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Human Rights in Russia: December 2009
It was announced on 2/12 that Constitutional Court judge Anatoly Kononov would resign from the Court at the end of December after giving interviews critical of executive pressure on Russia’s judicial system; and Constitutional Court judge Vladimir Yaroslavtsev would resign as a member of the Council of Judges for similar reasons. Russia's Supreme Court (8/12) upheld a Rostov-on-Don Regional Court ruling finding 34 Jehovah's Witness publications "extremist" and liquidating the Taganrog Jehovah's Witness congregation as extremist. In the YUKOS case, Moscow City Court (14/12) on appeal confirmed the legality of the decision by Khamovniki district court to extend pre-trial detention for Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev until 17/2/10. In the light of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Lebedev v Russia (2/6/08), the Supreme Court ruled (23/12) that the arrest and detention of YUKOS partner Platon Lebedev in 2003 and 2004 were illegal.
North Caucasus
Memorial Human Rights Centre, winner of the European Parliament’s 2009 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, recommenced working in Chechnya from 16 December. Mother-in-law and brother-in-law of Maksharip Aushev, the slain Ingush human rights activist, were killed (and two others injured) on 16/12 in a car that exploded outside Nazran when police fire hit the vehicle’s propane gas cylinder. Reports said the car had earlier been stopped and searched by FSB operatives. Karabulak city court sentenced (11/12) Ibragim Evloev, ex-head of the guard of Ingushetia police chief Musa Medov, to two years in a low security prison colony for the 31/8 “killing through negligence” of Magomed Evloev.

Freedom of assembly
About 150 members of the nationalist Slavic Union were detained (2/12) for attempting to hold a demonstration near Molodezhnaya metro station in support of pensioners evicted from a dacha settlement. Two Solidarity movement activists were detained for 48 hours on 12/12 while taking part in a demonstration in Old Square, Moscow, in honour of Constitution Day. Members of the Association of Active Citizens of Russia (TIGR) in Vladivostok called off their hunger strike on 23/12 following the release of a colleague, Aleksandr Samsonov, detained for ten days for resisting police at a picket on 12/12. On 31/12, about 60 of 500 protestors, including Ludmila Alekseeva, were detained by police at a demonstration for freedom of assembly at Moscow’s Triumphal Square.

Media rights
Wireless Internet provider Yota acknowledged (7/12) blocking access to web sites (Moscow-based users had been unable to access sites such as, and Moscow City Court upheld (10/12) on appeal the 13/10 ruling of Basmanny District Court rejecting a defamation suit by Evgeny Dzhugashvili, Stalin’s grandson, against Novaya gazeta. Livejournal suspended the account of historian Yury Felshtinsky after he published a link to a Russian translation of his book The Age of Assassins: The Rise and Rise of Vladimir Putin.

Justice system
President Medvedev (14/12) dismissed Major-General Anatoly Mikhalkin, head of Moscow city police tax crime department, who coordinated a tax investigation into Hermitage Capital and its lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died of heart failure on 16/11 in pre-trial detention. The Public Commission overseeing conditions in places of detention in Moscow said (28/12) in a report that investigators, judges, prosecutors and prison staff were responsible for “torturous” detention conditions in which Magnitsky was held. On 24/12 President Medvedev signed a decree on police reform ordering that by 1/1/12 the numbers employed in the police service should be cut by 20%. The Ministry of Justice issued a decree abolishing from 1/1/10 the ‘sections of discipline and order’ in Russian prisons and penal colonies. House arrest will be introduced as an alternative form of punishment from 1/1/10.