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    Russian riot policemen detain gay and LGBT rights activists during unauthorized gay rights activists rally in cental Moscow on May 25, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ANDREY SMIRNOV 

    Freedom Under Threat: Human Rights Violations in Russia

    With the spotlight on Sochi2014, the Olympic flame also illuminates the human rights violations that Russian authorities would prefer to hide behind the celebrations.

    Ever since Vladimir Putin returned as the Russian President, the space for freedom in Russia has been rapidly shrinking. The rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly have come under increasing attack, despite being guaranteed by the Russian Constitution and international human rights treaties to which Russia is party.

    While some high profile prisoners, including members of Pussy Riot, were granted amnesty in late December 2013, many political prisoners remain behind bars and it is ‘repression as usual’ in Russia. In early February 2014, two more activists were detained as prisoners of conscience.

    On January 30, 2014, Amnesty International presented Russian authorities with a global petition signed by 336,412 people from 112 countries calling on President Vladimir Putin to repeal repressive legislation.

    Though the Olympic flame has been extinguished, the campaign for human rights in Russia continues.

    PARTICIPATE in AI Norway’s To Russia With Love social media action. Say no abuse of basic human rights. Let’s paint Russia in rainbow colours and tell Putin the world supports equality!

    TAKE ACTION: Call for the release of environmentalist and prisoner of conscience Yevgeniy Vitishko

    READ Amnesty's appeal to the International Olympic Committee to uphold human rights

    Further Backgound on human rights in the Russian Federation

    Over the last two years, Russian authorities have passed a series of laws that restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. The laws suppress creativity and development of civil society and undermine the legitimate role of human rights NGOs in Russia.

    Being out and loud and proud in Russia can land you in prison

    On June 30th, Russia passed a law banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" which they say could morally corrupt children. In late June, a lawful LGBTI gathering in St. Petersburg was broken up by police following a complaint that it violated a ban on "propaganda of homosexuality;" activists were assaulted by anti-gay protestors and police and detailed despite being the victims of violence.

    It's getting harder and harder to protest in Russia

    The right to freedom of assembly has been restricted by complicated approval procedures which make it difficult to organize events. Many protests have been arbitrarily banned or dispersed. Defamation was re-criminalized on June 30th, and new laws on treason and blasphemy were passed. What does this mean? It means that singing a protest song in a cathedral can lead to two years in prison--exactly what happened to Pussy Riot.

    And it's more difficult than ever to operate an NGO

    New restrictions on freedom of association mean that organizations receiving foreign funding must describe themselves as "foreign agents" if they are considered to be involved in undefined "political activities"--a requirement which is inconsistent with international human rights standards. Officials have conducted inspections of NGO offices, resulting in hefty fines, the suspension of the activities of at least one NGO, and possible closure of others.

    In late November, the Centre for Social Policy and Gender Studies be-came the first NGO to be forced to register as "an organization performing the functions of a foreign agent." Prior to that, several other NGOs were heavily fined for failing to register as "foreign agents", and at least three were closed down.

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    ‘You feel that just anybody can be detained’ Russia’s shrinking space for peaceful protest