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Russian Federation

    June 21, 2013

    Russian police and agents of a private security firm are currently attempting to evict the prominent Russian civil society group “For Human Rights” from their premises in Moscow The activists are refusing to leave the office.

    ”For Human Rights” has been involved in discussions with Moscow City authorities – its landlord – about the extension of the lease for some months, but maintains that it had not received any notice of the termination of their contract prior to eviction order presented today by the private security firm contracted by the municipal authorities.

    Amnesty International’s observer, who is currently witnessing the eviction, said: “In Russia, we have witnessed how authorities are using every trick in the box to stop human rights activists criticising their policies. The attempt to evict ‘For Human Rights’ from publicly owned offices seems to be yet another attempt to block their important human rights work.”

    June 11, 2013

    The space for free expression in Russia shrank further today after the State Duma in Moscow passed two new bills aimed at stamping out minority views, Amnesty International said.

    Within hours of each other, the country’s lower house of Parliament passed bills to criminalize blasphemy and outlaw activism by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals and their supporters.

    The measures are expected to be approved in the near future by the upper house of Parliament and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

    “In the space of mere hours, the Duma succeeded in adopting two pieces of legislation that testify to the shrinking space for freedom of expression in Russia. They represent a sorry attempt by the government to bolster its popularity by pandering to the most reactionary elements of Russian society – at the expense of fundamental rights and the expression of individual identities,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    June 06, 2013

    The hefty fine imposed on a civil society organization in Russia today is further evidence of the Russian government’s determination to curtail the freedom of association and free speech in the country, Amnesty International said.

    The St Petersburg-based film festival “Bok o Bok” (“Side by Side”), which seeks to create a space where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people can openly express their identity, was issued with an unprecedentedly heavy combined fine of RUB 500,000 (over USD 15,500).

    The fine was based on two purported separate offences: its failure to register as a “foreign agent” and the failure to indicate that it is a “foreign agent” in a publication it has recently produced, as is required by the relevant law dictates. An administrative case against its leader is ongoing, and may also result in a high fine too.

    This is the fourth non-governmental organization (NGO) to be fined since April this year, after a repressive new “foreign agents’ law” came into effect, placing broad new restrictions on the work of civil society organizations.

    May 25, 2013

    The failure of Moscow police to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) protesters from physical attacks on Saturday reinforces an impression of state sanctioned violence and discrimination, Amnesty International said. 

    In events monitored by Amnesty International, at least 30 LGBTI protesters were detained by police in three locations in the centre of Moscow: in front of the Parliament, the Mayor's Office and Gorky Park.

    The activists were attempting to hold pickets to protest against homophobic laws, including a draft federal law banning the so-called "propaganda of homosexuality" and to attract attention to the persisting discrimination and violence against LGBTI people in the country.

    "Instead of detaining peaceful LGBTI demonstrators, the Russian authorities should protect them from extremist attacks based on discriminatory attitudes held by some," said David Diaz-Jogeix,Amnesty International’s Deputy Program Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    April 25, 2013

    (Moscow) The decision of a Moscow court on April 25, 2013 to fine an independent non-governmental organization and its leader is an alarming indicator for the future of civil society in Russia, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.

    The Association in Defence of Voters’ Rights Golos (Voice) became the first Russian nongovernmental organizations to fall afoul of the “foreign agents” law. It was fined 300,000  rubles (almost US$10,000).

    Golos played a prominent role in organizing election monitoring and reporting allegations of electoral fraud in the 2011 parliament and 2012 presidential elections.

    “The case against Golos should never have been brought let alone succeeded,” said John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme. “The foreign agents law is a bad law that was introduced for political reasons.  It is sadly not surprising that it has resulted in politically motivated decisions. The foreign agents law is a stick to beat watchdogs with and needs to be repealed.”

    April 24, 2013

    The systematic undermining and violation of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association have been the hallmark of Vladimir Putin’s human rights record during the first year of his third mandate as Russian president, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

    The wave of protest sparked by the Duma elections in December 2011 and the May 2012 Putin-Medvedev switch prompted a raft of restrictions on these rights. Two new laws have been introduced and 11 amended as part of a broad clampdown on dissent, criticism and protest.

    March 25, 2013

    Amnesty International’s Moscow office is currently being inspected by prosecutors and tax inspectors – part of the wave of inspections of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) across Russia in recent weeks. Three other prominent Russian NGOs are also being inspected today: Public Verdict Foundation, For Human Rights Movement and Agency for Social Information. The stated version of the inspections was to check compliance with Russian legislation on NGOs.

    Amnesty International, along with other NGOs, has repeatedly condemned the new legislation imposing increasing restrictions on NGOs and expressed its fears that the NGO laws would be used to harass and seek closure of those highlighting abuses and critical of the government.

    Amnesty International is also concerned that the recent wave of inspections has been carried out in such a way as to deliberately stigmatise and discredit NGOs in the eyes of the public.

    Amnesty International is confident that all its activities comply with Russian legislation. The organization expresses regret that its time and that of the inspectors involved is not employed in a more useful manner.

     

    March 22, 2013

    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, FRONTLINE DEFENDERS, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
    PUBLIC STATEMENT

    Moscow - A wave of inspections of nongovernmental organizations in Russia is intensifying pressure on civil society since the adoption of a series of restrictive laws in 2012, Amnesty International, Frontline Defenders, and Human Rights Watch said today. Teams of officials from a variety of government agencies have inspected at least 30 groups in the past two weeks in Moscow, and many more in at least 13 other regions of Russia.

    The inspections appear to target groups that accept foreign funding and that engage in advocacy work, and are part of a broader crackdown on civil society that began in 2012, the organizations said. The Russian prosecutor’s office has stated publicly that it plans to inspect between 30 and 100 nongovernmental organizations in each of Russia’s regions, which could amount to thousands of groups throughout the country. According to media reports, the prosecutor’s office in St. Petersburg alone plans to inspect about 100 groups.

    March 21, 2013

    Lawyers are often the last line of defence for those facing torture and unfair trial in the North Caucasus and elsewhere in Russia, yet they themselves often come under attack in connection with their work, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

    Confronting the circle of injustice: Threats and pressure faced by lawyers in the North Caucasus, examines the harassment faced by criminal defence lawyers in the North Caucasus, a region of the Russian Federation where the violence of armed groups is countered by the heavy-handed response of the authorities, often with scant respect for basic human rights.

    “Russian lawyers have a duty to protect the rights of their clients in the face of criminal justice system geared to delivering convictions. Fulfilling their duties towards their clients often brings considerable risks to themselves,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

    February 20, 2013

    A year after the punk band Pussy Riot performed a protest song in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral, the situation for freedom of expression has only worsened in Russia, Amnesty International said.

    Last year’s arrest and criminal conviction of Pussy Riot members under the dubious charge of "hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred" signalled a fresh and severe clampdown on human rights in the country.

    Since then Russia’s Parliament has adopted several new laws targeting activists and those critical of the authorities.

    "New laws introduced since the Pussy Riot protest have given the authorities sweeping powers to clamp down on NGOs, human rights and political activists in Russia and go against the country's international human rights obligations," said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “Meanwhile, two Pussy Riot band members are still languishing in a prison colony far from their families, including small children – and our call for their immediate release continues.

    January 31, 2013

    A Russian court's decision to uphold a ban on 'extremist' videos of Pussy Riot's protest performance in a Moscow cathedral last year, highlights the escalating clampdown on freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said.

    The Moscow City Court on Wednesday rejected the appeal by band member Ekaterina Samutsevich and upheld the ruling of a lower court in November, banning the videos under vaguely defined counter-extremist legislation.

    "The increasing use of loosely-worded counter-extremist laws to crack down on dissent shows the Russian authorities' absolute lack of respect for the right to freedom of expression as one of the foundations of a democratic society," said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    "The ban on Pussy Riot's videos must be lifted and all such attacks on the internationally recognized right to freedom of expression must be stopped along with the narrow application of counter-extremist legislation."

    January 25, 2013

    Russia’s Parliament has backed a bill which outlaws the “propaganda of homosexuality among minors” in a move that will restrict fundamental human rights and is in breach of the country’s international obligations to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people from discrimination, Amnesty International said today.

    The State Duma voted almost unanimously in favour of the controversial measure with only one parliamentarian against and another abstaining, during the first reading.

    The law would make the “promotion of homosexuality among minors” an administrative offence in federal law, with fines of up to 500,000 roubles (US$ 16,200).

    “This law is an attack on the right to freedom of expression,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    There is no legal definition in the Russian law of what constitutes ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ and the law could be interpreted very loosely. They are going to punish people for something which is perfectly legitimate – expressing themselves, being themselves.

    January 24, 2013

    The trial of a Russian lawyer who blew the whistle on a high-level corruption scandal even though he is dead as a result of mistreatment while in detention is an attempt to deflect attention from those who committed the crimes he exposed, Amnesty International said on the eve of the preliminary hearing scheduled for 28 January in a Moscow court.

    Sergei Magnitsky – who died on 16 November 2009 – was charged with the very crimes he exposed triggering a sequence of events that lead to his premature death.

    “The Russian authorities’ intention to proceed with the criminal prosecution of Sergei Magnitsky violates his fundamental rights even in death, in particular the right to defend himself in person,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.

    “The trial of a deceased person and the forcible involvement of his relatives is a dangerous precedent that would open a whole new chapter in Russia’s worsening human rights record.

    “The legal grounds for the posthumous criminal prosecution against Sergei Magnitski to say the least are dubious and the authorities must halt this travesty.”

    January 18, 2013

    Until the full truth is uncovered about the Katyn massacre the Russian authorities have an on-going obligation under international law to investigate this war crime that has gone unpunished since the Second World War, Amnesty International said today.  

    As the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights is considering the case brought against Russia by some of the relatives of more than 20,000 Polish prisoners of war who were killed during the 1940 Katyn massacre, Amnesty International submitted its legal opinion on the case this week.  

    “For nearly 50 years, first Soviet and then the Russian authorities denied their responsibility for the murder of tens of thousands of Polish prisoners of war,” said Marek Marczynski, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “They dragged their feet with the investigation into the mass murder for nearly 15 years after that until finally in 2004 they decided to close it in secret proceedings, quoting national security interest for doing so.”

    January 16, 2013

    Today’s decision by a Russian court not to allow Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina to defer serving her sentence to a later date compounds the injustice already meted out to the imprisoned punk singer, Amnesty International said today.

    “Today’s court ruling is a further travesty of justice. The three Pussy Riot singers should not have been prosecuted in the first place. Today's decision has proven again that the Russian authorities are uncompromising in their suppression of freedom of expression,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    “Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova should be released, immediately and unconditionally, while the suspended sentence of Ekaterina Samutsevich should be overturned.”

    Maria Alekhina together with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich, three of the members of the all-female group Pussy Riot,  were charged with “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” after they sang a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral in February 2012.

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