Posts Tagged ‘controversial restrictions’

In Russia first criminal case under “undesirable organizations” law

January 22, 2019

he Russian authorities have for the first time used the repressive “undesirable organizations” law to open a criminal case against human rights defender Anastasia Shevchenko, exposing her to the risk of a six-year prison term. Until now, violations of this law were punished under administrative law.

This morning Anastasia Shevchenko, a Coordinator with the Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia) movement, was charged with “repeated participation in the activities of an undesirable organization.”  “In recent years, the Russian authorities have progressively suffocated and criminalized dissent. The Open Russia movement has become the latest victim of this crackdown,” said Marie Struthers, Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at AI.

It’s clear that the authorities are expanding their toolkit for imprisoning human rights defenders and activists, so if applied broadly this practice will have far-reaching implications for the right to freedom of expression.”In recent days, police have opened criminal investigations, conducted searches and arrests of Open Russia’s activists across the country. [see also my older post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/21/russia-human-rights-ngos-likely-to-become-officially-undesirable/]

Background:  On 17 January, Open Russia Coordinator in Pskov Liya Milushkina and her husband Artyom Milushkin were arrested and accused of selling drugs, an offense punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Artyom, who is also a political activist, previously reported that police officers threatened to plant drugs on him during his recent arrest in November. Amnesty International has interviewed several associates of the Milushkins all of whom are adamant that the criminal case against the couple is fabricated. Amnesty International has documented a number of cases in which activists in Russia have been prosecuted on trumped-up drug charges, including human rights defender Oyub Titiev who is currently standing trial in Chechnya. On 18 January, police filed a case against Open Russia Coordinator in Krasnodar Yana Antonova for posting a video about the shortage of schools in the region. She was charged with “participation in the activities of an undesirable organization”, an administrative offence when “committed” for the first time.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/18/fidh-collected-russias-50-anti-democracy-laws/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/01/russia-the-first-criminal-case-under-the-undesirable-organizations-law-marks-a-new-level-of-repression/

Today PACE must adopt resolutions on human rights defenders and NGO restrictions

January 28, 2016

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) must address the shrinking space for civil society. It must adopt resolutions to strengthen the protection and role of human rights defenders, and to prevent restrictions on NGO activities, in an increasingly worrying environment in many Council of Europe countries, especially Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation. These were the conclusions of discussions at the NGO side event on 27 January 2016 in Strasbourg. HRHN - network logo

I cannot accept that so many remain in prison and Europe doesn’t react strongly… The reason Azerbaijan continues the crackdown is that nobody, including the Council of Europe, takes any serious action,” stated Emin Huseynov, Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (IRFS), speaking at an event organised by a group of NGOs at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, sponsored by MPs Mailis Reps (Estonia) and Yves Cruchten (Luxembourg).

Since 2012, the situation has deteriorated in Russia… The activities of HRDs and NGOs are now considered political activities, and even if they do not receive foreign support they end up on the list of foreign agents and are constantly victims of harassment. It would be great to see a Council of Europe reaction on this,” commented Konstantin Baranov, International Youth Human Rights Movement, also speaking at the event.

The Assembly now has an opportunity to act, by adopting two draft resolutions today, 28 January 2016. Together, these resolutions address reprisals against human rights defenders cooperating with the Council of Europe and impunity for actors targeting civil society, and call for measures to end restrictions on NGOs and the misuse of restrictive legislation to criminalise the work of human rights defenders. See my earlier post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/council-of-europe-draft-resolution-addresses-reprisals-with-priority/

Rapporteur Mailis Reps, author of the draft resolution Strengthening the Protection and Role of Human Rights Defenders, at the event stated: “Too many human rights defenders are paying a high price for their work and their fate should receive much greater attention from the Council of Europe’s institutions and member states.”

Rapporteur Yves Cruchten, author of the draft resolution Preventing Inappropriate Restrictions on NGO Activities, further stated: “When a member of a parliament decides to join PACE, this MP makes a pledge to human rights. We need to speak up and not let our governments make deals that disregard human rights.” 

Source: PACE Must Act: Protect human rights defenders, prevent NGO restrictions – Human Rights House Network

http://website-pace.net/en_GB/web/apce/plenary-session

Ukraine follows Russia’s example again: human rights defenders labeled as “foreign agents”

January 21, 2014

The ‘eastern’ pull of Ukraine is now also reflected in its repressive legislation on human rights defenders. On January 16, 2014, Ukrainian Parliament unexpectedly and hurriedly adopted a comprehensive restrictive bill, which punishes protests, criminalises libel, restricts civic organisations receiving foreign funding and labels them as “foreign agents”. The bill, entitled “On Amendments to the Law on Judicial System and Status of Judges and Procedural Laws on Additional Measures for Protecting Citizens’ safety”, was introduced on January 14, 2014 and voted only two days after, with no legal assessment, no parliamentary hearings, and no consultation. The text was swiftly adopted by show of hands, backed by 235 out of 450 parliamentarians, before it was immediately signed it into law by the President. According to the bill, all civic organisations receiving funds from foreign sources must include in their title the term “foreign agents”, register as such, submit monthly reports regarding the organisations, publish quarterly reports on their activities in the official media and may not benefit from a tax-exempt status. The bill specifies that all organisations taking part in political actions, defined as actions aimed at influencing decision-making by state bodies, a change in the state policy which those bodies have defined as well as forming public opinion for those purposes, are deemed civic organisations. Organisations failing to register may be closed by court decision.

There were quite a few other restrictions passed in the same bill as can be seen from the Open Letter of 20 January 2014 sent to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and Parliamentary Speaker Volodym, signed by Karim Lahidji, FIDH President, and Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General:

Ukraine: Call to repeal highly restrictive law on so-called “foreign agents”, libel and extremism, which blatantly violates Ukraines international obligations / January 20, 2014 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Russian court declares ADC Memorial formally as “foreign agent” – others to follow

December 16, 2013

 

On December 12, 2013, the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial was officially declared a “foreign agent” by the Leninsky District Court of St Petersburg, and was ordered to register as such with the Ministry of Justice, according to  information received by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Today, the court unexpectedly established that all the activities of ADC “Memorial” fall under the definition of “performing the functions of a foreign agent”. Accordingly, for the first time, a court has directly labelled a human rights NGO a “foreign agent”, and did not just order it to register as such. This decision could pave the way to increased harassment of all human rights organisations in the Russian Federation. Read the rest of this entry »

HRW urges Fiji to revise draft constitution

September 4, 2013

The Business Standard reports on 4 September that Human Rights Watch urged the Fiji government to amend articles that undermine human rights in a draft constitution scheduled to be promulgated Friday. Under the current draft, significant restrictions in articles 17, 18 and 19 would allow the government to interfere with key rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association. The draft constitution sets out broad limitations to these rights “in the interests of national security, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, or the orderly conduct of elections”. In January, the government scrapped a draft of the constitution developed by a committee headed by a noted constitutional and human rights lawyer, Yash Ghai, and handed duties to draw up the constitution to government legal officers in the attorney generals chambers.”This draft constitution represents a major step backwards for human rights from the constitution thrown out by Fiji’s military in April 2009,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.”Unless the government revises this draft constitution to guarantee freedom of association, assembly and expression, its hard to see how Fiji could become a rights-respecting democracy.” Since Commodore Frank Bainimarama took power in a military coup 5 December 2006, his government has consistently attacked critics, including arbitrarily detaining them, and instituted heavy censorship. The military and police have indiscriminately arrested and detained human rights defenders, journalists and labour leaders.

via Fiji urged to revise draft constitution | Business Standard.

 

Egyptian NGO bill with big shortcomings in crucial last phase

May 31, 2013

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi
(Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi)

In the context of restrictive legislation to hinder the work of human rights defenders, the Egyptian case deserves urgent attention now. The law on NGOs is being rewritten in this important country and others in the region may follow the example. Despite recent amendments Read the rest of this entry »