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Rights Group of the Week

Each week on this page we highlight the work of one of Russia's human rights organizations. For the purposes of this page, Rights in Russia considers a 'rights group' to be a civil society organization whose purpose includes the advancement of one or more human rights. 

For more information from human rights organizations in Russia, please click 
HERE.

Rights Group of the Week: Russian PEN Centre

posted 15 Jan 2017, 08:17 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Jan 2017, 08:41 ]

The Russian PEN Centre, a writers' organization whose mission is to defend the rights of writers and freedom of speech, was in crisis this week after thirty writers resigned in protest at the exclusion of journalist Sergei Parkhomenko from the organization, and the disciplining of two other members, at the end of last December. On 28 December 2016 the Russian PEN Centre expelled the well-known journalist Sergei Parkhomenko for life. Sergei Parkhomenko is also prominent as the founder of the Last Address human rights project, which places commemorative plaques on the homes of Stalin's victims, and Dissernet, a project that exposes dissertations that have been based on plagiarized materials. RFE/RL reports: 'Formally, Parkhomenko was expelled from the group for "provocative activity," but he wrote on the website of Ekho Moskvy radio that he was punished for criticizing the Russian PEN Center for failing to support Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who is serving 20 years in a Russian prison after being convicted of plotting terrorist attacks.' Anna Kachurovskaya, writing in Open Democracy, reports that 'Parkhomenko was accused of “straying from the fundamental principles of the PEN-international’s charter” and for “provocative activities incompatible with the aims and remit of the Russian PEN-centre.” Furthermore, the leadership of the PEN-centre has suspended the membership of poet Grigory Petukhov for one year, and issued a stern warning to the writer Marina Vishnevetskaya for “distributing to the media tendentious texts and video recordings of the PEN-centre’s summit on 15 December 2016, which led to the misrepresentation of the nature of the Centre by malevolent internet users and figures in mass-media”.' A series of leading Russian writers have since resigned from the Russian PEN Centre in protest. The exodus reached something of a climax this week with the departures of the 2015 Nobel Literature Prize laureate Svetlana Alexievich, Boris Akunin, Lev Rubinshtein and Aleksandr Ilichevsky. Paula Erizanu, writing in The Guardian, quotes a statement by Svetlana Alexievich on her resignation from the Pen Centre on 11 January: 'My comment on Parkhomenko’s exclusion [from PEN] can only be my application to leave the Russian PEN, whose founding ideals were cravenly violated. In the perestroika years we took pride in our PEN but now we are ashamed of it. Russian writers acted as subserviently and outrageously only during the Stalinist period. But Putin will go, whereas this shameful page from the history of PEN will stay. And the names will stay, too. We now live through times when we cannot win over evil, we are powerless before the "red man". But he cannot stop time. I believe in that.Paula Erizanu in The Guardian reported that Boris Akunin on his resignation 'said that he felt Russian PEN did not stand for freedom of speech, that it failed to defend persecuted writers and therefore has “nothing in common” with the global network of PEN centres.'

Anna Kachurovskaya comments: 'After it went into force, famous Russian writers began to protest the executive committee’s decision. Believing its acts to be unjustified, they began to leave the writers’ club. To date, over 20 people have written on their decision to leave the club — neither the international nor the Russian branches of the PEN-centre have ever before seen a conflict on this scale.' Journalist and human rights defender Olga Romanova was quoted by Open Democracy as saying: 'This conflict’s been going on for a few years. It started when some of us, writers and journalists, invited Lyudmila Ulitskaya to join. A couple of years ago, the [administration] tried to expel us for violating the charter. I went to meetings at the Central House of Writers a few times… I hadn’t heard such speeches since my childhood days in the Komsomol!'

According to the website of PEN International, 'PEN Centres are voices for literature and freedom of expression in their respective countries. We are present in over 100 countries, from Senegal to Japan, Russia to South Africa, Canada to Chile and Norway to New Zealand. Each Centre has its own focus and priorities – campaigning for freedom of expression, for example, or pioneering education and literacy programmes. Some are leading the way in publishing their national literatures, or in promoting writing from different cultures and languages. Between them they produce publications; stage events; run prestigious literary prizes; work within and across communities; advise governments on embedding literature into policy and practice; establish and grow regional networks collaborating on key issues in their part of the world; and, above all, unite when necessary to highlight our collective strength and provide support and solidarity to individuals during difficult times.'

Sources:
Sergei Parkhomenko, 'На Сенцове они и сломались,' Ekho Moskvy, 10 January 2017
'Nobel Laureate Alexievich Joins Exodus From Russian PEN Center,' RFE/RL, 11 January 2017
Anna Kachurovskaya, 'Writers against Russia’s PEN-center,' Open Democracy, 12 January 2017
Paula Erizanu, 'Nobel prize winner Svetlana Alexievich quits 'shameful' Russian PEN,' The Guardian, 14 January 2017

Rights Group of the Week: Public Oversight Commission of Dagestan

posted 9 Jan 2017, 04:15 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 9 Jan 2017, 04:31 ]

On 6/1 members of the Public Oversight Commission of Dagestan who had received a complaint about possible torture of a detainee at Makhachkala’s pre-trial detention facility No. 1 were not permitted to inspect the facility, Caucasian Knot reported. On 6/1 two members of the Public Oversight Commission [POC] of Dagestan, Bagrat Musaev and Magomed Gadjiev, were not allowed to inspect SIZO (pre-trial detention centre) No. 1 of Makhachkala on the grounds of what the local department of the Russian Penitentiary Service (know as FSIN) called 'regime activities.' As Caucasian Knot reports, the Musaev and Gadjiev were responding to a complaint received by the Public Oversight Commission with regard to an allegation of the use of torture against a detainee. When Musaev and Gadjiev arrived at the SIZO, they were not allowed to enter the facility. Despite the refusal to allow the two representatives of the POC to enter the detention centre, the head of the local FSIN press service, Amirkhan Gasanov, said 'there will be no obstacles for POC inspections, and on January 7 the POC members will be able to get into SIZO-1 and carry out the necessary check.' However, according to Federal Law No. 76, members of a POC, 'having notified the administration [of a detention facility], have the right to visit without special permission all places of enforced detention, to question persons who are suspects, have been charged or convicted, and to receive complaints from them, and officials are obliged to receive members of the Commission immediately.'

As the website of the Public Oversight Commission of Dagestan points out: 'The Commission is not an NGO, but a Russian independent preventive mechanism of the the institutions of civil society, working in compliance with Federal Law No. 76 and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.'  

Source:
'POC members complain about non-admission to Makhachkala SIZO,' Caucasian Knot, 6 January 2017
Federal Law No. 76 of 10 June 2008: 'Об общественном контроле за обеспечением прав человека в местах принудительного содержания и о содействии лицам, находящимся в местах принудительного содержания'

Rights Group of the Week: Sova Centre

posted 3 Jan 2017, 03:30 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Jan 2017, 03:30 ]

On 30 December 2016 the Justice Ministry of the Russian Federation added the Sova Centre to the register of so-called 'foreign agent' NGOs. As The Moscow Times reports, federal officials said the Sova Centre was so designated 'after an unscheduled inspection of its offices, without offering any further details.' The Sova Centre was set up in 2002 by human rights activists from the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Panorama Centre and has established itself as a leading independent monitor of racism and xenophobia in Russia. Halya Coynash, writing in Human Rights in Ukraine, says that the reason for the designation 'almost certainly lies in the Centre’s monitoring and criticism of Russia’s ever-increasing misuse of dangerously broad "anti-extremism" legislation.' Coynash notes that Sova Centre director Aleksandr Verkhovsky 'points out that the formal act [of the Justice Ministry] in full asserts that the organization “carries out the functions of a foreign agent, receiving foreign money and publicly assessing the activities of the state authorities”,' and quotes him as telling Interfax: 'Of course, we receive money. And we assess the activities of the authorities. I think that is what every citizen does. I find it totally incomprehensible how that is labelled political activities. The Sova Centre intends to appeal against the decision. 

Sources:
Sova Centre website
Russian Justice Ministry Blacklists Prominent Anti-Racism Research Center, The Moscow Times, 30 December 2016
Halya Coynash, 'Russia moves to stifle vital watchdog highlighting misuse of "extremism" legislation,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 2 January 2017

Rights Group of the Week: Territory of Torture

posted 28 Dec 2016, 03:31 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Dec 2016, 03:43 ]

#ТЕРРИТОРИЯ
ПЫТОК
Territory of Torture is a group of activists who run a website of the same name, working to uncover and publicize instances of torture in particular at Prison Colony No. 7 in Segezha, Karelia (and also more widely), to bring the perpetrators to justice, and to raise funds to pay for legal representation for the victims of torture. The inspiration for the group's creation has been the imprisonment of Ildar Dadin at Prison Colony No. 7 and his subjection to torture and other forms of inhuman and degrading treatment. The most prominent activist in the group is the journalist and human rights defender Anastasia Zotova, who is the wife of Ildar Dadin. The group works in association with four partner NGOs, namely Za prava cheloveka, Fond v zashchitu zakliuchennykh, Sota.vision and OVD-Info. The group also runs two projects: a campaign to repeal Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code that criminalizes repeated violations of the Russia's draconian laws on public assembly, and restricts the right to free expression, and a campaign to free Ildar Dadin. The group can also be read on Facebook and Telegram.

Recently, an article by Anastasia Zotova published in English by OpenDemocracy reported on allegations of torture in other prison colonys in the Republic of Karelia: 'The deeper you go into the woods, the darker it gets. My colleagues and I at Territory of Torture have received more complaints from Karelia’s IK-1 prison colony. These complaints concern not only beatings and humiliation, but even (excuse the expression) “a stick up the arse” — anal rape with a baton or other instruments. Over a dozen current prisoners from IK-1 and around the same number of former prisoners have spoken of their experiences of torture at this prison colony. [...]'

Source:
Territory of Torture, Website
Anastasiya Zotova, 'This is Karelia: tortured voices from Russia’s prison system,' Open Democracy, 23 December 2016
Free Ildar Dadin!, Facebook 
Against Torture in Segezha, Telegram

Rights Group of the Week: International Memorial Society

posted 19 Dec 2016, 08:38 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Dec 2016, 09:14 ]

On 16 December 2016, Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky district court dismissed an application by the International Memorial Society to be removed from 'foreign agent' register, RAPSI reported. The organization's executive director, Elena Zhemkova, said they would appeal the ruling. International Memorial Society said the ministry of justice wrongly interpreted some publications on the website of the NGO as evidence of 'political activity.' However, International Memorial Society argues that these statements are a manifestation of the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation. International Memorial Society also pointed out that, according to a ruling by the Constitutional Court, an international organization cannot be registered as a 'foreign agent'. International Memorial Society was designated as a 'foreign agent' NGO on 21 July 2014. The previous week, Tverskoy district court in Moscow had fined the International Memorial Society 300,000 roubles (nearly $5,000) for failing to register voluntarily as a 'foreign agent' NGO. 

The previous week during a visit to Moscow, Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, had described the 'Foreign Agents' law as 'discriminatory' 'regressive' and as having a 'chilling effect on civil society at large'. Following the decision by the court on 16 December 2016, the European Union issued a statement condemning the 'foreign agent' law as 'inhibiting independent civil society' in Russia. The European Union called on the Russian authorities 'to align their policies and legislation with the human rights obligations and commitments that they have undertaken, and to abandon the practice of branding Russian NGOs as "foreign agents", as well as all resulting administrative harassment.' The statement said the work of Memorial was 'of the utmost importance for the promotion of human rights in Russia and the preservation of its historical memory.'

For more information about International Memorial Society, see an interview by Rights in Russia with Arseny Roginsky, chair of the board of the NGO, from April 2013.

Sources:
'Moscow court refuses to exclude rights group Memorial from “foreign agents” list,' RAPSI, 16 December 2016
'Judge dismisses lawsuit brought by International Memorial Society against Ministry of Justice,' HRO.org in English, 16 December 2016
'International Memorial Society is protecting the right to freedom of expression,' HRO.org in English, 15 December 2016
Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, 'Annual Conference of the Russian Regional Human Rights Ombudsmen,' Council of Europe, 7 December 2016
'Statement by the Spokesperson on the "foreign agent" status of the Memorial International Society,' European Union External Action, 16 December 2016
'Interview with Arseny Roginsky: "The authorities still do not understand what freedom of association means",' Rights in Russia, 26 April 2013
International Memorial Society: website

Rights Group of the Week: Team 29

posted 12 Dec 2016, 03:28 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Dec 2016, 04:07 ]

Human rights lawyers from Team 29, an informal association of lawyers based in St. Petersburg, say that the case of Oksana Sevastidiserving a seven-year prison sentence for high treason, is just one of at least 10 people convicted by a Krasnodar court under Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code of treason or espionage between 2013 and 2016. Team 29 have not learned the full names of all the defendants in these cases, but they identified the convicting judge as Vladimir Kobzev. Ivan Pavlov, the leading lawyer of Team 29 who specializes in freedom of information and treason cases, was hired this month by Memorial Human Rights Centre to act for Sevastidi. As RFE/RL points out, 'Last year, he successfully defended Svetlana Davydova, a woman from Vyazma who was accused of reporting Russian troop movements to the Ukrainian Embassy. The charges against Davydova were dropped for lack of evidence and the Prosecutor-General's Office sent her a written apologyPavlov is now trying to get permission to appeal Sevastidi's verdict, even though her initial attorney failed to meet the filing deadline.'

As quoted by RFE/RL, Ivan Pavlov said: "Sevastidi has filed a complaint with the Krasnodar Krai Chamber of Attorneys about her previous lawyer. In it, she confirmed that she asked him to appeal the sentence. Now our colleague will have to answer a lot of questions that are likely to come up among the members of the qualifications commission of the Chamber of Attorneys."

As Caucasian Knot reports, Ivan Pavlov has said: "In this case, I'm interested in three completely illogical details. Why is the verdict pronounced in 2016 based on the events of 2008? It turns out that nobody was prosecuted for the crime for 8 years? And how can the movement of open military cargo, which could be seen by everyone who appeared along the railroad road and who could shoot pictures and videos of it, be classified as a state secret?" Among the issues that need to be questioned in Sevastidi's case, according to Pavlov, then, are the following:

1) The text messages that Sevastidi sent mentioned trains loaded with military hardware that were sitting at the Sochi train station - there was no attempt to hide the trains or stop people photographing them.
2) If the messages were sent in early 2008, why did prosecutors only investigate them in January 2015?
3) Moscow has said it had not planned to enter a conflict with Georgia: the fighting only began in August 2008.

In November 2014, the court sentenced another Sochi resident, Yekaterina Kharebayeva, to six years in prison for espionage. Her defense lawyers also say the charges stem from an SMS she sent about the movement of Russian military equipment. Earlier this year, she was released and sent to Georgia as part of an exchange of convicted Russian and Georgian citizens. According to Caucasian Knot: 'Leonid Erchenko, the chair of the branch of the Moscow Bar Association "DELO" in the city of Sochi, has called the verdict to Ekaterina Kharebava an "act of intimidation." Leonid Erchenko notes he cannot understand how SMS sent in 2008 can become a basis for a charge.' The Interpreter reports that Kharebayeva 'recounted that once she arrived in the labor colony, she came across Inga Tutsiani, who had also sent a text message to a friend in Georgia and was sentenced in June 2014. Kharebayeva reported that she had also found Marina Dzhandzhgava, sentenced to 12 years for state treason. Mana Kapanadze, a fourth woman, was sentenced in July 2014, also for state treason.'

In a recent report, Team 29 wrote: "We do not know and maybe never will learn all the names and the circumstances of their detentions. From the FSB basement where the courts are held, the defendants are sent to unknown locations and no one takes any further interest in them." Team 29 conclude: "Who is being tried there right now, no one knows. Most likely, we will only learn the names after they turn up in a prison camp." [Translation by RFE/RL]

Memorial Human Rights Centre has declared by Oksana Sevastidi and Ekaterina Kharebayeva to be political prisoners.

Team-29 is an informal association of lawyers and journalists that was set up to continue the work of the Freedom of Information Foundation, dedicated to defending the right to access to information, that suspended its activities after it had been designated as a 'foreign agent' NGO. The Team is named after Article 29 of the Russian Constitution that provides for the right to freely look for, receive, transmit, produce and distribute information. Led by prominent St. Petersburg human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov, Team-29 has made a name for itself assisting individuals, journalists, and organizations in defending their constitutional right of access to information in the courts. Examples cited on the Team-29 website include a legal challenge to the Presidential Decree that sought to classify information on military losses in peace time; the defence of historians' right of access to the archives of Soviet security bodies; and the right to know how local government spends taxpayers' money. Among its other activities, Team-29 has also published advice on a number of important issues that are of increasing relevance to human rights defenders and civil society activists, for example, how to behave if you are questioned by law enforcement, what to do if the security services show an interest in you, or what to do if you are threatened online

Sources:
'«Я этого не говорила»Как в Краснодарском крае судят за шпионаж и государственную измену,' Team 29
'Advocates claim spy hysteria in Kuban,' Caucasian Knot, 7 December 2016
Lyubov Chizhova, Andrei Sharogradsky, Robert Coalson, 'Seven Years For An SMS: Activists Alarmed Over Southern Russia Treason Convictions,' RFE/RL, 6 December 2016
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, 'Human Rights Lawyers Discover 5 Cases of Russian Women Imprisoned for State Treason Related to Georgia,' The Interpreter, 6 December 2016
'«Прокурор мне даже слова не дал сказать в свое оправдание» Интервью Оксаны Севастиди, которую посадили по обвинению в госизмене за смс восьмилетней давности,' Meduza, 5 December 2016
'Russian Woman Jailed For High Treason Wants To Appeal Sentence,' RFE/RL, 2 December 2016

Rights Group of the Week: For Human Rights

posted 5 Dec 2016, 04:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Dec 2016, 05:11 ]

On 28 November the human rights NGO
 For Human Rights held a press conference at the Sakharov Centre in Moscow, chaired by director of For Human Rights Lev Ponomarev, at which a number of former inmates and relatives of inmates of prison colony No. 7 in Segezha, Karelia, where Ildar Dadin has been serving his sentence, spoke about alleged abuse by prison staff. Opening the press conference, Lev Ponomarev said: ‘Today we will rebut the words of the deputy director of the FSIN’ - referring to the official who had stated there was no evidence Ildar Dadin had been tortured. A number of media outlets reported on the press conference, including RFE/RL, Human Rights in Ukraine, and Caucasian Knot. For Human Rights itself published the testimony of a former prisoner held at prison colony No. 7, known as 'Bek' (not his real name). Lev Ponomarev read out this testimony at the press conference, describing the torture to which 'Bek' claimed he had been subjected at the prison colony. Tom Balmforth, writing in RFE/RL, quotes the mother of a 25-year-old Chechen serving time at the prison colony, as saying her son had been sent to the punishment cell for no reason and beaten until he lost consciousness, and had been targeted with other abuse. Tom Balmforth also reported that other relatives and four former inmates made similar allegations via Skype. Caucasian Knot reported that at the same press conference the wife of inmate Anzor Mamaev alleged her husband had been beaten at the prison colony after he met with Ombudsperson Tatiana Moskalkova. 

For Human Rights
For Human Rights (its full name in Russian: Obshcherossiskoe Obshchestvennoe Dvizhenie Za Prava Cheloveka [The All-Russia public movement 'For Human Rights']) was founded on 20 November 1997 and has a large number of affiliated organizations throughout the Russian regions (according to its website, over 100 regional and local human rights organizations). The organization has been led by prominent human rights defender Lev Ponomarev since its foundation. The NGO has a board of 8 members, drawn from member organizations. The aim of the movement is 'to support the development of the rule of law and civil society in Russia.' For Human Rights provides legal advice to individuals and organizations on human rights violations, provides a telephone hotline for the public, and does much to publicize human rights issues in the Russian Federation. The NGO has in particular focused on violations of the human rights of prisoners. 

From the organization's website:

'Defending the rights of detainees
'As the Russian saying goes: ‘You can’t say no to money or to prison!’. Anyone can find themselves in a place of detention, regardless of whether it is deserved… And prisoners, both before trial and following conviction are to all intents and purposes a defenceless and vulnerable – even if rather numerous – part of the population. Defending prisoners from arbitrary and illegal actions has become an important part of our work. The movement has received over 3000 letters from prisoners asking for help! The movement works to improve the situation of female prisoners, by corresponding with individual prisoners and visiting prison colonies. The main problems are to do with not losing the right to housing while serving a custodial sentence, arrangements for any dependent children and successfully applying for conditional early release. The Moscow oblast procuracy responds constructively to our organization’s appeals, agreeing to make joint applications to the head of the oblast administration regarding reinstitution of the right to housing of convicted individuals.'

Executive Director of For Human Rights, Lev Aleksandrovich Ponomarev (pictured, left) was born in 1941 in Tomsk. The website of For Human Rights gives the following biography: 

'[Lev Ponomarev] received a Ph.D. from the Moscow Physics and Technology Institute in 1965. In 1988 he was the initiator and one of the founders of ‘Memorial’, the All-Russia society for the perpetuation of the memory of victims of political repression. In 1989, Lev Ponomarev was a trusted aide to Andrei Sakharov during the elections for People’s Deputies of the USSR. In 1989-1990, he actively participated in pre-election addresses and large scale peaceful democratic demonstrations. He was a joint founder of the All-Russia political movement ‘Democratic Russia’. Between 1990-1995 he served as a State Duma Deputy. In 1997 he was a key founded of the Hot Line and the Movement "For Human Rights". Lev Ponomarev is the initiator and one of the most active members of the Common Action initiative group, which unites high-profile representatives of the Russian human rights community. He was one of the main organizers of the All-Russia Emergency Congress for the Defence of Human Rights, in January 2001. He is one of the founders of the Russian National Committee For an end to the war and establishing peace in the Chechen Republic.'

Sources: 
Dozhd TV news item from the press conference
Halya Coynash, '6 Months Solitary Confinement & new charges for reporting torture in Russian prison,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 5 December 2016
‘Russian Prison Officials Reject Dadin's Abuse Claims,’ RFE/RL, 28 November 2016 
Tom Balmforth, 'Ex-Inmates, Relatives Echo Russian Prison Torture Allegations Of Jailed Protester Dadin,' RFE/RL, 28 November 2016 
‘Wife of Chechen native confirms Dadin’s story about torture in IK-7,’ Caucasian Knot, 29 November 2016
'Протокол опроса бывшего заключенного ИК-7 г. Сегежа,' For Human Rights, 29 December 2016
For Human Rights: Website

Rights Group of the Week: International Memorial Society

posted 28 Nov 2016, 01:31 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Nov 2016, 01:31 ]

On 23 November 2016 the International Memorial Society published on its website a database containing personal data on 40,000 officials of the NKVD (the predecessor to the Soviet KGB). The archive contains records for the years 1935-1939, the period known as the Great Terror. As The Moscow Times reports, NKVD staff orders, containing information such as dates of employment and dismissal, assignments, and information on state awards, have been the main source for the archive, supplemented by biographical information available from other sources. Shortly after its launch, Vedomosti reported that access to the site was no longer possible, prompting concerns that it may have been blocked. However, Vedomosti reported, Arseny Roginsky, chair of the board of International Memorial Society, told Interfax: 'The database is overloaded, we are working on getting it back online.'

International Memorial Society, which has spent 15 years developing the database, notes: 'The archive will be useful to those interested in Soviet history. In particular, with the help of this resource it will become possible to identify a large number of the officers of state security of the period of the Great Terror, until now only known by their family names (as a rule, without indication of their first names and patronymics) from their signatures in cases they investigated, or from references in memoirs.'

RFE/RL has reported that descendants of Stalin era state security officers have asked the government to close down the newly opened database: 'A handful of the descendants have written an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, himself a former agent of the Soviet KGB, asking him to close down the database, Russian media reported on November 27. [...] The descendants justified their request by saying they fear "that the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren [of the agents] might be the targets of revenge for the sake of repressed ancestors".'

Sources: 
'Сайт «Мемориала» отключился после публикации данных о сотрудниках НКВД,' Vedomosti, 23 November 2016
'Справочник о чекистах эпохи Большого террора теперь доступен в интернете,' International Memorial Society, 23 November 2016
'Russian NGO Publishes Stalin-Era NKVD Personnel Database,' The Moscow Times, 24 November 2016
'Descendants Of Stalin-Era Secret Police Seek Closure Of Database,' RFE/RL, 28 November 2016

Rights Group of the Week: Levada Centre

posted 21 Nov 2016, 05:59 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Nov 2016, 06:00 ]

On 18 November 2016 a Moscow court upheld the designation of the Levada Centre as a ‘foreign agent’ NGO, The Moscow Times reports. The Moscow Times notes that the Levada Centre was included by the Ministry of Justice in the register of so-called 'foreign agents' on 5 September 2016. The court dismissed an appeal against the ruling by the Ministry of Justice. 

The Levada Centre is a pollster that has played a crucial role in publicizing the state of public opinion in Russia. Its findings are regularly reported in both Russian and foreign publications. Through its work as an independent organization conducting and publishing regular surveys of public opinion, the NGO has played a key role in promoting and upholding freedom of information in the Russian Federation. 

On 26 October 2016 the Levada Centre had been fined 300,000 roubles ($4,700) for failing to register as a 'foreign agent' NGO. The appeal against this fine has yet to be heard.
  
As US political scientist Daniel Treisman pointed out in an article in The Moscow Times in May this year, 'Since it was founded in 1987, originally as the All-Union Public Opinion Research Center, the Levada Centre has conducted the country's most credible surveys on social and political topics. It is known around the world for its objectivity and professionalism.' Treisman pointed out that 'prosecutors have ruled that the Levada Center's posting of poll results and analyses constitutes "political activity" because they "influence public opinion".' 

Sources:
'Court Upholds Foreign Agent Status for Levada Center,' The Moscow Times, 18 November 2016
'Russia's Last Independent Pollster Is Fined for Refusing to Register as a "Foreign Agent",’ The Moscow Times, 23 October 2016
Daniel Treisman, 'Why the Kremlin Hates Levada Center,' The Moscow Times, 23 May 2016
Levada Centre, website

Rights Group of the Week: Perm Civic Chamber

posted 14 Nov 2016, 07:22 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Nov 2016, 07:29 ]

On 9 November 2016, the Rapid Response Centre for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders reported that a district court in the city of Perm had fined one of the city's leading human rights NGOs, Perm Civic Chamber, the sum of 400,000 roubles 'for carrying out activities without submitting an application to be listed on the register of non-profit organisations which fulfil the function of "foreign agents”.' Perm Civic Chamber said it will lodge an appeal against the ruling.  

Perm Civic Chamber was founded on 10 April 1996 on the initiative of four NGOs in Perm, a city that for many years has had a reputation for fostering a positive climate for civil society associations in Russia. Perm Civic Chamber was itself established with a mission to support the creation and effective functioning of civil society organizations in Perm region, as well as to develop and promote the means by which civil society can influence regional and local government. The chair of the organization since its founding has been Igor Averkiev, one of the best known civil society activists in Russia.

As Human Rights Watch has reported, as of November 7, 2016, there were 104 civil society groups on the official list of the Ministry of Justice of active 'foreign agents'

Source: 
'Пермскую гражданскую палату оштрафовали на 400 тыс. руб. за отказ регистрироваться в качестве «иностранного агента»,' Центр реагирования по защите правозащитников, 9 November 2016
Harassment of Perm Civic Chamber continues, HRO.org in English, 10 November 2016
Russia: Government vs. Rights Groups, Human Rights Watch, 7 November 2016
Website of Perm Civic Chamber
Website of Igor Averkiev

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