Advisory Council (Russia)

On this page you will find statements and opinions by members of Rights in Russia's Advisory Council (Russia).

Aleksei Simonov: Free media exist in our country only in a small number of “special cases”

posted 20 Nov 2017, 07:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Nov 2017, 07:50 ]


12 November 2017 




Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Voice of America



Investigative journalism does exist in today’s Russia, according to Aleksei Simonov, president of the Glasnost Defence Foundation and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. ‘But’ he adds, ‘it’s another matter that those who wish to engage in investigations far outnumber those who wish to publish them. Unfortunately that is the situation for the time being.’

In an interview with a correspondent from the Russian service of the Voice of America, Aleksei Simonov said that the Glasnost Defence Foundation, which he heads, has conducted more than thirty schools on investigative journalism across Russia, including in St Petersburg. 'In my view’ continued Simonov ‘interest in investigative journalism is an important aspect of interest in journalism in general. But there’s a problem with the publication of the results of investigations – because there are fewer and fewer of those who want to answer for such publications, defend them, and struggle for the truth.’

The president of the Glasnost Defence Foundation also observed that investigative journalism in Russia is a very dangerous affair. ‘In a normal country an individual, carrying out their professional work, feels relatively protected. And if their profession is investigation, they feel themselves relatively well protected. This is because relations between individuals are regulated with the help of laws and not by custom, tradition, or directives from above’ he argued.

In October there were rumours that Evgeny Prigozhin had expressed interest in buying Fontanka.ru and the newspaper Delovoi Peterburg. This coincided with a series of investigative articles by Denis Korotkov on the Fontanka site (after which the journalist began to receive a large number of anonymous threats, and his St Petersburg address was published on social networking sites). Incidentally, talk of a potential sale was soon denied both by Prigozhin and by the directors of the internet-site.

‘I think that it was simply a desire to frighten the young people at Fontanka and, at the same time, to have a bit of fun’ said Aleksei Simonov.

However, you can find other views in the St Petersburg media world. For example, there are those who remind us that conversations about the sale of the newspaper Vedemosti and the RBK holding were reported some time before these deals took place, and that the initial information leak was intended to test the state of public opinion regarding a potential change of direction by these media outlets.

Commenting on the situation regarding the Russian print and electronic media, Aleksei Simonov emphasized that ‘free media only exist as a small number of “special cases.” And even these are becoming fewer and fewer: “It’s true, I don’t have the feeling that today, as elections approach, the press is again being cleaned out. Rather it’s being purged in a quite different way – not by removing or buying up publications, but by creating an atmosphere of distrust of the media. The creation of such an atmosphere is not something new, and it’s being done extremely effectively.”

Translated by Mary McAuley

Lev Ponomarev: Prisoners tortured; a lawyer killed in a car crash: daily life in the Russian Gulag

posted 19 Nov 2017, 08:16 by Website Service   [ updated 19 Nov 2017, 08:28 ]


14 November 2017 

By Lev Ponomarev, leader of the movement For Human Rights, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, deputy chair of the board of the Foundation for the Protection of Prisoners' Rights

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Echo of Moscow]





The topic of violence against prisoners isn't the most popular among Echo of Moscow's listeners and readers. But this incident stands out. In this case prisoners are facing prosecution for an alleged “false denunciation” after they were tortured and lodged complaints about it. The next day, their lawyer, Ekaterina Selivanova, died. Maybe this is a coincidence, but maybe it isn't.

Several prisoners at Kemerovo prison colony IK-37 had reported abuse and beatings to Selivanova. According to convicts, a search was carried out at the colony on 12 September, during which they were told they would be sexually abused if they did not sign a document agreeing to cooperation with the prison authorities. One of the prisoners, Mikhail Krasilnikov, refused to sign this document. According to Krasilnikov, he was raped. We have published letters from two prisoners earlier, as well as pictures of one of them, who had cut his veins.

According to Selivanova, more than ten people committed this act of self-mutilation, including her defendants. One of the prisoners, Anton Fedotov, attempted to hang himself but was pulled out of the noose.

Prisoner Daniil Kruglov was freed from prison colony No. 37 on 30 September. He recorded a video in which he related what he saw on the day of the "search." He stated what he saw with his own eyes and heard how they beat his fellow prisoners. He also stated that he heard stories about the rape of his acquaintance Krasilnikov.

Video evidence

Under pressure from human rights activists, the Investigative Committee began an investigation. Remarkably, government officials attempted to interfere with this investigation in whatever ways they could. Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) officers interrupted prisoners' meetings with lawyers and intimidated defence counsels. Selivanova even appealed to the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Kemerovo region for assistance, although no action was taken.

As a result, criminal cases were initiated not against prison colony employees, but against prisoners, for false denunciation. The decision to institute criminal cases was issued on 25 October 2017. Major Tiptsov led the investigation.

The next day, 26 October 2017, Selivanova died. She was on her way to see her defendants when her car was struck by a heavy truck. The lawyer was buried in a cemetery in Prokopyevsk, a city in Kemerovo region. However, on the ninth day after her death, unknown persons dug up her grave and desecrated it.

Selivanova's colleagues are continuing the work she had begun on this case. Sergei Okhotin, leader of the Kuzbass regional division of the For Human Rights movement, issued a statement addressed to Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of Russia, with a complaint about Major Tiptsov for improper conduct of the investigation. Okhotin has demanded that a criminal case be initiated against the investigator. Meanwhile, the lawyer Kurkin has taken on the defence of Krasilnikov.

We worked with Ekaterina Selivanova for a long time and will of course continue to support the work she had begun. We support Sergei Okhotin's complaint, we will appeal to the Human Rights Ombudsman, and we will demand that the General Prosecutor's Office assume supervision over both the resumed investigation of torture at Prison Colony No. 37 and the criminal investigation into the death of lawyer Selivanova.

Katya was a radiant person who was destined for human rights work since childhood. We plan to write more about her separately and in more detail, but for now we'll share a quote from her correspondence with activist colleague Larisa Zakharova: "I will always protect people's rights no matter what. It's my calling. It's what I was sent to this world to do. Since I was just a child I've been defending the weak and defenceless. When I would see big kids picking on smaller kids in the courtyard, I would run out and fight with the big kids. I've always been this way! And I'll always be this way. And no one will be able to stop me from doing this."

Liudmila Alekseeva: "It’s a shame if decent, intelligent people are leaving Russia"

posted 19 Nov 2017, 07:52 by Website Service   [ updated 19 Nov 2017, 07:58 ]


8 November 2017 



Extract from an interview with Liudmila Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group


Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Argumenti.ru


[...] So let’s talk about that meeting of the Human Rights Council. The journalist Stanislav Kucher [...] told Putin that around 20 of his friends aged between 20 and 35 decided to leave Russia. These are young academics, entrepreneurs, cultural figures... Do you know how they’re getting on abroad?

I don’t know exactly how they’re getting on, but I know that our academics and scientists who went to America (where I reluctantly lived for a long time and where I still have many acquaintances and even friends) from Russia and the USSR are doing excellent work there. Russian brains are greatly appreciated in America.

That’s the scientists and academics, what about the cultural figures?

It’s difficult in America for the cultural figures, the musicians, the choreographers, the dancers and so on because everything is in a different language. They need to know the language really well and feel at home with it, and that is very difficult.

The president said that Russians have started coming back from America, in part because of the difference in mentality. Is that the information you have?

I have no such information, but I’m one of the ones who came back. I came back even though I was doing okay there both financially and in terms of recognition.

I mean it doesn’t even compare... I had a three-storey house there, for example, and I wasn’t selling anything to anyone, I was just doing my own thing.

I’m not complaining about my life here, of course, I have an apartment on the Arbat. But it’s impossible to compare an apartment in a block with your own large house.

My life was great in America, the people there were friendly to me and I to them, but as soon as they started letting people back into Russia I came back straight away and I haven’t regretted it for a second.

And the Americans didn’t use you for political purposes? I’m thinking of the three-storey house compared to an apartment in a block and...

Aghhh! How exactly could I be used, I wonder? I’m not someone who can be pushed around easily! I have never met anyone who could use me.

That’s just how things are there, and everyone had these three-storey houses. Do you think I was so rich in America? No. They’re simply better off than us...

Anyway, everyone’s different. There are people who are ‘citizens of the world’ by nature and there are people like me...

I didn’t come back for financial reasons or because things weren’t working out for me there, everything was going very well for me in America, but I want to live at home.

I love my country and its people. Americans have got it good, but we also have work for our much-loved young people here – no end of it!

You know, it pains me to see people leaving, because our country really needs these people. All the bad ones can go, but I think it’s a shame if  decent, intelligent people are leaving Russia!

Having said that, I think everyone should live wherever they want. If someone wants to live in America, then let them live in America; if they want to live here, then let them live here.

Life is so short and it would be great if everyone could live it exactly as they pleased. That is my wish for everyone. […]

Translated by Nicky Brown

Pavel Chikov: Born of “revolution” - how the Artpodgotovka movement met its demise

posted 17 Nov 2017, 09:39 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Nov 2017, 08:01 by Website Service ]


8 November 2017

By Pavel Chikov, head of the Agora international human rights group 

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: РБК]



The outcome of the movement’s activities has turned out very strangely: thousands of activists, a few hundred detainees potentially facing real terms in prison, and possible medals for FSB and Interior Ministry officers for preventing a “revolution”.

On 5 November, the long-announced “revolution day,” the Interior Ministry reported the detention in Moscow of more than three hundred members of the “Artpodgotovka” movement – a group banned in Russia as extremist. Most of those taken to police stations were questioned as witnesses in relation to a criminal case involving terrorism. The day before, twenty Moscow addresses were simultaneously searched by the FSB and police. They found brass knuckles, masks, weapons of self-defence, grenades and examples of the movement’s paraphernalia.

Just before, on 26 October, the Krasnoyarsk regional court recognised the inter-regional social movement Artpodgotovka as an extremist organisation and banned its activities on the territory of Russia. The Krasnoyarsk prosecutor’s office filed a corresponding administrative claim on 28 September. The decision has not yet come into force, as the appeal window at the Supreme court lasts until 26 November. [As of 8 November], Artpodgotovka is not yet listed on the register of extremist websites of the Ministry of Justice. But the YouTube channel of movement leader Vyacheslav Maltsev, which was launched in 2011 and has over 140,000 subscribers, is blocked to internet users in Russia, as is the movement’s website. Across the country, a barrage of criminal cases have been opened against its activists.

To date, no nationwide civil society movement has been subjected to such an intensive crackdown in such a short time. Others were “sorted out” gradually, as happened with the National Bolsheviks and religious radicals, or locally, as with the mejlis of the Crimean Tatars (labelled extremist and banned on Russian territory).

In view of the fact that Maltsev’s movement is a quite unusual phenomenon that came out of nowhere, has no real systematic structure or membership, and is not really recognised by other players in the opposition, the reasons for such a massive attack deserve more serious scrutiny.

A new opposition

The political programme of Artpodgotovka consists of twenty-two items and is redolent of naked populism. The disbandment of security services, a purge of government officials, the abolition of taxes, action against corrupt officials, the introduction of payments for families that have suffered because of the criminal authorities. Not very nice but definitely old-style socialism and nationalism in the same package. Its social base is those aged 30 to 50. Not the poor, but the middle classes, primarily in the regions. This Russian version of the American white supremacists burst quickly onto the political scene in the wake of the rhetoric of Donald Trump. This is quite a large social stratum, who were young in the ‘80s and ‘90s, who absorbed the concept of political freedom but have not been successful in their take root in their lives. This potential protest electorate, which blames corrupt officials, immigrants from Central Asia and Jews for its own failures, has not been embraced by any opposition movement outside the system. The nationalists were defeated, and their leaders (Aleksandr Potkin, Dmitry Demushkin, Maksim Martsinkevich) were convicted. The older dissenting electorate traditionally votes for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. It seems that politically active youth aged from 16 to 30 have been captured by Aleksei Navalny. Maltsev works with the generation between the two.

A strange mission

In any case, almost the only registered opposition party which could aspire to a seat in the State Duma if it overcame the five per cent barrier, has been neutralised as the result of a powerful campaign to discredit from outside (the publication of secret video recordings with Kasyanov and a series of special reports on state television channels) and an internal split over the figure of Maltsev.

Willingly or no, the Artpodgotovka movement has fulfilled its strange political mission. It drew in several few thousand supporters, harnessed their potential for protest, and provided an opportunity for FSB and Interior Ministry operatives to actively work to prevent “a revolution,” although there turned out not to be any real revolutionaries among Artpodgotovka’s supporters.

How the matter unfolds further will depend on many factors, but it can be supposed that the majority of those detained on 5 November will prefer cooperation with the investigation and a plea bargain: admission of guilt in exchange for a reduced sentence of not more than two thirds the maximum sentence. We can also predict that, in spite of the considerably larger number of accused in comparison with the famous Bolotnaya Square case, the public response to the trials of the “Maltsevites” will be an order of magnitude smaller. Far from the capital, the Artpodgotovka activists just won’t attract such attention.

Translated by Anna Bowles

Liudmila Alekseeva: "We think of Ukrainians with great warmth"

posted 16 Nov 2017, 12:52 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Nov 2017, 13:01 ]

8 November 2017

Source: 
Moscow Helsinki Group 


On 16 November the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine may consider a bill in second reading on the reintegration of Donbass, a bill that will include a point about breaking diplomatic relations with Russia, Kommersant reported on 8 November.

Breaking diplomatic relations with Russia would be a just step, but a very difficult one to come to terms with. Such is the view opinion of Liudmila Alekseeva, the prominent Russian human rights defender and head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, she told the Ukrainian publication Obozrevatel.

"It's a just step, but one very difficult to come to terms with,” Alekseeva said. “Because our peoples have been very close to each other, we are very closely related peoples." "My much-loved cousin lives in Kherson. Will she be able to visit me if we break off all relations?” she asked.

“It would be a just step, that can't be gainsaid. But it would be terrible if it happened. I will grieve over it," Alekseeva confessed.

Liudmila Alekseeva added that such a step would impact not only the ability of ordinary citizens to travel between Russia and Ukraine, but would have much more serious consequences.

"For all that, Ukraine is closely related to Russia. After all it's our leaders who have quarrelled. As for us, we think of Ukrainians with great warmth,” Alekseeva says.

Nadezhda Azhgikhina: "Stop hate, stop impunity" - a letter from Russia

posted 13 Nov 2017, 07:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Nov 2017, 07:16 ]


2 November 2017




On 2 November 2017, the EFJ Vice President Nadezda Azgikhina wrote a letter from Russia. The letter focused on fighting against hate and impunity towards journalists. Here, the EFJ publishes this letter:


The first conference devoted to Impunity in Russia took place just before the Moscow IFJ Congress in 2007. It focused mainly on the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist murdered on 7 October 2006, and focused on other colleagues who were murdered too. For the first time, a list of deceased Russian journalists, prepared by Glasnost Defense Foundation, was presented to the international professional community. It consisted of 211 names. [Read more]

Pavel Chikov: FSB v Telegram

posted 13 Nov 2017, 06:13 by Website Service   [ updated 13 Nov 2017, 06:23 ]

18 October 2018

An interview with Pavel Chikov of the Agora Human Rights Association [extract]

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Radio Svoboda]


Lawyers from the human-rights group Agora will represent the company Telegram in a legal case against the Federal Security Service (FSB). On October 16, the Moscow Magistrate's Court fined Telegram 800,000 roubles for refusing to give the FSB keys for decrypting users' messages. Telegram founder Pavel Durov intends to appeal this ruling and claims that the FSB's demands are not only technically impossible to meet, but they also go against the Constitution. […]

– What is the gist of the FSB's claims against Telegram? What is the background of this situation?

Pavel Chikov: In mid-July, the Federal Security Service filed a request with the British company TelegramMessenger LLP to provide data on several subscribers, several Telegram users who are allegedly suspected of terrorist activity. Telegram did not provide this data, since the data that was requested is encrypted using encryption keys. The FSB drew up a report on the failure to submit the data based on Article 13.31 of the Administrative Violations Code, and on 16 October, the magistrate pronounced the company guilty and issued a fine of 800,000 roubles.

– Pavel Durov says that it wasn't even technically possible, to provide the decryption keys. In that case, what is the FSB demanding?

Pavel Chikov: It's technically impossible to provide the decryption keys simply because these keys don't exist naturally. Because the keys are generated on the users' devices for each particular chat. To give you a rough idea, they're generated, people communicate, and afterwards the conversation ends. So Telegram doesn't have the technical capability to disclose the chats of any user, be it the concrete data the FSB requested or any other data. Essentially, it comes down to the FSB demanding the company create this capability, a so-called "back door," a kind of alternative way into the data or a kind of universal key, which would allow intelligence services to read the messages of any Telegram user. This completely defeats the purpose of the product itself. […]

– The government explains its desire to monitor people, to read their messages, by saying that it's necessary to improve safety, that it saves us from acts of terrorism. What do you think, how viable is this argument?

Pavel Chikov: Citing threats to national security as the basis for limiting constitutional rights and freedoms is a totally classic, standard, and technically legitimate argument from the government. Such threats are cited in the case of limiting people's rights and freedoms all over the world, and this is not a unique Russian plan. Moreover, all government enactments that regulate the rights and freedoms of a person allow for the government to limit rights and freedoms in the interest of national security. No one is disputing this right of the government. The question is: In this case, does the threat to national security really exist? Can it be removed by means other than intruding into the private lives of citizens? Where is the balance between limiting the interests of specific people who have the right to private conversations and the interests of the government, presumably acting in the interest of the state and public at large?

– You mentioned the FBI vs. Apple case. What do you think, in Russia, from a political point of view, is the situation possible in which the government backs off and Telegram and the general principle of Internet anonymity win?

Pavel Chikov: The issue of defending private lives and the privacy of correspondence and conversations is in fact very important and sensitive, including for the Russian government. Not only because every official who uses Telegram, WhatsApp, Viber, or other means of confidential communication is also potentially under attack, but because this implies that the Russian government is virtually claiming some kind of authoritarianism in the digital age. We live in a digital age, with artificial intelligence and all kinds of bitcoins and block-chains, and at the same time the Russian government is claiming absolute, all-out control and totalitarianism in the new digital world. This is a global threat to the entire digital future and structure of the world that is now forming. A question for the Russian government: Are they ready to challenge the entire world, for all intense and purposes? […]


Galina Arapova: Rejecting the European Court of Human Rights would be a massive step backwards

posted 10 Nov 2017, 08:32 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 10 Nov 2017, 08:32 ]

27 October 2017

An interview with Galina Arapova, a leading lawyer at the Mass Media Defence Centre, by Mykola Nelyubin 

This is an extract from a longer text published at Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Fontanka.Ru]



Galina Arapova, winner of the Moscow Helsinki Group award and the leading lawyer at the Mass Media Defence Centre, talks about the possible consequences of a rift between Russia on the one hand and the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on the other. She personally handles applications by Russian citizens to the ECtHR. [...]
 

Why would a split between the Kremlin and the ECtHR be such a bad thing? 

A very important factor here is the infantile accusation "You don’t love us. We think that you are taking decisions without taking our opinion into account. We don’t like that. We are proud." 

When it comes to meeting our international obligations, such a position is immature. We are talking about the fate of those living in a great country and violations of their human rights. If there is no other means to resolve these disputes, such attitudes appear irresponsible in the extreme. 

What started this conflict? 

After the annexation of Crimea, the Russian delegation was expelled from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). It was denied voting rights. This was a political response. Russia was denied speaking rights at PACE for two years after the Crimean annexation. This response acted as a trigger for our politicians, who began to say: "Ah well, then we shall leave the Council of Europe and the ECtHR.” 

But one should not confuse the PACE and the ECtHR. They are very different animals. It is irresponsible, on the basis of this situation, to take decisions that will make matters far more complicated for the citizens of our own country. [...] 

Who specifically would suffer in our country as a result of a rift between Russia and the ECtHR? 


Everybody has the right to appeal to the ECtHR in Strasbourg. It matters to each one of us. As well as foreigners whose rights may have been violated while they are in the Russian Federation. For example, a citizen of any country whose rights have been violated in Russia but the authorities there have failed to protect them. In other words, all whose rights may have been violated, in one way or another. 

Russia is among the top five countries for the number of applications submitted to the ECtHR and the number of decisions reached. In 2016, according to official statistics, the ECtHR made decisions on 645 Russian cases, 118 cases from Turkey, 116 from Ukraine and 77 from France. Of course, Russia is the largest and most populous country in Europe. These are saddening statistics. Liechtenstein is tiny, and it might send one appeal to Strasbourg. Russia is enormous, and our problems are on a different scale. 

What will we lose? 

The possibility of a fair trial. The ECtHR is the last hope for any person living in Russia to find justice in a complex legal dispute about violations of fundamental human rights. These include the right not to be subjected to torture, cruel and degrading treatment, the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to non-discrimination and other important human rights. 

Unfortunately, Russia’s domestic judicial system does not show the same level of independence. We have a conviction rate of more than 99%. In many criminal cases, where preventative custody is an option, the accused are remanded in custody during the pr-trial investigation. They are unnecessarily put in jail. The Russian courts, as we can see, are not independent as they should be, and often issue judgments with one eye on the interests of the authorities. [...] 

Background information: 

The Mass Media Defence Centre was founded in 1996 and is based in Voronezh (Central Russia). Galina Arapova is its lead lawyer and founding director; she is also a board member of Article 19.

Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe is the oldest European international organisation. It aims to promote cooperation between states in the field of legal standards, human rights, democratic development and cultural issues. The organization is composed of 47 states, with a total population of more than 800 million. It is not a constituent body of the EU. Russia joined the Council of Europe in February 1996. In May 1998 Russia ratified the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. From this date Russia has been subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. 

Translated by Graham Jones

Galina Arapova: Rejecting the European Court of Human Rights would be a massive step backwards

posted 6 Nov 2017, 07:12 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 8 Nov 2017, 07:52 ]

27 October 2017

An interview with Galina Arapova, a leading lawyer at the Mass Media Defence Centre, by Mykola Nelyubin 

This is an extract from a longer text published at Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Fontanka.Ru]



Galina Arapova, winner of the Moscow Helsinki Group award and the leading lawyer at the Mass Media Defence Centre, talks about the possible consequences of a rift between Russia on the one hand and the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on the other. She personally handles applications by Russian citizens to the ECtHR. [...]

Why would a split between the Kremlin and the ECtHR be such a bad thing?

A very important factor here is the infantile accusation "You don’t love us. We think that you are taking decisions without taking our opinion into account. We don’t like that. We are proud."

When it comes to meeting our international obligations, such a position is immature. We are talking about the fate of those living in a great country and violations of their human rights. If there is no other means to resolve these disputes, such attitudes appear irresponsible in the extreme.

What started this conflict? 

After the annexation of Crimea, the Russian delegation was expelled from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). It was denied voting rights. This was a political response. Russia was denied speaking rights at PACE for two years after the Crimean annexation. This response acted as a trigger for our politicians, who began to say: "Ah well, then we shall leave the Council of Europe and the ECtHR.”

But one should not confuse the PACE and the ECtHR. They are very different animals. It is irresponsible, on the basis of this situation, to take decisions that will make matters far more complicated for the citizens of our own country. [...]

Who specifically would suffer in our country as a result of a rift between Russia and the ECtHR? 


Everybody has the right to appeal to the ECtHR in Strasbourg. It matters to each one of us. As well as foreigners whose rights may have been violated while they are in the Russian Federation. For example, a citizen of any country whose rights have been violated in Russia but the authorities there have failed to protect them. In other words, all whose rights may have been violated, in one way or another. 

Russia is among the top five countries for the number of applications submitted to the ECtHR and the number of decisions reached. In 2016, according to official statistics, the ECtHR made decisions on 645 Russian cases, 118 cases from Turkey, 116 from Ukraine and 77 from France. Of course, Russia is the largest and most populous country in Europe. These are saddening statistics. Liechtenstein is tiny, and it might send one appeal to Strasbourg. Russia is enormous, and our problems are on a different scale.

What will we lose? 

The possibility of a fair trial. The ECtHR is the last hope for any person living in Russia to find justice in a complex legal dispute about violations of fundamental human rights. These include the right not to be subjected to torture, cruel and degrading treatment, the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to non-discrimination and other important human rights. 

Unfortunately, Russia’s domestic judicial system does not show the same level of independence. We have a conviction rate of more than 99%. In many criminal cases, where preventative custody is an option, the accused are remanded in custody during the pr-trial investigation. They are unnecessarily put in jail. The Russian courts, as we can see, are not independent as they should be, and often issue judgments with one eye on the interests of the authorities. [...]

Background information:

The Mass Media Defence Centre was founded in 1996 and is based in Voronezh (Central Russia). Galina Arapova is its lead lawyer and founding director; she is also a board member of Article 19.

Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe is the oldest European international organisation. It aims to promote cooperation between states in the field of legal standards, human rights, democratic development and cultural issues. The organization is composed of 47 states, with a total population of more than 800 million. It is not a constituent body of the EU. Russia joined the Council of Europe in February 1996. In May 1998 Russia ratified the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. From this date Russia has been subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. 

Translated by Graham Jones

Igor Averkiev: On the office of human rights ombudsperson and human rights in Perm Region

posted 6 Nov 2017, 06:44 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Nov 2017, 06:56 ]



26 October 2017


By Igor Averkiev, executive director, and expert, the Perm Civic Chamber 


This translation is an extract from an original text to be found at: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source Online-journal «7х7»]



[...] The office of human rights ombudsperson is without question an anachronism in today’s Russia. The formal duties of the ombudsperson are in direct contradiction with Vladimir Putin’s regime of personal power. But the contradiction or conflict has been easily resolved in favour of the Kremlin by the appropriate choice of incumbents. Very few people of a humanitarian bent put themselves forward for the job and, among those that did, very few, literally the rare individual, have managed to maintain their humanitarian outlook and some kind of symbolic independence. Tatyana Margolina was one of the last of these ‘woolly mammoths.’ 

One way or another, the institution of human rights ombudsperson, like many other state institutions in our country, is not quite what it claims to be. The office of ombudsperson for human rights in any Russian region (even in the Perm Region) is less concerned with the defence of human rights than it is with the population’s social rights or, more precisely, with acting as a body overseeing social rights – a social-rights procuracy without a procurator’s powers. In fact, a pathetic institution. It cannot be said that ‘a social-rights procurator without powers’ is an especially bad thing (sometimes it can help unhappy people looking for someone to defend them). What is obnoxious is that it is yet another example of a large lie by the state: Vladimir Putin’s political regime uses the ombudspersons, not as they were intended, but rather to perform the function of glossing the domestic and foreign image of an authoritarian-populist state.

To begin with, the Russian human rights ombudspersons fail (and the majority do not even try) to defend basic human rights – civil (personal) rights and political freedoms. In Perm, until relatively recently, the situation could be described as somewhat better given, on the one hand, a long tradition of ‘competent and constructive cooperation’ between the Perm civic organizations and the authorities and, on the other, the personal qualities of the outgoing ombudsperson for human rights, Tatyana Margolina. However this ‘somewhat better situation’ only resulted in individual, small human rights successes which themselves had no effect upon the federal and Perm authorities’ overall strategy which consists of distorting, marginalizing and, when necessary, trampling on citizens’ individual and political rights. No ombudsperson can play a serious part in resolving the fundamental and significant human rights’ problems in the Perm Region: 

· End the unspoken prohibition of holding mass civic demonstrations in the centre of Perm and in other population centres in the region [...]

· Restore the freedom of speech on local TV channels […] 

· Stop the already almost wholesale practice of the senseless and criminal prosecution of citizens (primarily of teenagers) for the innocent reposting of forbidden material on social networks […]

· Lower the filters for municipal elections […] 

· Stop the attempts by the Transneft and Lukoil corporations to force bona fide owners to lose their homes without compensation […] 

· And much else […]

Translated by Mary McAuley

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