Rights Groups in Russia

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Agora International Awarded Prestigious Lindebrekke Prize in Norway

posted 20 Mar 2017, 06:12 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Mar 2017, 09:36 ]

11 March 2017

Source: Agora International

The prestigious award was presented to the head of AGORA, Pavel Chikov, by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Today in Oslo, the Agora International human rights group was awarded the Lindebrekke Prize for human rights activism. The prize is named after Sjur Lindebrekke, founder of the Norwegian conservative party. The prestigious award was presented to the head of Agora, Pavel Chikov, by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Afterwards, Chikov delivered an acceptance speech:

“The first time in my life I met with Norwegians was in South Dakota, USA. I was studying public administration there, and knew there was a large Norwegian community. These guys drank a lot, were always very serious, and never laughed. Rather like Russians.

"At that point I was already working in the field of human rights. It was sixteen years ago, when George W. Bush had only just been inaugurated. Putin had become president of Russia, and opposition media were already under attack.

"That was the year when I first felt that the situation was worsening in both countries. At least, I felt then that Europe was the best place.

"Now this is a complicated time for democratic values and human rights all around the world. Today we see how even the best places are facing a new agenda in the field of human rights – we are seeing waves of migration, hate crimes, and incoming violence from other nations that prompts fierce domestic reactions. We also see how authoritarian governments export hostile policies and try to use this moment in time to further undermine democratic values.

"Russian artists cannot enjoy freedom even in Norway, because they may face problems on returning home.

"In Russia, Norwegian journalists are beaten with impunity, as happened a year ago in the North Caucasus, and are expelled from the country and banned from returning for five years, as happened with Thomas Nilsen of the Barents Observer.

"The head of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the leading Norwegian human rights organisation, has already been banned from visiting Russia and meeting with old friends for many years.

"The president of the Sami parliament of the Kola Peninsula, Valentina Sovkina, is beaten and robbed and stopped on the Russian-Norwegian border near Kirkenes, in order to prevent her from participating in the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, in New York.

"Agora’ lawyers work on all these issues. This is not because we go looking for them. It is because this intimidation affects everyone; everyone will feel insecure until there are places where things will be OK.

"In our tiny world, we are all closely interrelated.

"This is why it’s important to have friends in Oslo, Bergen and Tromsø. We maintain close ties with the Rafto Fund, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the University of Oslo and the Human Rights House Network. That is why I’m proud to accept this award. 

"Thank you!"

Translated by Anna Bowles

Institute of Law & Public Policy: On February 22, 2017 the Supreme Court of Russia quashed the conviction of Ildar Dadin following the Judgment of the Constitutional Court No. 2-П of February 10, 2017

posted 28 Feb 2017, 11:07 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Mar 2017, 11:37 ]

27 February 2017

On 22 February 2017, the Supreme Court of Russia quashed the conviction of Ildar Dadin following the Judgment of the Constitutional Court of 10 February No. 2-П

On 22 February 2017, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation (hereinafter – “Supreme Court of Russia”), enforcing the Judgment of the Constitutional Court of Russia (hereinafter – “RCC”) of 10 February 2017 No. 2-П http://www.ilpp.ru/en/news/events/2017/02/12/events_737.html, heard a motion to reopen a criminal case against Russian activist Ildar Dadin. On 7 December 2015, Mr Dadin was convicted under Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code of repeated violations of statutory rules on holding public assemblies, and sentenced to 2,5 years in prison.

The Presidium of the Supreme Court of Russia held that:

1. The criminal case against Ildar Dadin was to be reopened in the light of new circumstances;

2. Mr. Dadin's conviction by the Basmanny district court of Moscow of 7 December 2015 upheld by the Moscow City Court on 31 March 2016 was to be quashed;

3. The criminal case against Mr Dadin was to be dismissed;

4. Ildar Dadin was to be released and granted a right to compensation.

Ildar Dadin participated in the hearing via a video link. At the beginning, he petitioned the Supreme Court of Russia to grant him a right to be physically present at the hearing, however, the Supreme Court declined to do so. Shortly after the presiding judge declared a recess to enable Mr Dadin to confer with his lawyers on further steps to be taken in the proceedings. When the hearing was resumed Ildar Dadin made a statement in which he refused to take any further part in the proceedings.

In the course of the hearing both Mr Dadin’s lawyers and the Deputy of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation Leonid Korjenek stated that the criminal case against Ildar Dadin had to be dismissed given the absence of any criminal conduct on his part as Mr Dadin was not repeatedly subject to administrative sanctions for the violation of the statutory rules on holding or participating in public assemblies (two of the three judgments imposing administrative sanctions on Mr Dadin had not yet come into force by the time the criminal proceedings were instituted).

Furthermore, Mr Dadin's lawyers – Ksenia Kostromina and Alexey Liptser, Attorneys at law, argued, invoking the RCC Judgment in Mr Dadin’s case, that no criminal proceedings can be instituted against a person for organising or participating in an unauthorised public assembly, where such assembly does not cause or, at least, create the risk of causing harm to property and persons of other citizens or organisations, environment, public order or other constitutionally protected values.

Dismissal of the criminal case against Mr Dadin became possible due to the RCC Judgment of 10 February 2017 No. 2-П in which the RCC reviewed the constitutionality of Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code of Russia.

The Institute for Law and Public Policy drafted Ildar Dadin’s application to the RCC. At the RCC hearing, Sergey A. Golubok, Ph.D., Attorney at law, represented Ildar Dadin as part of the Institute’s project “Enhancing Civic Engagement in Strategic Constitutional Litigation in Russia”.

Full text of the application (in Russian) 

Asmik Novikova [Public Verdict Foundation]: "Torture—This is not about the Middle Ages, this is what’s happening to people who walk alongside us in the street" [7X7]

posted 19 Feb 2017, 11:53 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2017, 01:18 ]

6 February 2017

This is an extract from an interview by Elena Soloveva with Asmik Novikova, research director at Public Verdict Foundation

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Internet journal «7х7»]

Russia is a signatory to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Convention was adopted [by the UN General Assembly] in 1984 and entered into force in 1987—thirty years ago. To mark this date, the Public Verdict Foundation organised a campaign on 23-25 January #ВместеПротивПыток [#TogetherAgainstTorture]. The Foundation’s research director, sociologist Asmik Novikova, discusses the results of the campaign here.

Q: Is it possible to say what the results of the campaign were? Was there, for example, any reaction on the part of the authorities?

A: We did not make any specific appeal to the authorities. We did, of course, tag certain state agencies—the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Procuracy—to remind them of the obligations of states that have signed the Convention. But this was not the kind of action that demands an immediate or substantive response. Our primary purpose was to inform the active online community about the Convention and to remind them that torture is not just something that occurred in the Middle Ages but is, rather, something that is inflicted on people we pass in the street who suddenly, without warning, find themselves thrown into a nightmare. By telling their stories, we flesh out the problem with living and concrete content. It is commonly assumed that torture is suffered only by people who are suspected of some kind of crime, or who are already in custody. But this not how it really is. Torture today is a much more common and complex phenomenon than most people understand.

Q: When you read these stories, you realise that even children can be subjected to torture. I’m referring to the story of a little boy aged seven...

A: As a result of our campaign, this story has attracted the most attention: many people have responded to it, and many of them reposted the story. We understand that this story is starker and more emotional than all the others. And yet this is, in a way, rather sad. When something like this happens to an adult, it is seen as less repulsive and horrific. Take for example the story of Mardiros Demerchyan. This is a man with a large family, who tries to earn an honest living, and yet he suffered as he did. Not only was he subjected to extraordinary violence and humiliation but, after he complained about his treatment, he was punished for complaining.

Q: Just a few days ago, a prisoner was punished in the same way in correctional colony IK-7 in Segezha [Republic of Karelia]—the same colony where Il’dar Dadin was held. It is becoming quite common to punish someone who complains about being tortured.

A: Yes, we have discussed this and, about a month ago, we appealed to the Human Rights Ombudsperson. In our appeal, we documented this trend which is, in our opinion, a very dangerous one. The right to lodge a complaint is enshrined in our Constitution as a right enjoyed by everyone. Acting in accordance with the law, people lodge their complaint with the relevant authorities, whose responsibility it is to investigate such matters. But instead of carrying out an effective investigation the authorities conduct a preliminary inquiry which, as a rule, does not discover anything (since a full investigation is possible only as part of a criminal enquiry, not as part of a preliminary inquiry). But instead of simply refusing, in the end, to launch a criminal investigation, the authorities go one step further and prosecute the person for making a false accusation. So this preliminary investigation is usually just a formality, the complaint is not usually upheld, and the authorities take the view that the person bringing the complaint is intentionally trying to deceive them and to accuse a specific state employee of a crime.

This is outrageous, since it undermines the credibility of the monitoring by official bodies. In that case charges should be brought in all cases in which the authorities refuse to initiate criminal investigations in response to a complaint, regardless of whom the charge was made against. Even if we imagine a situation where an effective investigation has been conducted and has been found that there was no torture, but there had been, for example, reasonable use of force, this should not be assumed to mean that the complainant might not have acted in good faith and could not have made a mistake but, rather, intended to make false accusations against a government official. Opening criminal cases against people suffering from the actions of law enforcement officers is a form of intimidation. 

Q: The Investigative Committee and Federal Penitentiary Service are two different agencies. But due to the situation with complaints of torture, the impression arises that it’s one system, lacking a third side that could prevent violations. Is this impunity leading to an increase in torture?

A: We don’t know if more or fewer such incidences are occurring because to this day our country hasn’t fulfilled one of the United Nations Committee against Torture’s key recommendations: torture should be treated as a separate case of malfeasance. But for us it’s criminalised as an ordinary crime, that is to say, a neighbour might torture a neighbour. Misconduct by public officials is a separate chapter of the Criminal Code, and in order to accuse a law enforcement officer (a public official) of torture, there needs to be an article in the corresponding section. When we initiate criminal proceedings, they’re generally based on Article 286 (“Exceeding authority of a position”). But there’s no independent article and, thus, no statistics, as they simply can’t be gathered.

It seems to me there’s no particular upsurge right now; the situation has remained the same as it was: there’s nothing good to speak of, and no possibility of achieving more effective investigation of these incidences. I can say with absolute certainty that the Investigative Committee is not functioning as an organ that ought to effectively investigate each reported instance of torture or violence.

Q: A few years ago, the human rights defender Andrei Yurov said in an interview with the online journal “7x7” that the penitentiary system is becoming more open. But now there’s a sense of backsliding.

A: There were strong Public Oversight Commissions (POCs), the law on public monitoring worked well. Professionals working for the POCs were able to carry out inspections without warning and often chose for themselves the places they wanted to inspect. They weren’t limited to assessing the detention conditions (the condition of cells, toilets, availability of outdoor exercise, and so on), and attempted to work on fundamental rights—the right to life and prohibition of torture. That work saw results.

Nowadays many independent people who could serve as inspectors have not been allowed to join the Commission. As a mechanism for public monitoring, the POCs have seriously lost their effectiveness. The institution is reduced to something that half of the time is a mere imitation of its proper functions. And there’s nothing to replace it, because that same law ended the public monitoring practices that existed before the POCs.

It turned out like this: after the law on POCs, the opportunity to go straight into a prison colony or jail and assess the observance of human rights there belonged to nobody apart from members of POCs and public councils, and also the Ombudsman for Human Rights. The law on POCs is good in all aspects save one: it introduces a restriction on who can monitor these issues. Under this law, where it’s written that POCs must carry out monitoring, a typical situation for our country has arisen: human rights defenders write a letter requesting access to a prison colony, and the establishment’s administration or the regional management of the Federal Penitentiary Service replies in good conscience that, in accordance with the law on public monitoring, only those appointed by the law may come to carry out monitoring, and you are not one of them. That is, they politely refer back to the law.

Currently to some extent civil society has chased itself into this trap. Everyone was so glad when the law on public monitoring was passed, but now those who want to carry out monitoring aren’t allowed, and they have no opportunity whatsoever to enter into corrective establishments. Earlier, though, before the law on POCs, there were such opportunities and it was possible to get access.

Q: In October 2015 the 'Sadists' Law' was passed. It states that a prisoner may be subjected to physical pressure for any kind of offence. Can this be seen as an attempt to legalise torture?

A: That is too radical a conclusion. If I remember correctly, the law refers to the possibility of using force. But there is nothing radically new in it. It duplicates the same rules that feature in the law On the Police regarding, for example, when and how to use physical force and special measures of restraint. This normative standard has always existed, but at the level of departmental guidelines. Now they have been incorporated into legislation at a higher level. Previously, any routine violation meant that a prisoner could be sent to the isolation ward.

This law does not state that special measures can be used for any kind of violation. Special measures are permitted where resistance or disobedience by prisoners involves violence or the risk of violence. But physical force may be applied quite widely. It may be enough for a prisoner not to have complied with an officer's instructions. I think that this could, in a way, give him free rein. The officer would then have formal grounds to say, "I warned him, and only then did I use force".

What has struck me the most is that there is all this potential for image capture and data storage, and yet they say that the personal video recorder that every officer must be fitted with is not switched on every time that physical force and special measures are used; only 'where feasible'. But if this video recorder exists (and it should exist), then there is no reason for it not to be switched on. It simply must be switched on – especially in the case of the use of force, special measures and firearms. The law has been extended with regard to the areas to which it applies, yet controls have not been tightened. The requirement that "the greater the freedom of action, the stricter the oversight" has not been respected.

Q: Is there anything that can be done to improve the situation?

A: There is a lot of work to do, but there are two basic things. We need to abolish investigative departments inside prisons. No kind of investigative work regarding criminal investigations should be happening. All possible operational and investigative steps have already been taken when the person was still under investigation. Enough! The person has been prosecuted and has ended up in a facility to serve out his sentence, so just let them serve it! Yet we often see investigative departments that pressure inmates and try to get information out of them regarding unsolved crimes. Let investigators do their work on the outside!

Secondly, it is essential that investigative work into all allegations of torture and brutality be in accordance with the Standards for Effective Investigations, which are directly taken from the practice of the UN Committee against Torture and the European Convention, as well as from the body of judgments already made by the European Court of Human Rights against Russia. The Investigative Committee needs to work better.

Memorial considers Crimean farmer Vladimir Balukh a political prisoner

posted 19 Feb 2017, 07:34 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Feb 2017, 07:38 ]

8 February 2017

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Vladimir Balukh, a farmer and pro-Ukrainian activist who remained a citizen of Ukraine after 2014 and refused to become a citizen of Russia, has been charged with committing crimes under Article 222, Section 1 (illegal possession and transportation of firearms and ammunition), of the Russian Criminal Code. Since 8 December 2016 Balukh has been in pre-trial detention, and his period of detention has on two occasions been extended, on the latest occasion until 4 March 2017.

On 8 December 2016, in the home of Vladimir Balukh’s common-law wife in the village of Serbryanka in Razdolnensky district of Crimea, FSB officers conducted a formal ‘search of the premises’. During this search, they allegedly found in the attic of the house 89 ‘military’ [as described in the court ruling remanding Balukh in custody] 5,45×39mm cartridges, professionally made, of which 19 cartridges were ready for firing.

There is a high degree of probability that the immediate reason for fabricating the criminal case against the activist was the fact that, on 29 November 2016, he had put up a sign on his house that read, ‘Street of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes, 18’ [‘Вулиця Героїв Небесної сотні 18’]. After this, he was visited by the chair of the village council along with his assistants who threatened him that his independent stance would bring unpleasant consequences, including the ‘discovery’ in his home of weapons or drugs. The chair of the village council demanded that Balukh remove the sign.

It would seem to be highly unlikely that an activist well-known at the regional level, who is an object of continuous harassment by law enforcement agencies and leading local officials, and whose house was twice subjected to searches in 2015, would store ammunition. It is also important to note that the investigators have no evidence that the ammunition found in the attic of the house of Balukh’s common-law wife in fact belongs to him; his fingerprints are not even on them. The discovery of the ammunition took place in the presence of witnesses brought in by the police and in the absence of the accused.

We note that the permission to conduct the formal ‘search of the premises’ in the house of Balukh’s common-law wife was issued by the deputy chair of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea, Viktor Sklyarov, more than a month before the search was conducted.

The decision to remand Balukh in custody is disproportionate to the public danger represented by the alleged crime. It is shocking that the accused has been remanded in custody on charges of a crime that is not serious and without any apparent grounds.

Memorial Human Rights Centre demands the immediate release of Vladimir Balukh and the end of his prosecution.

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

For more information about the case, see here.

The Yandex-Wallet for the Fund for the Assistance of All Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners is 410011205892134 

For Human Rights: "Karelia's Torture Prisons"

posted 15 Feb 2017, 12:34 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Feb 2017, 12:44 ]

Moscow, 2017

© Russian public movement “For Human Rights” 2017 
© Prisoners’ Defence Foundation 2017 

Information about torture in the Republic of Karelia appeared in public on November 1, 2016, after Ildar Dadin’s letter was published on the Meduza website. 

In fact, there were plenty of reports about torture prisons in Karelia even before Ildar’s letter. The “For Human Rights” movement has over a dozen complaints, including public ones (a letter from prisoner Sabitov, an open letter from Roman Vatanen and so on). 

Currently several dozen prisoners who report torture are being held in Karelia prisons. The reports are coming from at least three institutions: IK-7, IK-1 and LIU-4. 

Lawyers acting in the interests of the prisoner victims have registered their evidence in the form of lawyers’ questions. In this pamphlet we publish excerpts from the letters, complaints and lawyers’ questions which contain the evidence of prisoners who are currently serving their sentences in IK-7, IK-1 and LIU-4 in the Republic of Karelia. 

Furthermore, the prisoners complain that questioning by investigators about these complaints takes place in the presence of the prison service employees about whom the complaints were written. 

The prisoners say they would like to give evidence to an investigator in private. Additionally, the prisoners say that they previously complained more than once about torture to local employees of the prosecutor’s office, specifically I.A. Khrapchenkov and A. Ivlev, but the employees of the prosecutor’s office did nothing. [to read more, see attached file]

Translated by Sarah Hurst

Human Rights Resource Centre: Two Recent Reports

posted 10 Feb 2017, 03:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 10 Feb 2017, 04:06 ]

We are glad to share with you two recent reports we have published.

1. In November 2016 we published the report Right to privacy VS «Yarovaya package» and its impact on civic engagement

· You can download from our web portal an English version here – http://www.hrrcenter.ru/public/detail.php?ID=2180

· Russian version http://www.hrrcenter.ru/public/detail.php?ID=2161

2. Last May we published our latest report on the 'Foreign Agent' law Russian NGOs after the Foreign Agent law: Sustaining Activism in Adverse Settings

· You can download from our web portal the English version here – http://www.hrrcenter.ru/public/detail.php?ID=2008

· Russian version http://www.hrrcenter.ru/public/detail.php?ID=1763

EU-Russia Civil Society Forum: 7th General Assembly held in Helsinki (1-3 February 2017)

posted 10 Feb 2017, 01:55 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 10 Feb 2017, 01:57 ]


6 February 2017

On 1-3 February 2017, the 7th General Assembly (GA) of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (CSF) took place in Helsinki, Finland. It gathered around 230 representatives of member organisations, observers, donors, and the media.

‘Finland is a good place for civil society to be: There are 135,000 registered NGOs in the country with roughly 15 million members for 5.5 million inhabitants,’ says Anna Skvortsova, re-elected member of the Forum’s Steering Committee (SC) from St. Petersburg, Russia, co-moderator of the opening session on Finland. ‘This year, we are marking the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence and intense civil society evolution. With the General Assembly 2017, we used the opportunity to revive cooperation with local NGOs, to learn from them, to invite them to take active part in Forum's discussions and let them speak about current challenges they face and new solutions.’ [Read more]

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Tagir Khasanov - a real victim of a bogus fight against extremism

posted 6 Feb 2017, 04:22 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Feb 2017, 09:45 ]

30 January 2017

On 17 January 2017 70-year-old Tagir Khasanov, a resident of Nizhny Novgorod, died in a prison colony in Saratov. He had cancer and since last October had been paralyzed below the waist.

For unknown reasons, the Nizhny Novgorod prison service officials did not consider it possible to allow Tagir Khasanov, already seriously ill and confined to his bed, to remain in the hospital at the pre-trial detention facility, but sent him to the prison colony on 5 January when there were severe frosts.

However, the matter at issue is not just the senseless obstinacy of prison service officials who worsened Khasanov's health. We consider the criminal case under which Khasanov was sentenced to five years and one month in prison, for incitement to engage in terrorism, was itself fabricated.

Bagdan Umarov, who rented living space in Tagir Khasanov's apartment, left for Syria, supposedly to fight for Islamic State (a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation). The FSB alleged that it was Khasanov who persuaded Umarov to go to Syria by means of propaganda, conveyed during evening conversations while the two men were watching television news. Khasanov is said to have conducted such conversations with Umarov and other persons living in his apartment.

The charges were based on the evidence of citizens of Uzbekistan who also lived in Khasanov's apartment, but were deported for breaching migration law. For this reason, a majority of the 'witnesses' were not in court since they have been banned from entering Russia. Khasanov's defence lawyer located them in Uzbekistan where they told him that, after they had been beaten up, they simply signed a statement they could not understand (they know very little Russian), and that the evidence to which they signed their signatures did not correspond to the truth. The deportees told the lawyer that Khasanov had not conducted any 'conversations' with them since they always arrived back from work very late in the evening and had had almost had no communications with the owner of the apartment. Moreover, another person who spoke as a witness at the trial was Artikov, someone who had ‘figured’ earlier as a provocateur in the case of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Nizhny Novgorod.

The prosecution and court also ignored the fact that one of the brothers of Umarov, who did not know Khasanov at all, had himself earlier joined Islamic State, and an international arrest warrant had been issued for him. They also paid no attention to the fact that subsequently a third brother from the Umarov family, who had not communicated with Khasanov either, went to Syria. The prosecution and the court did not take into account the statement by a friend of Umarov that the latter had become a follower of religious fundamentalism long before he met Khasanov.

Finally, the charges were given 'additional weight’ by the discovery of five gun cartridges from a military weapon in Khasanov’s apartment. The proof of Khasanov's guilt was said to be...his own blood on the cartridges. He himself said that the cartridges had been planted, and the blood had been taken from dishes that were in the kitchen (Khasanov was regularly undergoing bleeding as part of his medical treatment).

A close study of the circumstances of the case gives grounds to assert that Khasanov was not guilty. He fell victim to a campaign by law enforcement authorities in which criminal cases, for which there were no grounds, were fabricated against members of the public for the purpose of imitating a fight against terrorism. Once the FSB found it was not possible to stop the departure for Syria of the Umarov brothers (who, it is perfectly possible, actually were militant fighters), the agency took an ‘easy’ path: it seized an elderly person who rented out living space and created the myth of a 'terrorist nest'. This is far from being the first instance of law enforcement agencies – either in error or intentionally – substituting a pseudo-investigation of invented crimes for the real fight against terrorism. However, this case has a tellingly tragic ending.

We express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Tagir Khasanov.

We call for an end to the harmful practice of substituting a bogus fight against terrorism for the real thing by means of fabricated criminal prosecutions.

Memorial Human Rights Centre: Statement on the trial of Vitaly Buntov

posted 30 Jan 2017, 05:02 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Jan 2017, 05:07 ]

24 January 2017

On 8 December 2016 the trial of Vitaly Buntov began in Gubakha town court in Perm region. Vitaly Buntov (born 1976) has been serving a 25-year sentence in a strict regime prison colony after being convicted of a number of serious crimes.

The court is hearing charges brought against Buntov of a crime under Article 303, Section 3, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘knowingly giving false witness about a crime, together with accusing a person of committing a serious crime, and with falsely created evidence of the accusation’).

According to the prosecution, Buntov persuaded one Zubov, a fellow prisoner at Prison Colony No. 12 in Perm region, to cause Buntov ‘bodily injuries with objects he acquired that were similar in form to the special equipment used by law enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation – specifically, a “rubber baton”.’ Allegedly, this was done to enable Buntov to make a ‘knowingly false report to the authorities’ and accuse prison officers Nazarov, Shamin and Mulenko of committing a crime under Article 286, Section 3 (Parts a and b) of the Russian Criminal Code (‘exceeding official powers using violence and special means’).

This account of events seems extremely unlikely. The fact is that on 5 June 2012 the European Court of Human Rights had issued its ruling in the case of ‘Buntov v Russia’ and found that the Russian Federation had violated the rights of Buntov under Article 3 of the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (‘prohibition on torture’) in relation to a preceding incident of torture when, among other things, all Buntov’s fingernails had been removed. The Court on that occasion awarded Buntov 45,000 euros in compensation for moral harm and 10,717 euros for legal costs. However, this decision has not been executed in so far as the requirement for an effective investigation is concerned. No one has been held to account for the violations. As a result of the failure by the Russian Federation to investigate the crime, supervision of the execution of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights has been passed to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

The European Court of Human Rights is also considering an application by Buntov against his conviction by Khabarovsk region court for which Buntov has already served 15 years in prison. It is highly likely that the new criminal charges against him are related to this application and may be a reprisal against a prisoner who has exposed cases of torture by prison officers, and also a form of intimidation intended to force him to withdraw his application to the European Court of Human Rights, itself a violation of Article 35 of the European Convention.

Without considering the question whether the murder conviction of Vitaly Buntov was lawful (something of which, it needs to be said, there are serious doubts), we declare that the torture of prisoners – even those convicted of the most serious crimes – is a very grave violation of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Moreover, the prosecution of victims of torture, who seek justice for themselves and for other prisoners, is especially dangerous against the background of incessant reports of human rights violations in the Federal Penitentiary Service.

We consider that Vitaly Buntov should be acquitted by the court on charges of making a false accusation, and his complaints of torture and inappropriate treatment investigated in an objective manner by the investigative authorities. We shall continue to follow developments in this case.

Oleg Orlov: "Security issues must not be set in opposition to observance of human rights" [Committee for Civic Initiatives]

posted 3 Jan 2017, 13:20 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Jan 2017, 13:23 ]

18 December 2016

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Оtkytaya politsiya]

Representatives of the Committee for Civic Initiatives who are in charge of the ‘Open Policing’ project, together with Polit.ru, spoke to Oleg Orlov, a member of the Memorial Human Rights Centre.

As part of the ‘Open Policing’ project we are interviewing representatives of human rights organizations. Our first question to you – tell us, please, how your organization ‘Memorial’ came into being and, briefly, its history.

The Memorial Human Rights Centre was set up in 1991. It needs to be said, straightaway, that we are part of a large structure, a community of Memorial organizations, which, come together as ‘International Memorial’, and which this autumn was included in the register of foreign agents (on 21 November the International Memorial Society filed a suit against the Ministry of Justice, demanding that it be taken off the register of foreign agents, on 7th December the Tverskoi district court in Moscow fined International Memorial Society 300,000 roubles for its failure to put itself on the foreign-agents register, and on 16 December the Zamoskvoretski court in Moscow rejected Memorial’s suit). The Memorial Human Rights Centre, along with a large number of regional Russian organizations, is part of the Russian Memorial organization, itself a part of the International Memorial Society.

In 1991 we started work, but on an informal basis, we didn’t then have a constitution or registration. In 1993 we acquired formal status, were registered, and our constitution was registered with the Moscow department of the Ministry of Justice.

Why did we come into existence? Memorial appeared as an organization which studied and shed light on the reality of the political repressions of the past – through museums, archives, libraries, a list of the victims of the Stalinist regime. And almost immediately and quickly we realized that we could not talk of political repression in the past, if it was still happening.

In 1991 there still were political prisoners, not everyone had been released. We began to compile lists of those still inside, we began to demand that their cases be reviewed or they be released without delay. Not long before, a tragic incident had occurred in Georgia when a peaceful demonstration was violently dispersed, and people died. Then events of one kind or another took place in the so-called ‘hot spots’, with major infringements of human rights. And we understood that we should set up a specific structure within Memorial which would focus on the observance or the infringement of human rights today.

Naturally we were concerned with questions relating to places of detention. That persuaded us to set up a specialised structure, and we did. I repeat, initially we worked on an informal basis, and then we created an independent organization which belong to the Memorial community. Today, and it’s frightening to think how many years have passed since 1991, we seem to be returning to the past. We’re caught, for the present, in a noose and seem to be roughly where we were in 1991: we once again have political prisoners in Russia, once again there are terrible, large-scale infringements of human rights in ‘hot spots’, once again the situation in places of detention is extremely serious. [Read more in Russian]

Translated by Mary McAuley

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