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Russian Federation

    March 21, 2013

    Lawyers are often the last line of defence for those facing torture and unfair trial in the North Caucasus and elsewhere in Russia, yet they themselves often come under attack in connection with their work, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

    Confronting the circle of injustice: Threats and pressure faced by lawyers in the North Caucasus, examines the harassment faced by criminal defence lawyers in the North Caucasus, a region of the Russian Federation where the violence of armed groups is countered by the heavy-handed response of the authorities, often with scant respect for basic human rights.

    “Russian lawyers have a duty to protect the rights of their clients in the face of criminal justice system geared to delivering convictions. Fulfilling their duties towards their clients often brings considerable risks to themselves,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

    February 20, 2013

    A year after the punk band Pussy Riot performed a protest song in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral, the situation for freedom of expression has only worsened in Russia, Amnesty International said.

    Last year’s arrest and criminal conviction of Pussy Riot members under the dubious charge of "hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred" signalled a fresh and severe clampdown on human rights in the country.

    Since then Russia’s Parliament has adopted several new laws targeting activists and those critical of the authorities.

    "New laws introduced since the Pussy Riot protest have given the authorities sweeping powers to clamp down on NGOs, human rights and political activists in Russia and go against the country's international human rights obligations," said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “Meanwhile, two Pussy Riot band members are still languishing in a prison colony far from their families, including small children – and our call for their immediate release continues.

    January 31, 2013

    A Russian court's decision to uphold a ban on 'extremist' videos of Pussy Riot's protest performance in a Moscow cathedral last year, highlights the escalating clampdown on freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said.

    The Moscow City Court on Wednesday rejected the appeal by band member Ekaterina Samutsevich and upheld the ruling of a lower court in November, banning the videos under vaguely defined counter-extremist legislation.

    "The increasing use of loosely-worded counter-extremist laws to crack down on dissent shows the Russian authorities' absolute lack of respect for the right to freedom of expression as one of the foundations of a democratic society," said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    "The ban on Pussy Riot's videos must be lifted and all such attacks on the internationally recognized right to freedom of expression must be stopped along with the narrow application of counter-extremist legislation."

    January 25, 2013

    Russia’s Parliament has backed a bill which outlaws the “propaganda of homosexuality among minors” in a move that will restrict fundamental human rights and is in breach of the country’s international obligations to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people from discrimination, Amnesty International said today.

    The State Duma voted almost unanimously in favour of the controversial measure with only one parliamentarian against and another abstaining, during the first reading.

    The law would make the “promotion of homosexuality among minors” an administrative offence in federal law, with fines of up to 500,000 roubles (US$ 16,200).

    “This law is an attack on the right to freedom of expression,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    There is no legal definition in the Russian law of what constitutes ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ and the law could be interpreted very loosely. They are going to punish people for something which is perfectly legitimate – expressing themselves, being themselves.

    January 24, 2013

    The trial of a Russian lawyer who blew the whistle on a high-level corruption scandal even though he is dead as a result of mistreatment while in detention is an attempt to deflect attention from those who committed the crimes he exposed, Amnesty International said on the eve of the preliminary hearing scheduled for 28 January in a Moscow court.

    Sergei Magnitsky – who died on 16 November 2009 – was charged with the very crimes he exposed triggering a sequence of events that lead to his premature death.

    “The Russian authorities’ intention to proceed with the criminal prosecution of Sergei Magnitsky violates his fundamental rights even in death, in particular the right to defend himself in person,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.

    “The trial of a deceased person and the forcible involvement of his relatives is a dangerous precedent that would open a whole new chapter in Russia’s worsening human rights record.

    “The legal grounds for the posthumous criminal prosecution against Sergei Magnitski to say the least are dubious and the authorities must halt this travesty.”

    January 18, 2013

    Until the full truth is uncovered about the Katyn massacre the Russian authorities have an on-going obligation under international law to investigate this war crime that has gone unpunished since the Second World War, Amnesty International said today.  

    As the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights is considering the case brought against Russia by some of the relatives of more than 20,000 Polish prisoners of war who were killed during the 1940 Katyn massacre, Amnesty International submitted its legal opinion on the case this week.  

    “For nearly 50 years, first Soviet and then the Russian authorities denied their responsibility for the murder of tens of thousands of Polish prisoners of war,” said Marek Marczynski, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “They dragged their feet with the investigation into the mass murder for nearly 15 years after that until finally in 2004 they decided to close it in secret proceedings, quoting national security interest for doing so.”

    January 16, 2013

    Today’s decision by a Russian court not to allow Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina to defer serving her sentence to a later date compounds the injustice already meted out to the imprisoned punk singer, Amnesty International said today.

    “Today’s court ruling is a further travesty of justice. The three Pussy Riot singers should not have been prosecuted in the first place. Today's decision has proven again that the Russian authorities are uncompromising in their suppression of freedom of expression,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    “Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova should be released, immediately and unconditionally, while the suspended sentence of Ekaterina Samutsevich should be overturned.”

    Maria Alekhina 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.

    Amnesty International’s Moscow office is currently being inspected by prosecutors and tax inspectors – part of the wave of inspections of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) across Russia in recent weeks. Three other prominent Russian NGOs are also being inspected today: Public Verdict Foundation, For Human Rights Movement and Agency for Social Information. The stated version of the inspections was to check compliance with Russian legislation on NGOs.

    Amnesty International, along with other NGOs, has repeatedly condemned the new legislation imposing increasing restrictions on NGOs and expressed its fears that the NGO laws would be used to harass and seek closure of those highlighting abuses and critical of the government.

    Amnesty International is also concerned that the recent wave of inspections has been carried out in such a way as to deliberately stigmatise and discredit NGOs in the eyes of the public.

    Amnesty International is confident that all its activities comply with Russian legislation. The organization expresses regret that its time and that of the inspectors involved is not employed in a more useful manner.

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