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Russian Federation

    March 10, 2016

    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.”

    February 25, 2016

    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.

    December 07, 2015

    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.

    November 10, 2015

    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.

    August 25, 2015

    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.

    July 28, 2015

    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.

    July 08, 2015

    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.

    May 28, 2015

    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.” 

    May 19, 2015

    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.

    May 08, 2015

    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.

    April 14, 2015

    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.

    March 11, 2015

    The Russian authorities’ threat to bring criminal charges against Eva Merkacheva and Andrei Babushkin, two human rights activists who published torture allegations from two men accused of the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, raises alarming questions over the fairness of the investigation, said Amnesty International.

    The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation suggested that raising allegations that Zaur Dadaev was tortured into confessing and that Shaghid Gubashev was also ill-treated may amount to “interference with the work of investigator with the purpose of preventing a comprehensive, full and objective investigation of the case”.

    “Threatening legal action against those who report a crime as serious as torture is ludicrous. To ignore serious allegations that torture was used to force confessions would make a complete mockery of Russia’s judicial system. They must be taken seriously, and fully, promptly, independently and effectively investigated,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

    February 28, 2015

    The killing of Boris Nemtsov, one of Russia's most prominent political activists, must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated.
    Boris Nemtsov was shot and killed late in the evening of 27 February in central Moscow. His killer, who escaped from the scene, has not been identified.

    The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has stated that he would personally control the progress over the investigation.

    “In the current climate of crackdown on freedoms of expression, assembly and association, this is a cold-blooded murder of one of those free voices whom the authorities have so actively sought to silence” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Regional Deputy Programme Director for Europe and Central Asia. 

    “There is already a list of unsolved political murders and attack in Russia, the investigations of which were under the ‘personal control’ of senior Russian politicians. We cannot allow Boris Nemtsov to become just another name on this list.”

    January 20, 2015

    A draft Russian law banning “undesirable foreign organizations” is another troubling sign of the authorities’ vigorous measures to restrict any public space for criticism, Amnesty International said today after the Duma (Parliament) passed it on a first reading.

    The bill will go through two more readings before being sent to President Vladimir Putin to be signed into law, which may be only a formality.

    “This law is another sobering sign of how the Russian authorities are quickly closing in on fundamental freedoms and the work of independent civil society groups in the country,” said Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.

    “We’ve seen time and again how ideas which threaten fundamental freedoms get railroaded through the Duma and make their way into draconian laws that snatch away the space for dissenting views and independent civil society activism. Sadly, these freedoms can no longer be taken for granted in Russia.”

    December 23, 2014

    The guilty verdicts and harsh sentences against 57 defendants accused of participating in an armed attack in the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria in 2005 are a huge miscarriage of justice, said Amnesty International today. The defendants were detained for nine years in deplorable conditions with testimonies extracted under torture and admitted as evidence.

    Five of the defendants received life sentences and the others received sentences of between four and 23 years in prison.

    “This is a textbook case of criminal injustice, where the authorities manifestly refused to investigate allegations of torture, despite overwhelming evidence, and the defendants languished for nine years in pre-trial detention, all in violation of international law,” said Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director. “This trial should never have been allowed to continue until the allegations of torture were fully and effectively investigated.”

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