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Russian Federation

    November 04, 2013

    The Russian authorities must promptly find and bring to justice all those responsible for a violent homophobic attack in St Petersburg that has left two people injured, including one who has been left blind in one eye, Amnesty International said.

    According to local activists in St Petersburg, on Sunday night two masked men brandishing air guns and baseball bats attacked the office of LaSky, a non-governmental organization that provides support to gay people living with HIV.

    “This latest insidious attack is sadly characteristic of a widespread atmosphere of homophobia in Russia today. If nothing is done to combat the hate, the ground is fertile for further violence,” said Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    “The Russian authorities must seek out, investigate and prosecute all those responsible for these violent attacks. Russian President Putin has publicly said the country would welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) activists at the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics, but such pledges ring hollow in the face of these ongoing hate crimes.”

    October 30, 2013

    Greenpeace Canada and Amnesty International Canada

    30 October 2013 (Ottawa) – At a news conference on Parliament Hill today the families of two Canadian Greenpeace activists jailed in Murmansk, Russia, joined Greenpeace and Amnesty International in urging Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to step up his efforts to secure their release by speaking out publicly and using all available political channels.

    “Last month, my brother took peaceful action to protest Arctic oil drilling,” said Patti Stirling of Port Colborne native Paul Ruzycki. “He wasn’t fighting against Russia; he was fighting to avert an environmental catastrophe. He helped call global attention to a threat to our present and the future generations, and is a hero deserving of all the help this government can give him.”

    October 24, 2013

    Russia: ‘Hooliganism’ charges do not apply to peaceful Greenpeace protest

    The new “hooliganism” charges levelled against crew members involved in last month’s Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise protest in Russian waters are inappropriate and should be dropped, Amnesty International said today.   

    In a statement on Wednesday, Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee said that it was dropping the piracy charges originally brought against the activists and replacing them with charges of “hooliganism”. The maximum punishment under Russian law is seven years’ imprisonment.

    “The piracy charges originally brought in this case were patently absurd – but these new charges are no better. Hooliganism is a serious criminal offence in Russia, and it is not one that those engaging in peaceful protest should be prosecuted under,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    October 21, 2013

    Today’s European Court of Human Rights decision is a missed opportunity to ensure that the Russian state accepts responsibility for the murder of tens of thousands of Polish prisoners of war during the Second World War, Amnesty International said.

    Some of the relatives of the more than 20,000 Polish prisoners of war and civilians who were killed during the 1940 Katyn massacre brought the case against Russia. But the Court found it was unable to determine the adequacy of an earlier investigation into the massacre because it took place before the adoption of the European Convention of Human Rights in 1950.

    “Russian authorities are sitting on a wealth of information about the whereabouts of victims’ remains, the circumstances of these killings, and potentially the identities of those who were killed. They have a duty to reveal the truth of what happened at Katyn to the relatives of the victims,” said Michael Bochenek, Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    October 16, 2013

    <p>Russian authorities&#39; attempts to stifle human rights work in the country are increasing, Amnesty International warned today after an NGO in the city of Ryazan lost a lawsuit triggered by a repressive new law.</p>
    <p>Memorial Ryazan unsuccessfully challenged a prosecutor&#39;s warning that it had failed to register as a &quot;foreign agent&quot; under the law, which deems its human rights work &quot;political&quot;.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
    <p>&quot;Memorial Ryazan&#39;s defeat in court is yet another dangerous development for Russian NGOs and highlights the chilling implications the &#39;foreign agents law&#39; has on the future of human rights reporting in the country,&quot; said Sergei Nikitin, director of Amnesty International&#39;s Moscow office.</p>
    <p>&quot;If other Russian courts take a similar line, it will escalate a process that essentially paralyses the country&#39;s human rights movement - a prospect the Kremlin would appear to relish.&quot;</p>

    October 15, 2013

    The arbitrary arrest and detention of more than 1,200 immigrants in a sweep operation at a Moscow market yesterday in response to the murder of an ethnic Russian man is just the latest example of disproportionate and discriminatory policing in Russia, Amnesty International has said.

    An Azerbaijani man, who was not identified as a result of the wave of arrests, was today named as the suspect for the murder, which sparked major riots targeting migrants over the weekend.

    "The Russian police's indiscriminate detention of more than a thousand migrants in the search for one alleged killer was deeply discriminatory and obviously unlawful," said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International's Russia researcher.

    "It was clearly done for show and not for any justifiable legal reason. Police responses like this merely play to existing xenophobic attitudes and inflame them."

    An angry mob rioted in the Moscow district of Biryulyovo this weekend over the stabbing of 25-year-old Yegor Shcherbakov, after it was reported that his killer may have been from Central Asia or the Caucasus.

    October 10, 2013

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns

    On the rainiest day in months, a group of dedicated Amnesty activists marched from the University of Ottawa campus to the Embassy of the Russian Federation to Canada chanting, “Our birthday wish for Putin… respect for human rights!”

    October 08, 2013

    Today’s decision of a Moscow court to send Mikhail Kosenko to forcible treatment in a psychiatric institution is an abhorrent return to the Soviet-era practices used to silence dissent, Amnesty International said.

    “To forcibly incarcerate Mikhail Kosenko in a psychiatric unit smacks of the worst excesses of the now defunct Soviet era when dissidents were languishing in mental institutions, treated as mental patients only because they dared to speak their mind,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.

    “Mikhail Kosenko is a prisoner of conscience put behind bars for peacefully exercising his right to protest and should be released immediately.”

    Mikhail Kosenko was arrested after he took part in a Bolotnaya Square protest in May 2012 which turned violent. He was charged with taking part in a riot and using violence against police officers.

    The court decision was announced as dozens of people gathered in a peaceful protest outside the court shouting Kosenko's name and "Freedom". It is reported that at least eight people have been arbitrarily arrested.

    October 07, 2013

    As the Olympic torch arrives in Moscow ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Amnesty International is launching a worldwide campaign to highlight Russia’s increasingly deplorable human rights record.

    “The Olympic flame can throw light on the human rights violations that the authorities would prefer to hide behind the celebratory decorations. It is important that all those with a stake in the Games are aware of restrictions placed by the Russian authorities on civil society and ordinary citizens, and use their influence to oppose them,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.

    With the arrival of the Olympic flame in Moscow and the start of its journey to Sochi on 7 October, hundreds of thousands of Amnesty International members will stage a series of events and protests worldwide.

    Supporters from Ottawa through to Puerto Rico, Warsaw, Paris, Brussels and Moscow are organizing vigils, flash mobs and pickets in public places and in front of Russian embassies to raise awareness about the range of violations to the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in Russia.

    October 04, 2013

    The Moscow authorities’ refusal to sanction a small Amnesty International event to highlight Russia’s appalling human rights record ahead of the Sochi Olympics highlights the lack of tolerance for freedom of expression in Russia today.

    On 7 October, as the Olympic torch arrives in Moscow, Amnesty International is launching a worldwide campaign to highlight problems with freedom of expression in Russia which are in direct conflict with the Olympic spirit.

    A small event was proposed in Moscow’s Pushkin Square, in solidarity with other Amnesty International events and, as required by Russian law the authorities were notified of plans to hold the 15-strong picket. Three alternative locations were also proposed by the human rights organization.

    The Moscow authorities’ written reply stated that Pushkin Square is “unsuitable for a public event” because “it would be impossible … to provide safety” for the event. They failed to explain why the safety of 15 people could not be ensured. They also failed to consider the three alternative locations for Amnesty International’s picket.

    October 02, 2013

    The “piracy” charge levelled against activists from the global environmental group Greenpeace today in Russia is absurd and damaging to the rule of law and must be dropped immediately, Amnesty International said.

    “These absurd piracy charges are completely unfounded against activists who appear to have been engaged in peaceful protest. They make a mockery of the Russian justice system and should be dropped immediately,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “The Russian authorities have clearly decided to make an example of the Greenpeace activists in order to discourage future protests of this kind. Sadly this is consistent with the Russian authorities’ attitude to protest more broadly.

    September 27, 2013

    Amnesty International is disappointed by the failure of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to see the detrimental effect that Russia’s discriminatory legislation will have on the Games in Sochi.  

    "Russia’s law banning propaganda of ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ among minors is clearly discriminatory and in this it violates international law and runs counter to the Olympic Charter. Moreover, the introduction of the law creates an atmosphere in Russia that has already encouraged brutal crimes against people only because of their real or perceived sexual orientation,” Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.

    “The fact that the IOC has satisfied itself with Russian officials’ assurances of non-discrimination is not enough. It disregards the fact that Russian law effectively prohibits people from public expression of ‘non-traditional’ sexual orientation. This is an affront to gay and lesbian athletes and spectators. It is also a disappointment to sports fans across the world who care about the Olympic ideal.”

    September 25, 2013

    The Russian prison authorities’ decision to move an imprisoned member of the punk band Pussy Riot to solitary confinement after she complained about prison conditions is yet another sign of suppression of any form of free speech in the country, Amnesty International said.

    The decision came after Nadezhda Tolokonnikova went on hunger strike and wrote an open letter describing the abuses in her prison colony, including inmates being forced to work extremely long hours in “slave-like” conditions. Nadezhda also alleged that she had received death threats from a senior prison official and later from some inmates.

    “The prison administration claimed that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova had been placed in isolation for her own protection, but we are concerned this could be yet another punishment for demanding that her own rights and the rights of other inmates are respected. What authorities should do is investigate the allegations she made,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s office in Moscow.

    September 24, 2013

    Piracy charges against activists on the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise are would be manifestly unfounded, Amnesty International said after the Russian authorities released a statement on the case on Tuesday afternoon.

    “There’s very little question that unarmed Greenpeace activists are not pirates,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International. 

    “Charges of piracy are manifestly unfounded in this case – having no basis in law or reality – and it’s profoundly damaging to level such serious charges so carelessly.

    “The Greenpeace activists must be released on a reasonable bail and given full access to defence lawyers, pending any possible trial.”

    August 16, 2013

    By Jacqueline Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women's Rights Campaigner

    In January, a group of people gathered in St. Petersburg for a snowball fight. The police responded by banning it and dispersing the crowd, calling it an “unauthorized gathering.”

    This is not a joke. This actually happened.

    In May, a group of activists supporting the human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community, staged a peaceful protest in Moscow against homophobic laws. They were beaten by counter-protestors while police stood by. And then the victims—the LGBTI activists—were arrested by the police.

    On June 30th, Russia passed a homophobic law, which violates both its own constitution and international human rights treaties, and discriminates against the LGBTI community. Under the law, “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” is banned. What this means is that members of Russia’s LGBTI community are being firmly pushed back into the closet, and risk fines and jail time for such things as promoting sexual health for LGBTI youth, or kissing their partner in public.

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