On this page you will find statements and opinions by members of Rights in Russia's Advisory Council (International).
Advisory Council (International)
21 April 2017
Russia’s Supreme Court has ignored the country’s Constitution and the decades of religious persecution under Soviet rule and banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses, labelling them ‘extremist’. It has thus placed around 175 thousand believers in the Russian Federation in danger of criminal prosecution for their faith. Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted earlier both in the USSR and by Nazi Germany.
The ruling was passed on April 20 by judge Yury Ivanenko, following an application lodged by Russia’s justice ministry. The ministry had formally asked the court on March 15 to order the dissolution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Centre and 395 regional branches. Their activities were suspended pending the Court ruling. [Read more on Human Rights in Ukraine]
6 April 2017
By Halya Coynash
Russia’s Supreme Court appears to be on the verge of banning the Jehovah’s Witnesses after a Justice Ministry application which claimed that this world faith is ‘extremist’. The same Court on April 5 rejected a counter-suit lodged by the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Centre asking that the actions of the ministry be declared political repression and that representatives of local communities be called to testify to such persecution. It claimed essentially that this was not within its jurisdiction. This new move follows constant repression at regional level. The Jehovah’s Witnesses had also fruitlessly asked the Court to adjourn the proceedings until general jurisdiction courts had issued their rulings in cases where bans are being sought on 9 regional branches and where 90 texts are accused of being ‘extremist’. All applications were rejected, including the most obvious, namely that religious specialists and linguistic experts be called in to give their professional assessment of the so-called ‘extremism’. [Read more on Human Rights in Ukraine]
Source:Halya Coynash, Mass persecution inevitable if Russia bans the Jehovah’s Witnesses as ’extremist,’ Human Rights in Ukraine, 6 April 2017
4 April 2017
By Geoffrey Hosking, emeritus professor of Russian history at University College London
This article was published by The Guardian on 4 April 2017
People often ask me what I think should be done about Vladimir Putin, as though he had suddenly popped up and turned a compliant and benevolent Russia into a malicious, growling bear. But Putin has not sprung from nowhere. He is popular in Russia largely because he is an effective leader of a country that views itself as a great power. He has stood up for its status, honour and self-reliance in the modern world. In doing so he is continuing a tradition that goes back not just to the Soviet leaders but to the tsars.
Like all peoples in a crisis – including the British – Russians value a leader who can maintain both internal order and external security. We often forget that for the past 30 years Russia has been going through a prolonged and serious crisis in which both internal order and external security were vulnerable. The breakdown of the Soviet Union in 1991 created an emergency in which parts of the state broke away and serious conflicts erupted within Russia itself. In 1993 it was on the brink of civil war. [Read more on The Guardian website]
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
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