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September 2011

Freedom of assembly 
In a letter to the Government of the Russian Federation (9/9), Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, said the Russian authorities should act to uphold freedom of assembly.

LGBT rights 
As reported on 27/9, charges were dropped against Russian Orthodox activist Roman Lisunov for an assault on Novaya gazeta reporter Elena Kostyuchenko at a gay rights rally in May. On 28/9 Arkhangelsk region approved in a second reading a bill to ban all events promoting homosexuality, among them Gay Pride marches.

Yukos case 
On 13/9 the Supreme Court ruled that former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev had been illegally held in pre-trial detention for six months during their trial last year, and should have been kept in jail. On 16/9 an Arkhangelsk regional court upheld the denial of parole for Platon Lebedev. That day a group of politicians, human rights defenders and figures from the arts called on the US Senate to apply sanctions, similar to those used in the case of Sergei Magnitsky, against Russian officials complicit in the Yukos prosecutions. On 20/9 the European Court of Human Rights condemned the Russian government over the demise of the Yukos oil company but rejected claims its failure was the result of a government vendetta. The Court has yet to rule on the issue of compensation sought by the former management of Yukos. 

Other high profile cases
On 12/9 Warrant Officer Vyacheslav Gerzog who fed dog food instead of canned beef to conscripts in the Far East, was found guilty of neglect and abuse of office and fined 202,000 rubles ($6,600). Major Igor Matveyev, the former officer who exposed the story, was jailed (9/9) for four years on unrelated charges. Memorial Human Rights Society said on 14/9 that officials investigating the murder of rights defender Natalia Estemirova were checking possible involvement of local government agents in the crime. Hermitage Capital Management released (8/9) a new exposé about officials implicated in the death of its lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, accusing them of embezzling 1bn roubles through illegal tax refunds. As reported on 26/9, the mother of Sergei Magnitsky has filed a criminal complaint against top judicial and law enforcement officials, alleging a conspiracy to murder her son. On 27/9 a Smolensk court extended for three months the pre-trial detention of opposition activist Taisiya Osipova held on charges – contested by supporters - of possessing drugs. 

North Caucasus On 22/9 bomb attacks killed one police officer and wounded dozens of people in Makhachkala, Dagestan. On 23/9 gunmen killed Magomed Murtuzaliyev, the deputy prisons chief of Dagestan, his daughter, nephew, and driver. On 27/9 Malik Appaev, a Kabardino-Balkariya resident, alleged he had been detained on 22/9, tortured and forced to confess to crimes he had not committed. On 27/9 Fatima Ulimbasheva, also of Kabardino-Balkariya, alleged her son, Albert Tutov, had been abducted that day by three masked men.

Prisons Up to 1,000 convicts at a high security prison in Kirovo-Chepetsk were reported (22/9) to have gone on hunger strike against strict prison regulations and ‘arbitrary reprisals.’

Elections The OSCE announced (14/9) it wants to send a 260-member observer mission for the upcoming State Duma elections. While the Central Elections Commission said the figure was too high, Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, the top OSCE official responsible for election monitoring, said the number was not negotiable. On 30/9 Central Elections Commission head Vladimir Churov said the 260 observers the OSCE wants to send for the Duma elections was double what is needed. On 29/9 some 100 people in Rzhev blocked a central street to protest against possible abolition of direct elections for city mayor.