In response to remarks by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova that the International Paralympic Committee’s ban of Russia’s Paralympic team over doping concerns was a “betrayal of [international] human rights standards,” Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Programme Director Europe & Central Asia at Amnesty International said:
“The Foreign Ministry spokesperson is right that human rights should never be betrayed. But human rights begin at home, and on this front her government is a top contender for the Gold Medal for Hypocrisy.
“With a government that bombs Syrian hospitals, locks people up for criticizing the authorities, tortures detainees, silences the LGBT-community through the ‘propaganda’ law, and smears independent organizations as ‘foreign agents’, who is really betraying human rights in Russia?”
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The case of Ukrainian helicopter pilot Nadiya Savchenko, found guilty of murder today by a court in southern Russia, must go immediately for a fair retrial, Amnesty International said.
“It is abhorrent to send Nadiya Savchenko to prison after such a flawed, deeply politicized trial,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.
“The litany of dubious procedures and decisions by the presiding judge over the course of this trial shows a clear contempt for due process and suggests Nadiya never had a hope of proving her innocence.
“The only way justice can be delivered both for Nadiya, and the journalists who were killed, is for there to be a full and impartial investigation into her allegations and a retrial that remains free of political interference and complies with international fair trial standards.”
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The violent assault on human rights defenders (HRDs) and journalists in the Russian Republic of Ingushetia is further evidence of the authorities’ abject failure to protect those who work to safeguard human rights, said Amnesty International today.
Human rights defenders from the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) in the Russian North Caucasus, along with journalists from Russian, Swedish and Norwegian media, were beaten up and had their vehicle set ablaze on Wednesday evening.
“This is the latest and most brazen in a series of attacks on the JMG and journalists in the Russian North Caucasus. So far these attacks have been answered simply with verbal condemnation rather than effective prosecutions,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.
“This is an opportunity for the authorities to demonstrate that their words can be backed by deeds, by bringing to justice not only those who carried out this crime but also those who may have ordered it.”
Russia is violating international law by trying to deport three Syrian refugees who were detained in Dagestan after seeking asylum in the country, Amnesty International has said.
The three men are due to be flown to Damascus on Thursday despite the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) asking Russia not to deport them to a country at war.
“The Russian authorities are pretending it is safe for people to go back to the country where Russia itself is a warring party and is unforgivably ignoring the country’s refugee crisis,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.
“The attempt to deport these three men - in violation of international human rights and refugee law - is the latest example exposing Russia’s shameful approach to people in need of international protection.”
In 2015, not a single person from Syria was given refugee status in Russia, while temporary asylum was given to only 482 people.
Russia’s jailing of a peaceful opposition activist for violating the country’s new law on public assemblies is a shocking and cynical attack on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.
Ildar Dadin was sentenced to three years in jail by a Moscow court for repeated anti-government street protests. He is the first person to be jailed using the law, which was introduced in 2014 and punishes repeated breaches of public assembly rules.
“The shocking sentencing of Ildar Dadin shows that the Russian authorities are using the law on public assemblies to fast-track peaceful protesters to prison,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.
“This cynical move shows that compared to the drawn out criminal proceedings against peaceful protesters in the past, the authorities have now created a shortcut for imprisoning activists. It is more dangerous to be a peaceful activist in Russia than at any time in recent years.”
The recent changes to Russia’s draconian law on public assemblies criminalize anyone found to have violated the law more than twice within 180 days.
The long overdue release of a campaigner jailed after he protested against the devastating environmental impact of the Sochi Olympic Games is no doubt a great relief for him and his family, but his imprisonment on absurd charges was a prime example of the disturbing tactics used by the Russian authorities to silence critics, said Amnesty International today.
Evgeniy Vitishko of the NGO Environmental Watch on North Caucasus was jailed for 15 days in February 2014 on trumped-up charges of “hooliganism" after he was accused of "swearing at a bus stop”. Immediately after serving this term, he started serving the three-year sentence for allegedly damaging a fence that was concealing illegal construction in a protected forested area.
Today a court ordered his release, effective 20 November, after having served half of his sentence in a prison colony in Russia’s Tambov region.
Hefty prison sentences of up to two decades handed down by a Russian military court against two Ukrainian activists today are a blatant injustice after a patently unfair trial marred by credible allegations of torture, Amnesty International said.
The military court in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don sentenced film director Oleg Sentsov to 20 years and ecologist and anti-fascist activist Aleksandr Kolchenko to 10 years on “terrorism” charges which they deny and claim were politically motivated. The two were accused of arson attacks on pro-Russian groups following Russia’s occupation of Crimea last year.
“This whole trial was designed to send a message. It played into Russia’s propaganda war against Ukraine and was redolent of Stalinist-era show trials of dissidents,” said Heather McGill, Eurasia Researcher at Amnesty International.
“This trial was fatally flawed and credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment have been ignored by the court. Both Oleg Sentsov and one of the main witnesses for the prosecution have alleged that they were tortured.
Russian authorities today used a draconian new law on “undesirable” foreign organizations for the first time to blacklist the US-based charity National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in an attempt to cut a funding lifeline to Russian NGOs, said Amnesty International.
Using the law, which came into force in May this year, the Office of the Prosecutor General announced that NED’s work in the country is now effectively illegal and asked the Ministry of Justice to register it as an “undesirable organization”.
“This reprehensible move to blacklist so-called ‘undesirable organizations’ marks another low point for Russian authorities that have systematically sought to slash and burn the country’s civil society in recent years,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.
A new move by the Russian Parliament to outlaw so-called undesirable organizations is yet another nail in the coffin for freedom of expression and civil society in Russia, said Amnesty International today.
The submission by the Council of the Federation, Parliament’s upper house, of a list of 12 foreign NGOs working in Russia to the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Foreign Ministry may lead to them being banned as “undesirable” under a law adopted last May. “Undesirable” organizations” are loosely defined under the law as those posing a threat to the country’s “constitutional order, defence potential or state security”.
“The submission of this list is yet another move to suffocate freedom of expression and association in Russia, and its intended targets are not just foreign organizations but independent civil society in the country itself,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.
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Twenty-six year old Elena Klimova is a journalist in Russia. She wrote some articles about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) teenagers in Russia. She realized that, because they were open about who they are and who they are attracted to, the youth were being rejected by their families, friends and teachers. They had nowhere to go for support.
So Elena started the Children 404 website. It was an online space for LGBTI youth to express their fears, seek health advice, and safely connect with other youth who are experiencing similar issues. It was a safe space where these youth felt accepted and respected.
Elena said, “It is only on the internet that they can find somebody to speak to. The feeling that most of these children feel is constant fear.”
A decree signed today by President Vladimir Putin making deaths of Russian forces “in peacetime” a state secret is yet another attack on freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said.
The new decree, which bans all information about losses of Russian troops “during special operations” in peacetime, comes amid longstanding accusations that President Putin has sent military assistance to separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“Not only is this decree a blatant attack on freedom of expression, it also has sinister undertones that will intensify speculation President Putin has something to hide – specifically losses incurred by Russia’s military in Ukraine,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director.
The Kremlin has consistently denied sending troops and weapons to help separatist forces across the border.
“The move also increases fears for the safety of Russian media workers and civil society activists who have already faced harassment for trying to independently cover the conflict in Ukraine.”
Today’s passing of the draconian “undesirable organizations” bill is a dark day for freedom of expression and association in Russia, said Amnesty International.
The bill which passed its third and final reading in the State Duma today, enables the state to ban the activities of foreign or international non-governmental organizations deemed to be undermining “state security”, “national defence” or “constitutional order”. It will also then punish Russian activists and civil society groups for maintaining ties with those “undesirable” organizations.
The bill needs to be approved by the upper chamber of the Russian parliament and signed into law by the president. This is in practice a mere formality.
“This legislation is the latest chapter in an unprecedented crackdown against non-governmental organizations which is effectively criminalizing lawful activity and squeezing the life out of free speech and association,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International Director for Europe and Central Asia.
Amnesty International today slammed a Russian court’s sentencing of three opposition activists who participated in a peaceful protest in a public square in Moscow this week.
The Moscow court yesterday sentenced Aleksandr Ryklin and Sergei Sharov-Delaunay to 10 days of administrative detention after they each staged one-person pickets in the capital’s Bolotnaya Square on 6 May to mark the third anniversary of a violent police crackdown on opposition protesters there in 2012.
Irina Kalmykova, who joined other peaceful protesters in the square that day, was sentenced to six days of administrative detention, in a trial in which the judge arbitrarily refused to admit her lawyer.
“Nobody should be locked up just for holding a placard and standing in a public square – the fact that these three individuals are being deprived of their liberty for doing just that is yet more evidence of the Kremlin’s ongoing efforts to stamp out all visible dissent,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow office.
The Russian authorities must remedy a gross injustice by immediately and unconditionally releasing environmentalist and prisoner of conscience Yevgeniy Vitishko, Amnesty International said ahead of his parole hearing tomorrow.
Yevgeniy Vitishko of the NGO Environmental Watch on North Caucasus is serving a three-year sentence in a prison colony in Russia’s remote Tambov region. He was sent there in February 2014 after a string of trumped-up charges were brought against him in the run-up to the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
Amnesty International fears that he will be denied parole, and accordingly refused even conditional release, based on a litany of so-called “violations” he has been accused of committing in the penal colony. These include: giving an item of clothing to another prisoner who was cold; sitting on his bed at an unauthorized time; storing food in an unauthorized place; receiving correspondence from a lawyer without notifying the penal colony’s administration; and even having a “negligent attitude towards weeding tomatoes” as part of his compulsory labour.