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Announcement of the establishment of an International Commission of Experts to Evaluate the Events of 6 May 2012, on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow

posted 29 Apr 2013, 21:27 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 May 2013, 12:24 ]
29 April 2013

Press Release

A number of leading international human rights NGO’s, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, ARTICLE 19, FIDH, European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights, International Civil Initiative for OSCE (ICI OSCE), the international platform “Civic Solidarity” and the International Protection Center, have announced the establishment of an International Commission of Experts to provide an independent assessment of the circumstances leading to the violence related to the mass demonstrations in Moscow on Bolotnaya Square, which took place almost a year ago on 6 May 2012.

The commission was initiated in response to an appeal for such an assessment by a number of Russian journalists and public commentators, which they sent to several Russian and international NGOs in 2012. The commission will complement already existing initiatives in Russia, which work on the so called “Bolotnaya Square cases.” 

The mass demonstration on Bolotnaya Square on 6 May 2012 was a continuation of mass protests that started in Russia following the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2011 and 2012 respectively. The day itself was also the day preceding Putin’s second inauguration, and people came out on to the streets to demonstrate their disagreement with his return to office, the result of both elections and government policies. None of the demonstrators or organisers of the protest expected any difficulties. However it was violently dispersed, and clashes with police followed. The authorities now consider the demonstration to have been an orchestrated mass riot, and 28 people have been charged with either organizing or participating in violent mass disorder. 

The Commission will assess the circumstances leading to the violence of 6 May on Bolotnaya Square in respect of current human rights standards and practices to which Russia, as a member state of the United Nations, Council of Europe and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has acceded. The Commission consists of leading international experts in the sphere of human rights, in particular relating to the right of assembly and police practice. The experts will, for example, assess the degree of proportionality, the need and legality of the use of violence by the police and anti-riot squads. They will also assess the degree of responsibility for the violence and destruction of public property by the organizers, as well as the protesters themselves. The composition of the Commission will permit a thorough, independent and impartial analysis of the events that took place on Bolotnaya square on 6 May 2012 in the light of international standards relating to freedom of assembly and policing of demonstrations and protests, and enable a conclusion as to whether these events should qualify as mass riots. 

Members of the Commission will use their extensive experience of involvement in public investigations into similar events at large scale public demonstrations. Among similar protests that have been investigated by the Commission's experts are violent mass riots in Northern Ireland, post-election protests in Moldova in 2009, protests in Belarus after the presidential elections in 2010, and the dispersal of “Occupy Wall-street” in the USA in 2011. 

The work of the Commission will be based on a step by step analysis of evidence, as presented by the authorities, including statements by government officials, as well as information collected via other independent investigations and monitoring, including photos and videos of the events. The work of the Commission is supported by a number of leading human rights groups in Russia. 

The initiating organizations set up the Commission to increase the attention of inter-governmental institutions, foreign media and state actors to the situation in Russia during and after the events of 6 May 2012. They consider this day to have been a turning point in the approach of the Russian authorities towards the observance and protection of human rights, and show the Russian state to have taken a path towards the further restriction of fundamental freedoms and limitation of space for civil society actors. 

The commission will produce two publications, including an interim and final report, with a chronology of the events of 6 May. The experts will include an analysis of the trials of those accused of organizing ‘mass riots’ on 6 May and will develop a list of recommendation for the Russian authorities on how to amend the current legal framework and law-enforcement practices to ensure adherence to the right to peaceful assembly in accordance with international human rights standards.

All questions about the work of the Commission can be addressed to: 

Nathalie Losekoot, +44-796-985-60-69