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January 2010

Freedom of Assembly
Thirty-two people, including Ludmila Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, were reported detained at a Moscow demonstration on 19/1 to mark the murder one year before in Moscow of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova. Official permission for two ‘pickets’ for the event had been granted. At a rally held on 31/1 at Triumphal Square in defence of the right of assembly, more than 100 participants were detained, including Oleg Orlov, of Memorial, and Lev Ponomarev, of For Human Rights. Organizers are to take the Moscow authorities to court for refusing permission for the event.

Media Rights
On 20/1 Russian media leaders addressed an open letter to police minister Rashid Nurgaliev about the case of journalist Andrei Stenin, arrested and charged for photographing a demonstration in the course of his employment. On 21/1 Moscow City Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that human rights group Memorial and its chair Oleg Orlov had defamed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov by linking him to the July 2009 murder of rights defender Natalya Estemirova. The website of the newspaper Novaya gazeta was knocked out of service from 26/1 as a result of a DDOS-attack. Earlier in the month, a website run by an opposition group in Ingushetia,, suffered a DDoS attack after publishing comments critical of the region’s authorities. On 27/1 Moscow’s Perovsky district court ruled journalist Aleksandr Podrabinek must pay veteran Viktor Semenov 1,000 roubles and repudiate words he used in an article, namely: ‘Your homeland is not Russia, but the Soviet Union. Your country, thank God, has not existed for 18 years.’

Ombudsman for children
On 1/1 President Medvedev appointed lawyer Pavel Astakhov federal children’s ombudsman to replace Aleksei Golovan, dismissed on 26/12. On 21/1 Astakhov welcomed proposals to develop juvenile justice in Russia.

North Caucasus
President Medvedev, at a meeting with the FSB director Aleksandr Bortnikov on 8/1, said Russian policy in the North Caucasus must remain unchanged, and that ‘bandits’ ‘had to be destroyed, without weakness, and systematically.’

European Court
Both the State Duma (15/1) and the Council of the Federation (27/1) ratified Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights, intended to allow the Court to process submitted cases more efficiently. A 14/1 hearing in the YUKOS case at the European Court was postponed until 4/3 on the grounds that Russia’s judge and government representative were unavailable.

Human Rights Defenders / NGOs
On 22/1 ex-police major Aleksei Dymovsky, a campaigner against malpractice in the police service since charged with fraud, was reported arrested in Novorossiisk on 22/1 for allegedly threatening officers investigating charges against him. As reported on 12/1, Krasnodar prosecutors brought criminal charges against rights defender Anastasia Denisova for alleged use of unlicensed computer software. On 28/1 police raided Baikal Wave, a Siberian environmental NGO critical of plans to reopen the pulp plant on Lake Baikal, and confiscated computers after a search for unlicensed software.

Over protests by inhabitants and rights defenders, on 21/1 the authorities began demolishing housing in the Rechnik settlement in west Moscow. Human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said the demolition violated human rights and the authorities’ actions were ‘completely unacceptable’. Residents appealed to the US and Germany for asylum on 26/1.

The Moscow-based group Sova, which monitors hate crimes in Russia, said (27/1) 71 people were killed and 333 wounded in racist attacks in 2009, down from 110 killed and 487 wounded in 2008.