Posts Tagged ‘ADC Memorial’

Russia before the European Court for limiting NGOs communication with international bodies

August 8, 2017

In an intervention to the European Court of Human Rights in a case against Russia, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) has called on the Court to explicitly rule that that the rights to freedom of expression and association include the right to unhindered access and communication with international human rights bodies.

A law in Russia requires that an NGO receiving foreign funding and engaging in ‘political activity’ register as a ‘foreign agent‘. ‘Foreign agents’ not only have to comply with cumbersome financial and reporting requirements, but the negative stigma associated with this label have been described as debilitating. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/16/russian-court-declares-adc-memorial-formally-as-foreign-agent-others-to-follow/]

After submitting a report to the UN Committee Against Torture, Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) Memorial – an NGO at that time operating in Russia – was required to register as a foreign agent on the basis that submitting the report constituted ‘political activity’. Following this, ADC Memorial brought a case against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights alleging that the administrative consequences associated with being labeled a foreign agent violate the rights to freedom of expression and association protected by the European Convention of Human Rights. ‘This case raises issues regarding meaningful protection the European Convention on Human Rights provides individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression and association with international human rights bodies and mechanisms’, says ISHR’s Legal Counsel Tess McEvoy. ‘It also demonstrates a serious and systematic human rights problem of reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating with the UN.’

ISHR submitted a third party intervention in the case of ADC Memorial. ‘The intervention is designed to assist the Court by providing an extended analysis of the scope of the rights to freedom of expression and association in international law to inform the interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights’, McEvoy states. The analysis concluded that accessing and communicating with the UN is protected under the rights to freedom of expression and association enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, and that reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating with the UN would violate those rights. ‘It is vital that human rights defenders have the ability to communicate, publish and disseminate information to international human rights institutions to effectively promote and protect human rights. We call on the European Court to ensure that right is protected’.

For more information contact: Tess McEvoy, t.mcevoy@ishr.ch.

Source: Reprisals | ISHR calls on European Court to protect the right to communicate with international bodies | ISHR

Russian Foreign Agents Law starts to affect monitoring in detention centers

February 4, 2016

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

reports that on 26 January 2016, the Russian Duma (lower chamber of Parliament) adopted at first reading amendments to the law regulating the work of Public Monitoring Commissions (PMCs). There is serious concern that if passed, the draft  amendments will put an end to the independent and effective monitoring of places of detention by excluding the many human rights defenders labeled as foreign agents.  Read the rest of this entry »

Profile of Stephania Koulaeva, human rights defender in Russia

January 8, 2016

In December 2015 the ISHR published this profile of Russian human rights defender Stephania Koulaeva 

Stephania Koulaeva, a historian by education, explains the ever-expanding scope of her human rights work. Her interest was drawn to the memorial movement in Russia: ‘at first from a historical perspective, then from a human rights perspective.’ As a student, Stephania was involved in anti-fascist and anti-racist groups, primarily focused on the rights of the Roma minority, the most visible minority in Russia at the time. After new waves of migration began from Central Asia in the late nineties, Stephania expanded her work to issues surrounding migration. This then broadened further to include women’s rights, LGBTI rights, and she eventually became involved in the protection of human rights defenders. Her organisation, Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial (ADC Memorial) is the only organisation in Russia that combats discrimination on such a wide range of issues.

Unfortunately, shrinking space for civil society has consistently been a serious threat within Russia. ‘In the 1990s and early 2000s, neo-nazis attacked and occasionally murdered human rights defenders working on discrimination issues. At that time that was the primary danger; the main danger we face now is political oppression by the Government.’

Over the past few years – particularly since Vladimir Putin’s 2012 return to presidency – the Russian Government has cracked down on NGOs, often by accusing them of being ‘foreign agents’ due to their ‘political activity’. ADC Memorial was forced to choose between officially registering as a ‘foreign agent’ or closing down for submitting a report to the UN Committee against Torture in the lead up to Russia’s 2012 review by that body. As the label of ‘foreign agent’ would greatly restrict the work ADC Memorial was able to carry out, it made the difficult decision of closing the organisation down in 2014. Since then, ADC Memorial has been operating without official Russian registration.

The continued operation of ADC Memorial does not indicate an alleviation in the Government’s harsh approach to civil society, and in November of this year, prominent NGO Memorial Human Rights Centre was targeted in the same manner: ‘They received a letter from the prosecutor stating that they had violated the Constitution of the Russian Federation for fulfilling their work.’ Memorial Human Rights Centre had previously ‘criticised Russian aggression in the Ukraine’ and ‘disagreed with the arrest of certain civil activists’. It is most likely being threatened due to this ‘political action’. ‘This is a very dangerous step for the Government to take. They are now criminalising human rights activity; the situation is rapidly getting worse.’

Stephania has a positive outlook on her previous interactions with the UN, acknowledging that the UN has done their utmost to stop the criminalisation of human rights defenders. ‘We’re very grateful for all the support that we’ve received from various treaty body committees that we’ve worked with; they’ve all recognised the work of civil society and given meaningful recommendations in the framework of their mandate.’ However, the political reality of the UN’s influence is not always as effective. ‘It’s very difficult to oppose Russian politics, even at the level of the United Nations.’ Stephania is now looking outward to bring domestic change to Russia, as anti-discrimination laws now seem ‘unlikely – although pressure on the Government will continue.’ She hopes to find some success in international courts, citing potentially useful precedents at the European Court of Human Rights in cases regarding migrants and stateless people.

‘We can’t simply stay within our borders – it’s impossible to tackle issues solely within Russia without also looking at related issues in neighbouring countries.’

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/12-human-rights-defenders-who-are-not-on-the-slopes-of-sochi/

Source: Defender profile: Stephania Koulaeva working in Russia | ISHRISHR-logo-colour-high

Panel on Human rights defenders and the rule of law – 8 June Geneva

May 29, 2015

The International Service for Human Rights and United Kingdom Mission in Geneva are organising a panel discussion on “Human rights defenders and the rule of law” on Monday, 8 June 2015, 16.30-18.00 (followed by a reception) at the Graduate Institute, Maison de la Paix (Auditorium 2), Genève, Switzerland.

This event will discuss the importance of the rule of law in safeguarding the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly for human rights defenders and activists, and the vital role of human rights defenders and international mechanisms in establishing, maintaining and promoting the rule of law. It will also explore the notion that respect for the rule of law requires respect for the rule of international law and national law that is in conformity with international law.

Panelists:

  • Olga Abramenko, Director, ADC Memorial (Russia)
  • Ruki Fernando, Human Rights Advisor, INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre (Sri Lanka)
  • Mona Rishmawi, Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Phil Lynch, Director, International Service for Human Rights

Moderator: Julian Braithwaite, UK Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva

If you want to attend please contact before 3 June: anne.jahren@fco.gov.uk

For those unable to attend, you can follow the event on Twitter through @UKMissionGeneva and @ISHRGlobal.

Human rights defenders and the rule of law: panel discussion on 8 June.

Russia: The Supreme Court rejects a lawsuit filed against “Memorial”

February 9, 2015

On  6 February 2015, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an OMCT-FIDH joint programme, welcomed the decision of 28 January of the Russian Supreme Court to reject the complaint filed by the Ministry of Justice against the Society “Memorial”.

[Since its foundation in the final years of the Soviet Union, the network “Memorial”, consisting in a number of independent NGOs under the same society, is known for exposing Soviet-era repression, commemorating victims of violations and monitoring the current human rights situation in the Russian Federation and other post-Soviet countries.]

The complaint filed by the Justice Ministry, was a clear attempt to harass and discredit the Society “Memorial”, undermine its tremendous human rights work and expeditiously lead to its closure. It followed years of harassment, in the form of defamation through slandering media campaigns and acts of vandalism targeting the group’s headquarters in Moscow.Russian civil society organisations are facing a deep and systematic clampdownsaid OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.OMCT-LOGO

[Human Rights Center “Memorial” is currently fighting a separate battle against an official move to label it a “foreign agent” under the controversial law targeting NGOs that receive foreign funding. Moreover, under a newly proposed piece of legislation, currently debated in the State Duma of the Russian Federation, foreign organisations would face being labelled as “undesirable” and closure and local NGOs engaged in cooperation with such bodies would face criminal charges.]

While the decision of the Supreme Court dismissing the complaint against the Society “Memorial” should be welcomed, we remain deeply concerned by the constant threats to human rights defenders in the Russian Federation in the context of an ever increasing repressive legal framework and frequent attacks targeting human rights defenders”, said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

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The Observatory recalls in this context the recent brutal attack on lawyer Mourad Magomedov, who works with the Human Rights Centre Memorial in Daghestan, by five unknown men in Makhachkala, Dagestan.

Russian Federation: The Supreme Court rejects the lawsuit filed against the renowned Historical, Educational, Human Rights and Charitable Society “Memorial” (Society “Memorial”) / February 6, 2015 / Statements / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Russia’s Human Rights Defenders continue the struggle against foreign agents law and other repression

September 11, 2014

I have posted extensively on the ‘foreign agents” law in Russia (and a few other countries that got inspired by this bad example) [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/foreign-agent/] and the article below in the Moscow Times is an excellent piece that sums up the current repression AND the resilience of the human rights defenders. Election-monitoring watchdog Golos won a rare victory among Russian NGOs on Tuesday 9 September when a Moscow court ruled it should not after all be labeled a “foreign agent.” But rights activists warn that the battle against the “foreign agents” label is only the tip of the iceberg in a far broader pressure campaign being waged by the authorities. Read the rest of this entry »

Let Ukraine not distract from ongoing repression of human rights defenders in Russia

May 18, 2014

In an excellent piece written for CNN, Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, on 15 May gives an overview of the different measures that threaten human rights defenders in Russia. While attention is on Ukraine,  a vicious crackdown on civil society in Russia itself also escalated with every week brings a new pernicious law or legislative proposal:HRW_logo

  • The authorities have blocked or essentially took editorial control over a number of independent news portals and are pushing new laws to stifle freedom of expression.
  • A week ago, President Vladimir Putin signed a law requiring Russian bloggers with significant followings to register with the authorities and comply with media regulations.
  • The same law requires blogging services and social networks to store user activity for six months.
  • Another legislative proposal would introduce administrative and criminal offenses for editors who publish “false anti-Russian” information or offer media support to “anti-Russian extremist and separatist forces.”
  • Another new draft law introduces a ban on publishing negative information about the Russian government and military.
  • Also, amendments presently under review by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, would enable the authorities to throw people behind bars for up to five years for repeated participation in unauthorized public protests.

At the same time the infamous Russian law “on foreign agents”, Read the rest of this entry »

Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders breach obligations as Human Rights Council member

April 29, 2014

In a post dated 13 March 2014, I suggested the possibility of suspending the membership of countries in the Human Rights Council in case of serious reprisals against human rights defenders who coöperate with the UN. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/].  The backdrop to this admittedly far-reaching proposal Read the rest of this entry »

Russia: “foreign agent” law considered constitutional and upheld against Memorial

April 10, 2014

 

In a hearing observed on 8 April by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT joint programme), the Saint Petersburg City Court upheld that the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial”, a prominent Russian NGO was performing the functions of a “foreign agent” and had to register as such for its human rights work.

At the end of yesterday’s hearing, which lasted less than an hour, the Observatory mission delegate reported that the judge interrupted ADC “Memorial’s lawyers on several occasions throughout the session, thereby hindering their capacity to develop their arguments and breaching their right to a fair trial and due process, while no one objection or remark was voiced when the prosecutor was speaking. Once again, the City Court pointed a report submitted by ADC “Memorial” to the United Nations Committee Against Torture in 2012 as the only evidence of its so-called “political activities Read the rest of this entry »

Kulaeva: The struggle for human rights in Russia won’t end with Sochi

February 15, 2014

(Stefania Kulaeva)

This is a long but excellent to piece to read over the weekend by Stefania Kulaeva of the remarkable NGO Memorial in Russia:

AT THE TIME of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi it is important to remember the human rights abuse of minorities and their defenders in Russia. This is a question for gay people but also for Roma, immigrant workers and members of other ethnic communities. Read the rest of this entry »