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Russian Federation

    October 08, 2014

    A quiet Saturday morning in Moscow: the distant chime of bells at an Orthodox church and the faint hum of traffic traversing a nearby bridge reverberate around a near-empty Bolotnaya Square.

    In the fleeting September warmth, the flowerbeds are blooming, the verges are well kept and a busload of tourists are busily snapping photos on the edge of this pleasant, tree-lined plaza not far from the Kremlin.

    But like much in Russia today, first impressions can be deceptive. Bolotnaya’s seeming tranquillity belies the central role it played in the country’s growing repression of basic freedoms.

    On 6 May 2012, a very different scene played out in this square.

    Hundreds of riot police, kitted out in military-style camouflage and helmets, and wielding truncheons, charged into crowds of mostly peaceful anti-government protesters who had gathered on the eve of President Vladimir Putin’s controversial return to power.

    October 02, 2014

    Amnesty International is launching a Week of Action, from 6 to 12 October 2014, to show solidarity with independent voices in Russia who speak out against the pernicious creep of repression in the country.

    Under slogans of “Speak out for freedom!” and “Speak out for Russia!”, activists in Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, UK, Ukraine and Russia itself will demonstrate through actions, flash mobs, letters and petitions against the ongoing clampdown on basic freedoms of people in Russia.

    “The right to protest peacefully; the right to speak freely on the Internet or in public; the right to disagree; the right to express who you are, all these are being smothered by the Russian authorities with the introduction of repressive legislation, smear campaigns and harassment,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

    To mark the start of the Week of Action Amnesty International is publishing a new briefing, Violation of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly in Russia, which focuses on four main areas of concern:

    August 29, 2014

    Russia’s official branding of a civil society organization as a “foreign agent”, an expression akin to “spying”, for speaking out on Ukraine is a sign of the country’s determination to suppress any information about its military activities there, Amnesty International said.

    On 28 August, the Russian Ministry of Justice added the NGO “Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg” to its official list of “foreign agents” under the 2012 law.

    The decision came after its leader, Ella Polyakova, spoke publicly about the alleged death of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine against the Ukrainian forces.

    July 21, 2014

    The Russian Ministry of Justice today registered four more Russian human rights organizations and one environmental group as “foreign agents”, a further sign of the authorities’ growing stranglehold on freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    “The Russian authorities’ determination to decimate independent civil society organizations remains steadfast,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for the Europe and Central Asia Program at Amnesty International.

    “This blow has been a long-time coming – but it still hits hard. The five NGOs now being branded as foreign agents include some of the biggest and most influential in the country. The question Russians should be asking themselves is: who will protect their rights when they are gone?”

    Human rights groups Public Verdict, Memorial, Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms (Jurix) and Agora, and environmental group Women’s Council (Ekozazchita! – Zhensovet) have been registered as “foreign NGOs” by the Ministry of Justice for supposedly conducting “political activities” while receiving some foreign funding.

    July 11, 2014

    The conviction against a peaceful Russian activist who was released from a closed psychiatric institution today must be overturned, Amnesty International said.

    Mikhail Kosenko was arrested after he took part in a protest in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square in May 2012 and placed in custody a month later.

    “Mikhail Kosenko’s participation in the demonstration at Bolotnaya, and false accusations that he used violence, have been used as evidence against him which led to his incarceration. Kosenko’s only ‘crime’ was publicly expressing his believes. This is reminiscent of the Soviet-era tactics when the authorities used psychiatric treatment to silence dissenting voices,” said Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International's Moscow Office Director.

    “The fact that Mikhail Kosenko’s conviction has not been overturned means he could be locked up again for any transgression, real or fabricated.”

    June 27, 2014

    By upholding a draconian requirement for three more independent organizations to register as “foreign agents”, a Moscow court is rubber stamping the authorities’ witch hunt against peaceful human rights defenders, said Amnesty International.

    “The Russian authorities’ determination to silence any form of dissent or criticism is astonishing. This week’s decision will further cripple civil society in Russia and have a disastrous impact on thousands of Russians who will see their chances of having their human rights protected greatly diminished,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.  

    On 24, 26 and 27 June, the Zamoskvoretskiy district court in Moscow ruled against appeals by the NGOs Golos, Yurix and Public Verdict not to have to register as “foreign agents”. The registration is required under the repressive “Foreign Agents Law” enacted by the Russian authorities on 21 November 2012.

    June 20, 2014

    The decision of the Moscow City Court to reject an appeal against the conviction of eight Bolotnaya protesters imprisoned after a politically motivated trial is yet another nail in the coffin for freedom of assembly and expression in Russia, said Amnesty International.

    “This decision sends a ‘warning signal’ to anyone thinking about taking to the streets in Moscow. The trial was clearly politically motivated and carried out with the specific aim of deterring future protests. There’s no reason to keep them behind bars,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    “Freedom of assembly is fast becoming a crime in Russia with authorities barely hesitating to lock up those whose views or peaceful activism they see as a political threat. Whether for brief detentions or longer periods as in this case, this must stop.”

    Hundreds of peaceful anti-government protesters were arrested after police brutally dispersed a protest in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square on 6 May 2012.

    June 03, 2014

    The right to protest is in danger of being lost in Russia as the clamp down on government critics and dissenting voices has intensified in recent months, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

    A right, not a crime: Violations of the right to freedom of assembly in Russia analyses legislative and policy changes introduced since President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a third term two years ago. It comes as the Russian parliament is adopting legislation that will criminalize organizations that repeatedly breach highly restrictive regulations on public assemblies.

    “The uncompromising reaction to the spate of demonstrations in Moscow in February and March this year has shown just how difficult and dangerous it has become to organize and participate in protests. The right to freedom of assembly has long been limited in Russia, but it is now in danger of being lost altogether,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    May 23, 2014

    A Moscow court has upped the ante in the Russian government’s assault on independent civil society by refusing to overturn an order forcing a leading human rights organisation to register as a “foreign agent”.

    In the spring of 2013 the Prosecutors Office ordered several Russian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the Human Rights Centre Memorial, Golos, Public Verdict and Jurix, which were in court today, to register as “foreign agents” under draconian new legislation introduced last year.

    Today Memorial lost its case. The hearings in the cases of the other three NGOs, Public Verdict, Golos and Jurix have been postponed.

    “The hearing was a grim farce. The court had the opportunity to uphold the right to freedom of association. Instead, it has helped the authorities put another nail in its coffin,” said Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.

    May 23, 2014

    Crimean Tatars face an uncertain future in the annexed peninsula, said Amnesty International today, ahead of presidential elections in Ukraine in which they and other residents of Crimea will no longer be able to take part.

     “Despite assurances made by the de facto Crimean authorities to protect the rights of Tatars, since the annexation of the peninsula by Russia in March this year, the Tatar community has faced increasing violence and discrimination,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

    “The Russian authorities have allowed armed groups that have been behind some brutal attacks against the Tatars to operate freely in Crimea. They have alienated Crimean Tatars by harassing Tatar leaders, threatening to dissolve their highest representative body, and restricting their rights to freedom of assembly and expression.

    “Up to 7,000 Tatars have fled Crimea already. Those who have stayed face the unenviable choice of having to give up their Ukrainian citizenship and accept a Russian one or become ‘foreigners’ in their homeland.”

    May 22, 2014

    Russia and China have displayed a chilling disregard for countless victims of serious human rights abuses in Syria by vetoing a UN Security Council resolution today to refer the situation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), said Amnesty International.

    “The vetoes by Russia and China are a callous political move that betrays suffering people in Syria. The resolution would have allowed the ICC to step in to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all sides to the conflict and sent an important message that these horrific crimes cannot be committed with impunity,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    May 21, 2014

    The conviction of five men for the murder of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya marks only a small step towards justice. The process has left too many questions unanswered and full justice will not be served until those who ordered the crime are identified and face the courts, Amnesty International said.

    “The tragic murder of Anna Politkovskaya uncovered the incredible dangers faced by those trying to expose human rights abuses and corruption in Russia. Until justice is delivered on her case, all journalists and activists will be at risk,” said Sergei Nikitin, Head of Amnesty International’s office in Russia.

    “Authorities in Russia must demonstrate with concrete actions that they are trying to establish who wanted Anna Politkovskaya dead. Those who ordered her killing must be identified and face justice.”

    Late on Tuesday, a court in Moscow convicted five men for carrying out the 2006 murder of the journalist outside her apartment in the capital. It is still not known who ordered her killing.

    May 05, 2014

    Released 0600 GMT, 5 May 2014

    The Russian authorities are doing all they can to scupper any protests to mark the second anniversary of the Bolotnaya Square demonstration on 6 May 2012, said Amnesty International.

    In the last two weeks independent media have been targeted and websites blocked. Moscow’s authorities have refused to authorize a public event on or anywhere near Bolotnaya Square to commemorate the demonstration, where hundreds of peaceful protesters were arrested and scores injured.

    “The Russian authorities are suffocating the right to freedom of expression and crushing freedom of assembly. The uncompromising reaction to the recent spate of peaceful demonstrations in Moscow has exposed just how difficult and dangerous it has become to organize and participate in protests,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    April 08, 2014

    Today’s decision by the St Petersburg City Court to deny the appeal of a prominent Russian non-governmental organization (NGO) against a previous court order to register as a “foreign agent” is a legal assault on the whole of civil society in Russia, Amnesty International said.

    Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial, an important human rights NGO working on behalf of victims of racism and xenophobia in Russia, decided to close down its activities in Russia rather than wear the label of a “foreign agent” or risk the criminal prosecution of its leader for failing to register. 

    “The court had two options, and its choice was not in favour of justice and human rights. Its disheartening decision is in line with the prevailing tendency promoted by the Russian government to stamp its authority on any civil society activity. It sets a dangerous precedent which could be used against other NGOs,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow office.

    March 25, 2014

    Today’s decision by Moscow City Court to uphold the conviction of peaceful protester Mikhail Kosenko is a perversion of justice that will see him detained in a psychiatric institution, potentially indefinitely, to undergo “treatment” he neither needs nor wants, Amnesty International said.

    Mikhail Kosenko was arrested after he took part in a protest in Bolotnaya Square in May 2012 which turned violent. He was charged with taking part in “mass riots” and using violence against police officers – accusations which Amnesty International considers to be politically motivated and which were contradicted by strong evidence not taken into account at trial.

    “In Mikhail Kosenko’s case, the courts are returning to an abhorrent practice that is redolent of the worst of Soviet-era tactics to crush dissent: the use of forced psychiatric treatment as a means to punish critics,” said Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.


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