On this page you will find statements and opinions by members of Rights in Russia's Advisory Council (International).
Advisory Council (International)
Halya Coynash: "Chechnya style lawlessness will not work in occupied Crimea, however much Russia tries"
21 March 2017
By Halya Coynash
Russia has concentrated negative and repressive features from all over the Russian Federation in occupied Crimea, a Russian human rights activist has said. However, neither she, nor a Crimean Tatar activist whose own son and nephew were abducted, believe that Russia will succeed in imposing the unbridled lawlessness seen in the Caucasus, although not necessarily for want of trying.
Fear that Russia was using the same tactics as in Chechnya was voiced within months of Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. The first disappearances had been of civic activists, and are believed to have been carried out by the so-called ‘self-defence’ paramilitaries who worked in tandem with the invading Russian soldiers. By August Russia had begun carrying out armed searches of mosques, religious schools and Crimean Tatar homes. Soon after that the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, or self-governing body of the main indigenous group in Crimea came under mounted attack and has now been banned. Amid all of this came abductions and / or disappearances of young Crimean Tatars. [Read more on Human Rights in Ukraine]
Halya Coynash: Russian historian of the Terror jailed after Soviet-style denunciation faces new charges
15 March 2017
By Halya Coynash
Three months after Yury Dmitriev, a Russian historian and head of the Karelia branch of the Memorial Society, was arrested and remanded in custody on bizarre charges, the investigators have come up with two new indictments. There is no evidence to substantiate the original charge, and total mystery over the new accusations. The fact that the prosecutor was originally supposed to have acted on the basis of an anonymous denunciation brings a chilling flashback to the worst Soviet days, as does a great deal about this case. A recent slanderous attack on state-controlled television has only compounded the suspicion that the prosecution is part of a mounted attack on Memorial and its work exposing perpetrators of the Terror. Everything about Dmitriev’s arrest and the charges elicit concern and it is no surprise that the President’s Human Rights Council announced on Feb 12 that they were taking the case, which appears fabricated, under their personal supervision. [Read more on Human Rights in Ukraine]
Halya Coynash: 'Human Rights Court judgment confirms violation by Russia of Crimean political prisoners’ rights'
13 March 2017
By Halya Coynash
The European Court of Human Rights has found that imprisoning people thousands of kilometres away from their families is a violation of their right to family ties. The judgement, albeit in another case, is of vital importance since Russia is illegally imprisoning Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko and many other Ukrainians, especially from occupied Crimea, in the far east or north of the Russian Federation. In at least some of the prisoners’ cases, the vast distance seems clearly aimed at isolating the prisoners from family, lawyers and the media.
In its Judgement in the Case of Polyakova and others vs. Russia, the Court considered four cases where prisoners had been held between 2 and 8 thousand kilometres from their homes. This had meant that one prisoner did not see his mother prior to her death, and that one child had literally never seen her father.
The broad Russian principle is that prisoners are sent to penal facilities in their home region, this being in line both with the European Convention on Human Rights and Rule 17.1 of the European Prison Rules. The prison service, however, has “extensive discretionary powers” to ignore this principle – and had done so, both in its initial decision and its rejection of applications to move the prisoners. [Read more]
10 March 2017
By Halya Coynash
If, as Russia claims, it is fully implementing its obligations under two international agreements – not financing terrorism and not discriminating against Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians in occupied Crimea, is it fighting Ukraine’s attempt to secure provisional measures which demand only such implementation? And why, when Russia’s own representative at the International Court of Justice was careful not to actually deny the supply of particularly lethal weapons to Donbas militants, is Russia engaging in what was dubbed “legal gymnastics” to claim that this is not financing terrorism? In his address to the Court in the Hague on March 8, Harold Hongiu Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law, accused Russia of turning its legal obligations on their head. “In eastern Ukraine, Russia claims to forbid terrorism financing, then finances terror”. Koh noted the extraordinary argumentation given by Samuel Worthsworth, a British lawyer representing Russia. As reported, Wordsworth’s statement was especially interesting because of what he avoided denying. He asserted: “There is no evidence, plausible or otherwise, that Russia provided weaponry to any party with the intent or knowledge that such weaponry be used to shoot down civilian aircraft, as would of course be required under Article 2.1 [of the Terrorism Financing Convention]." [Read more on Human Rights in Ukraine]
23 February 2017
Russia’s Supreme Court has revoked the sentence against Ildar Dadin under a draconian anti-protest law and recognized the activist’s right to ‘rehabilitation’, with this meaning a formal apology and – in theory – compensation. This is an important move, but if Russia wants to demonstrate a shift away from repression, it should revoke other laws, like that used to imprison people for criticizing its invasion and annexation of Crimea. He will be released as soon as the prison receives the stamped court ruling. The new ruling comes just 12 days after the Constitutional Court found the anti-protest law basically constitutional but in need of amendments, and called for a review of Dadin’s case. Dadin has been imprisoned now for just over 2 years after being one of the first people arrested under a new Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, introduced in July 2014. That envisages a sentence of up to 5 years if a court has issued three rulings on administrative offences within 180 days. Dadin was accused of taking part in protests on Aug 6, Aug 23, Sept 13 and Dec 5 2014. It is quite standard in today’s Russia for police to detain people at entirely peaceful protests, with administrative protocols then drawn up and processed by the courts with no questions asked. All of this, and the use of provocateurs, working closely with the police, had clearly happened in Dadin’s case. [...]
16 January 2017
By Andreas Umland, senior research fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv and general editor of the book series “Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society” published by ibidem Press, Stuttgart and Hannover. He is a member of the advisory council of Rights in Russia
A major foreign policy challenge for the incoming U.S. administration will be how to deal with Russia’s new international assertiveness and foreign military adventures. Some signs in recent weeks, especially regarding the ongoing confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, point to a friendlier U.S. approach toward Moscow. Such a shift would have very serious consequences for the rest of the world.
A new rapprochement between Washington and Moscow may go far beyond the attempt by the administration of outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama to reset Russian-U.S. relations after the Russian-Georgian War in 2008. Supposedly, a dovish American approach toward the Kremlin would put U.S. concerns before those of countries and peoples currently in conflict with Russia. [Read more]
Andreas Umland, The Price of Appeasing Russian Adventurism, Kiyv Post, 16 January 2017
19 January 2017
By Susan Richards, a non-executive director and founder of openDemocracy and a member of the advisory council of Rights in Russia
Unhappy the land that needs heroes, as Bertold Brecht’s doomed Galileo famously declared. He might have been describing Russia today. The experience of life in a systemically corrupt and unaccountable regime is such that heroes are needed to protect the vulnerable. And wherever you go in Russia, from arctic Magadan to Makhachkala in the south, you find them — extraordinary women and men who risk everything day after day to do just this.
Over the years, as post-Soviet Russia has felt more embattled, the stories of these insanely brave people have reached the outside world more rarely. So Anne Garrels’ book Putin Country is most welcome. Garrels is no ordinary foreign correspondent. She has been reporting from Russia for almost 40 years and visiting Chelyabinsk, an industrial city in the Urals for the last 23. Indeed, it is Garrel’s focus on life in this "unglamorous" city and region over time that makes this book special. [Read more]
Susan Richards, Putin Country, Open Democracy, 19 January 2017
18 January 2017
By Kirsti Stuvøy, Associate Professor at Noragric and a member of the advisory council of Rights in Russia
In last week’s news headlines, we could read that Russia decriminalizes violence against women. The traditionalist, conservative and anti-liberal forces in Russian domestic politics are thereby further strengthened. The ban on so-called “gay propaganda” from 2013 is perhaps the most famous example of this trend. The lawmaker behind the anti-gay law, Yelena Mizulina, senator in the Federation Council of Russia’s two-chamber political system (the other chamber is the Duma), has also pursued the latest law.
In this blog-post, I want to explain the domestic struggle that Mizulina’s initiatives are part of, but I will also reflect on the international dimensions of this struggle. This is motivated by a curiosity about the nexus of domestic and international politics. Such connections are usually complex and difficult to explain, but we readily recognise them today in, for example, Brexit and “Trumpism”. Both phenomena are recognized as protests against globalization. With its annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia has demonstrated a willingness to not adhere to international rules, and in 2015 international normative documents were ruled by the Russian Supreme Court as subordinate to domestic legislation. Whilst we see a move towards more nationalistic politics, the questions is, how the new development to decriminalize violence against women is also related to international politics. [Read more]
Kirsti Stuvøy, 'The Politics of Fear: Russia Decriminalizes Violence against Women,' Noragric Blog, 18 January 2017
12 December 2016
Imagine 2019. President Trump has been around for three years, bogged down by court cases in connection with shady deals with among others Saudi Arabia and Russia, dealing with accusations of sexual abuse, the bankruptcy of some of his firms and court cases against his beloved children who could not cope with the “pressure” of having a daddy in power. In Europe Marianne Le Pen has replaced Merkel as the most influential political leader, supported and acclaimed by like-minded politicians such as Nigel Farrage in the United Kingdom, Geert Wilders in The Netherlands and Viktor Orban in Hungary. The European Union is in disarray, crumbling from within, not able to find a common language and strategy against the increasing brown tide in Europe. At the same time Vladimir Putin is still comfortably in power, after having discarded most of his inner crowd and old-time friends, and has created the same paranoid dictatorial rule as his predecessor Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin. Everybody knows formally his reign ends in 2024, yet nobody even dares to raise the question of retirement – as it immediately ends a political career and possibly even more. [Read more]
2 December 2016
Translation of this letter is by Sarah Hurst
Source: 'Letter to Memorial from Oksana Sevastidi,' convicted of treason, X-Soviet, 2 December 2016
Dear Sergei Konstantinovich,
Convicted under article 275 Oksana Valerievna Sevastidi is writing to you, resident of the city of Sochi, but currently serving a sentence in IK-3 in Kineshma. I’m writing to you with a request for help. I was sentenced by the Krasnodar Krai court under article 275 to seven years for a text message. In January 2017 I will have been serving my sentence for two years already. I’ve heard a lot about your help. You helped Ms. [Yekaterina] Kharebava, who has already been freed from prison with your help.
I have exactly the same case as her. I’m a Russian citizen, I didn’t even suspect that I was doing something illegal. My text message was analysed and the investigation concluded that it was not classified. The same investigator and judge oversaw my case and Kharebava’s. My text message was sent in April 2008 and, as you say, there was no military conflict going on in Sochi.
But I was arrested on January 15, 2015. It was based on the fact that there was a war in Ossetia. But it started in August. I said one thing in my testimony, but in court they completely twisted it, even my mother’s testimony was changed. I’m from a military family, my grandmother, who was WWII disabled category 1, couldn’t stand it when I was arrested and died in April. [Read more]
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