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Russian Federation

    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.

    July 26, 2013

    A Russian appeal court’s decision to keep a second Pussy Riot punk band member behind bars for singing a protest song is further confirmation of the country’s dangerous slide towards greater suppression of free speech, Amnesty International said.

    “In the space of days two young artists have once again been denied freedom when they should never have been arrested in the first place,” said Natalia Prilutskaya of Amnesty International’s Russia team.

    Today the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mordovia turned down 23-year-old Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s parole appeal because she refuses to admit guilt for “hooliganism” and has twice been reprimanded at the penal colony where she has been imprisoned since last year.

    Tolokonnikova maintains her innocence and said she will continue to appeal her sentence all the way to Russia’s Supreme Court.

    On 24 July the Perm Regional Court upheld a previous decision to refuse to grant parole to Tolokonnikova’s bandmate, 25-year-old Maria Alekhina.

    July 24, 2013

    A Russian appeal court decision to refuse parole to Maria Alekhina, one of the Pussy Riot punk group singers jailed for singing a protest song in an Orthodox cathedral is a further travesty of justice, Amnesty International said today.

    "This decision is a further confirmation that the Russian authorities are uncompromising in their suppression of freedom of expression," said Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    Today the Perm Regional Court upheld a previous decision to refuse to grant parole to 24-year-old Alekhina. She 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. All three were subsequently sentenced to two years imprisonment in a penal colony but later Ekaterina Samutsevich was given a suspended sentence on appeal.

    July 22, 2013

    More than 100 internationally renowned musicians have joined a worldwide call for the release of the two jailed members of the Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot ahead of their parole appeal hearings this week.  

    July 18, 2013

    Aleksei Navalny, a popular informal opposition leader, was sentenced today to five years in a Russian prison colony after a politically motivated trial on highly questionable charges of embezzlement, Amnesty International said.

    His alleged accomplice and co-defendant, businessman Petr Ofitserov, received a four-year sentence.

    The organization calls for their immediate release. Any retrial must be on charges consistent with the economic facts of the case in proceedings that provide for the proper scrutiny of independent expert evidence.

    “From the start there were clear indications that the criminal prosecution of Aleksei Navalny was politically motivated. The very nature of charges against him was highly questionable, and the way his guilt was supposedly proven raises serious doubts,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “This was a parody of a prosecution and a parody of a trial. The case was twice closed for lack of evidence of a crime, before being reopened on the personal instruction of Russia’s top investigator.”

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