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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: Mashr

posted by Rights in Russia   [ updated ]

On 20 April 2017, the Justice Ministry removed Ingush human rights NGO Mashr from the register of ‘foreign agents’.
Caucasian Knot reported that: "In his post 'Russia’s MoJ: "Mashr" is not a "foreign agent",' Mr Mutsolgov has published a photo of the MoJ’s notification reading that the 'Mashr' was excluded from the register of 'foreign agents' "in accordance with sub-point two of point 7.1, Article 32, of the Federal Law 'On NPOs'.” According to this point, an NPO is excluded from the register if 'according to outcomes of a check it was established that the NPO has not received money and other property from foreign sources and (or) has not participated in political activities in the territory of the Russian Federation'." On April 18, Magomed Mutsolgov noted in the above post that 'the authorities have in fact recognized that the "Mashr" operates within the framework of the law'."

Mashr was set up in April 2005 by relatives of people who had been kidnapped or otherwise gone missing in Ingushetia. The organization is one of the leading NGOs in the North Caucasus that bravely monitors human rights abuses in the region. As RFE/RL, in November 2015 police searched the house of Magomed Mutsolgov. At the time of the search, computers and documents belonging to Mashr were confiscated on the grounds that they contained 'secret data.' Human Rights Watch condemned the allegations against Mutsolgov and his organization as 'outrageous' and said they were clearly aimed to 'intimidate and demonize him in the public eye.' Human Rights Watch pointed out that Article 12 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders stipulates that states shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection for human rights defenders against “any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary actions” related to their efforts to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms. On 8 December 2015 Rights in Russia reported that the Justice Ministry had added Mashr to the 'foreign agent’ register.

On 20 February 2017, Magomed Mutsolgov, head of the Ingushetian human rights organization Mashr, appealed to the authorities to investigate threats allegedly made against him by a senior Ingush police officer, arrested on suspicion of abusing a detainee. Mutsolgov was acting in his capacity as a member of the region's Public Oversight Commission when the threats were made, Caucasian Knot reports. Magomed Mutsolgov wrote in his blog on the Caucasian Knot website: "In all the years I have been carrying out public oversight in pre-trial detention facilities, this is the first instance when insults and threats have been made against a Public Oversight Commission." Caucasian Knot reported that, according to Bagaudin Khadziev, deputy chair of the Public Oversight Commission, the police officer in question behaved aggressively, shouting at Magomed Mutsolgov and threatening him.

Sources:
'"Mashr" excluded from list of “foreign agents”,' Caucasian Knot, 20 April 2017
'Prisoner of Ingush SIZO voices threats against POC members, Magomed Mutsolgov reports,'  Caucasian Knot, 20 February 2017
'Муцольгов заявил об угрозах заключенного в ингушском СИЗО в адрес членов ОНК,' Mashr, 20 February 2017
Mashr, website
'Russia Lists Ingush Rights Group As "Foreign Agent",' RFE/RL, 9 December 2015
'Magomed Mutsolgov accused of “anti-Russian and subversive activities",' HRO.org, 7 November 2015
'Russia: Officials Harassing Ingushetia Rights Defender,' Human Rights Watch, 10 November 2015

Rights Group of the Week: OVD-Info

posted 17 Apr 2017, 01:56 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Apr 2017, 02:28 ]

On 14 April 2017 the 
Open Democracy website began publishing a translation into English of weekly updates by OVD-Info on politically-motivated prosecutions in Russia. By kind permission of Open Democracy, Rights in Russia will also be publishing these updateswith special focus on right of assemblyfreedom of expression and political intimidationOVD-Info is an independent human rights media project dedicated to monitoring politically-motivated prosecutions in Russia. The project was founded in December 2011 in reaction to the mass arrests of protesters in Moscow. As the organization states on its website, OVD-Info monitors politically motivated prosecutions on a daily basis and publishes information on a regular, up-to-date basis, including statements by the victims themselves. They write: "We believe that information liberates and protects, while analysis of the gathered data allows the situation to be changed for the better in the future...OVD-Info strives to be objective in the gathering and presentation of information. The project does not advance any person's political interests and does not seek to achieve any narrow political goals." OVD-Info also coordinates provision of legal assistance to people who are victims of politically-motivated prosecutions.

Earlier this year, in an article published on the Open Democracy website, Grigory Okhotin, a researcher and independent journalist who is one of the founding members of OVD-Info, wrote:

"Freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are especially critical issues in a climate where people are regularly detained for speaking out against the government. By monitoring arrests and detentions, civil society can keep the government accountable and aware that their actions—and mounting human rights violations—are being exposed to the Russian public and the international community. In an initial response to the arrests in 2011, a group of volunteers launched OVD-Info, an online monitoring project to keep track of arrests and detentions during the protests. We put together the project in just a few days, as a quick response to the political unrest happening at the time. Between 2011-2012, OVD-Info tracked 5,166 politically motivated arrests at 228 protest events in and around Moscow. In the years following, the project has expanded to look at all issues of freedom of assembly and political oppression, collecting information, personal stories and data on people who have been detained.

Because the state is unpredictable and generally tries to keep these stories out of public view, this type of work can be quite risky and the availability of funding is volatile. In the beginning, we were a small project run entirely by volunteers. When we began to expand, we acquired funding in the traditional NGO business model, by getting grants from donors, including international organizations. But in 2015, Russia passed a new law on NGO funding, which directly prohibited work with two of our major donors at that time, the Open Society Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy—labelling them “undesirable organizations.” Like many other NGOs around us, we immediately had to adapt and find new ways to fund our work.[...] 
Russians are engaged in this work, speaking out and fighting back, perhaps more than ever. International audiences are also participating—for example, by making online donations or sharing our reports and linking to our social media posts. But since we’ve started the project, we have witnessed a decrease in freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. It’s hard to know whether this will continue to get worse, or how much we are affecting government behaviour—but this type of impact evaluation is not the point. Even in this space of shrinking freedoms, new business models allow us to remain relevant. Without the ability to evolve and seek new ways of funding, we and other groups like us would have shut down years ago. But Russian civil society continues to innovate, to engage the public, and to hold the government accountable—in whatever ways we can."

Sources:
OVD-Info, website
'Bolotnaya 2.0?,' Open Democracy, 14 April 2017
Grigory Okhotin, 'Crowdfunding to bypass Russia’s civil society crackdown,' Open Democracy, 21 March 2017

Rights Group of the Week: Russian LGBT Network

posted 10 Apr 2017, 08:09 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 10 Apr 2017, 08:53 ]

On 1 April 2017 Novaya gazeta reported that over 100 gay men have been brutally detained — and at least three killed — in Chechnya. On 2 April 2017 the Russian LGBT Network issued a statement on the reports: "

The Russian LGBT Network is highly disturbed and concerned about the information on the kidnapping and killing of people in Chechnya because of their sexual orientation. We are also outraged by the reaction of the officials of the Chechen Republic, who in fact justify the killings. No national and/or religious traditions and norms can justify kidnapping or killing of a human being. Any references to “traditions” to justify kidnappings and killings are amoral and criminal [read the statement in full HERE]"

Matthew Kupfer, writing in The Moscow Times, stated that "the crackdown seemed like something out of the Stalinist-era repressions." Igor Kochetkov, a board member and former chairman of the Russian LGBT Network, is quoted in the article as describing the scope of the detentions as "unprecedented". He told The Moscow Times: "We are under the impression that this is a special operation to capture gays.” The Moscow Times noted, "The Russian LGBT Network has set up a hotline for LGBT people in the North Caucasus and is actively working to evacuate individuals in danger from the region." 

Citing Novaya gazeta, on 3 April 2017 Caucasian Knot said that a 'secret prison' for the detention of LGBT people was located in the city of Argun, Chechnya. On 5 April 2017 Caucasian Knot reported that the Russian LGBT Network had offered to assist with the evacuation of LGBT people from Chechnya. Caucasian Knot wrote: "The data on persecutions of homosexuals in Chechnya need investigators’ verification, the 'Russian LGBT-network' has stated. The organization is ready to help the victims, before they are evacuated from Chechnya."  On 5 April 2017, Tom Balmforth wrote on the RFE/RL website that the Russian LGBT Network had received more than 10 appeals for help from homosexuals in Chechnya seeking to flee the southern Russian republic. 

The Russian LGBT Network is an NGO that works to promote the rights of LGBT people in Russia. The organization was founded in April 2006. In October 2008, the All-Russian Conference of Civic Organizations in Support of the LGBT Movement was held in Moscow. During this conference, the network transformed into an interregional public movement. The organization's current Charter and Strategy were created, and governing bodies were elected. On its Facebook page, the Russian LGBT Network states that its goals are the following:

Develop a direct dialogue with the authorities, political parties, human rights and civic activists
Hold nationwide information campaigns
Help unite and organize LGBT people in the regions of Russia
Provide LGBT people with psychological and legal support, regardless of their place of residence and other discriminating factors
Help the parents and friends of LGBT
Conduct research on the socio-legal status of LGBT people in Russia
Provide international organizations, which control Russia’s observance of its international human rights obligations (UN, the Council of Europe, OSCE), with alternative reports on the situation of LGBT people in the country.
Hold round table discussions, seminars, conferences, trainings etc.
Publish informational, educational and methodological materials
Provide professional assistance with strategic legal cases
Provide the LGBT community with distant informational, psychological and legal support
Hold nationwide trainings for leaders of the LGBT-movement
And a lot more...The organization sets out its achievements as follows:

We have helped create LGBT groups and organizations in 20 different regions of Russia
We have established regular and direct contact with the Human Rights Commissioner of Russia, members of the Presidential Council for human rights, as well as various ministries and other authorities of the Russian Federation
We got the leading Russian human rights organizations to acknowledge the need to protect the rights of the LGBT community
We had Measures against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity included in the recommendations for the Russian Federation (UN Human Rights Committee, 2009; CEDAW, 2010, etc);
We have gained the support of major international organizations, such as the UN and the Council of Europe
National networks of lawyers and psychologists have been created to provide LGBT people with various forms of support, including face-to-face and distant consultations
We have a hotline that is available in all parts of the country
Thanks to our work, a lot of LGBT people in Russia have found the courage to come out and be who they are
We have helped to draw public attention to the issues of homophobia and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
We are recognized by the leading human rights organizations
We have our own office and staff
At this point in time the Russian LGBT Network has regional devisions in 16 regions of the Russian Federation.

Sources:
'Statement of the Russian LGBT Network’s Board regarding the information on the kidnappings and murders of LGBT People in the North Caucasus,' Rights in Russia, 2 April 2017 [original source: Facebook]
' "Russian LGBT-network" offers to evacuate gays from Chechnya,' Caucasian Knot, 3 April 2017
'Fifteen LGBTs ask evacuation from Chechnya, Caucasian Knot, 5 April 2017
Tom Balmforth, 'Homosexuals Appeal For Help Fleeing Chechnya Amid Allegations Of Antigay Campaign,' RFE/RL, 5 April 2017 
Matthew Kupfer, 'Detained, Tortured, Killed: How Chechnya Cracked Down on Gays,' The Moscow Times, 6 April 2017

Rights Group of the Week: Anti-Corruption Foundation

posted 4 Apr 2017, 04:14 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 Apr 2017, 08:05 ]

On 26 March 2017, police dispersed protests against corruption in cities across Russia, arresting more than 1,000 in Moscow, including the organizer of the protests, Aleksei Navalny. As RFE/RL reported Aleksei Navalny had "called for protests in cities across Russia to condemn corruption after his anticorruption foundation published an investigation into property owned by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Russia and abroad." As the BBC reported, a court initially fined Navalny 20,000 roubles for going ahead with the banned protest. Subsequently, as RFE/RL reported, on 30 March 2017 Aleksei Navalny was given a 15-day jail sentence when Moscow City Court upheld his conviction under administrative law for allegedly 'resisting a police officer' on the day of the March 26 protests. In addition to Aleksei Navalny, 12 members of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, which he heads, were given short administrative jail sentences following the March 26 protests. RFE/RL quoted a spokesperson for the Anticorruption Foundation as saying the arrests were "an obvious attempt to disrupt the work of the organization." Navalny's lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, said after the court had announced its verdict that she would take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

RFE/RL reported that following Navalny's arrest, the authorities "quickly moved to shut down his anticorruption foundation, sealing off its offices, seizing equipment, and jailing the Kremlin opponent and eight key staff members." The media outlet also quoted Roman Rubanov, the director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, as saying he believed the authorities were trying to paralyze the organization's work: "We're working in emergency mode. We're working in a situation when our organization is under threat. Of course we have a plan for such events, but the normal work of our organization has been interrupted, and for the time being it is hard to imagine how it is going to continue. We don't know when we are going to get our building back and what they've taken. In material terms, they may have taken away a lot. [...] For the third day now some kind of activity is taking place in our office, and we're not allowed in. It's being guarded by police. In general, this looks very much more like robbery or theft than legal action." 

RFE/RL also reported that "Activists said electricity was then cut to the offices where they had been broadcasting coverage of nationwide rallies to what they said was an audience of 3.7 million. All staff in the office were detained, and the following day courts confirmed the arrest of eight staff members and five technical staff involved in the broadcast, jailing them for between seven and 25 days. Roman Rubanov said on March 28 that the office remained under the control of security services and that equipment had been removed from the premises." 

The Moscow Times quoted Roman Rubanov as saying that the Foundation's offices had been occupied by FSB agents three days after police forced the staff to evacuate their premises following an alleged bomb threat: "Rubanov told the news site Meduza that agents from the Federal Security Service, Russia’s post-Soviet KGB successor, were spotted presenting their identity badges to gain access to the business center that houses the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s office."

In a statement issued on 31 March 2017, Amnesty International said: "Arrests and other reprisals against employees and volunteers of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF) are part of the latest clampdown on the rights to peaceful assembly and expression in Russia. They are facing administrative arrests and harassment by the Russian authorities for organising a live broadcast of the anti-corruption protests that swept across Russia on 26 March, while the state-run media largely ignored this significant political event. The detention of the ACF’s staff and volunteers also allowed the authorities to search its office and remove computers and documents containing valuable, and possibly confidential, information. The ACF members were found guilty of “administrative offences” after unfair and politically motivated trials on 27 and 28 March. Twelve individuals, who have been arrested, are prisoners of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released."

Sources:
'Russian Federation: Detained members of corruption watchdog are prisoners of conscience and should be freed immediately,' Amnesty International, 30 March 2017
'Putin Downplays Anticorruption Protests, As Moscow Court Upholds Navalny's Jail Sentence,' RFE/RL, 30 March 2017
'Navalny Lawyer Pledges European Court Battle,' RFE/RL, 30 March 2017
'Russia's Modern-Day KGB Has Occupied Alexei Navalny's Office,' The Moscow Times, 28 March 2017
Tom Balmforth, 'Navalny's Group Targeted Over Protests As Kremlin Seen Weighing Crackdown,' RFE/RL, 28 March 2017
'Russia jails protests leader Alexei Navalny for 15 days,' BBC, 27 March 2017
'Police Disperse Anticorruption Rally In Moscow,' RFE/RL, 27 March 2017
'Он Вам Не Димон,' YouTube
Anti-Corruption Foundation, Wikipedia
Фонд борьбы с коррупцией 
Фонд борьбы с коррупцией, Wikipedia
'Rights Group of the Week: Anti-Corruption Foundation,' Rights in Russia, 17 July 2016

Rights Group of the Week: Civic Assistance Committee

posted 27 Mar 2017, 07:42 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 27 Mar 2017, 07:49 ]

On 23 March 2017 Fortune magazine named Svetlana Gannushkina, head of the human rights NGO Civic Assistance Committee, as one of 'the world's 50 greatest leaders.' The citation reads: "In Putin’s Russia, fighting for human rights isn’t the safest career path. And yet Gannushkina, a 75-year-old mathematician, soldiers on. Her Civic Assistance Committee has helped over 50,000 people, mainly migrants and refugees, navigate Russia’s byzantine legal system. Some of her successes: Pushing to amend refugee laws to grant citizenship to millions, and lobbying for the rights of refugee children to attend Russian schools. All this, despite her organization being labeled a 'foreign agent' by the Russian government."

Civic Assistance Committee is a non-profit charitable organization with a mission to help refugees and internally displaced persons (often called 'forced migrants' in Russia). The Civic Assistance Committee was set up in 1990 by a group of people in Moscow in reaction to the anti-Armenian pogroms in Azerbaijan. From its foundation, Civic Assistance Committee has acted as mediator between migrants and official government bodies, providing legal assistance, upholding social rights and offering humanitarian aid to those in need.

On 22 September 2016 the Right Livelihood Award Foundation announced that rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina, director of the Civic Assistance Committee, was co-winner of the Swedish human rights award, which is sometimes referred to as the "alternative Nobel." As RFE/RL reported, Svetlana Gannushkina shared the 2016 prize (which included a cash award of $350,000) with the Syria Civil Defense group, Egyptian women's rights activist Mozn Hassan, and Turkish independent newspaper Cumhuriyet.

Photo of Svetlana Gannushkina: Avaz Hasanov (via HRO.org)

Sources:
Geoff Colvin, The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, Fortune, 23 March 2017
'Журнал Fortune включил в топ-50 мировых лидеров правозащитницу Светлану Ганнушкину,' HRO.org, 27 March 2017
'Right Livelihood Award Laureates,' Right Livelihood Award Foundation, 22 September 2016
'Russian Rights Campaigner Wins "Alternative Nobel",' RFE/RL, 22 September 2016

Rights Group of the Week: Agora International

posted 20 Mar 2017, 09:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Mar 2017, 09:37 ]

On 11 March 2017 Agora International was presented with the Lindebrekke Prize for human rights activism by the Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg. The prize, named after Sjur Lindebrekke, founder of the Norwegian conservative party, was accepted by Pavel Chikov, founding head of Agora International. 

Agora International was set up following the closure of the Kazan-based Agora Human Rights Association, subsequent to the latter's designation as a 'foreign agent' NGO. In his acceptance speech for the award, Pavel Chikov spoke of "a complicated time for democratic values and human rights all around the world," in which "a new agenda" is facing human rights defenders, not least because "we see how authoritarian governments export hostile policies and try to use this moment in time to further undermine democratic values." He said Agora's lawyers are working on all the emerging issues, "not because we go looking for them" but "because this intimidation affects everyone; everyone will feel insecure until there are places where things will be OK. In our tiny world, we are all closely interrelated."

According to its website, Agora International "is an association of more than 50 lawyers working on landmark human rights cases" that is currently conducting more than 300 lawsuits across Russia. Agora International has legal teams based in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Nizhniy Novgorod, Stavropol, Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Lipetsk, Chita, Helsinki, Sofia and London. Agora International runs a "response unit that handles incidents involving human rights violations operates across the entire European part of Russia. Such incidents may involve torture and murder by the police authorities, the death of individuals in prisons and penal colonies, and the criminal prosecution and attacks against civil rights activists, journalists and bloggers." In 2014, Agora and Pavel Chikov received the Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize.

For more information about Agora on Rights in Russia, see HERE.

Sources:
'Agora International Awarded Prestigious Lindebrekke Prize in Norway,' Rights in Russia, 11 March 2017

Rights Group of the Week: Committee for the Prevention of Torture

posted 13 Mar 2017, 07:23 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Mar 2017, 07:26 ]

On 6 March 2017 the Committee for the Prevention of Torture received the Homo Homini Award for 2016 in Prague. The Homo Homini Award is given annually by the Czech human rights organization People in Need since 1994 to individuals and organizations for their contribution to the defence of human rights, democracy and non-violent solution of political conflicts. Each year the award is presented at the One World Film Festival, the world's largest human rights film festival. 

As Caucasian Knot reported, Igor Kalyapin, the chair of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, said at the ceremony: "We find extremely important to feel support and solidarity of ordinary people, who are ready to defend human rights not only in their own country, but throughout the world, and who understand that a human rights violation in a neighbouring country will inevitably lead, sooner or later, to problems in their own country."

The Committee for the Prevention of Torture is a Russian NGO based in Nizhny Novgorod. It also has offices in the Republic of Mari El, the Republic of Bashkortostan, Orenburg region, and Moscow and Moscow region. Since 2009 it has been a leading participant in the Joint Mobile Group of human rights defenders that works in Chechnya. The Committee for the Prevention of Torture, set up in 2015, continues the work of the Committee Against Torture, which was founded in 2000 and closed down in 2015 after it was designated as a 'foreign agent' NGO. 

The website of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture states that the Committee "was created as a human rights organization with the purpose of exercising public control over the problem of torture application and violent treatment in Russia and granting professional legal and medical aid to torture victims. [...] In the framework of a public investigation lawyers of the Committee conduct an independent self-contained investigation, but its results are used as admissible evidence within the official investigation and later in the courtroom. The hallmark of the organization is its professional legal approach to solving tasks connected to with protection of human rights and lawful interests. This approach has been used since the Committee was created and accounts for the success of the organization. From the moment of the Committee foundation its specialists have checked about 1000 applications dealing with human rights violations, have conducted hundreds of public investigations and have made the state and its representatives pay millions of rubles as compensation to people who suffered from unlawful actions of law enforcement agents. Besides, thanks to the efforts of Committee lawyers, more that 70 law enforcement agents were convicted under torture cases. Another very important mechanism of human rights protection that has no systematic counterparts in the Russian human rights community and is widely used by the Committee is representation of Russian citizens at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg by highly-qualified Committee lawyers. By now specialists in European law of the Committee have prepared and filed 75 applications to the ECtHR. Under the most wide-known case, “Mikheyev vs. Russian Federation”, January 2006, the Court adjudicated in favour of the applicant, found Russia in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and obliged the state to pay Mr. Mikheyev 250 thousand euros as compensation. At present this is the biggest compensation the European Court enforced upon Russia."

Sources:
'CPT receives Homo Homini Award,' Caucasian Knot, 7 March 2017
'Homo Homini Award,' Wikipedia
Committee for the Prevention of Torture, website

Rights Group of the Week: Gulagu.net

posted 5 Mar 2017, 09:54 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Mar 2017, 10:14 ]

On 28 February 2017 police searched the Moscow apartment of Elena Abdullaeva, coordinator of the project “Gulagu.Nyet” ["No to the Gulag"] that collects information about human rights abuses in the penitentiary system, The Moscow Times reported. The search took place on the same day that police searched the family home of journalist and human rights campaigner Zoya Svetova. Elena Abdullaeva is also a former member of the Moscow Public Oversight Commission. The Moscow Times reported: "According to Eva Merkacheva, the commission’s deputy chairperson, who says she managed to speak to Abdullaeva, the police are supposedly looking for a 'stolen mobile phone.' " According to reports, Abdullaeva’s son was detained in December 2016 in relation to a suspected theft of a mobile and allegedly beaten by police. Abdullaeva claimed that the charges of theft had been fabricated. 

According to its website, Gulagu.net is a project against corruption and torture in Russia, uniting more than human rights defenders, volunteers and prisoners' relatives. Gulagu.net was founded in September 2011 on the intitiative of activist and former prisoner Vladimir Osechkin, himself a controversial figure in human rights circles. According to its website, the association acts 'transparently and within the law' to combat torture and corruption and protect the rights of persons in places of detention. Over the first five years since its founding, according to the website 2,378,927 people visited Gulagu.net 5,194,048 times, with more than 17,278,700 page visits. 

Sources:
Gulagu.net website
'Russian Police Raid the Home of Second Human Rights Worker in a Day,' The Moscow Times, 2 March 2017
Peter Oborne, 'The dangers of exposing corruption in Russia’s jails,' Open Democracy, 8 August 2016
'Gulagu.net против настоящих правозащитников?,' pravo-ural.ru 10 November 2013

Rights Group of the Week: Mashr

posted 26 Feb 2017, 07:34 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Feb 2017, 07:43 ]

On 20 February 2017, Magomed Mutsolgov, head of the Ingushetian human rights organization Mashr, appealed to the authorities to investigate threats allegedly made against him by a senior Ingush police officer, arrested on suspicion of abusing a detainee. Mutsolgov was acting in his capacity as a member of the region's Public Oversight Commission when the threats were made, Caucasian Knot reports. Magomed Mutsolgov wrote in his blog on the Caucasian Knot website: "In all the years I have been carrying out public oversight in pre-trial detention facilities, this is the first instance when insults and threats have been made against a Public Oversight Commission." Caucasian Knot reported that, according to Bagaudin Khadziev, deputy chair of the Public Oversight Commission, the police officer in question behaved aggressively, shouting at Magomed Mutsolgov and threatening him.

The incident serves to highlight the work conducted by Magomed Mutsolgov and the Mashr human rights organization which he heads. On 8 December 2015 Rights in Russia reported that the Justice Ministry had added Mashr to the 'foreign agent’ register. Mashr was set up in April 2005 by relatives of people who had been kidnapped or otherwise gone missing in Ingushetia. The organization is one of the leading NGOs in the North Caucasus that bravely monitors human rights abuses in the region. As RFE/RL, in November 2015 police searched the house of Magomed Mutsolgov. At the time of the search, computers and documents belonging to Mashr were confiscated on the grounds that they contained 'secret data.' Human Rights Watch condemned the allegations against Mutsolgov and his organization as 'outrageous' and said they were clearly aimed to 'intimidate and demonize him in the public eye.' Human Rights Watch pointed out that Article 12 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders stipulates that states shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection for human rights defenders against “any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary actions” related to their efforts to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Sources: 
'Prisoner of Ingush SIZO voices threats against POC members, Magomed Mutsolgov reports,'  Caucasian Knot, 20 February 2017
'Муцольгов заявил об угрозах заключенного в ингушском СИЗО в адрес членов ОНК,' Mashr, 20 February 2017
Mashr, website
'Russia Lists Ingush Rights Group As "Foreign Agent",' RFE/RL, 9 December 2015
'Magomed Mutsolgov accused of “anti-Russian and subversive activities",' HRO.org, 7 November 2015
'Russia: Officials Harassing Ingushetia Rights Defender,' Human Rights Watch, 10 November 2015

Rights Group of the Week: Migration and Law Network

posted 20 Feb 2017, 04:50 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Feb 2017, 04:51 ]

On 12 February 2017 the Migration and Law Network of Memorial Human Rights Centre reported that a court in Leningrad region had dismissed the case against Choi Myung-bok, a North Korean defector who lives in a town in Leningrad region with his Russian partner and their two children, set to be deported for violating migration laws (Choi had applied for refugee status in 2015-16, but this had been rejected). As The Moscow Times reported, 'Choi no longer faces deportation to North Korea, where he would most likely be executed for fleeing the labor camp he was sent to. He plans to apply for official refugee status once again.' Choi was represented by Olga Tseitlina and Yury Serov. When a local court ordered Choi's deportation and sent him to a pre-deportation, Tseitlina and Serov filed an appeal against the ruling. They also made an application to the European Court of Human Rights for emergency measures to be taken to protect Choi, on the grounds that if deported he would be executed in North Korea. In 2002 Choi had fled to Russia from a labour camp in the Russian Far Eastern Amur region, where he had been sent by the North Korean authorities in 1999. The European Court of Human Rights Ruled in Choi's favour. On 9 February Leningrad region court dismissed all charges against Choi and released him from custody. In 2015, Russia signed an extradition treaty with North Korea and since then has been unwilling to grant asylum to North Koreans.

Olga Tseitlina and Yury Serov are two lawyers from the Migration and Law Network, a part of Memorial Human Rights Centre. Migration and Law Network is headed by Svetlana Gannushkina (who also heads the NGO Civic Assistance). The Migration and Law Network was set up in 1996 within Memorial Human Rights Centre to provide legal assistance to refugees and migrants. Today Migration and Law Network works in 37 regions of Russia, with 59 legal advice points, four of which are in Chechnya. The coordinating centre of the Network is in Moscow. 

In an interview from last year with The Moscow Times, Svetlana Gannushkina commented on the extradition treaty with North Korea: “The authorities told us not to worry, because the North Korean government promised to treat refugees well, but we knew differently. We found out that one of the refugees we tried to help and failed was roped onto a moving train. That was how they ’delivered him to his homeland’ — or what was left of him, to be exact.”

Source:
'Russian Court Saves North Korean Defector From Deportation,' The Moscow Times, 14 February 2017
'О сети «Миграция и право»,' Memorial Human Rights Centre, 1 September 2015

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