Almaty.

On 22 October 1970, he was arrested by the Gorky KGB and charged with anti-Soviet activities.

On 2 February 1971, Gorky regional court sentenced him to four years in a corrective labour camp under the political Article 70 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR (the judicial chamber of the Supreme Court of the RSFSR changed the sentence to a term of 1.5 years under Article 190). 

Video on the life of Vitaly Pomazov

On 22 April 1972, his sentence ended and he was released from the penal colony in Sherstki, Gorky region.

From 1972 to 1987 he was involved in the human rights movement, in the Chronicle of Current Events, the Foundation for the Assistance of Political Prisoners and in the distribution of samizdat publications.

From 1979 to 1983, he was the editor of the samizdat magazines Protalina and A stroll through the St Bartholemew's Day Massacre.

In 1988, he became one of the founders and the first chair of the Memorial society for history education and human rights in Serpukhov.

In 1989, he became a member of the board of the national Memorial society.

In 1989, he returned to his studies at the history faculty of the State University of Nizhny Novgorod by correspondence, graduating with distinction in 1991.

He lived in Serpukhov in the Moscow region and from 1990 to 2011 he was editor of the newspaper Sovet and penned memoirs and four collections of poetry.

He was chair of the Serpukhov branch of Memorial and directed the literary club. He taught at the International Academy of Business and Administration in Protvino. 


– Pomazov V.V. Thanking fate: Memoirs of a dissident in Nizhny Novgorod in the early 1970sPart One    Part Two   Part Three

Photo: Vitaly Pomazov, 1968 

Translated by Helen Corbett 

Human Rights Day, 10 December 2014

posted 14 Dec 2014, 12:25 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Dec 2014, 12:39 ]

10 December 2014

Source: HRO.org (info)
Human Rights Day has been celebrated, as proposed by the UN General Assembly (Resolution No 423 (V)), every year on 10 December since 1950. On this day in 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The General Assembly Resolution suggests all states should present an annual report on how they celebrated Human Rights Day.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a document recommended for all UN state-members, adopted at the 3rd session of the UN General Assembly by Resolution 217 A (III) (“International Covenant on Human Rights”) on 10 December 1948. The Declaration is the first global definition of the rights which all people have. The document consists of 30 chapters and is a part of the International Bill on Human Rights, along with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and two Optional Protocols.

In the USSR, from 1977 right defenders held a so-called “Rally of Silence” on Human Rights Day in Pushkin Square in Moscow.

In modern Russia the day is celebrated by various official and non-official events. For example, in 2001 the Andrei Sakharov Prize for Journalism as a Deed was established. The Prize is awarded to Russian journalists and the presentation is made each year on Human Rights Day, 10 December. Since 2009, on the eve of Human Rights Day (9 December), the Moscow Helsinki Group presents a series of awards for human rights work.

On 10 December 2009 representatives of the democratic movement again held a Rally of Silence on Pushkin Square. They decided to revive the tradition of Soviet dissidents, believing that human rights are once again being grossly violated throughout the country.

In the picture: Maria Sereda, Amnesty International, Moscow (the sign says: Don’t give up! Defend your freedom!)

Translated by Olga Cable

New bill on "foreign agents" proposes cosmetic changes

posted 14 Dec 2014, 11:34 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Dec 2014, 11:37 ]

8 December 2014

Source: HRO.org (info
The Ministry of Justice is proposing to amend the law on "foreign agents" to enable NGOs to be removed the register of "foreign agents" if they make an application to do so and undergo an unscheduled inspection. For a year afterwards, these NGOs must not receive support from abroad for their projects or "engage in political activity".

The Russian President asked the Ministry of Justice to draw up legislative proposals for removing NGOs from the register of NGOs which fulfil the functions of a "foreign agent".

In a statement, the Ministry of Justice said: "The proposal is that NGOs that wish to be excluded from the register of NGOs which fulfil the functions of a foreign agent must make an application to do so".

In order for an NGO to be removed from the register, the Ministry of Justice will have to carry out an unscheduled inspection and make a decision within three months of receiving the NGO's application. Zaks.ru, citing RIA Novosti, reports that the Ministry of Justice considers that the legal grounds for such inspections will have to be set out in the “Federal Law on NGOs”.

In November 2012, the law obliged political NGOs financed from abroad to register as foreign agents. In June 2013 the Ministry of Justice gained the right to label NGOs as foreign agents at its own discretion and thereafter added a series of organisations onto the “foreign agent“ register.

Prior to the announcement about a possible revision to the law, the Soldiers' Mothers organization of Petersburg, which is on the Ministry of Justice's list of foreign agents, had asked the ministry to take it off the list, on the grounds that there are no foreign citizens among the founders of the organisation, which is funded by a presidential grant, and that it was therefore put on the list illegally. The Ministry of Justice refused the NGO's request on the grounds that, at present, the legislation does not provide for the removal of an NGO from the list of "foreign agents".

According to Oleg Orlov, member of the board of the Memorial Society, "The Ministry of Justice's draft bill only contains cosmetic changes. Essentially, nothing will change. We insist that NGOs have the right to receive funding from all possible legal sources, and that this behaviour on the part of officials is intended to oppress human rights activists". Oleg Orlov stressed that activists will continue to assert their position in the courts, Kommersant newspaper reports.

The head of the commission of the Presidential Human Rights Council, Elena Topoleva-Soldunova, has suggested completely suspending the law on so-called "foreign agents".

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Human Rights Council proposes suspending “foreign agent” law

posted 14 Dec 2014, 11:22 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Dec 2014, 11:27 ]

5 December 2014

Source: HRO.org (info
The head of a commission of the presidential Human Rights Council, Elena Topoleva-Soldunova, has proposed that the law regarding "foreign agents" be suspended, Novaya gazeta has reported citing the TASS news agency.

Prior to this, the minister of justice, Aleksandr Konovalov, had stated that it was not possible to devise a definition of what constitutes an NGO's "political activity".

"This term has obviously given rise to legal uncertainty, so the law about ‘foreign agent’ NGOs should be either annulled or suspended", commented Elena Topoleva, head of a commission of the Presidential Human Rights Council, according to TASS news agency.

In the summer of 2012, a law was passed assigning "foreign agent" status to Russian NGOs which engage in "political activity" and receive donations from abroad in order to carry out their work.

To comply with the law, NGOs with "foreign agent" status must put their name on the Ministry of Justice's register of NGOs which "carry out the functions of a foreign agent". They must also put the label ‘foreign agent’ on all their publications and websites, and submit very frequent reports to the Ministry of Justice, and so on and so forth.

Experts, human rights activists and lawyers stress that both the law and the way it is being enforced in practice are clearly discriminatory, besides being evidently motivated by xenophobia.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Secretary General of Council of Europe visits Memorial

posted 4 Dec 2014, 13:17 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 Dec 2014, 13:25 ]

28 November 2014

Source: HRO.org (info
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, visited the Moscow office of the International Memorial society while he was in Moscow. As reported by Radio Svoboda, Jagland said that it was a "visit of support and solidarity". The head of the Council of Europe is concerned that the organisation may be closed as a result of the Ministry of Justice's court action, which the Supreme Court of Russia will continue hearing on 17th December. Jagland said that he came to Moscow in the hope that "the problem can be resolved".

During his meeting with board members of the organisation, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe said Memorial was an outstanding organisation and stressed that repressive laws should never hamper the work of non-governmental organisations. 
*

Report by Anton Dubin

Thorbjørn Jagland's meeting with members of the board of the International Memorial Society was preceded by a tour of the offices of Memorial, given by Arseny Roginsky, chair of the board. He showed the Norwegian guest the Memorial museum and archives: moveable racks with vast quantities of unique documents, including, for example, Boris Sveshnikov's prison camp drawings and miniatures by Mikhail Sokolov (works of genius, according to Roginsky), and a group photo with some faces blanked out (so that if the photograph was found during a search it would be impossible to prove that the owner of the photo was in contact with "enemies of the people").

Mr Jagland also saw the "Right to correspondence" exhibition, due to open on 1st December. The exhibition is about a little known aspect of the repressive system of the Gulag, the deliberate control over political prisoners’ communications. Jagland was told the history behind some of the exhibits.

During the meeting with the board of International Memorial, he stressed that Memorial is an "outstanding organisation", that it is "very important for any country to live with its history" ("you help Russia to do this"), that "Memorial's activities are highly regarded in Europe and the world", and that repressive laws should never hamper the work of non-governmental organisations anywhere.

"When I found out that Memorial might be closed down [ie. Russian Memorial (ed.)], I telephoned the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation immediately and said that we must jointly strive to avoid this happening", said Jagland. In his words, a negative evolution of the situation can be avoided, " and Memorial can continue its work": "Today I will raise this issue at a meeting at the Ministry of Justice".

Arseny Roginsky thanked Thorbjørn Jagland for his support and reminded him that the Ministry of Justice objects to Russian Memorial on administrative grounds and, at the same time, one of the key Memorial organisations (the Memorial Human Rights Centre) was labelled a "foreign agent" in July 2014.

Aleksandr Cherkasov, chair of Memorial Human Rights Centre, took up the same subject: prosecutors addressed their objections to the Human Rights Centre on 30th April 2013 on the 45th anniversary of the first issue of the ‘Chronicle of Current Events’, objecting to the fact that "we maintain lists of political prisoners and monitor politically motivated arrests, and arrests at public events": "In 1968, the ‘Chronicle’ did exactly the same and was persecuted for it. In other words, we are continuing our tradition, and prosecutors are continuing their usual activities".

During the conversation, Arseny Roginsky noted "the complexity of the Russian tradition": "The government has difficulty understanding what society is, what NGOs are and what freedom of association is. I hope that ultimately the Constitution, international law and law in general will be victorious". He summed up the philosophy of Memorial for Thorbjørn Jagland: "The past and the present are one. We study mass violations of human rights - the Stalinist terror — which happened in the past. And when we work on violations of human rights today, we look at today using our understanding of the past".

Roginsky also talked of his conviction that "Russia is part of Europe": "We have a common history, and the work of Memorial continually proves this central thesis. There is no other way for us than the European way. Human rights values are our common values".

Jagland agreed that "Russia is part of Europe": as a member of the Council of Europe, Russia is committed to acting in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. "A very important component of the European understanding of the role of the state is that the state should serve society, not the other way round", added the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

"Russia will change when people here understand that the state is our servant - we are not servants of the state. The aim of Memorial is to explain this to people", Arseny Roginsky replied.

At the end of the meeting Roginsky gave Thorbjørn Jagland a copy of the catalogue of the Memorial Museum and expressed the hope that there would be enough time left for them to look at pictures and archive documents together in detail.

Jagland wrote in the guest book for distinguished visitors and thanked Memorial for the informative visit.

Source: International Memorial Society

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Council of Europe criticizes Russia’s NGO law

posted 4 Dec 2014, 09:25 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 Dec 2014, 09:32 ]

1 December 2014

Source: HRO.org (info
Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, speaking at a meeting with Speaker Sergey Naryshkin at the State Duma, expressed his opinion that the label of "foreign agent" had no place in modern Europe.

Jagland said that he had already met civil society representatives concerned by the law during his visit to Moscow.

"They (the NGOs) are worried that they will be labelled ‘foreign agents’. This is an unwelcome development which is reminiscent of past practices,” said Yagland.

According to Rosbalt, the Secretary General agrees that complete transparency is needed in respect of NGO funding, but he is opposed to the term “foreign agent” being imposed on organisations which receive funding from abroad.

Jagland expressed his concern that the law could lead to organisations such as the Moscow School of Political Studies, which is funded by the Council of Europe, being declared “foreign agents”.

RBK reports that the journalist did not hear Naryshkin’s response to Jagland as the public part of the meeting ended at that point.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

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