Rights Groups in Russia

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OVD-Info Bulletin No. 12: Attacks on Russian journalists must stop

posted 21 Jul 2017, 04:06 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Jul 2017, 13:05 ]

21 July 2017

A series of assaults on Russian journalists this week accompany a continuing campaign against anti-corruption activists

OpenDemocracy continues its partnership with the Moscow-based NGO OVD-Info to publish, every Friday, the latest information on politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Republished by kind permission. 

To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.


Stanislav Zimovets, a defendant in the 26 March case, has been sentenced to 2.5 years in a general-regime prison colony. The prosecution had asked for three years. Stanislav Zimovets was charged with using force against a police officer during a rally against corruption. An OVD-Info correspondent attended the final court hearings in the case and we have published her article that includes Stanislav Zimovets’ final words in court, the arguments of the defence and the prosecution, and also a description of the unforgettable atmosphere in the courtroom.

This week the police and the Investigative Committee refused to open an investigation into assaults on journalists. In Orenburg a pro-Kremlin activist explained that he had attacked a journalist because he had toothache, and police officers would agree only to make an official record of part of the journalist’s complaint. Meanwhile, in Petrozavodsk, the Investigative Committee refused to bring charges against a police officer who assaulted a journalist working for the online-journal Chernika at the 26 March rally against corruption. During the rally the police officer struck the journalist in the face, breaking his glasses. At the time the journalist was wearing a press badge on his chest. And the attacks continue. In Moscow, assailants sprayed an acrid gas of unknown chemical composition into the home of journalist Yulia Latynina.

Intimidation against the campaign offices of politician Aleksei Navalny and his supporters continue. For example, in Gatchina police refused to launch a criminal investigation into an assault on supporters of Navalny with a spade. In Omsk, police officers demanded that passers-by who accepted Navalny campaign leaflets should write explanations for their action. In Khabarovsk, Navalny’s election headquarters were covered with paint, ostensibly in retaliation for putting up election materials in the entrance halls of apartment buildings. In Astrakhan, unidentified people smashed the windows of a car parked in the courtyard with a “Navalny 20!8” sticker.

And, in completely absurd news, in Kurgan a teenager blogger of anarcho-capitalist views was summoned to the police because of a meme of a gingerbread man in a German army cap with a swastika. 14-year-old video blogger Dmitry Morozov was summoned to the police station because of a comment posted by another individual on his VKontakte page. “They say that I am inciting hatred under Article 282 [of the Russian Criminal Code] and have violated Article 20.3 of the Administrative Law Code, since I did not DELETE A POST IN GOOD TIME AND ASSISTED IN ITS DISSEMINATION. That’s me, and not the person who posted the comment,” the videoblogger wrote.

We have published two descriptions of arrests – one by a Soviet dissident, the other by a supporter of Navalny.
The first text was written by Irina Ratushinskaya, a poet and an inmate of political prison camps in the 1980s. She tells how she was jailed for 10 days for taking part in the annual traditional dissident protest on 10 December on Moscow’s Pushkin Square: how at 6 pm people came and stood in silence, bareheaded. The author of the second text, who is an activist in Navalny’s election campaign, has asked to remain anonymous. In his case, both in his arrest and in his release, a key role was played by a smartphone.

Recently our colleagues launched a new project, Formalist, which can generate a whole series of appeals, statements and complaints needed in communicating with official bodies. Formalist is intended to assist NGOs and civil society activists, helping to reduce time and effort in drawing up various documents. We’d also like to remind you about our legal Telegram-bot that gives advice on what to do if you are arrested. 

Thank you

Thanks to everyone who continues to support us. Find out how you can help here.

For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould here.

OVD-Info Bulletin No. 11: Russian authorities take aim at supporters of opposition politician Alexei Navalny

posted 14 Jul 2017, 05:52 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Jul 2017, 14:02 ]

14 July 2017

OpenDemocracy continues its partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia to publish, every Friday, the latest information on freedom of assembly. Republished by kind permission


We recently launched a new project entitled Formalist. It enables you to quickly draft appeals, statements and complaints relevant to the courts and the criminal justice system. Formalist is designed for those who work in NGOs and for civil society activists, it helps save time and effort in drawing up various documents. We also remind you of our Telegram-bot that gives legal advice on what to do if you are arrested. 

Last weekend, all over Russia, supporters of politician Alexei Navalny held a campaigning day event. On the Saturday and Sunday police detained at least 165 activists. Information about those detained by police in Moscow on Saturday and Sunday can be read here and here. Some activists also fell victim to physical assaults. For example, in Gatchina unidentified individuals attacked Navalny supporters with spades. In addition, police searched Navalny’s campaign headquarters in several cities. You can read more about how the campaign day passed off throughout Russia here.

On the night of 5-6 July police occupied Navalny’s Moscow headquarters, detaining the volunteer who was on call, Alexander Turovsky.

Turovsky was beaten by police apparently for refusing to show his passport. The police wrote out a charge sheet under Article 19.3 of the Administrative Law Code for failing to obey police instructions. Later, Turovsky was taken from the courthouse to the Sklifovsky Institute where he was hospitalised. There he underwent a cerebral centesis [removal of fluid] and was diagnosed with concussion. Despite this, it was only with great difficulty that Turovsky was able to insist on his right to stay overnight in the hospital, where he was kept under police guard. We cite the words of Sergei Vasilchenko, a lawyer with the Party of Progress, who accompanied Alexander Turovsky to the hospital. The next day the police moved Turovsky from the hospital to a police station, and thence to court where he was fined the sum of 500 roubles.

New information has appeared about the case of politician Vyacheslav Maltsev, who left Russia last week. His supporters say that criminal charges have been brought against him for inciting separatism. It had been reported earlier that Maltsev was under investigation for creating an extremist organisation. On 11 July a “community hall” belonging to Vyacheslav Maltsev in the village of Lokhino outside Moscow was searched by police.

A court refused to allow Valery Parfenov, a defendant in the People’s Will Army case, to have a medical exam. Currently held on remand, Parfenov is losing his eyesight. Of the four defendants in the case, Parfenov, RBK journalist Alexander Sokolov, and military officer Lieutenant-Colonel Kirill Barabash have been remanded in custody. Only one defendant, writer and journalist Yury Mukhin, is under house arrest. According to the prosecution, Sokolov, Mukhin, Parfenov and Barabash were continuing the activities of the banned organization People’s Will Army (ruled by a court to be extremist in the autumn of 2010) under cover of a campaign to hold a referendum “for accountable government”. The People’s Will Army had been banned on the basis of a leaflet, entitled “You elected them, you should judge them!” which called for the holding of a referendum to add to the Constitution an article providing for the public accountability of government officials.

On 2 June Igor Stenin, leader of the nationalist Russians of Astrakhan movement, was released from a prison colony in Tambov region. On 16 May 2016 he had been sentenced to two years in a low-security prison colony for a publication on the VKontakte social networking site. According to the prosecution, Stenin reposted an article containing extremism, and added his own comment, “Death to the Kremlin occupiers, hands off Ukraine!” Activist Igor Stenin speaks here to OVD-Info about his prosecution, his time in prison, and his release.

Thank you

Thanks to everyone who continues to support us. Find out how you can help here.

For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould here.

“Worse than prison”: Russian political prisoner Alexei Moroshkin on punitive psychiatry [OVD-Info]

posted 13 Jul 2017, 12:56 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Jul 2017, 13:48 ]

10 July 2017

OVD-Info interviews Alexei Moroshkin, who spent 18 months in compulsory psychiatric detention for his political views. 

This translation was originally published by OpenDemocracy, and is republished by kind permission. For the original Russian, visit OVD-Info

On 14 June, Alexei Moroshkin was released from a psychiatric hospital in Chelyabinsk. Moroshkin, 36, spent more than 18 months here, after being convicted for inciting separatism in November 2016. According to the court, Moroshkin advocated for the creation of a “Urals People's Republic” on social media. But in a peculiar twist of events, the court decided that Moroshkin was suffering from “paranoid schizophrenia”, and was diagnosed as such.

In March 2014, Moroshkin volunteered to participate in the Crimea annexation campaign, and then joined the Vostok separatist battalion. But after becoming disillusioned in the “Russian spring”, Moroshkin returned to Chelyabinsk, and became an advocate of Ukraine online. He has also been charged with vandalism over an incident in which a bust of Lenin in Chelyabinsk was painted in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. According to Moroshkin's mother, there is no evidence that he was involved in the incident, but the investigation continues. Memorial Human Rights Centre declared Moroshkin a political prisoner in July 2016.

We spoke to Alexei Moroshkin about his experiences in psychiatric hospital.


What were the conditions like in the hospital?

At the start, they began giving me tablets. I really began to feel terrible. I couldn’t walk.

I had this feeling, you know, like when I stood up, I wasn’t really standing, and when I laid down, I wasn’t really lying down. I wanted to do something all the time, not knowing what that was. A real restlessness. You’re in such a state, it’s like it’s impossible to live.

When they stopped giving me a lot of tablets, everything became better. All this lasted about a month.

Do you know what these drugs were?

No. They didn’t say what kind of medication they were giving me. They look in your mouth, tell you to lift up your tongue — to see whether you’ve swallowed the tablets or not. The worst thing is the injections that are absorbed by the body over the course of a month. The tablets you can hide somewhere, but you can't hide from the injections. They give you the injection, and just one injection makes you shake for a whole month.

After a while, they stopped giving me injections. They evidently were afraid what they were doing to me would become public knowledge. That’s why they stopped giving me medication, and my conditions of detention became more or less bearable. No one touched me. If there had been no publicity about my case, everything could have been much worse.

Did they talk to you about your trial, did they talk about politics?

No.

But they issued a statement about the fact that you considered yourself a political prisoner.

Yes, that’s true. But it’s the standard thing: a person has to accept they are ill. If you don’t do that, for them it means that you don’t have your critical faculties and your condition hasn’t improved. It’s the general approach to patients. If you don’t recognise you’re ill, you’ll simply never get out.

When the date of your next court hearing became known, at which the length of your stay in the hospital could be extended, did that affect the behaviour of the staff?

Not at all. They told me straight away that the first two times my detention would be extended, they said that’s what always happens.

They said that the charges against me were not minor ones. They said it was because of the political situation in the country, I should understand, because of the threat of extremism. If I’d been sent to prison, they said, my sentence would have been a light one, and I wouldn’t have been in jail for long, but in hospital I will have to stay for longer. They even said that the charges against me were equivalent to terrorism, that extremists and terrorists are pretty much the same.

That’s what the head of a department in the hospital told me.

Was there any pressure put on you from the beginning? Did they put any restrictions on you, in ways they shouldn’t have?

In the hospital they don’t in fact put additional restrictions on you because, in any case, you are restricted in every way!

Apart from the medication, which can make you feel bad, the main thing is the utter boredom. I read magazines, books, of course. But to be honest the atmosphere is not conducive to reading. Everyone says that. In prison you can read. But in the hospital things, on the whole, are worse than in prison. In prison the attitude of staff was also better, they use the respectful “you” form in speaking. And for some reason if you are a “political” prisoner they treat you better. I really had no complaints about staff.

The fact is that prisons are actively inspected by the POCs [Public Oversight Commissions that have powers to inspect places of detention – OVD-Info], and that has a very real impact in terms of improving conditions. You do certainly feel that they fear the POCs. You can tell that the human rights situation in prisons is markedly improving. But psychiatric hospitals don’t come under the POCs. There is no access. POCs cannot inspect them and they cannot improve conditions there.

In these psychiatric hospitals, people are not treated, they are simply isolated. In fact, this is just another kind of prison.

I saw many people who were being held there illegally. I heard stories about how people were put in there by their relatives, and about how the police send people they want to get rid of. There are, naturally, some who are genuinely ill. The atmosphere in the hospital is, of course, bad because in prison you are, at any rate, among healthy people, while in hospital you are mostly among seriously ill people. For someone who is more or less healthy, this is very depressing. It can even happen that there is no one at all to talk to.

How many people were there on your ward?

I was always in wards where there was only a small number of people. They were called convalescent wards and had only 10 to 12 people. The large wards would hold 20 to 25 people.

And what kind of people were they in the main?

I was in a general-regime hospital, that is the usual kind of hospital, you are mixed in with ordinary patients. There is also a special-regime hospital that holds only criminals, only people who have been convicted. In a general-regime hospital there was some rotation of patients. People would arrive, stay for two months, and then leave. And then there were about ten people there for compulsory treatment [those forcibly detained for treatment who have been convicted of a criminal offence]. People like us are kept there for a long time, for years.

What other reasons are there for compulsory treatment?

I was the only political detainee there. The others were in for murder, theft.

But nonetheless they were not in a special-regime hospital?

The system works like this. At first, these people are put in a special-regime, or even an intensive special-regime, hospital. And then they transfer them out, they move them to a lower level. After the intensive special-regime there is the special-regime, they stay there for two years, then they are moved to a general-regime hospital where they spend two more years, and only after that are they released. It seems to me this is also unfair.

Why should people who are simply ill come into contact with convicted criminals? OK, I’m a political prisoner, but imagine, a man who has committed murder, who is mentally ill, is in hospital along with you, recovering from an illness, so to speak.

I think that if someone is placed in a special-regime hospital, then that person should stay there until they are discharged. But, on the whole, hospital staff treat those sent there for compulsory treatment as prisoners, not as patients. Everyone understands that we are simply serving our sentences, we are not recovering from an illness. They only take the offence into account. How long you have to stay in prison, that’s the length of time you will be there. In the given case, as a patient. This is what they all say, they all know this, and they all have the same opinion.

The way I see it, I was released only because a new person was appointed in charge of compulsory treatment — I don’t know what this position is called. At first there was a woman in post who had been there since Soviet times. And now there is a new person with more progressive views, and he released me early.

And the others?

This new secretary also began releasing them early. He is someone of more progressive views, you see. He listens to Ekho Moskvy [a popular and politically “open” radio station]. I was surprised. He had heard about me on Ekho Moskvy and told a senior hospital official about me. Probably what he heard made an impression.

But did his progressive views mean he treated those on compulsory treatment more humanely? In what way were his views reflected in his practice?

I met him when he headed the discharge commission, which reviews cases every six months. He was not directly involved in monitoring patients himself, he did not visit patients. Evidently, he does not think that my offence is equal to terrorism. In my opinion, the real reasons why I was released so soon was the pressure from the media, from human rights defenders, and the fact that there was someone of more progressive views was in that key position.

How often were you able to have visitors?

In a general-regime hospital, there are visits twice a week — on Wednesdays and Sundays. It’s one of the advantages of a hospital over a prison.

Did the regional human rights ombudsman visit you?

No. The human rights defenders Tatyana and Nikolai Shchur [former members of the Chelyabinsk region Public Oversight Commission] visited. No one else.

You said conditions were better in the pre-trial detention facility, but at one point while you were there, you’ll remember, they put you in the attached infirmary where conditions were very bad.

Yes, that’s true. Best not to think about the “madhouse,” as the infirmary was known. At first, my conditions were pretty good, generally speaking. I was held for a month in a single cell in the FSB’s No. 7 prison because the investigator came from the FSB [according to Tatyana Shchur, despite the fact that several years ago Pre-Trial Detention Facility No. 7 was transferred to the Federal Prison Service, unofficial control still rests with the FSB]. It’s clean there, and the Public Oversight Commission makes regular and very thorough visits. It’s like a hotel.

Then, when my trial began, I was moved to a “one-person cell” in the local pre-trial detention facility. Initially, I was kept in quarantine. Things were pretty good. Then, evidently, since I was a political prisoner and they thought I might influence other prisoners, disseminate extremist views among them and so on, I was moved to a two-person cell. I was kept there with very rich people, business people who had been charged with fraud. They had everything — TVs, fridges.

So I was in comfortable conditions, and the attitude of the prison officers was fine. But then, once I had been diagnosed as “not criminally responsible,” I was moved to the so-called “madhouse”, the facility’s infirmary for psychiatric patients. And there it was absolute hell.

Nothing is cleaned there, it’s dirty. Both taps give either only hot water, or only cold water. Instead of a toilet, there is a train-station hole-in-the-ground that constantly stinks. Outside the window there was a dog kennel, you heard the continuous barking of dogs. And the attitude of staff was different, you weren’t allowed to go for a wash in a normal way, or for a walk.

In a word, if I had written a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, I would certainly have won my case. In comparison with the kinds of poor conditions about which people complain to the Court, mine were absolutely hellish. The “madhouse” is the very lowest, the very worst, kind of pre-trial detention facility imaginable. And again, the kind of people with whom you are imprisoned in the “madhouse”, well, it’s a total nightmare. Murderers, people convicted of rape, paedophilia, people with numerous convictions. I was the only political prisoner there.

Usually in the pre-trial detention facility people on a first offence are kept away from those who have served time before, they are not kept together. But in the infirmary everybody is thrown together – those who have been sentenced for a fifth or sixth time, and someone like me who was there for the first time.

Was the decision to recognise you as not criminally responsible unexpected, or had there been some hints of this earlier on?

It was unexpected. Probably the main factor was the fact that at one time I had been treated voluntarily as an in-patient at a psychiatric hospital for a month in 2003 for depression.

The second prosecution has now gone quiet, is there any news?

No.

Did anybody come to the hospital to question you about the case?

Yes, people did come. The investigator came as part of the investigation, and he updated me on the case. Then the case was sent to the Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecutor’s Office sent it back to the investigators, and they carried out more investigative actions, and again updated me on the latest developments. Quite recently an investigative officer came to see me, the case had again been taken up by the Center for Combatting Extremism. Not long before my release people came to the hospital director, asked about my visitors, wanted to know if I used any gadgets. They carried out one more search of my apartment, asked about extremist literature and who I kept in touch with, they were looking for paint, clothing.

What do you think will happen with this prosecution?

I don’t know. The investigation has been going on for 20 months already. The Prosecutor’s Office has not yet formally presented the charges. I think they would have like to close the case long ago, it would be the simplest thing to do. But evidently it is too important a case for them, too much is at stake. So far as I understand, when the incident happened, there was pressure put on them from Moscow. If it had simply been a matter of covering the memorial with paint, that’s one thing. But the colours of the Ukrainian flag is quite another.

Have you thought about what you will do next?

For the time being I haven’t thought about what I will do. I want to get this second prosecution sorted out, and after that I shall make some decisions. At present, I’m not able to get work anywhere.

Wherever a certificate from a psychiatrist is necessary, the doors are closed to me. For several years now I shall have to report every month to a psychiatrist, and I am required to obtain mediation, tablets and injections. And if I ever end up in a psychiatric hospital again, for whatever reason, even for a formality of some kind, I shall have to stay there at least 100 days. I won’t be let out sooner than that. It’s called Active Follow-Up Monitoring.

You were arrested after you had left Russia and then came back. Why did it happen like that?

I wanted to flee the country. I didn’t really have any choice. I put my faith in people who promised to help me, but then let me down. I couldn’t settle at all in Ukraine. And that is why I had to come back.

The Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry has found over 30 cases where punitive psychiatric detention has been used against activists and journalists in Russia since 2012. Find out more.

OVD-Info Bulletin. Issue № 10: Punitive Psychiatry

posted 7 Jul 2017, 03:34 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 7 Jul 2017, 07:50 ]

7 July 2017

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday it sends out a mailing with the latest information on freedom of assembly. To receive the mailing in Russian, which is translated into English below, visit the bottom of the page here.
Greetings to our readers! 

We have not yet tired of reminding you that if you, or people you know, are waiting to go to court, you can find all you need to know here. Via this link you can find detailed advice on how to defend yourself in court, and what to do if you are a minor. We also have a legal Telegram-bot that has advice on how to behave if you are arrested. 

One might think that punitive psychiatry is a thing of the past, but today these methods are still sometimes used by the authorities to intimidate activists. We have prepared a number of publications on this theme. ”Worse than in prison” is an interview with Aleksei Moroshkin about contemporary punitive psychiatry. He was recently released from Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 in Chelyabinsk, a hospital which was also used in Soviet times to detain political opponents of the authorities. The historian Aleksei Makarov publishes letters by the dissident Nizametdina Akhmetov who was held there in 1987. The last material on this topic is the tale of an elderly woman from the town of Chekhov where residents demanded that a waste tip near to their homes be closed. 82-year-old Olga Churikova spent three days in a local psychiatric hospital because she told a police officer who was using rough force to arrest her: “Give me some paraffin and I’ll kill myself so I won’t have to put up with such treatment.” 

In various Russian cities pressure continues to be applied against the election campaign offices of Aleksei Navalny. Overnight on Wednesday - Thursday, police officers arrived at Navalny’s Moscow headquarters. They changed the locks to the premises and put bars on the windows. The officers explained their actions, including a search of the offices, on the basis of a criminal investigation into violations of contract by those renting the offices that had been alleged by the owner. Moreover, the police physically attacked Aleksandr Turovsky, who works as a volunteer at the Moscow headquarters. Turovsky says that the officers “forced him on to the floor and struck him in the face a couple of times.” He has been charged with failing to comply with the lawful instructions of police. After he was detained, Turovsky was hospitalized. While the police then demanded that he leave the hospital, he was nonetheless able to stay overnight where he underwent a cerebral centesis [removal of fluid]. The police officer who took part in the nighttime invasion of the headquarters and the beating of Turovksy wrote in his official report that he had used “unarmed combat techniques” against Turovsky because the latter had “resisted his lawful demands.”

You can read the account of Sergei Vasilchenko, a lawyer and activist of the Party of Progress, who accompanied Aleksandr Turovsky to hospital.

The same day, 6 June, police officers conducted searches at Navalny’s campaign offices in Astrakhan and Cheboksary. In these searches, as in Моscow and Novosibirsk, the police seized election leaflets. In Perm they detained a car with newspapers along with the head of the campaign office. In Оrenburg on Friday, near the building where Navalny’s campaign offices are located and where a meeting of volunteers was being held, the editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy - Orenburg, Maksim Kurnikov, was assaulted and his mobile phone broken. On Tuesday the Krasnodar offices of Navalny’s election campaign were attacked by people wearing T-shirts that read ‘The Putin Posse’ [Отряды Путина].

As last week, this week two activists left Russia. The head of the political channel Artpodgotovka [“Artillery Preparation”], the Saratov nationalist Vyacheslav Maltsev, left Russia after a criminal investigation was opened against him for setting up an “extremist association.” On learning of the criminal case, he decided to leave Russia without waiting to be arrested. Activist Nikita Sadkov also left the country. Sadkov has been charged with insulting the Russian flag (Article 329 of the Russian Criminal Code) and inciting hatred or enmity (Article 282). 

Trials in the 26 March case continue. OVD-Info attended the trial Stanislav Zimovets, which at that time was hearing evidence for the defence. Zimovets has been charged with “using force not harmful to life or health against a public official” (Article 318, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code) during the dispersal of the “Don’t Call Him Dimon” protest. On 3 July Moscow City Court dismissed an appeal against pre-trial detention by the activist Aleksei Politkov, who was detained on 10 July after a night-time search of the home of nationalist Vyacheslav Maltsev. He has also been charged with using force against a police officer. 

The trial in the murder case of politician Boris Nemtsov is drawing to a close. We have prepared a detailed report

That ends our review of the week!

OVD-Info cannot exist without your support. You can help us here

Keep your spirits up!
Always yours,
OVD-Info Team

For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould here.

OVD-Info: As the dust settles, Russian authorities move against protesters and campaigners

posted 30 Jun 2017, 11:59 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Jun 2017, 12:16 ]

30 June 2017

OpenDemocracy and Rights in Russia bring you the latest update by OVD-Info on politically-motivated arrests in Russia


New evidence of police violations against protesters emerges, and regional authorities take aim at Alexei Navalny's campaign offices. 

We have collected and analysed a large number of reports of violations by Russian police officers at anti-corruption rallies held on 12 June. Now we are able to say with certainty there have been 109 violations. Police officers exceeded the permitted time for administrative detention, wrote official reports with numerous mistakes, and did not allow lawyers to visit those detained. In one of the St Petersburg police stations, a detainee contracted pneumonia after spending the night in a cold cell. This was despite the fact that he had warned the police officers he was in poor health and should not get cold. The list of violations with legal commentaries can be seen here.

This week a number of individuals requested political asylum abroad. Krasnodar artists Lusiney Dzhanyan and Aleksei Knedlyakovsky requested asylum in Sweden. The artists said that their telephones had been tapped, and in 2013 Dzhanyan was dismissed from Krasnodar University of Culture for supporting Pussy Riot and exhibiting in a gallery owned by Marat Gelman. But it’s not only those who create modern art who can fall victim to persecution. Children’s drawings in chalk can also evoke the dissatisfaction of the authorities. Mikhail Petrov, a martial arts trainer from Pskov, has left Russia because he feared persecution by the authorities. It is thought the authorities’ interest in the trainer was related to the fact that he and his students had drawn anti-military drawings on the walls of buildings belonging to a military air assault division. He has requested political asylum in Estonia.

Supporters of Alexei Navalny continue to be persecuted. In the town of Cherepovets, writer and journalist Elena Kolyadina was dismissed by the newspaper Golos Cherepovtsa for giving a lecture to staff of Navalny’s local election campaign office. In the Siberian city of Barnaul, the coordinator of the campaign office was injured with a knife, while earlier someone set fire to one of the office’s windows. In Vladimir, the local branch of the Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network asked its chief engineer to resign because he had headed Navalny’s local campaign office. Meanwhile, in Rostov-on-Don a car belonging to the head of Navalny’s office was covered with paint and its tyres were punctured.

The Investigative Committee completed its investigation into one more defendant in the “26 March case”. Dmitry Krepkin is charged with using force against a police officer during the anti-corruption protest in Moscow. Krepkin maintains his innocence. Moreover, he has said that he was himself assaulted at the time of his detention at the 26 March protest. Doctors at the emergency medical centre recorded bruising all over his body. He had been struck at least six times.

The pre-trial detention of mathematician Dmitry Bogatov was extended until 31 August. Bogatov has been charged with incitement to riot on the grounds that he had posted appeals on the SysAdmins.ru forum to go out on to Red Square on 2 April 2017 under the pseudonym of “Airat Bashirov”. The appeals were sent from Bogatov’s IP address. However, since Bogatov operates a Tor exit node, any user could have posted the materials using his IP.

Thanks to everyone who continues to support us. Find out how you can help us here.

OVD-Info was launched by volunteers in 2011 as a means of quickly monitoring arrests during mass protests. It has evolved into a full-scale analytical project dealing with law enforcement issues in Russia. For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould here.


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Memorial Human Rights Centre considers prosecution of Crimean journalist Nikolai Semena unlawful and politically motivated

posted 29 Jun 2017, 06:45 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 Jun 2017, 07:10 ]

26 June 2017 


The trial of journalist Nikolai Semena, who works for ‘Krym. Realii’ [Крым. Реалий], is underway in Simferopol. He is charged with an offence under Article 280.1, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (public incitement to violate the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation by means of the Internet) and is under travel restrictions. The charge is related to an article he wrote, entitled ‘A blockade is the necessary first step to the liberation of Crimea,’ published on the ‘Krym. Realii’ website in September 2015.

Semena’s text was a response to an article by Sergei Subbotin, ‘Blockade Fairy Tale,’ also published on the ‘Krym. Realii’ website. Subbotin had written that a food and energy blockade of Crimea by Ukraine was pointless, rejected the views of those who supported a blockade, and said that he does not want to put up with hardships. Semena called such a position treachery, and called Subbotin a traitor to Ukraine. In opinion of Semena, Ukraine should have introduced a food blockade of Crimea on 19 March 2014, immediately after the ‘referendum.’ Both points of view have a place in political discussion as legitimiate responses to the on-going international conflict.

All the more reason, then, that Semena’s words cannot be considered criminal. In essence, the prosecution considers it a criminal offence to assert that Crimea must be returned to Ukraine. We consider Article 280.1 of the Russian Criminal Code to be in contradiction with the Constitution and the international obligations of Russia in that it introduces criminal liability for the expression of opinion about the territorial integrity of the country.

Prosecutions under this article of the Criminal Code for disagreeing with the annexation of Crimea, which, from the point of international law, has no relation to the ‘territory of the Russian Federation,’ constitute an outrageous injustice. Precisely for that reason, despite the fact that in monitoring political repression in Russia we prioritize cases in which defendants are held in detention, we consider it important to draw attention to the prosecution of Nikolai Semena, and also to that of Ilmi Umerov. We demand that the criminal charges against Nikolai Semena be dropped.

Recognition of a person as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.

For more information about the prosecution of Nikolai Semena and the position of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, see here.

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There are at least 117 political prisoners in Russia today, says Memorial, and the number continues to grow

posted 26 Jun 2017, 11:38 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Jun 2017, 11:58 ]

26 June 2017

Source: 'List of Individuals Recognized as Political Prisoners by the Memorial Human Rights Centre (with the Exception of Those Persecuted in connection with the Realization of their Right to Freedom of Religion) as of 25 May 2017,' Memorial Human Rights Centre, 5 June 2017



As the Memorial Human Rights Centre explains, it now divides its periodic lists in two. Some are persecuted for political reasons (51 individuals); others have suffered harassment and denial of their rights because of their religion (66 individuals).

Definition and number of political prisoner (List 1) 

We regard as political prisoners those individuals who are serving a term of imprisonment (either in a penal colony or a prison), or being held in custody or under house arrest as a form of pre-trial detention, in relation to the kind of charges described below.

Fifty-one individuals are named in our latest list. The names of those who have been persecuted mainly for attempting to assert their right to freedom of religion (66 individuals) can be found in List Two.

This list is far from complete.

It includes only those individuals and cases for which we have managed to collect and analyse sufficient information to draw a convincing conclusion about the politically-motivated and illegal nature of a criminal prosecution. At present, the list does not contain the names of many people who have been deprived of their liberty, and whose prosecution contains indications of illegality or political motivation, but for whose cases we have yet to receive the necessary information, or subject it to a full analysis.

A year ago, the list of similar prisoners contained 39 names.

The types of political prisoner 

The political prisoners represent a wide range of groups that have become victims of political repression by the State.

The ‘Ukrainian trail’ can be clearly traced in the following cases:

- the Crimean Tatars Akhtem Chiygoz, Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy;

- the Ukrainian citizens Stanislav Klykh, Andrei Kolomiyets, Alexander Kostenko, Oleg Sentsov, Alexander Kolchenko and Sergei Litvinov;

- Russian citizens Andrei Bubeyev, Darya Polyudova, Rafis Kashapov and Natalya Sharina whose cases have been linked to the anti-Ukrainian campaign of the Russian authorities.

As before, one of the most important goals of politically-motivated incarceration remains restriction of the right of assembly. The place of three Bolotnaya Square defendants who have been released, has been taken by two new defendants: Dmitry Buchenkov and Maxim Panfilov. Ivan Nepomnyashchikh, Dmitry Ishevsky, Sergei Udaltsov remain imprisoned. Darya Polyudova has also been deprived of her liberty based on charges of taking part in public events. Vitaly Shishkin was sentenced for calling on people to take part in mass protests; Dmitry Bogatov was taken into custody after the mass protests of 26 March 2017 under false allegations of making calls to participate in such protests. They can also be added to this group.

The attack on freedom of expression and the dissemination of information has further intensified, especially using the Internet. Among those convicted for trying to exercise this right are: Andrei Bubeyev, Darya Polyudova, Airat Dilmukhametov, Robert Zagreyev, Igor Stenin, Vadim Tyumentsev, Alexei Moroshkin, Natalya Sharina and Ruslan Sokolovsky.

The means of unlawful repression provide an instrument for suppressing any kinds of civic activity that are displeasing to the authorities. For example, victims have included Ivan Barylyak who defended housing rights as well as Sergei Nikiforov who sought to protect environmental rights.

Cases of high treason serve the objectives of propaganda by representing Russia as a country encircled by enemies. The list of their victims includes the names of Svyatoslav Bobyshev, Gennady Kravtsov, Petr Parpulov, Inga Tutisani, Anik Kesyan and Marina Dzhandzgava.

Political repression and the law 

Dozens of different articles of the Russian Criminal Code have become the instrument of political repression. The persecution of citizens whom we judge to be political prisoners over the past year has made use of 41 different Articles of the Russian Criminal Code. The most widely used Articles are those relating to

“Extremism” -- incitement of hatred and enmity, public appeals for extremist activity, organization of the activities of an extremist organization – in 20 cases;

“Terrorism” -- terrorist act, complicity in terrorist activity and justification of such an activity, organization of a terrorist group – in 16 cases;

“Public gatherings” -- mass riots, multiple violations of the established procedure for organising gatherings, use of force against a representative of the authority – in 32 cases.

Rights in Russia will publish the two lists of individuals shortly. 

Text prepared and edited by John Crowfoot

We are delighted you have been reading Rights in Russia. As a non-for-profit organization that does not carry advertising, we rely on our readers and well-wishers to support our work. If you share our belief in the importance of our mission, in the need to publicize the human rights situation in Russia, please consider making a donation to help keep 
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Memorial Human Rights Centre recognizes one more defendant in the ‘Case of 26 March’ - Dmitry Krepkin – as a political prisoner

posted 26 Jun 2017, 09:06 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Jun 2017, 09:08 ]

23 June 2017 


Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Dmitry Krepkin is the third person to have taken part in the Moscow anti-corruption protest, ‘We don't call him Dimon,’ that Memorial has recognized as a political prisoner on the basis of a review of the case. 

Earlier we recognized Yury Kuly, sentenced to 8 months in an open-regime prison colony, and Aleksandr Shpakov, sentenced to 18 months in a general-regime prison colony, as political prisoners. Like Krepkin, the two were charged with committing an offence under Article 318, Section 1 (use of force against a public official, not threatening to life or health) of the Russian Criminal Code.

The trial of Krepkin has yet to take place. He is being held in a pre-trial detention centre. According to the investigation, Krepkin kicked the right thigh of an officer of the Fourth Battalion of the National Guard, M. V. Zvonarev, causing the latter physical pain. Krepkin himself asserts that he only kicked the officer’s baton. The charges are based on a screenshot from a video in which it is not possible to see clearly the movement of Krepkin’s feet. Moreover, there is no confirmation that Zvonarev was injured: he did not ask for medical assistance, nor did he write up a report on the alleged offence. 

We believe that the events of 26 March must be considered from the point of view of whether members of the public were able to legally resist unlawful actions by the police. The court did not investigate at all the question whether law enforcement officers committed unlawful actions. Nor was the question investigated as to what degree resistance to these unlawful actions was illegal. Many instances were recorded of unjustified use of force by police during the peaceful anti-corruption demonstrations on 26 March 2017, both in Moscow and in other Russian cities. In Moscow alone more than 1,000 people were detained for the exercise of their constitutional right to peaceful demonstration. However, the law enforcement agencies conducted no investigations into these instances, nor did they recognize participants in the public protests as victims. 

Dmitry Krepkin, according to his lawyer, was seriously assaulted at the time he was detained. An emergency medical centre found he had bruises all over his body, and a forensic examination concluded that he had received at least six blows by a blunt object. 

We believe that Krepkin and other defendants in the case have been selectively deprived of their liberty, while there has been no investigation into allegations against police officers. Furthermore, we believe pre-trial detention is not proportional to the real danger of the alleged offences. 

Memorial Human Rights Centre believes that the prosecution of participants in the peaceful demonstration of 26 March is politically motivated and intended to intimidate those who criticize the government. 

Memorial considers Dmitry Krepkin to be a political prisoner and demands his immediate release. 

We also demand that those representatives of the authorities guilty of violating the rights and freedoms of participants in the protests of 26 March be brought to justice. 

Recognition of a person as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions. 

For more detailed information about the case of Dmitry Krepkin, see here

We are delighted you have been reading Rights in Russia. As a non-for-profit organization that does not carry advertising, we rely on our readers and well-wishers to support our work. If you share our belief in the importance of our mission, in the need to publicize the human rights situation in Russia, please consider making a donation to help keep 
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Memorial Human Rights Centre recognizes seven people convicted in two ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ cases in Kazan as political prisoners

posted 26 Jun 2017, 09:02 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Jun 2017, 09:05 ]

21 June 2017

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Azat Khasanov, Ildar Shaikhutdinov and Ilmir Imaev were convicted back in 2014 before the law relating to membership of an organization designated as terrorist was made more severe. The defendants were sentenced to terms in general-regime prison colonies from three years five months to six years six months. Participation in Khizb ut-Tahrir was classified as an offence under Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code: for Khasanov under Section 1 (organization of activity of an extremist organization); for the others under Section 2 (participation in activity of an extremist organization). Khasanov, Shaikhutdinov and Imaev were also convicted under Article 282, Section 2 ('c') (incitement of hatred or hostility as a member of an organized group) of the Russian Criminal Code for what amounted to asserting violations of the rights of Muslims and calls to defend them. The evidence for the charges included articles from the journal Al-Waie found on the defendants’ computers. However, the investigation failed to prove that the defendants distributed these articles, rather than simply read them. 

Airat Shakirov, Rainur Ibatullin, Arslan Salimzyanov and Nail Yunusov were convicted in April 2017 when participation in Hizb ut-Tahrir was qualified as an offence under Article 205.5 (organization of, and participation in, activity of an organization designated as terrorist under Russian law) of the Russian Criminal Code. For organizing a cell of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Russia the Criminal Code provides for a sentence of up to life imprisonment. All four defendants in the case were convicted as organizers, under Article 205.5, Section 1, and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 16 to 18 years. All except for Yunusov were charged with collecting ‘membership dues’ of between 200 and 1,000 roubles each month from individuals, an activity classed as an offence under Article 2905.1, Section 1 (promoting terrorist activity, with regard to ‘financing terrorism’). 

We have repeatedly expressed our disagreement with the view of the Supreme Court that has designated Hizb ut-Tahrir a terrorist organization. There is no evidence that this association, which is a political party in the Middle East, is involved in terrorism. In Western Europe and North America the party is not banned (with the exception of Germany, where there is a ban under administrative, but not criminal, law). 

The activities of the persons convicted, as literally stated in these and other similar judgments, amounts to meeting for the purposes of reading and discussion of religious literature, and discussion of religious and political issues. There is no reference to acts of terrorism. Despite the fact that Hizb ut-Tahrir does not share the ideas of democracy and human rights in the Western sense, we consider the danger to the public of this ideology, disseminated without violence or incitement to violence, is low and cannot serve as a justification for holding a person in detention. 

It is evident that the Hizb ut-Tahrir prosecutions fall among the so-called ‘serial’ cases: the FSB achieves ‘very good results’ (dozens of convictions) with minimal effort. The tightening of anti-terrorist legislation and the introduction of Article 205.5 into the Criminal Code creates grounds for conducting a very large number of unfounded prosecutions. 

We demand that this ‘imitation’ of combating terrorism be ended, and that Khasanov, Shaikhutginov, Imaev, Shakirov, Ibatullin, Salimzyanov and Yunusov be released. 

Recognition of a person as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions. 

For more information about the cases of Khasanov, Shaikhutdinov and Imaev, see here; for more information about the cases of Shakirov, Ibatullin, Salimzyanov and Yunusov, see here

We are delighted you have been reading Rights in Russia. As a non-for-profit organization that does not carry advertising, we rely on our readers and well-wishers to support our work. If you share our belief in the importance of our mission, in the need to publicize the human rights situation in Russia, please consider making a donation to help keep 
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Memorial Human Rights Centre recognizes one more participant in the ‘Don’t Call Him Dimon’ protest - Aleksandr Shpakov – as a political prisoner

posted 26 Jun 2017, 08:57 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Jun 2017, 09:01 ]

19 June 2017

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Immediately after the unexpectedly large-scale nationwide opposition protests that took place on 26 March, criminal cases were launched against its participants and a large group of investigators was set up. There are reasons to believe that one of the purposes of these demonstrative actions was to intimidate potential participants in public protests.

One of the protesters, Aleksandr Shpakov, a carpenter, was sentenced on 24 May 2017 by Judge A. V. Stekliev sitting in Moscow's Tver district court to 18 months in a general-regime prison colony. Shpakov had been held on remand since 28 March 2017 on charges under Article 318, Section 1 (application of force to a public official) of the Russian Criminal Code.

We believe the events of 26 March should be considered with regard to the possible legality of resistance by members of the public to unlawful actions of police officers. The court did not consider at all the completely unlawful actions of the police, nor the issue of the legality of resistance to these unlawful actions. At the same time, Shpakov's guilt is based exclusively on the evidence of police officers. In such circumstances, there are insufficient grounds to hold that Shpakov did in fact strike a police officer.

Witnesses of the arrest of Shpakov, including Navalny who was in the same police bus for detainees, confirm the allegation of the defendant that he was beaten with a rubber baton.

Many instances of the use of unjustified force by the police during the peaceful anti-corruption demonstration on 26 March 2017 were recorded, both in Moscow and in other Russian cities. In the capital alone, more than 1,000 people were detained for exercising their constitutional right to peaceful protest. However, the law enforcement agencies did not investigate these facts, nor agree to consider protesters as victims. In the same way, Shpakov was held to be guilty of committing the offence against the police officer Gonikov, but the court paid no attention to the facts that Shpakov was arrested with the use of brutal physical force, and that he was beaten after he had been detained.

The people who gathered on Tversakaya Street on 26 March showed no aggression, and there were no grounds to hinder them from expressing their opinions. The possible presence of individual provocateurs or aggressive individuals cannot be, and must not become, justification for breaking up a peaceful demonstration. On the contrary, the police can and must defend the right of citizens to express of their opinions and ensure their security.

In a statement Memorial Human Rights Centre said: “At the stage of notification, public officials all over the country obstructed the holding of anti-corruption demonstrations. These obstacles evidently exceeded reasonable restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly.”

In addition to Shpakov, six other participants in the Moscow rally of 26 March have been prosecuted. One of these, Aleksandr Kuly, has already been recognized by Memorial as a political prisoner.

Memorial Human Rights Centre considers the prosecution of Aleksandr Shpakov to be politically motivated and intended to intimidate critics of the government.

Memorial believes Shpakov to be a political prisoner and demands his immediate release.

We also demand that those representatives of the authorities who are guilty of violating the rights and freedoms of those taking part in the protests of 26 March should be brought to justice.

Recognition of a person as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.

For more information about this case, see here.

We are delighted you have been reading Rights in Russia. As a non-for-profit organization that does not carry advertising, we rely on our readers and well-wishers to support our work. If you share our belief in the importance of our mission, in the need to publicize the human rights situation in Russia, please consider making a donation to help keep 
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