Quote for the Day
"In the spring of 2015, Roskomnadzor delivered explicit threats to Facebook, Google and Twitter, instructing them to comply with the agency’s removal requests targeting “extremist content,” or risk being fined or banned altogether. What's more, Russia has attempted to force foreign Internet companies to store Russian users’ data on Russian soil—a requirement that Twitter and other companies have thus far been able to sidestep. In November 2016, however, the professional social networking website LinkedIn was effectively blocked in Russia for violating this law. Observers interpreted this as a move intended to pressure foreign companies to begin storing data on servers inside Russia. As a consequence, platforms like Twitter appear to be walking a fine line, finding a middle ground that allows them to uphold, at least nominally, their claim to support the freedom of expression while avoiding expulsion from Russia."
- Jack Margolin, Fulbright Ukraine '16-'17, currently based in Odessa. BA from Tufts. Jack Margolin writes on human security, politics and technology in the former Soviet Union. His Twitter: @Jack_Mrgln
Photo: Global Voices
Jack Margolin, 'Twitter Walks a Fine Line in Russia,' Global Voices, 20 February 2017
Irina Kosterina: "The Russian legal system has de facto removed an essential protective barrier between the assailant and his prey"
"With no domestic violence prevention system in place and an extremely small number of shelters where women with children could find a temporary sanctuary, the Russian legal system has de facto removed an essential protective barrier between the assailant and his prey. All that women are left with in this situation is to hope to get some help from a small number of NGOs (which are, in their turn, persecuted for receiving foreign funding), their relatives, and themselves."
Pavel Chikov: "Despite being in a minority, [human rights] organisations had always set the tone and agenda of public opinion as well as forming and influencing it, but they have been effectively wiped out thanks to the efforts of the authorities"
"In reality there’s very little to say, since NGOs no longer exist in the sense of the term as it was used when they began to spring up in the early 1990s. After the Law on Non-Governmental Organisations was adopted in the mid-1990s (the Federal Law On Non-Governmental Organisations N 7-FZ was adopted by the State Duma on 8 December 1995 and ratified by the President on 12 January 1996; note by Polit.ru), there was an explosion of these organisations in various areas of public life, and hundreds of thousands were established. Yet NGOs in the traditional sense of the term have ceased to exist.
"In practical terms, the measures put in place by the federal authorities over the past ten years or more have changed not only the quality and content but also the ethos and meaning of the work carried out by NGOs, and in recent years their numbers have dropped sharply by 25-30%. The latter observation is based on official figures from both Rosstat and the Ministry of Justice. The first and most important thing to note is therefore that the NGO sector has undergone a fundamental change in both qualitative and quantitative terms, and some of the types of organisation which used to belong to this sector, and the types of work they used to carry out, have effectively disappeared.
"The organisations which disappeared were primarily human rights NGOs if we understand this term in its broader sense, or in other words those organisations which had traditionally been the main mouthpiece for the Russian NGO sector since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite being in a minority, these organisations had always set the tone and agenda of public opinion as well as forming and influencing it, but they have been effectively wiped out thanks to the efforts of the authorities."
- Pavel Chikov, chair of Agora International
'The Benchmark for NGOs,' Moscow Helinski Group [original source: Polit ru] , 3 February 2017
Vladimir Kara-Murza: "It is virtually impossible to protest nowadays. Ildar Dadin was sentenced for three years in prison just for protesting on his own on the street"
"It is very difficult for me to feel safe in Russia, especially after I was poisoned [in 2015]. When I woke up from the coma after having been poisoned there was no doubt in my mind that I had to go back. I had to go back and continue my work. [...] It is virtually impossible to protest nowadays. Ildar Dadin was sentenced for three years in prison just for protesting on his own on the street. But it is much worse, there are people who went to prison for just one 'like' on social media. We also see politically motivated court orders, harassment, attacks, attempts on people’s lives as happened with me or worse, like the assassination of Boris Nemtsov. It is dangerous to be in opposition nowadays but there is no alternative than to carry on."
- Vladimir Kara-Murza
Photo: Robert van der Noordau via Human Rights in Ukraine
From the introduction to the interview:
"Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, 35, was a guest at a congress of the Dutch political party D66 at the end of October last year, where he gave a speech titled “25 Years of Russian Opposition and the Future of Opposition”. This interview took place during his visit, but was not published previously due to a technical problem with the recording. Kara-Murza was poisoned with an unknown substance at the end of May 2015 – three months after the murder of his friend Boris Nemtsov - and on February 2, 2017 he was taken to intensive care with similar symptoms. He took ill on the train from Tver back to Moscow. In Tver he had been at one of several events in different cities where he showed a new documentary about Nemtsov. According to the doctors Vladimir’s clinical situation is identical to the situation in 2015. When Vladimir became ill the first time no blood samples were taken in time to analyse what poison had caused his illness. Now , after he was admitted to the hospital blood samples were taken and sent to an Israeli laboratory."
Robert van der Noordaa, 'Poisoned Putin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza: "What can I do if someone wants to kill me?",' Human Rights in Ukraine, 15 February 2017
Kirill Koroteev: "The Constitutional Court's judgment has made further application of 212.1 more difficult, but has not prevented it”
“To explain the unconstitutionality of 212.1, 3-5 pages would have been sufficient, yet the judges wrote 43. They wrote a whole pile of exceptions to the article which are, in fact, complicated and based on value judgements. The Constitutional Court's judgment has made further application of 212.1 more difficult, but has not prevented it”.
- Kirill Koroteev, senior lawyer at Memorial Human Rights Centre
As Halya Coynash writes on Human Rights in Ukraine: 'There have been mixed reactions to the judgment passed by Russia’s Constitutional Court on Feb 10 on the draconian anti-protest law used to imprison peaceful protester Ildar Dadin. While Amnesty International saw a “chink of hope” in the order for a new examination of Dadin’s case, the Memorial Human Rights Centre was considerably less upbeat about Dadin’s chances for an early release and strongly criticized the judgment.'
Halya Coynash, 'Russia’s Constitutional Court finds law criminalizing peaceful protest "constitutional",' Human Rights in Ukraine, 14 February 2017
George Leech: 'Children of asylum seekers, undocumented migrants, and foreign citizens unable to provide proof of residence are being turned away and expelled from schools in and around Moscow'
'Every child in Russia has the right to an education. Russia’s Constitution says so, the federal law on education says so, and Russia’s obligations under international law say so. Despite this, children of asylum seekers, undocumented migrants, and foreign citizens unable to provide proof of residence are being turned away and expelled from schools in and around Moscow. In January 2014, the Ministry of Education and Science issued an ambiguously worded order, known as decree 32. Whilst stating the only reason for denying a school place can be due to a lack of space, it also details that proof of registration is needed for foreign children. Some – including the Moscow Department of Education, some local authorities, and some schools – have exploited this ambiguity to bar from school any child who lacks proof of residency. But this interpretation is wrong, as Russia’s Supreme Court made clear in a decision in 2015 – there is no such requirement. Only direct intervention by human rights defenders seems to be able to change the mind of resolute headmasters. [...] Russian authorities should send an unequivocal message to school officials at all levels that proof of registration is not a requirement and cannot be used as an excuse for denying children access to education.'
- George Leech, Alfa Fellow, Europe and Central Asia Division
Denis Krivosheev: "We reiterate our call on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Dadin and to ensure that nobody else is prosecuted solely for holding a peaceful protest"
“This ruling represents a chink of light in an otherwise bleak outlook for the right to peaceful assembly in Russia. It sends a strong message to the authorities who have used this draconian legislation to persecute peaceful protesters like Ildar Dadin. While this is a step in the right direction, Russia’s anti-protest laws remain chillingly harsh. We reiterate our call on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Dadin and to ensure that nobody else is prosecuted solely for holding a peaceful protest.”
- Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International
Anna Kirey: “While the Russian government claims this reform will ‘protect family values’, in reality it rides roughshod over women’s rights. It is a sickening attempt to further trivialize domestic violence"
“While the Russian government claims this reform will ‘protect family values’, in reality it rides roughshod over women’s rights. It is a sickening attempt to further trivialize domestic violence, an issue the Russian government has long attempted to downplay. Far too often, victims find they cannot rely on the law for protection and their abusers are let off the hook, with only a tiny fraction imprisoned for their actions. In the more than a decade since Amnesty International’s last report on rampant domestic violence in Russia, the authorities have failed to implement a single measure to enhance protection and services for the victims. Russia is far behind global developments to protect victims of domestic violence, having very scarce measures in place such as government-funded shelters, effective practices of protection orders or police officers trained in how to respond to reports about abuse and protect victims. Russian authorities must scrap this abusive legislation and put together a comprehensive package of measures to address the vast scale of domestic violence in Russia once and for all.”
- Anna Kirey, Deputy Director for Campaigns for Russia and Eurasia at Amnesty International
On February 7, President Putin signed into law a bill that classes cases of domestic violence that do not inflict bodily harm as administrative offences, instead of acts with liability under criminal law. As Amnesty International points out, Russia is a state party to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the CEDAW Committee has 'specifically criticized Russia for its failure to take actions to address domestic violence.'
'Russia: Domestic violence law puts women at greater risk,' Amnesty International, 8 February 2017
Front Line Defenders: "Front Line Defenders also calls on the Crimean authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Emir Usein Kuku"
"Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the decision of the Supreme Court of Crimea to extend the pre-trial detention and fabricated charges brought against Emir Usein Kuku, as it is believed they are solely related to his peaceful and legitimate work reporting human rights abuses in Crimea. Front Line Defenders also calls on the Crimean authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Emir Usein Kuku."
- Front Line Defenders
On 6 February 2017 Front Line Defenders issued a statement on the case of Emir Usein Kuku, chair of the Crimean Contact Group on Human Rights in Yalta, an organisation that monitors violations of human rights, provides legal assistance, and reports cases of politically-motivated disappearances in Crimea. Emir Usein Kuku is also a member of the Crimean Human Rights Group.
Photo: Front Line Defenders
'Pre-trial detention of Emir Usein Kuku extended,' Front Line Defenders, 6 February 2017
Human Rights Watch: "As of February 1, 2017, the official list of active 'foreign agents' consisted of 105 groups"
"For the past four years, the Kremlin has sought to stigmatize criticism or alternative views of government policy as disloyal, foreign-sponsored, or even traitorous. It is part of a sweeping crackdown to silence critical voices that has included new legal restrictions on the internet, on freedom of expression, on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and on other fundamental freedoms. An enduring, central feature has been the 2012 law requiring independent groups to register as “foreign agents” if they receive any foreign funding and engage in broadly defined “political activity.” In Russia, the term “foreign agent” can be interpreted by the public only as “spy” or “traitor.” To date, Russia’s Justice Ministry has designated 158 groups as “foreign agents,” courts have levied staggering fines on many groups for failing to comply with the law, and about 30 groups have shut down rather than wear the “foreign agent” label. Organizations targeted include groups that work on human rights, the environment, LGBT issues, and health issues, groups that do polling about social issues. A court forced the closure of AGORA Association, one of Russia’s leading human rights organizations , in response to a Justice Ministry suit alleging that the group violated the “foreign agents” law and carried out work beyond its mandate. The ministry has removed its “foreign agent” tag from over 20 groups, acknowledging that they had stopped accepting foreign funding. Accordingly, as of February 1, 2017, the official list of active “foreign agents” consisted of 105 groups."
- Human Rights Watch
'Russia: Government vs. Rights Groups. The Battle Chronicle,' Human Rights Watch, 1 February 2017
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