Human rights defenders urge measures against politically-motivated violence in the country

posted 8 May 2017, 03:18 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 8 May 2017, 03:24 ]
4 May 2017


Open letter by a group of Russian human rights activists to members of the Presidential Human Rights Council

In Russia in the spring of 2017 the number of physical attacks against members of opposition groups and civic activists increased. These are events that took place over just three days:

In Moscow on 27th April Aleksei Navalny was attacked. He had disinfectant thrown over him, intended for his face, causing serious eye injury. This was by no means the first attack on an opposition politician.

On 28th April in Moscow a chemical substance was splashed in the face of Natalya Fyodorova, an activist from the Yabloko party, resulting in a threat to her eyesight. This was just one of many incidents of violence against activists opposing illegal high rise construction and the plans for the mass demolition of housing in Moscow.

On 29th April in Ekaterinburg disinfectant was poured on the face of the blogger from Pervouralsk, Artem Izgagin. Glasses saved his eyesight.

The purpose of this illegal street violence is intimidation, the creation of an atmosphere of fear, in other words terror. For a long time now we have seen how pro-government hooligans have moved from threats against independent journalists and opposition activists to violence.

We see how they have moved from symbolic actions to criminal offences, fraught with serious consequences for their victims’ well-being. Sometimes the attackers do not hide themselves – like the “Cossacks” who attacked Navalny on 20th April in Krasnodar. Sometimes they deny their involvement – like the members of the SERB Movement, proof of whose participation in the 27th April attack on Navalny has been published. But more often the attackers have remained unidentified. We see how the authorities do not simply not react, but how they slow down the investigation of these attacks. We see how a similar practice is becoming widespread and permeating down to regional and local levels.

The dangers of this tendency are obvious: impunity for street violence against those in opposition legitimises this violence in principle.

In turn, this violence not only in essence destroys peaceful forms and instruments of public and political life, but it also leads to a radicalisation of society in general. And we need to understand that in this situation nobody can feel secure.

In order to discuss ways of combating this growing politically-motivated terror, we propose that in the near future a session of the Human Rights Council be held with the participation of the human rights ombudsperson and representatives of interested human rights organisations.

The leading officials of the General Procurator’s Office, the Investigative Committee, the MVD and the FSB should also be invited.

Members of the Council of Human Rights Defenders of Russia:
Liudmila Alekseyeva, chair of Moscow Helsinki Group
Valery Borshchev, member of Moscow Helsinki Group
Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of Civic Assistance committee
Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of Golos Movement for Voters’ Rights
Oleg Orlov, member of the Memorial Human Rights Centre
Lev Ponomarev, executive director of the movement For Human Rights
Natalya Taubina, director of Public Verdict Foundation
Aleksandr Cherkasov, chair of the board of Memorial Human Rights Centre

Translated by Frances Robson