Posts Tagged ‘Memorial’

Russian human rights defender Andrei Mironov meets his death in Ukraine

May 27, 2014
Picture taken May 25 shows the domestic and foreign passports of Russian rights defender Andrei Mironov, who was reportedly killed with Italian journalist, Andrea Rocchelli, near the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk. AFP

(Picture taken May 25 shows the domestic and foreign passports of Russian rights defender Andrei Mironov, reportedly killed near Ukrainian town of Slavyansk. AFP POOL-/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

“It’s hard for me to believe that Andrei Mironov is dead” writes  Olivia Ward, Foreign Affairs Reporter of the Toronto Star on 25 May 2014. Indeed a terrible shock. I met him for the first time in 2004 when he accompanied the MEA Laureate Lida Yusupova of Memorial to the ceremony in Geneva. According to an Agence France- Presse report from Slavyansk, Ukraine, the veteran Russian human rights defender and sometime war zone fixer, used up the last of his nine lives on Sunday. He was acting as a translator for Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli, who was also killed. According to a French photographer who escaped with leg wounds, the two men were hit by shrapnel from mortar shells as government troops and pro-Russian separatists continued to battle for territory in eastern Ukraine.

Olivia Ward describes Andrei as a “slight, self-effacing man of 60, with a puckish sense of humour, he belied his frail appearance with an iron will to do good in the world. In 1986, that got him a year in a Soviet labour camp as an “anti Soviet dissident” – a time he used to channel his talent for languages, including French and Italian. Nor did he let up on government abuses after the fall of the Soviet Union. As a human rights campaigner linked with the venerable rights organization Memorial , he snapped at the heels of Boris Yeltsin’s and Vladimir Putin’s governments, especially during the two bloody wars when Russian troops battled Chechen separatist fighters…..“You don’t understand,” he rasped. “I have to go and witness what is happening. If I don’t, who will?

Andrei dodged so many bullets in his decades of battling impunity that it is hard to believe he is gone. It would be harder still if the truth were buried along with him” concludes Olivia Ward, who covered the former Soviet Union as bureau chief and correspondent from 1992 to 2002. For the full story see:  Death in Ukraine: bitter end for Russian human rights hero | Toronto Star.

 

 

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 »

Human rights defenders in Russia should be proud to be ‘Foreign Agents’

November 22, 2013

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This blog has on several occasions made mention of the dangerous developments in Russia where the ‘foreign agents’ law is being used to delegitimize human rights defenders. Front Line just came with an update showing that the legal aspect of this issue (is the law legally permissible under the Russian Constitution or the European Convention Human Rights?) is coming under scrutiny. On 18 November 2013, the Zamoskvoretsky District Court in Moscow heard the cases of 3 NGOs – Human Rights Centre ‘Memorial’, GOLOS, and the Public Verdict Foundation – which challenge the ‘Foreign Agents’ law. Following the presentation of their arguments, the court accepted their request to postpone the hearings until 4 February 2014. Significant, as it was taken in order to await for the rulings of the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) or the Russian Constitutional Court, whichever comes first:

  • On 6 February 2013, eleven Russian NGOs lodged a complaint with the ECtHR alleging that the ‘Foreign Agents’ law violates four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, namely Article 10 (Freedom of Expression), Article 11 (Freedom of Association and Assembly), Article 14 (Prohibition of Discrimination), and Article 18 (Limitations on Rights).
  •  On 13 August 2013, Kostroma Centre for Civic Initiatives Support lodged a complaint with the Russian Constitutional Court arguing that the ‘Foreign Agent’ law violates five articles of the Russian Constitution, namely Article 19 (Equality before the law), Article 29 (Freedom of ideas and speech), Article 30 (Right of Association), Article 32 (Right to participate in managing state affairs), and Article 51 (right not to give incriminating evidence against oneself).
  •  On 30 August 2013, the Russian Human Rights Ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, also lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court against certain provisions of the ‘Foreign Agents’ law. In particular, the Ombudsman argued that the definition of terms ‘foreign agent’ and ‘political activities’, as provided by the law, are politically and legally incorrect.

Still, one wonders whether the battle should not be fought also in the public domain as the ‘foreign agent campaign’ by the authorities is clearly not about financial control (there is enough of that already to satisfy any suspicious prosecutor) or political control (in which case registration as simple lobbyist would suffice) but about  ‘framing’ the human rights defenders as traitors, unpatriotic people. The requirement to identify oneself as foreign agent on every paper or poster is a clear indication of what the Government wants to achieve. This kind of action by governments (not just Russia) is a deliberate (mis)information effort that should be fought in the same arena of public perception. Admittedly far from easy and costly but there are things that COULD be done, I think:

  • bumper stickers and T-shirts with “I am a foreign agent” (in Russian of course, but supporters abroad could have it in English)
  • well-known Russian celebrities could make statements such as:  “IF …is a foreign agent ,in that case I am also one!”
  • production of video clips that poke fun at the idea, etc

As a concrete example: on 21 November 2013, a year after the law came into effect, Amnesty International Norway, LLH (the Norwegian LGBT Organisation) and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee called themselves for one day foreign agents in solidarity with Russian organisations who struggle to keep their work going (see also in Norwegian: http://www.amnesty.no/agent). Of course, people on the ground know best what will work, but I think some form of ‘counter-defamation’ should be tried. It would benefit Russia and could de-motivate the authorities in other countries watching what happens in Russia.

 

Civil proceedings against ‘Memorial’ under Russia’s Foreign Agents Law continue

November 17, 2013

On 11 November the Prosecutor’s Office brought a civil lawsuit against Memorial before the Leninsky District Court of St Petersburg after administrative charges against the same organisation ‘ for failing to register as a ‘foreign agent were dismissed by the same court. The Prosecutor’s Office initiated the civil suit on the basis that its failure to register as a ‘foreign agent’ would violate the interests ‘of an undefined group of persons’. Frontline Defenders follows this and other cases in which the ‘foreign agent’ harassment of NGOs in Russia continues. The details of the case are illuminating, including the involvement of a preposterous ‘expert“: Read the rest of this entry »

Russia: Unprecedented level of harassment against Memorial as “foreign agent”

October 3, 2013

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), reports on 2 October 2013 on the ongoing judicial proceedings against the Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” (ADC Memorial), which has now become the first NGO in Russia facing both administrative and civil proceedings for the same “offence” on the basis of the law on so-called “foreign agents”.  Read the rest of this entry »

Phil Lynch of ISHR expects UN Human Rights Council to enhance protection of HRDs

August 9, 2013

In a piece published in the Alaska Dispatch of 8 August 2013, Phil Lynch, the Director of the Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights, contemplates what the next session of the UN Human Rights Council could do to improve the fate of HRDs.ISHR-logo-colour-high Read the rest of this entry »

Russia pursues its policy of labeling human rights defenders as ‘foreign agents’

April 26, 2013

In spite of protests by many NGOs and Governments around the world (including earlier posts in this blog), Russia seems bent on pursuing its idea of requiring all organisations which receive foreign funding and are engaged in political activity to register as ‘foreign agents’ [‘Foreign Agents’ Law of 21 November 2012] . After the passing of the law, GOLOS, Memorial and the Joint Mobile Group (just made the Final Nominee of the MEA 2013) and many other organisations declared that out of principle they would not register as ‘foreign agent’.

Yesterday, 25 April 2013, the Russian election watchdog GOLOS became the first NGO to be fined. The decision was taken by the Presnensky Court of Moscow. GOLOS is a Russian non-profit organisation which was founded in 2000 for the protection of voters’ rights and the development of civil society.  The court found that GOLOS had been receiving foreign funding, thereby implying that it considered the 2012 Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award  as such, despite testimony given by a representative of Norwegian Helsinki Committee who confirmed that GOLOS actually refused to receive the 7700$. The court also found that the advocacy work of GOLOS aimed at the introduction of amendments to the Electoral Code constitute ‘political activity’. The law does not define political activity, the precise definition of which depends on state officials’ interpretation.  The court ruled that GOLOS and its executive director Lilya Shibanova failed to comply with the obligation to register as a ‘foreign agent’ and fined them 300,000 roubles (approximately €7500) and 100,000 roubles (approximately €2500) respectively. They intend to appeal the decision.

And on 24 April Front Line Defenders reported that the Russian NGO ‘Man and the Law’ has been warned under the same Foreign Agents Law. Man and the Law, which is based in the Mari-El Republic in Russia, received a warning from the local Prosecutor’s Office re ‘political activity’, evidence for which has allegedly been found in their Charter and on their website.  Man and the Law is a local non-governmental organisation which monitors local officials’ and civil servants’ compliance with human rights standards. The NGO also works on prisoners’ rights and monitors detention facilities and organises seminars and workshops for local officials, especially from the Federal Penitentiary Service. The warning also states that the latest inspection of the organisation revealed foreign sources of funding, in which case Man and the Law should have registered as a foreign agent.Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped

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Sapiyat Magomedova, HRD from Dagestan, receives Swedish award

October 30, 2012

The Moscow Times reports today that the Swedish government has awarded a Russian human rights lawyer from Dagestan with the Per Anger Prize for defending victims of human rights violations. Memorial, a Moscow-based human rights center, said in comments carried by Interfax that Magomedova had defended victims of torture, kidnappings, extrajudicial killings and sex-based violence in Dagestan.

Sapiyat Magomedova was nominated by Swedish NGO Civil Rights Defenders for possessing “the best qualities that define a true human rights defender,” according to a statementposted on the NGO’s website.

The 33 year-old lawyer is known for taking up difficult cases that others have rejected for security reasons. Magomedova was herself a victim of violence in 2010, when she was brutally beaten at a local police station in the city of Khasavyurt.

Established in 2004, the Per Anger Prize supports human rights and democracy initiatives and is named after Swedish diplomat Per Anger, who helped rescue Hungarian Jews during World War II.

Sweden Honors Russian Rights Lawyer | News | The Moscow Times.