Posts Tagged ‘Russian Federation’

Joint NGO Letter to Russian President to stop clampdown on human rights defenders

October 22, 2014

If there was any doubt on where civil society stands on the issue of reprisals and repression of NGO activity in Russia, the letter below and the enormous number and variety of organizations having signed it should put the doubt to rest: [see also: https://plus.google.com/+HansThoolen/posts/2nWSsUBuCJw]

Dear President,

We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, are writing to urge you to stop the clampdown on the right to freedom of association and end reprisals against independent non- governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia.

We are deeply concerned that under the legislation on “foreign agents”, hundreds of NGOs have been subjected to unannounced inspections by government officials which have interrupted and obstructed their legitimate work with dozens currently embroiled in lengthy court hearings. Several NGOs and their leaders have had to pay prohibitive fines, and some were forced to close down because they refused to brand themselves as “foreign agents” – an expression akin to spying. Recent legislative changes now give the Ministry of Justice powers to register organizations as “foreign agents” without their consent and without a prior court decision. More than a dozen of leading Russian rights groups have already been branded by the Ministry. These NGOs are not foreign spies or “agents”, and have worked in the interest of the people of Russia. Many more face the same fate.

Under the previous legislation, NGOs in Russia were already accountable to the government and the public, having to report on their activities and finances. It is difficult to avoid concluding that the only purpose of the legislation on “foreign agents” is to publicly discredit and stigmatise them.

We believe that NGOs are essential to the healthy functioning of society. They play an important role in providing much needed services to the public. They help keep officials accountable and improve policies in the interests of the people.

We are calling on you as the President of the Russian Federation and the guarantor of its Constitution and of the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined therein, to take all necessary steps to ensure that the “foreign agents” law is repealed and NGOs in Russia are able to do their work without hindrance, harassment, stigmatisation or reprisals. 


• Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT) (France)
• Agir ensemble pour les droits de l’homme (AEDH) (France)
• Amnesty International
• ARTICLE 19 (UK)
• Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (Bulgaria)
• Bunge la Mwananchi (Kenya)
• Centre de recherche et d’information pour le développement (CRID) (France) • Centrum Kształcenia Liderów i Wychowawców im. Pedro Arrupe (Pologne)
• CIVICUS
• Comité catholique contre la faim et pour le développement – Terre solidaire (CCFD) (France)
• Committee on the Administration of Justice Ltd (CAJ) (Northern Ireland, UK)
• Cordaid (Pays-Bas)
• Danny Sriskandarajah, our Secretary General
• English PEN (UK)
• European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) (UK)
• Emmaüs International (France)
• Finnish PEN (Finlande)
• Foundation Max van der Stoel (Pays-Bas)
• Free Press Unlimited (Pays-Bas)
• Front Line Defenders (Irlande) • Fundacja Edukacja dla Demokracji (Pologne)
• Fundacja im. Stefana Batorego (Pologne)
• Gevalor (France)
• Greenpeace Spain (Spain) • Helsińska Fundacja Praw Człowieka (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights) (Pologne)
• Hivos (Pays-Bas)
• Human Rights Commission (Kenya)
• Human Rights House Foundation (Norway)
• Human Rights House Foundation HRHF (Switzerland)
• Human Rights Watch
• Index on Censorship (UK) • INPRIS – Instytut Prawa i Społeczeństwa (Pologne) • Instytut Spraw Publicznych (Pologne)
• International Service for Human Rights
• Kansalaisjärjestöjen ihmisoikeussäätiö KIOS (Finlande)
• Kenya Human Rights Commission (Kenya)
• Koalicja Karat (Pologne)
• La lliga del drets dels pobles (Spain)
• Ligue des droits de l’Homme (France) • Małopolskie Towarzystwo Oświatowe (Pologne)
• MEMORIAL Deutschland e.V. (Germany)
• Milieudefensie (Pays-Bas)
• MONIKA – Naiset liitto ry (Finlande)
• Movies that Matter (Pays-Bas)
• Naisten Linja Suomessa ry (Finlande)
• Netherlands Helsinki Committee (Pays-Bas)
• Nederlands Juristen Comité voor de Mensenrechten (NJCM)
• Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ) (Pays-Bas)
• NGO Working Group OSCE (Switzerland)
• Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l’Homme (joint program FIDH and OMCT) (France/Switzerland)
• Pakolaisneuvonta ry (Finlande)
• Pat Finucane Centre, (Irlande)
• Queer Youth Norway (Norway)
• REDRESS (UK)
• Reporters sans frontières (RSF) (France)
• Russie-Libertés (France)
• Sadankomitea (Finlande)
• Society for Threatened Peoples (Switzerland)
• Stiftung Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte (Germany) 
• Stowarzyszenie Wschodnioeuropejskie Centrum Demokratyczne (Pologne)
• The Bellona Foundation (Norvège)
• The Norwegian LGBT Association (Norvège)
• UNITED for Intercultural Action (Pays-Bas)
• XENION Psychsoziale Hilfen für politisch Verfolgte e.V. (Allemagne)
• Автономная некоммерческая правозащитная организация «Молодежный центр консультации и тренинга» (Russie)
• Автономная некоммерческая организация «Правозащитная организация «МАШР» (Russie)
• Благотворительный фонд развития города Тюмени (Russie)
• Общественная правозащитная организация «Солдатские матери Санкт-Петербурга» (Russie)”

 

Russian Federation: Joint NGO Letter to the President of the Russian Federation: To stop clampdown on freedom of association / October 21, 2014 / Statements / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

First administrative case opened against election watchdog GOLOS in Russia

April 11, 2013

I have expressed concern in earlier posts about the efforts of several governments – especially Russia – who use legal and administrative means to stop or restrict the work of NGOs. Russia uses the gimmick of requiring NGOs that receive funding from abroad to register as ‘foreign agents’. Many organisations have vowed to refuse. The campaign however grinds on and now Front Line reports the first case:Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

On 9 April 2013, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation opened a case of administrative violation against the NGO ‘GOLOS’ Association for the defence of the rights of voters and its executive director Ms Lilya Shibanova. The Ministry of Justice stated on its official website that GOLOS receives foreign funding and participates in political activity, so the organisation should have registered as a ‘foreign agent’ and, by failing to do so, has infringed Article 19.34(1).  On 10 April 2013, the Ministry of Justice will transmit the administrative case against GOLOS to the court. As GOLOS and its executive director have already made public their decision not to register as ‘foreign agent’ under any circumstances, the administrative conviction may be the first step to the closure of the organisation. Read the rest of this entry »

Legislative restrictions on “homosexual propaganda” threaten LGBT human rights defenders

February 27, 2013

icj_logo_pantoneLegislative restrictions on “homosexual propaganda” threaten LGBT human rights defenders says the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Geneva which is concerned by the growing number of laws and legislative proposals in a variety of countries that severely threaten the work of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons and human rights defenders. Ahead of the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council the ICJ today (27 February 2013) submitted a written statement to the UN encouraging the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders to follow up on these laws and legislative proposals. Pointing to unlawful restrictions on the freedoms of association and assembly, and the freedom of expression, in several countries (including Uganda, Ukraine and the Russian Federation), the ICJ encourages the Special Rapporteur to call on governments to protect these rights for everyone and to ensure that any restrictions comply with the requirements of legality, of necessity and proportionality and of non-discrimination on all grounds. Moreover, in the case of laws or legislative proposals that fail to comply with these requirements, Governments should take appropriate action.

To download the statement, go to the press announcement:

Legislative restrictions on “homosexual propaganda” threaten LGBT human rights defenders | ICJ.

Human rights defender of the month: Sapiyat Magomedova from Dagestan

November 6, 2012

The North Caucasian republic of Dagestan is one of the most dangerous places for lawyers today in Russia. In this region Sapiyat Magomedova defends victims of grave human rights violations like enforced disappearances, extra judicial killings and torture. She has taken on cases that many lawyers would reject due to security reasons, and although it is considered almost impossible, she has won several of them. She was chosen by Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders as its HRD of the month. Last week I reported that she had received an important award from Sweden.

When asked about everyday life in Dagestan, local human rights lawyer Sapiyat Magomedova answers straight: ”I would not call it life.” The conflict in Dagestan is bridging on civil war. During the last two years Dagestan is considered to be the most violent region in the North Caucasus, followed by Chechnya. Local human rights defenders constantly face harassment, assaults and threats to their life.

Portrait Sapiyat Magomedova Photo: Private

In 2010 Sapiyat Magomedova was severely beaten by police officers when visiting one of her clients. When pressing charges, she was herself charged with using violence against state officials and insulting police officers on duty. Sapiyat Magomedova had already in 2009 been subjected to an unfounded criminal case for allegedly offending an Investigator from the Prosecutor’s Office. She believes that the case was a form of retaliation for her standing up to law enforcement agencies and fighting impunity. “The criminal case against me was opened to put pressure on me, to force me to retract my statement against the police officers”, Sapiyat Magomedova later said in an interview.

Sapiyat Magomedova represents victims in very sensitive cases, such as allegations that the police have tortured individuals suspected of involvement with the insurgency, and cases of sexual- and gender based violence. Normally, cases of sexual- and gender based violence go unreported in Dagestan. Sexual violence is a taboo subject in a region where honour killings, bride kidnapping, and child marriage occur. There is an absence of debate on the political level on these issues. Women’s rights are not high on the political agenda and gender based violence and other kind of abuses against women occur on a regular basis.

In 2011, Sapiyat Magomedova defended a 13-year-old girl who had been kidnapped and raped for three days by five young men. Two of the suspected rapists were sons of police officers. After strong pressure on the girl and her family, she succumbed and changed her statement. The case, however, got rather great resonance in society and might lead to inspiring other victims to dare press charges. Sapiyat Magomedova further highlighted the case on one of the first conferences on women’s rights in the region. At the conference she spoke about the problem with impunity in cases of sexual- and gender based violence.

Being a woman, Sapiyat Magomedova must also exert much effort just to be taken seriously in her legal profession. Caucasian women are commonly housewives and that “leaves its mark”, as Sapiyat Magomedova puts it. Woman lawyers have a lot of misconceptions to fight against.

Human rights defenders constantly face harassment and threats to their life in Dagestan. Since 2010, Dagestan is considered to be the most violent region in the North Caucasus, followed by Chechnya. The conflict nearly approach the level of civil war. Russian law enforcement bodies are reluctant to investigate cases of human rights abuses. Even though Russia has been convicted approximately 210 times for violations linked to North Caucasus, by the European Court of Human Rights, not even one perpetrator has been put to justice.

In many cases, violations are committed by those who are supposed to uphold the rule of law, under the pretext of fighting terrorism. In order to keep up statistics in terror crimes, it frequently occurs that law enforcement bodies fabricate evidence against innocent people and extract a confession by using torture. This in turn nurtures the insurgency that has been on the rise in the past years. A decade of failure to stabilize the region and deal with the rampant impunity has created an environment where ordinary people live in fear and have almost nowhere to turn to seek justice.

The Russian government invests enormous sums of money each year to dampen the conflicts throughout the North Caucasus. The number of dead terrorists is used as evidence that the Russian government’s initiative leads to results. Military and security forces, and the Police are being rewarded for each person that can be added to the toll of terrorists. This has led to civilians being accused of joining the separatists. Kidnappings, torture and extrajudicial executions are common.

Read more in Civil Rights Defenders country report: Human rights in Russia

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.

HRW’s Moscow Researcher Threatened

October 8, 2012

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According to the NY Times a researcher in Human Rights Watch’s office in Moscow received repeated threats this week of an attack focused on her pregnancy, the rights group said, calling it the latest example of escalating pressure against rights and civic groups in Russia.

Natalia Kolesnikova/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Tanya Lokshina, a senior Human Rights Watch researcher, spoke to reporters in Moscow on Thursday.

 

The anonymous threats were sent to the cellphone of the researcher, Tanya Lokshina, who is also the deputy director of the Moscow bureau. The group said they included details that could have been obtained only by eavesdropping on her telephone conversations.

“These threats demonstrate that the sender clearly was following Tanya’s every move,” said Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch. “They knew where she lived, what she was doing. They made explicit reference to the fact of her pregnancy. They threatened harm to herself and to her unborn baby.”

……..

“This is not the first time members of our organization, and the Moscow office, have been threatened,” Ms. Lokshina said. “But the level of cynicism, the ugliness in the threats that came to my phone over those three days was unprecedented.”The threats stopped Monday, the day Human Rights Watch reported them to the Russian police, prosecutors, officials in the federal government and the Federal Security Service, the domestic intelligence agency that is a successor to the K.G.B.

However, on Thursday, another employee of the office received a text, again threatening Ms. Lokshina’s pregnancy and mentioning the group’s news conference scheduled for later in the day.

Human Rights Watch Says Its Moscow Researcher Threatened – NYTimes.com.

2012 OSCE Human Dimension meeting gets information on HRD problems

September 27, 2012

Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has an active human rights defenders programme that is often overlooked. The statement below illustrates the kind of cases that continue to plague parts of Europe.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, submitted to the OSCE information on the threats and obstacles faced by human rights defenders in OSCE Participating States.

In 2011 and 2012, human rights defenders in Eastern Europe and Central Asia continued to operate in a difficult, and sometimes hostile environment. The lack of accountability and respect for the rule of law remained acute, particularly in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Uzbekistan. For the full text go to:

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe OSCE : Contribution to the 2012 OSCE Human Dimension … – FIDH.

Russian Federation: Harassment of human rights defender Ms Sophia Kropotkina | Front Line

September 24, 2012

Front Line reports succinctly on a case in the Russian Federation, where  human rights defender Ms Sophia Kropotkina is being harassed in and outside hospital:

via Russian Federation: Harassment of human rights defender Ms Sophia Kropotkina | Front Line.