Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Alexei Navalny wins EU’s Sakharov Prize

October 21, 2021

Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been awarded with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The award winner was selected by the leaders of the political parties represented in the European Parliament during a plenary session in Strasbourg on Wednesday 20 October 2021. [For more on this and other awards in the name of Sakharov, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/BDE3E41A-8706-42F1-A6C5-ECBBC4CDB449]

Navalny, the most prominent foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was nominated alongside Afghan women, whose plight has taken centre stage after the Taliban takeover, and Jeanine Áñez, a Bolivian politician who became interim president in 2019 after alleged electoral fraud by Evo Morales. Áñez was later arrested for allegedly plotting coup d’état against Morales. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/29/the-nominees-for-the-eus-sakharov-prize-2021/]

The award is supposed to be presented during a European Parliament session in Strasbourg on December 15, although this seems unlikely to happen in the case of Navalny since he’s currently serving a two-and-a-half-year jail sentence for fraud in Russia.

See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/c549c081-1c9f-489a-8ba6-6e2323cb9fcb

He says the charges were politically motivated to halt his challenge to the Kremlin. Russian authorities have opened a new criminal case against Navalny that could see him stay in jail for another decade.

Today’s prize recognises his immense bravery and we reiterate our call for his immediate release,” said David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, in a tweet. The main political parties also celebrated the laureate’s work and recognition, although some

“His unbroken commitment for a democratic Russia is representative of the many activists who are fighting for liberal rights,” wrote David McAllister, a German MEP of the centre-right EPP group and chairman of the parliament’s committee on foreign affairs.

His bravery for freedom of thought and expression show how they are the precondition for democratic politics, human dignity & peace,” said Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, from Renew Europe.

https://www.euronews.com/2021/10/20/alexei-navalny-wins-sakharov-prize-the-eu-s-highest-award-for-human-rights-work

Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for freedom of expression

October 8, 2021

On 8 October 2021 the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace. Ms Ressa and Mr Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia. At the same time, they are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.

Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines. In 2012, she co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, which she still heads. As a journalist and the Rappler’s CEO, Ressa has shown herself to be a fearless defender of freedom of expression. Rappler has focused critical attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign. The number of deaths is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population. Ms Ressa and Rappler have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse. Maria Ressa has received earlier recognition with 5 human rights awards [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/c048da20-ba0f-11ea-a77e-f524f6fc9aaa]

Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov has for decades defended freedom of speech in Russia under increasingly challenging conditions. In 1993, he was one of the founders of the independent newspaper Novaja Gazeta. Since 1995 he has been the newspaper’s editor-in-chief for a total of 24 years. Novaja Gazeta is the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power. The newspaper’s fact-based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media. Since its start-up in 1993, Novaja Gazeta has published critical articles on subjects ranging from corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud and ”troll factories” to the use of Russian military forces both within and outside Russia.

Novaja Gazeta’s opponents have responded with harassment, threats, violence and murder. Since the newspaper’s start, six of its journalists have been killed, including Anna Politkovskaja who wrote revealing articles on the war in Chechnya. Despite the killings and threats, editor-in-chief Muratov has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy. He has consistently defended the right of journalists to write anything they want about whatever they want, as long as they comply with the professional and ethical standards of journalism.

Muratov dedicated his award to six contributors to his Novaya Gazeta newspaper who had been murdered for their work exposing human rights violations and corruption. “Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Stas Markelov, Anastasia Baburova, Natasha Estemirova – these are the people who have today won the Nobel Prize,” Muratov said, reciting the names of slain reporters and activists whose portraits hang in the newspaper’s Moscow headquarters.

Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda. The Norwegian Nobel Committee is convinced that freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public. These rights are crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov is intended to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights.

For more on the Nobel Peace Prize and many other awards on freedom of expression see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/F8EA8555-BF30-4D39-82C6-6D241CC41B74

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2021/press-release/

https://www.reuters.com/world/philippines-journalist-ressa-russian-journalist-muratov-win-2021-nobel-peace-2021-10-08/

2021 Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award

October 4, 2021

The 2021 Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award were announced in Stockholm on Wednesday, 29 September at Kulturhuset, Stockholm. For more in this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/97238E26-A05A-4A7C-8A98-0D267FDDAD59

Marthe Wandou, Cameroon

“For building a model of community-based child protection in the face of terrorist insurgency and gender-based violence in the Lake Chad region of Cameroon.”

Read more

Vladimir Slivyak, Russia

“For his defence of the environment and for helping to ignite grassroots opposition to the coal and nuclear industries in Russia.”

Read more

Freda Huson of the Wet’suwet’en people, Canada

“For her fearless dedication to reclaiming her people’s culture and defending their land against disastrous pipeline projects.”

Read more

Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment, India

“For their innovative legal work empowering communities to protect their resources in the pursuit of environmental democracy in India.”

Read more

For last year’s winners, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/01/four-well-known-human-rights-defenders-are-the-2020-right-livelihood-laureates/

https://rightlivelihood.org/2021-announcement/

European Court of Human Rights calls probe into murder of Natalia Estemirova ineffective

September 1, 2021

Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch wrote on 31 August 2021 “Justice for Murder of Chechen Rights Defender Remains Elusive”

Today, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on the case of Natalia Estemirova, Chechen human rights defender murdered in July 2009. It found that Russia had violated their obligations to protect her right to life by “fail[ing] to investigate effectively [her] abduction and killing.” [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/BA7B3FCE-AFE7-4B72-9156-EA257B3BC205]

Natalia – Natasha to me and many others – was a colleague and very close friend. I last saw her 36 hours before the murder, while staying at her place in Grozny, as I always did when in Chechnya. We’d spent a week interviewing people whose homes police had torched because of their alleged involvement with militants, and whose relatives had been rounded up, disappeared, or killed by security officials.

We said goodbye just past midnight on July 14. When I woke up later that morning, Natasha had already left for an early meeting, so I went to the airport without getting to see her again. The next day, armed men pushed her into a car as she was running to catch a bus to the city center. They drove her into neighboring Ingushetia and shot her near the forest.

In 2011, having lost hope for an effective investigation by Russian authorities, Natasha’s family filed a complaint with the European Court, alleging a violation of her right to life because Russian authorities failed to protect human rights defenders in Chechnya, Chechnya’s leadership repeatedly threatened Natasha, and her abduction was apparently carried out by security officials.

Ten years later, the court ruled today that Russia had failed to investigate but also held that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to conclude that state agents had murdered Natasha.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/15/ngos-remember-10th-anniversary-of-natalia-estemirovas-murder/]

The ECHR noted that Russian authorities promptly opened a probe into Estemirova’s killing and identified a suspect, but emphasized that Moscow’s failure to provide full materials of the case made the court “unable to conclude that the investigation had been carried out thoroughly.” It noted some contradictions in the expert evidence led it to doubt that the investigation had been effective.

The victim’s sister, Svetlana Estemirova, alleged in her appeal that state agents were behind the killing but the Strasbourg-based court ruled that the evidence didn’t support the claim.

The court required Russia to pay 20,000 euros ($23,600) to Estemirova’s sister and urged Russian authorities to track down and punish the perpetrators of her murder.

I had very high hopes and it would be an understatement to say that I’m disappointed,” Natasha’s daughter Lana, who was 15 when she lost her mother, told me today.

The lack of sufficient evidence the court cited is a direct result of Russia’s brazen determination to protect the perpetrators of this outrageous murder. Natasha was killed for fearlessly exposing abuses by Chechen authorities. An effective investigation would leave no doubt about official involvement in her murder.

https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nc/charlotte/ap-top-news/2021/08/31/europe-court-russian-probe-into-activist-murder-ineffective

https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/56609/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/08/31/justice-murder-chechen-rights-defender-remains-elusive

Human right defender Sergei Kovalev died

August 19, 2021

One of Russia’s most famous human rights defenders and former Soviet dissident, Sergei Kovalev, died aged 91 on Monday 9 August 2021 his family said. He won 9 international human rights awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/7B15D0E9-FDB2-4727-B94F-AA261BDB92D9

Kovalev was a biologist who became one of the leading members of the USSR’s pro-democracy movement. He was held for years in Soviet labour camps for his activism. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he became a fierce critic of Moscow’s war in Chechnya and warned against democratic backsliding when President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.

His son Ivan Kovalev said on Facebook that his father died “in his sleep” in the early hours of Monday morning.

Russian rights group Memorial, which Kovalev co-founded, said he was “faithful to the idea of human rights always and in everything — in war and peace, in politics and every day life”.

The leading rights organisation — which has been labelled a “foreign agent” by Russian authorities under a controversial law — said Kovalev had campaigned for human rights since the 1960s. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/04/26/russia-pursues-its-policy-of-labeling-human-rights-defenders-as-foreign-agents/

As a biology student, Kovalev had dreamed of devoting himself exclusively to science.

But he changed his mind after the arrests of dissident writers Yuli Daniel and Andrei Sinyavsky.

“I then understood that it was not possible to only be in science,” he said. “It would have been shameful.”

In 1968, Kovalev was fired from his job at a Moscow university laboratory for joining the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR — considered to be the Soviet Union’s first rights group.

He then grew close to the dissident academic Andrei Sakharov.

Kovalev was part of a group of dissidents writing the “Chronicle of Current Events”, an underground typed bulletin that reported on human rights violations in the USSR.

It reported the arrests and psychiatric internments of the Soviet regime’s opponents and on the situation in its labour camps.

He was arrested in 1974, accused of spreading “anti-Soviet propaganda” and sentenced to seven years in a Gulag camp, followed by three years of house arrest in the icy Siberian region of Kolyma.

He was only allowed to return to Moscow in 1987, thanks to the perestroika reforms launched by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

He went on to help found Memorial, which recorded testimonies of Soviet political repression.

Kovalev was one of the few Soviet dissidents that entered post-USSR politics.

He contributed to writing Russia’s new constitution and was elected a parliamentary deputy twice.

In 1994, he was appointed as chairman of President Boris Yeltsin’s human rights commission in 1994. But he was forced to give up the post two years later for his outspoken criticism of Russia’s brutal intervention in the Chechen conflict.

Kovalev also criticised the political system created by Putin, from the beginning of the former KGB spy’s long rule. “A controlled democracy is being created in our country that seeks to create problems for ‘enemies inside as well as outside’,” he said in 2001, a year after Putin was inaugurated as president.

In 2014, he called on Western countries to “stop Russian expansion” into Ukraine after Moscow annexed Kiev’s Crimea peninsula.

According to Kovalev, the West had made “too many concessions” to Russia.

He also criticised Russian opposition leaders, whom he accused of being pragmatists without strong moral convictions. “I belong to the camp of idealists in politics,” he said.

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210809-soviet-dissident-sergei-kovalev-dies

https://today.rtl.lu/news/world/a/1768110.html

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/08/09/human-rights-watch-mourns-death-sergei-kovalev

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/09/sergei-kovalev-soviet-dissident-who-clashed-with-yeltsin-putin-dies-aged-91

Team 29, prominent legal defense group in Russia, folds under state pressure

July 24, 2021

Tanya Lokot on 21 July 2021 in Global Voices wrote about the closure of Team 29:

For almost seven years, Team 29 (Komanda 29), a group of independent lawyers, attorneys, advocacy experts and journalists, has fought for the rights of Russian activists, political prisoners, and other citizens. On July 19, the group announced it was shutting down its operations in order to protect its staff and clients from possible criminal prosecution. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/13/russian-human-rights-defenders-try-technology-and-gaming-innovations/

The decision to suspend their work comes after Russia’s internet regulator Roskomnadzor blocked Team 29’s website—allegedly, for publishing content produced by Spolecnost Svobody Informace (Freedom of Information Society), a Prague-based non-profit organisation which the Russian state had labelled as an “undesirable organisation” earlier in June 2021.

In a July 18 post on their Telegram channel, Team 29 said the Russian prosecutors had “conflated” the group with the Czech NGO (implying they were the same organisation), a charge that Team 29 denies.

While its lawyers plan to appeal the allegations as “arbitrary and contrived”, the group decided to act swiftly out of an abundance of caution to prevent further criminal charges against its staff, collaborators and supporters.

Under these circumstances, the continued activity of Team 29 poses a direct and obvious threat to the safety of many people, and we cannot ignore this risk. We are making the difficult decision to suspend the activity of Team 29. The attorneys and lawyers will continue to work on their client’s cases in a purely private capacity, unless the defendants refuse their services given the current situation.

We are closing all of the Team 29 media projects and purging the archive: all (!) texts, guides, reports, investigations, legal explainers, stories of political prisoners, court documents, interviews, podcasts, our literary project, our social media posts—the existence of this content online can be construed as “disseminating materials of an undesirable organisation” according to the logic that was used to block our website.

In their Telegram statement, the group also implored its supporters to delete any direct links or reposts of their content, as these could be interpreted as participating in the activity of an “undesirable organisation”. However, mentioning the organisation or sharing opinions about the situation was not illegal, according to the team.

Additionally, Team 29 said it was shutting down its crowdfunding efforts, and would refund subscribers for any funds that were unspent.

The founder of Team 29, Saint Petersburg-based lawyer Ivan Pavlov, is himself currently under investigation and facing felony charges for his work defending Russian journalist Ivan Safronov who is accused of treason. Though he now heads Team 29, Pavlov was previously the inaugural president of the Czech NGO, but hasn’t been involved with the Freedom of Information Society in any official capacity for the past five years.

Though it’s their digital footprint that is facing pressure from the authorities, Team 29 is best known for their legal support and human rights work in Russia. Writing on his own Telegram channel, Ivan Pavlov argued that it was this work on the ground, defending Russian citizens, that got Team 29 in trouble:

Our authorities have done everything to criminalize the activity and even our very name, Team 29. This is a peculiar sort of recognition of the effectiveness of our work and a compliment from our procedural opponents, who once again have been exhibiting unsportsmanlike behavior.

Founded in 2014 by Ivan Pavlov, a lawyer and freedom of information advocate, Team 29 has long been a thorn in Kremlin’s side. After authorities blacklisted Pavlov’s previous organisation, Institute for the Development of the Freedom of Information, as a “foreign agent”, Team 29 was born.

Since then, the group of defense lawyers, attorneys and reporters has taken on some of the most high-profile political cases in the country, including the trial of scientist Viktor Kudryavtsev on treason charges, the court battle around the designation of Alexey Navalny’s political movement and anti-corruption organisation as “extremist,” and the case of Karina Tsurkan, a former energy executive who was sentenced to 15 years in prison on espionage charges in December 2020.

Apart from defending political prisoners and activist groups in court, Team 29 has also published legal advice guides (archival link), spearheaded creative anti-corruption investigations, and even provided legal representation for a whistleblower from the infamous “troll factories” who took their Internet Research Agency to court in a labour dispute.

In an interview to independent Russian news website Meduza, Evgeny Smirnov, a lawyer formerly with Team 29, said that the latest events were likely “a cumulative effect” of all of their high-profile work. He said both he and Pavlov have received threats implying they were “like a bone in the throat not only for investigators, but also other people and state agencies”, so “that is why the decision was made to bomb us with everything they have”.

Despite the closure of their website, the group said its individual group members would continue their ongoing legal defense work as private individuals. According to Ivan Pavlov‘s Telegram post, Team 29 was “never a formal organisation, but rather a collective of like-minded people” and that “as long as there are people, there will be new ideas and new projects”.

Human rights lawyer Semyon Simonov convicted under Russia’s foreign agents law

July 14, 2021

Nadia Murray-Ragg of Victoria U. Wellington Faculty of Law, in New Zealand reports on 12 July 2021 that human rights defender and lawyer Semyon Simonov was convicted under Russia’s foreign agents law in a controversial criminal trial on Sunday.

In December 2016, Russia designated the Southern Human Rights Center (SHRC) as a foreign agent, considering it to be engaging in political activity. The SHRC is an organization providing pro bono legal services on human rights issues in Russia. Given this status, Russian law required the SHRC to register as a foreign agent. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), “foreign agent” connotes being a traitor or spy. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/19/russias-foreign-agents-bill-goes-in-overdrive/]

In February of 2017, Russia fined the SHRC for its failure to register. A Russian court determined Simonov, the President of the SHRC, would be held liable to pay the fine in July of 2019 following the SHRC’s non-payment. Sunday’s ruling imposed a sentence of 250 hours of community service onto Simonov for failure to pay the fine.

Simonov has a long history of championing for human rights. He has documented the human rights violations endured by migrant workers preparing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Simonov’s criminal case has been heavily criticized by the human rights community. HRW’s Russia Researcher, Damelya Aitkhozhina, said “The criminal case against Semyon Simonov has been a sham from start to finish. It’s shocking and abhorrent that the authorities wasted so much time and resources on a case in which the accused did nothing but help people protect their rights.

Similarly, the country’s foreign agents law itself has faced calls for repeal. It has been criticized for quashing dissent and undermining the United Nations’ Declaration on Human Rights Defenders which provides in article one that everyone has the right “to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights”.

The ‘foreign agents’ law is nothing more than a tool of repression,” said HRW. “[I]t should be immediately repealed.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/11/five-individuals-now-listed-as-foreign-agents-in-russia/

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty filed a lawsuit challenging the country’s foreign agents law, citing concerns about the controversial law’s “profound chilling effect”.

https://www.jurist.org/news/2021/07/russia-court-convicts-human-rights-lawyer-under-foreign-agents-law/

Olga Sadovskaya is the 2021 OAK Human Rights Fellow

June 15, 2021

The Oak Institute for Human Rights has named Olga Sadovskaya, a Russian human rights lawyer, as its 2021 Human Rights Fellow. Sadovskaya, vice chair of the Committee Against Torture, the largest and most notable anti-torture organization in Russia, has worked on issues surrounding torture for more than 18 years. In 2017 she was shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Sadovskaya, who hails from the city of Nizhny Novgorod in western Russia, will join the Colby community in August and will engage with students, faculty, staff, and the greater community throughout the fall semester.

Olga Sadovskaya, the 2021 Oak Human Rights Fellow, will join the Colby community for the Fall 2021 semester and raise awareness on issues of torture and incarceration in Russia and around the world.

“The consistent violation of human rights in the carceral system is not only a major global problem but it is an urgent issue in the United States. There is a pressing need to confront and find better solutions to our current prison system,” said Valérie Dionne, director of the Oak Institute for Human Rights and associate professor of French. “We are lucky to have Olga Sadovskaya coming to campus to share her experience combating torture and to explore potential solutions with us that could replace the current carceral system.”

The Committee Against Torture (CAT), established in 2000 by Sadovskaya and three other activists, created accountability for torture previously missing in Russia. Torture was scarcely discussed, and victims were often scared, ashamed to speak out, or believed justice was unattainable. Even with CAT’s work, however, the practice of torture prevails, and investigations into torture are still inadequate. This problem is amplified in the Chechen Republic, where CAT is the sole organization working on cases of torture and abductions. 

Sadovskaya and her dedicated team have won many international awards: the PACE Prize of the Council of Europe, the Martin Ennals Award, the Frontline Defenders Human Rights Award, and the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. Sadovskaya herself has received the Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/D1B800F8-72AE-F593-868A-57F650E2D576 and https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/5E2006EC-8C84-6024-F77C-52D17819BB10

During her early years at the organization, Sadovskaya’s role as an investigator included collecting evidence of torture in prisons, penal colonies, police stations, and psychiatric institutions. Over time, she transitioned to analysis and international defense work with the European Court of Human Rights and various UN bodies. Sadovskaya also trains lawyers on how to work with the European Court of Human Rights. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/12/02/russian-olga-sadovskaya-keeps-fighting-torture/

Drawing upon years of experience with torture cases, Sadovskaya and her team wrote and published a methodology for public investigations, widely used by human rights organizations in Russia. Sadovskaya has personally represented more than 300 victims of torture before the European Court of Justice. Two of the cases were included in the list of the 20 most important cases that changed Russia (Case-Law of the European Court of Human Rights, Special issue, 5, 2018).  

While working against state-sanctioned torture, Sadovskaya has faced personal threats, including threats of murder, particularly for her work in Chechnya. The committee’s office has been burned down several times, and members’ cars have been destroyed. Sadovskaya is also periodically monitored and constantly at risk of being accused of baseless crimes. 

The Oak Human Rights Fellowship will give Sadovskaya a much-needed respite to return to Russia with renewed energy. As the 2021 Oak Fellow, she will connect with Colby students and raise awareness on issues of torture and incarceration in Russia and around the world. 

http://www.colby.edu/news/2021/06/11/olga-sadovskaya-named-2021-oak-human-rights-fellow/

History writing in Russia suppressed

June 10, 2021

A new FIDH report published on 10 June 20212 finds that human rights abuses targeting historians, activists, journalists, and NGOs working on historical memory of the Soviet past have become systematic since at least 2014. Legal impediments and implementation of laws designed to stifle free speech and freedom of association, arbitrary arrests and prosecutions, censorship, public smear campaigns, and failure to provide effective remedies for past abuses are just some of the violations detailed.

In recent years, control over the historical narrative of the Soviet past has become an essential tool for consolidating authoritarian rule. Building Russia’s collective identity around Soviet victory in the Second World War, the current regime attacks historians, journalists, civil society activists, and non-governmental organisations that work to keep alive a historical memory of the Soviet past that focuses on identification of the perpetrators and victims of the likes of the Great Terror, Joseph Stalin’s 1937-38 campaign of deadly political repression.

The new FIDH report, Russia: Crimes Against History, catalogues these violations, analyses them from the viewpoint of international human rights law, and makes recommendations to national authorities and international organisations on how to improve the situation of so-called “history producers.”

Our report is the first comprehensive analysis of the issue of manipulation of historical memory in Russia from the vantage point of human rights law,” said Ilya Nuzov, head of FIDH’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk who conceived and co-authored the report. “Our findings show that the authorities have created a climate of fear and repression for all independent voices working on historical past in Russia, reminiscent of the worst practices of the Soviet period.”

Specifically, the report details how, in recent years, the government has methodically attempted to discourage independent work in the historical field while actively promoting its own “historical truth” that centers on Soviet victory in the Second World War.

In 2020, the official historical narrative was set in stone in the Constitution, which was amended contrary to domestic and international law. In the Constitution, Russia is presented as the “successor” regime of the Soviet Union, which must “honour the memory of the defenders of the fatherland” and “protect the historical truth.” This narrative is actively promoted by government institutions. On the other hand, the authorities have stigmatised and penalised internationally supported civil society organisations, such as International Memorial, with the likes of foreign agent laws; it has criminalised interpretations that diverge from the state’s interpretation of history through the adoption of “Exoneration of Nazism” and other memory laws; and it has organised show trials against independent historians like Yuri Dmitriev, who received a draconian 13-year sentence for his tireless work to identify and commemorate victims of the Great Terror. Seae also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/01/dunja-mijatovic-calls-on-russia-to-end-judicial-harassment-of-human-rights-defenders/

“The report is important not only for Russia,” remarked Valiantsin Stefanovic, FIDH vice president. “Its findings and recommendations could be applied to other countries in the region and around the world that manipulate historical memory. In Belarus for instance, we see a similar use of memory laws to crack down on the pro-democracy movement.”

The report formulates a number of recommendations, such as the establishment of legal guarantees and protections to safeguard the independence of historians’ work. It also proposes the official recognition of historians as human rights defenders by United Nations special procedures, in addition to the creation of a “historians’ day” by UNESCO.

Yury Dmitriev wins 2021 Sakharov Freedom Award

May 21, 2021

Thomas Nilsen in the Barents Observer of 21 May reports that The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has given its 2021 award, the Sakharov Freedom prize, to Russian dissident Yury Dmitriev. for more on this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/DC70DA62-BCB5-497A-A145-79D1F865FC11

Dmitriev is well known for his research and campaigns to create a memorial to the victims of Soviet terror in the Republic of Karelia, a northwestern province near Russia’s border to Finland. see also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/303c010f-033a-45b1-9d25-ed42d99b1da9

“Yuri Dmitriev has returned the human value back to the Russian state. He confronts the past and gives a new vision for the future, which today’s regime does not have,” says Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Geir Hønneland, to the Barents Observer.

Explaining the reason behind the award, Hønneland says it is not only about Dmitriev as a historian. “His work has already inspired thousands of young and old people, who want to find their dearest in the darkest graves. It is about hope and common identity.

Millions were killed during Soviet terror, but the victims of these atrocities and their living relatives have never been given real justice. This was what Yury Dmitriev was working on. In the forests of Karelia, tens of thousands of people were shot and killed without trial or conviction and buried in mass graves.

Dmitriev is currently serving a 13 years prison sentence and is considered a political prisoner by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and other leading human rights organizations. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/01/dunja-mijatovic-calls-on-russia-to-end-judicial-harassment-of-human-rights-defenders/

https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/democracy-and-media/2021/05/jailed-russian-historian-receives-sakharov-freedom-award