On this page you will find statements and opinions by members of Rights in Russia's Advisory Council (International).
Advisory Council (International)
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]
5 December 2016
By Halya Coynash
Source: Human Rights in Ukraine
"Here everything is clear. An occupying state’s court cannot, by definition, be fair" - from Oleg Sentsov’s final words before the verdict was announced
Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years “for terrorism”, not his work or his opposition to Russia’s annexation of Sentsov’s native Crimea. His assertion that Russia is a law-based country comes just two weeks after the International Criminal Court accepted jurisdiction over Russia’s ongoing occupation of Crimea and spoke of Russia’s “non-respect of a number of due process and fair trial rights”. Neither Putin’s assertions about Sentsov, nor his claim that it is the court in Russia which decides have any credibility, and the demands for Sentsov’s release have come not only from world-renowned film directors, but from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the EU, OSCE and all democratic countries. Putin was responding to a call from Russian director Alexander Sokurov to release Sentsov. He asserted that Sentsov, a world-renowned film director and the father of two young children, had effectively “devoted his life to terrorist activities”. He denied that Sentsov’s imprisonment had anything to do with “what he thinks about the events that took place in Crimea”, and claimed “that Russians could have suffered as a result of Sentsov’s actions”. Putin then said that “there are certain rules and norms which we can use, but for that it’s necessary that the corresponding conditions “are ripe”. He did not elaborate on this. [Read more]
Bill Bowring: "Why Russia’s Move to 'Quit' International Criminal Court Is Legally Irrelevant" [The Moscow Times]
22 November 2016
By Bill Bowring
On Nov. 16 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order agreeing that the Ministry of Justice should notify the UN of Russia’s “intention not to become a party” to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). A statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained that Russia had signed the statute in 2000 (it never ratified it); expressed Russia’s view of the “failure” of the ICC; argued that it is “ineffective and one-sided;” and also noted that a number of African states are leaving the ICC. Russia could not trust the ICC’s response to the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, it said. Confusion reigns as to what Russia wanted to achieve by this move. Legally speaking, however, its actions are largely irrelevant. [Read more]
Bill Bowring: 'Why Russia’s Move to "Quit" International Criminal Court Is Legally Irrelevant,' The Moscow Times, 22 November 2016
Halya Coynash: Russia’s new offensive against civil society has grave implications for Ukrainian political prisoners
24 October 2016
By Halya Coynash
Source: Human Rights in Ukraine
Russia has removed almost all independent rights activists from the Civic Monitoring Committees [ONK] which are allowed to visit remand and convicted prisoners. Those now entrusted to oversee observance of human rights in Moscow penitentiary institutions, for example, will include Dmitry Komnov, who is on the Magnitsky List and under US sanctions for his role in the death of Heritage Foundation lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. The move is disastrous, not least for Ukrainian political prisoners. It has often been the ONK who first provided information about Ukrainians whom Russia had effectively abducted, and their visits have been invaluable for monitoring how Oleg Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko and other political prisoners are being treated.
The new list was posted on the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation website. There can be no question that this is not deliberate sabotage. As well as removing many renowned rights activists, the Civic Chamber has also appointed far too few members. The sheer workload on each member will also seriously reduce the level of civic monitoring. [Read more]
29 June 2016
Source: Press Release, Human Rights Initiative for the former USSR
The number of political prisoners in Russia continues to increase, according to the Netherlands-based Human Rights Initiative for the former USSR. The new List of Political Prisoners in Russia, prepared by the New Chronicle of Current Events, released today and containing data as of June 1, 2016, contains the names of 277 people, which is a new "record" number - the previous List of December 10, 2015 included the names of 256 persons. [see attachment]
The dynamics of the List reflects the continuous process of ongoing repression in the Russian Federation. Over the last six months 59 new criminal cases were initiated, or about 10 cases every month.
There is a stable proportion between the various categories of the repressed people. Political opposition accounts for around one third of all the repressed, 40 percent are persecuted for their religious beliefs, and about 8 percent are bloggers and civil society activists. At the same time, the number of the repressed Crimean Tatars is doubled, in fact, just for belonging to this ethnic group regardless of the charges involved.
The geography of repression also remains stable: the residents of Moscow and the Moscow region account for approximately a quarter of all repressed.
Altogether this reflects the systematic nature of repression, and the fact that despite the apparent randomness, it is carried out according to the plan, thoroughly coordinated by the central government.
The constant increase in the number of repressed indicates that the government continues to use repression as one of the main methods of governance. It is obvious that in the absence of more active opposition to the repressive policy, more and more people in Russia will be subject to reprisals for the use of their rights and freedoms.
For more information: Robert van Voren, +31-651534123; email@example.com
The Human Rights Initiative for the former USSR, a continuation of the Vladimir Bukovsky Foundation that supported the human rights movement in the USSR in the 1970s and 1980s, resumed its activities in 2013 in light of the increased repression in Russia.
Attachments: Press Release; List of Political Prisoners
25 April 2016
Author: Jens Siegert
Are we back at point zero or even below it?
Fundamental rights have been limited, step by step, ever since Vladimir Putin took office in 2000. A systematic policy of repression of rights has been observable since at least 2003, but this roll back on rights took a principal turn after the Moscow protests of 2011-2012. Putin changed Russia from an increasingly autocratic state without a special ideology, to a state that once again demands ideological loyalty from its citizens. [Read more via Intersection]
Source: Jens Siegert, 'Does Russian Civil Society Exist Today?,' Intersection, 25 April 2016
1-10 of 91