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Russian Federation

    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.”

    July 09, 2013

    The Russianauthorities must urgently investigate the killing of a journalist this morning in the North Caucasus, Amnesty International said. The authorities must do all in their power to protect activists, lawyers and reporters from intimidation and violence. 

    “Reportingon injustice, human rights violations by members of security forces and corruption in the North Caucasus is a life threatening job,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International. 

    “Authorities inRussia must stop looking the other way when it comes to attacks on those who dare to speak out about human rights and instead, ensure those responsible for the abuses face the courts.” 

    JournalistAkhmednabi Akhmednabiev was assassinated by an unknown gunman near his home in the village of Semender in Dagestan, Russian Federation, earlier today. 
    Akhmednabiev’s nameand that of another journalist killed in December 2011 appeared on a threatening flier produced by anonymous authors and distributed in Makhachkala, in September 2009. 

    July 01, 2013

    President Vladimir Putin’s new laws criminalising blasphemy and outlawing public activism by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals are an affront to freedom of expression and an attack on minority rights Amnesty International said today.  

    “This is the reality of Russia today – the suppression of any form of dissent or diverging views in all spheres of life, from the political to the social. This demonstrates once again the disregard the authorities there have for their international and national obligations in promoting the human rights of all people under their jurisdiction,” said John Dalhuisen

    The law criminalizing blasphemy which came into force today imposes fines of up to RUB 500,000 (over USD 15,000) and up to three years of imprisonment for public actions which disrespect or insult the religious beliefs of people in places of worship. If committed elsewhere, the offence carries up to a year of imprisonment and fine of up to RUB 300,000. $9,000 USD.

    June 27, 2013

    Amnesty International is seriously concerned about the ongoing clampdown in Russia against civil society. The organization strongly condemns the use of the “Foreign Agents Law” to prosecute and hold personally liable the leaders of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that refuse to be labelled in a manner that creates a negative public image of their work in the eyes of the Russian society.  

    The “Foreign Agents Law” requires all organizations that receive foreign funding and engage in loosely defined "political activities" to register as “foreign agents” and to subject themselves to additional and burdensome checks and audits and mark all of their publications and websites with this label, which implies "spy" and "enemy". Amnesty International has previously expressed concern that this legislation, in its entirety, negatively affects the rights to freedom of expression and association.

    June 21, 2013

    Russian police and agents of a private security firm are currently attempting to evict the prominent Russian civil society group “For Human Rights” from their premises in Moscow The activists are refusing to leave the office.

    ”For Human Rights” has been involved in discussions with Moscow City authorities – its landlord – about the extension of the lease for some months, but maintains that it had not received any notice of the termination of their contract prior to eviction order presented today by the private security firm contracted by the municipal authorities.

    Amnesty International’s observer, who is currently witnessing the eviction, said: “In Russia, we have witnessed how authorities are using every trick in the box to stop human rights activists criticising their policies. The attempt to evict ‘For Human Rights’ from publicly owned offices seems to be yet another attempt to block their important human rights work.”

    June 11, 2013

    The space for free expression in Russia shrank further today after the State Duma in Moscow passed two new bills aimed at stamping out minority views, Amnesty International said.

    Within hours of each other, the country’s lower house of Parliament passed bills to criminalize blasphemy and outlaw activism by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals and their supporters.

    The measures are expected to be approved in the near future by the upper house of Parliament and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

    “In the space of mere hours, the Duma succeeded in adopting two pieces of legislation that testify to the shrinking space for freedom of expression in Russia. They represent a sorry attempt by the government to bolster its popularity by pandering to the most reactionary elements of Russian society – at the expense of fundamental rights and the expression of individual identities,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    June 06, 2013

    The hefty fine imposed on a civil society organization in Russia today is further evidence of the Russian government’s determination to curtail the freedom of association and free speech in the country, Amnesty International said.

    The St Petersburg-based film festival “Bok o Bok” (“Side by Side”), which seeks to create a space where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people can openly express their identity, was issued with an unprecedentedly heavy combined fine of RUB 500,000 (over USD 15,500).

    The fine was based on two purported separate offences: its failure to register as a “foreign agent” and the failure to indicate that it is a “foreign agent” in a publication it has recently produced, as is required by the relevant law dictates. An administrative case against its leader is ongoing, and may also result in a high fine too.

    This is the fourth non-governmental organization (NGO) to be fined since April this year, after a repressive new “foreign agents’ law” came into effect, placing broad new restrictions on the work of civil society organizations.

    May 25, 2013

    The failure of Moscow police to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) protesters from physical attacks on Saturday reinforces an impression of state sanctioned violence and discrimination, Amnesty International said. 

    In events monitored by Amnesty International, at least 30 LGBTI protesters were detained by police in three locations in the centre of Moscow: in front of the Parliament, the Mayor's Office and Gorky Park.

    The activists were attempting to hold pickets to protest against homophobic laws, including a draft federal law banning the so-called "propaganda of homosexuality" and to attract attention to the persisting discrimination and violence against LGBTI people in the country.

    "Instead of detaining peaceful LGBTI demonstrators, the Russian authorities should protect them from extremist attacks based on discriminatory attitudes held by some," said David Diaz-Jogeix,Amnesty International’s Deputy Program Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    April 25, 2013

    (Moscow) The decision of a Moscow court on April 25, 2013 to fine an independent non-governmental organization and its leader is an alarming indicator for the future of civil society in Russia, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.

    The Association in Defence of Voters’ Rights Golos (Voice) became the first Russian nongovernmental organizations to fall afoul of the “foreign agents” law. It was fined 300,000  rubles (almost US$10,000).

    Golos played a prominent role in organizing election monitoring and reporting allegations of electoral fraud in the 2011 parliament and 2012 presidential elections.

    “The case against Golos should never have been brought let alone succeeded,” said John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme. “The foreign agents law is a bad law that was introduced for political reasons.  It is sadly not surprising that it has resulted in politically motivated decisions. The foreign agents law is a stick to beat watchdogs with and needs to be repealed.”


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