Person of the Week
On 11 March 2017 Valentina Cherevatenko, founder and head of the Women of the Don, an NGO based in Novocherkassk, Rostov region, received the second Anna Politkovskaya award for 2016, presented by the the RAW in WAR charity, to mark the tenth anniversary of the award by celebrating the achievements of a woman from Russia who has done outstanding work in post-Soviet conflict zones (the first recipient of the Anna Politkovskaya prize was the late Natalya Estemirova, who was murdered in 2009). The award was presented by Elena Kudimova, Anna Politkovskaya’s sister. The principal winner of the 2016 prize was Jineth Bedoya Lima, a journalist from Colombia.
Valentina Cherevatenko is a veteran of human rights and peace-building initiatives in southern Russia, the Caucasus and, more recently, Ukraine. She is the founder and chair of the Women of the Don NGO, which was set up in 1993 to assist local women left unemployed following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Valentina grew up in Novocherkassk in the Rostov region, a city that witnessed, during her childhood, the 1962 mass shooting of striking workers (see Novocherkassk massacre).
In 2014, the Union of the Women of the Don was declared a 'foreign agent' under a law introduced in 2012. Two years later that designation was withdrawn, though it still applied to a second NGO also set by Valentina and her colleagues, the Women of the Don Foundation. In late June 2016 Valentina Cherevatenko was the first individual to be charged with 'malicious evasion' of the 'foreign agent' law, and if convicted could pay a heavy fine or be given a two-year sentence in a prison colony. The case, which has aroused concern worldwide, is on-going.
For more articles about Valentina Cherevatenko on Rights in Russia, see HERE
Sources:'Valentina Cherevatenko (Russia) 2016: Winner of the Special Anna Politkovskaya Award,' RAW in WAR
'Valentina Cherevatenko,' Wikipedia
'Cherevatenko fêted in London,' Rights in Russia, 20 March 2017
On 10 March 2017 Ildar Dadin was briefly detained as he held a one-person picket in Moscow outside the Federal Penitentiary Service headquarters. The Moscow Times reported, citing Interfax, that Dadin "had been protesting alongside fellow activist Lev Ponomarev for the dismissal of Alexander Terekh, the head of sentence enforcement for the prison service in Russia's northern Karelian Republic. [...] Police officers approached Dadin during the protest and asked to see his documents. [...] Dadin was detained by officers when he refused to show his documents to officers on the scene." In a report, RFE/RL posted a video of the incident.
The same day (10 March 2017) the Supreme Court disclosed its reasons for acquitting Ildar Dadin, the first person convicted of repeated violations of protest laws. As RAPSI reported, the Supreme Court "explained that the article of the Criminal Code prohibiting violations of protest laws excludes the possibility of criminal prosecution if at the time of the crime there were no active court rulings regarding administrative liability of a defendant. These rulings have to be issued at least three times in a period of 180 days. When Dadin became a defendant in a criminal case back in December 2014 rulings regarding administrative violations had not yet come into full force, meaning that there were no legal grounds to state that Dadin had violated legislation several times."
Earlier, on 7 March 2017 reports said Ildar Dadin had filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights against his conviction. As RAPSI reported, Dadin's lawyer, Kseniya Kostromina, said the appeal had been filed soon after the ruling of the Presidium of the Supreme Court acquitted Dadin on 22 February 2017, overturning his 2.5-year prison sentence and ordering that he be released. The Supreme Court ruled that the criminal proceedings against Dadin be dismissed on the grounds of the absence of a crime in his actions. On 10 February, the Constitutional Court had held that Dadin’s case should be reviewed, while upholding the constitutionality of the law under which Dadin was convicted.
'Russian Activist Ildar Dadin Detained Again in Moscow,' The Moscow Times, 10 March 2017'Activist Ildar Dadin Briefly Detained By Moscow Police,' RFE/RL, 10 March 2017
'Russian Supreme Court discloses reasons for Dadin’s release,' RAPSI, 10 March 2017'Russian opposition activist Dadin files appeal with ECHR over imprisonment,' RAPSI, 7 March 2017
On 28 February 2017 police searched the family home of respected journalist and human rights activist Zoya Svetova. According to Svetova, the law enforcement officers entered the premises on false pretences, saying they were delivering a court summons. They proceeded to search the property for ten hours and seized computer equipment and a phone. As RFE/RL reported, the lawyer Anna Stavitskaya wrote on Facebook on 28 February that an investigator and 10 other people were conducting a search in Svetova's home: "Stavitskaya said the search, which included examination of Svetova's computers, was linked to a continuing investigation into Khodorkovsky and other former officials of Yukos, the oil company he headed." Mikhail Khodorkovsky served ten years in prison and the Yukos oil company was seized and broken up. Zoya Svetova writes regularly for the website of the Open Russia organization, funded by Khodorkovsky, and the New Times magazine. Oliver Carroll, writing in The Moscow Times, reported that Zoya Svetova "has grown famous for aggressive investigations on subjects like corruption, activism, and torture. As an activist, she made her mark as a critic of the penal system and a defender of political prisoners’ rights. But her name is equally synonymous with the dissident movement in general. She is the daughter of persecuted Soviet writer Felix Svetov and has a wide circle of friends in Moscow’s liberal intelligentsia."
As Oliver Carroll reported, Svetova told journalists it was not the first time authorities had searched her family home: "The previous occasion, she said, was in early 1985, when the Soviet police state was at its peak. They arrested her father that day. 'Just imagine: Thirty years pass, and once again you get the knock on your door,' Svetova said. 'When they were looking through the apartment, they even found the original search protocol and recognized the colleagues who had signed it — I’d thought they were long dead.' "
Sergei Nikitin, director of Amnesty International Russia, said the search of Zoya Svetova’s flat was "deeply alarming." He said: "This search seems like a blatant attempt by the authorities to interfere with her legitimate work as a journalist and perhaps a warning for her and others of the risks of human rights work and independent journalism in Russia.”
Front Line Defenders called the search "an act of intimidation in retaliation to her coverage of human rights violations in the Russian Federation." The organization urged the Russian authorities to immediately cease all further harassment of Zoya Svetova and return all items confiscated during the search. More generally, the organization urged the Russian authorities to "cease targeting all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment."
Photo of Zoya Svetova: Front Line Defenders
Sources:'Russian Police Search Home Of Prominent Russian Journalist, Activist.' RFE/RL, 28 February 2017
Oliver Carroll, 'Then They Came for Svetova,' The Moscow Times, 1 March 2017'Russia: "Deeply alarming" raid targets human rights activist and journalist Zoya Svetova,' Amnesty International, 28 February 2017
'Authorities search Zoya Svetova's apartment,' Front Line Defenders, 2 March 2017
On 22 February 2017, Oleg Melnikov, founder of the NGO ‘Against Slavery’, was detained in the town of Krasnogorsk, near Moscow, on suspicion of organizing illegal immigration. As RFE/RL reported, Oleg Melnikov told the Mediazona news portal he was detained along with another activist and four migrant workers from the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan who were temporarily living in makeshift housing in Krasnogorsk organized by the activists. Melnikov told Mediazona that the four migrant workers were living at the facility 'while their papers were being taken care of by the activists.' As RFE/RL points out, the Russian Criminal Code provides for a punishment of up to five years in jail for assisting illegal immigration. Melnikov, the news outlet notes, 'formerly headed another antislavery group called Alernativa, which made headlines in 2012 when it helped release 11 people from de facto slavery.'
'Russian Activist Detained For Alleged Illegal Immigration Organization,' RFE/RL, 23 February 2017
Oleg Melnikov, Facebook
On 14 February 2017 Moscow City Court upheld a ruling by Moscow's Lefortovsky district court to extend the pre-trial detention of Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko until 30 April 2017. As RAPSI reported, the case was heard behind closed doors. Roman Sushchenko was charged with espionage on 7 October 2016. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. RAPSI stated: 'According to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the Ukrainian citizen [Roman Sushchenko] "purposively collected classified information about the Armed Forces and National Guard of Russia." Leak of data abroad could cause damage to the national defense capability, the FSB claimed.'
Roman Sushchenko was arrested immediately he arrived in Moscow on 30 September 2016 on private business. According to Sushchenko's employer, Ukrinform, Sushchenko was on vacation at the time. Halya Coynash, writing in Human Rights in Ukraine, pointed out that Sushchenko's cousin and other relatives live in Moscow. Since 2010, Sushchenko has been Ukrinform’s correspondent in France. Ukrinform has rejected the accusations levelled at Sushchenko, describing him as 'a journalist with years of unblemished professional reputation', RAPSI reports. RFE/RL reported that Ukrinform called Sushchenko's arrest, 'yet another flagrant and unlawful [Russian] act against Ukrainian nationals.' According to RFE/RL, the 'FSB claims Sushchenko is a colonel with Ukrainian military intelligence who has been collecting classified data about Russia's Armed Forces and National Guard.' Sushchenko's lawyer, Mark Feigin, said his client had no links to any spy agency, RFE/RL reported, adding that 'Ukraine's Foreign Ministry demanded Sushchenko’s "immediate release and unhampered return home," and called on Russia to respect the Ukrainian citizen's rights.'
Evgeniya Sokolova, 'Russian court upholds detention of Ukrainian journalist charged with spying,' RAPSI, 14 February 2017
'Ukrainian Journalist In Russian Custody On Espionage Charges,' RFE/RL, 3 October 2016
Halya Coynash, 'Ukrainian journalist’s arrest a chilling warning to stay away from Russia,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 7 October 2017
On 9 February 2017 civil rights activist Mark Galperin was jailed for 10 days for 'failing to obey the lawful instructions of a police officer' (Article 19.3 of the Russian Administrative Code).
On 7 February 2017 Galperin had been detained at his Moscow apartment. Police broke down his apartment door and took him forcibly to a police station. As RFE/RL reported, Galperin described the incident in a post on Facebook. RFE/RL cites' Galperin's lawyer, Ksenia Kostromina, as saying at the time that her client was told he would be interrogated, but she did not know 'the reasons of his detention or the charges he might face.' Subsequently, Vera Vasilieva, writing on Civitas, reported that Galperin had been taken to the FSB headquarters on the Lubyanka, together with a journalist who was detained the same day, Olga Sapronova, who works on the video-project Gradus-TV.
It transpired that the FSB соnsidered that Galperin, in an interview with Sapronova, may have committed a crime under Article 280.1 of the Russian Criminal Code ('public incitement to violate the territorial integrity of Russia'). After an hour's questioning, Galperin and Sapronova were both released, on condition they did not disclose details of the investigation and bound themselves to attend any further interrogation.
However, as Vasilieva reports, Galperin was subsequently jailed on 9 February by a district court in Moscow region for ten days for violating Article 19.3 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation ('failing to obey the lawful instructions of a police officer'). It would seem that this related to the events at the time of his first detention, when Galperin had sought to hide from the (to him) unknown persons who were breaking down his door. Galperin has said that the police officers had not told him who they were at the time, and he jumped from the balcony of his second-floor apartment. Vasilieva also reports that a criminal case has been opened against Galperin for 'violating the regulations concerning public assembly' (Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code). This is the very same article under which Ildar Dadin was sent to prison for 2.5 years, a conviction that has just been reviewed by the Constitutional Court.
On 2 February 2017 journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, who works for the Open Russia organization, was hospitalised with organ failure, two years after he almost died of suspected poisoning. As the BBC reported, Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is a prominent Russian opposition activist and journalist, fell ill at about 05:00 local time (02:00 GMT) on 2 February. He was placed in a medically-induced coma on life support in hospital. The BBC quoted Vladimir Kara-Murza's wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza, as saying: "He is already on life support and in a medicated coma. It's the same clinical picture [as last time]." Vladimir Kara-Murza nearly died when he suffered sudden kidney failure in 2015. The BBC comments: "No cause was ever established for Mr Kara-Murza's last illness, but tests confirmed that he had ingested a poisonous substance." The day before he fell ill (1 February) Vladimir Kara-Murza had posted on Facebook a short tribute to his friend Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered in Moscow on 27 February 2015. This was a picture of a bouquet of roses marking the spot on Moscow's Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge near the Kremlin where Nemtsov was gunned down with the words 'Мы здесь. Мы помним' - 'We are here. We remember.'
On 26 January 2017 human rights lawyer Emil Kurbedinov was jailed for 10 days on administrative charges linked to a video posted legally in 2013. He was detained by armed officers and his home and office premises were searched. Halya Coynash, writing on the website Human Rights in Ukraine, reports that Kurbedinov and his colleague Edem Semedlyaev were travelling to the home of Seiran Saliev, a Crimean Tatar activist where a search was underway:
"They were stopped in Bakhchysarai by traffic police, then men in masks, identifying themselves as from the police turned up and took Kurbedinov away. A search in the meantime had begun in the offices that Kurbedinov and Semedlyaev share. Semedlyaev arrived, informed the officers that this was a law firm and that the material in it was therefore covered by legislation on lawyers’ confidentiality. This was ignored and all official equipment, computers, etc. taken away. A search was then made of Kurbedinov’s home, with the building being first surrounded by armed and masked spetsznaz special force officers. For some time they refused to allow lawyer Dzhemil Temishev into the flat, and also tried to prevent Kurbedinov’s mother who arrived to take his small son (Arslan) and daughter (Kamila) away. [...] Kurbedinov himself was taken against his will to the so-called Centre for Countering Extremism, and held there until the court hearing in the Zheleznodorozny District Court in Simferopol in the afternoon, under judge Tatyana Belnichuk. The court was told by police major Renat Shambazov that the police had established on Jan 16, 2017 that on June 6, 2013 Kurbedinov had posted a video clip from a Hizb ut-Tahrir meeting on his VKontakte social network page. The protocol claims that this was “a public demonstration of the symbols and propaganda images of the terrorist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir” and falls under Article 20.3 of Russia’s Code of Administrative Offences. [...] Kurbedinov is reported to have accepted that he could have posted the recording on a social network. Back in 2013, he says, there were a lot of Hizb ut-Tahrir meetings. There was no question of this being propaganda, however, and the organization was quite legal in Crimea. He had posted it and forgotten all about it. He asked for the court to fine him, however this was clearly not the instruction from above and the court produced a 10-day jail term which will assuredly be appealed against."
On 26 January 2017 Front Line Defenders issued an Urgent Appeal on the case of Emil Kurbedinov after he was detained and sentenced to ten days' detention by a court in Simferopol for 'propagandizing for extremist organisations'. Front Line Defenders stated that it is 'extremely concerned' by the arrest and administrative conviction of Emil Kurbedinov and believes these actions 'to be directly related to his human rights work and his vocal position in denouncing human rights violations in Crimea.' Front Line Defenders urges the authorities of the Russian Federation to 'immediately release Emil Kurbedinov from administrative detention and cease all further forms of surveillance and harassment against him,' and to 'guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Crimea are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.'
Photo: Front Line Defenders
On 17 January 2017 'anti-extremism' police searched the home of poet Aleksandr Byvshev in Orel region, seizing his computer, in connection with new charges related to his poetry. On 18 January, RFE/RL reported that 'Russian authorities have launched a fresh investigation targeting a former teacher in Russia's western region of Orel who was convicted of inciting ethnic hatred and sacked from his job for writing a pro-Ukraine poem.' Aleksandr Korgin, an official in Orel region Investigative Committee, was reported as saying Byvshev may be charged with inciting ethnic hatred after linguistics experts concluded one of Byshev's poems contained 'extremist connotations.' In 2015 Byvshev was found guilty of inciting ethnic hatred for a poem entitled 'To Ukrainian Patriots' that was published on the Interent and sentenced to 300 hours of community service and deprived of the right to teach for two years.
Grani.ru reports that the poem in question is 'On Ukraine's Independence', written by Byvshev in 2015 in what the author has described as 'the style of Iosif Brodsky.' Halya Coynash, writing in Human Rights in Ukraine, notes that 'the poem certainly presents Ukraine as under attack, with Moscow, for example, enraged and threatened by Ukraine’s wish for freedom and Maidan. There are highly critical words about Russia, but the argument that these incite enmity could just as well be directed at those western commentators who criticize Russia’s imperial hankering and aggression against its neighbours.' Coynash cites Aleksandr Podrabinek as saying that the charges are again under Article 282 of the Russian criminal code, with the investigators claiming that the poem constitutes ‘incitement to hatred or enmity, and denigration of human dignity’.
Halya Coynash goes on to report: 'Byvshev was first summoned to the Investigative Committee on September 15, 2016 with the deputy head Dmitry Zubov informing him that a ‘check’ was being carried out in connection with publication of the poem. At the time, Byvshev used his right under Article 51 of the Constitution to not testify against himself. The criminal proceedings were initiated on September 30. [...] This is the third prosecution against Byvshev with all of them linked with his criticism of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, including its invasion and annexation of Crimea.'
Coynash writes that the Sova Centre, which monitors abuse of extremism legislation and law enforcement practice, 'reported that an article published in a local paper under the title “There is no place for such patriots in Russia” was totally in the style of the Stalinist fight against cosmopolitanism. The linguistic assessment of the new poem has yet to be made public, but that used for the first conviction was truly surreal. Ludmila Vlasova from the Oryol State University concluded that “the hostile nature of the statements related to Russians in the poem is expressed in expressions regarding Russian state bodies and President Putin (“not one inch of Crimea to Putin’s chekists”).” She asserted that they contain direct and covert calls to Ukrainian patriots to carry out physical and other actions in relation to the enemy – Russians: to meet the enemies like their ancestors did; to prepare and hold weapons in readiness, etc. This, she claimed, meant that the poem “To Ukrainian Patriots” contains statements which denigrate Russians. The Sova Centre disagreed and pointed out that the hostile attitude in the poem was not to Russians as an ethnic group, but to a form of activity.'
Photo of Aleksandr Byvshev: Human Rights in Ukraine
Sources:'Против поэта Бывшева возбуждено новое дело об экстремизме,' Grani.ru, 17 January 2017
On 9 January 2017 the Caucasian Knot said it would take legal action after Chechen Parliament Speaker Magomed Daudov threatened the news outlet's editor-in-chief Grigory Shvedov [sometimes 'Gregory Shvedov' in English publications] on Instagram. As The Moscow Times reported: 'The speaker of Chechnya's parliament, Magomed Daudov, who also goes by the nickname “Lord,” published a picture on his Instagram account on Jan. 4 of a dog with its tongue tied into a knot. The pictured was accompanied by the text: “How to untie the Caucasian Knot?” In a comment alongside the photo, Daudov described the dog as “a mongrel nicknamed 'Swede,'” in an apparent reference to Grigory Shvedov who is the chief editor of the Caucasian Knot news agency. In Russian, “Shvedov” closely resembles the word for “Swedish.” “He puts out his long tongue, ties it into a dangerous 'Caucasian knot' and starts yapping,” the parliamentarian wrote. “It's time to call the vet with the large pliers,” he continued. “To pull a couple of 'wisdom' teeth from the Swede and shorten his tongue to a normal size”. Shvedov told the Kommersant business daily on Monday that the agency's lawyers were preparing to lodge a complaint with the Investigative Committee on charges of obstructing journalism.'
On 9 January 2017, Amnesty International issued an 'Urgent Action' notification, calling on its supporters to write to the relevant Russian officials: ' Urging the authorities to conduct a prompt, effective and impartial investigation into the threats made to Grigory Shvedov, which is a crime under Article 144 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“obstruction of lawful professional activities of journalists”); Urging them to condemn in the strongest manner the threats posted by Magomed Daudov and ensure that Grigory Shvedov is protected from any possible physical attacks; Reminding the authorities that as a party to the European Convention on Human Rights the Russian authorities have an obligation to guarantee freedom of expression and protect journalists from threats and attacks.'
On 9 January 2017, Front Line Defenders Front Line Defenders issued a statement expressing deep concern about the threats against human rights journalist Grigory Shvedov, which it believed to be 'related to his legitimate and peaceful human rights work.' Front Line Defenders urges the authorities of the Russian Federation to: '1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the threats against Gregory Shvedov, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards; 2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Gregory Shvedov; 3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Russia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.'
On 10 January 2017 a 'Statement of Solidarity with Grigory Shvedov in Defence of Freedom of Expression in the Chechen Republic' was published by human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists which expressed solidarity with Grigory Shvedov and, among other things, called on the law enforcement agencies to conduct an effective investigation into the threats and hold Magomed Daudov to account.
On 12 January 2017, Human Rights Watch issued a statement on the serious threats made by Magomed Daudov against Grigory Shvedov, placing him at great risk. Human Rights Watch noted that Caucasian Knot's coverage of developments in the Caucasus includes extensive reporting on abuses by Chechen authorities, and that Daudov is widely known as the right-hand man of Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic. Human Rights Watch urged the Russian authorities to publicly condemn these threats, ensure no harm comes to Shvedov, and put an end to threats against and attacks on independent media in Chechnya.
Photo: Human Rights Watch via RFE/RL [© 2016 RFE/RL]
'"Shorten His Tongue, Pull Out His Teeth," Says Chechen Official In Apparent Threat to Journalist,' The Moscow Times, 9 January 2017
'RUSSIAN FEDERATION: JOURNALIST THREATENED BY CHECHEN OFFICIAL: GRIGORY SHVEDOV,' Amnesty International, 9 January 2017'Statement of Solidarity with Grigory Shvedov in Defence of Freedom of Expression in the Chechen Republic,' HRO.org in English, 10 January 2017
'THREATS AGAINST EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF THE CAUCASIAN KNOT, GREGORY SHVEDOV.' Front Line Defenders, 9 January 2017
'Chechnya: Leading Politician Threatens Editor. Authorities Target Independent Media Outlet,' Human Rights Watch, 12 January 2017
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