OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 110: Criticising the police and new cases of FSB-inflicted torture

posted 8 Jul 2019, 11:30 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 8 Jul 2019, 11:34 ]
7 July 2019

OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday OVD-Info sends out a mailing with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.

Greetings to our readers! We have published a study demonstrating how the Article on offences committed during rallies has become a key tool for harassing protesters. To this end, our analysts Danil Beilinson, Ekaterina Borovikova and Natalya Smirnova studied data going back fifteen years. Thanks to them, you can now play a vast map on our site and find out how many cases have been brought before the courts in that period, which decisions were taken and how the situation varies from region to region.

And if you already know everything there is to know, take our test on freedom of assembly in Russia and find out whether you’re more of an anarchist or a data analyst.

“An unprecedented unification of society”, “It brought people together for the first time in a very long while”, “It gives rise to hope for a better country”. Do you remember the survey we asked you to fill in about the Golunov case? Bumaga has analysed your answers and summarised what this highly public case meant to society.

On Thursday, Memorial held a conference on arbitrary nature of police actions during protests that took place on 12th June in Moscow against the fabrication of criminal cases. Alla Frolova, who coordinates our legal service, together with other well-known human rights activists, explained the offences that the police and the National Guard let slide during the protests. You can watch a recording of the whole event here.

And now for the week's news.

The courts in Moscow have dropped three cases against people detained during the 12th June protests. The ruling states that “the court […] takes a critical view of the statements from witnesses who may have been mistaken, given the high number of arrests”. The witnesses in question are police officers. That is, the court has professed distrust in police officers and sided with the detainees. OVD-Info’s lawyer, Konstantin Boykov, worked on the case.
  • Why does this matter? This court ruling is unique; it is a small but significant victory for common sense over the formal approach to considering cases relating to large-scale public gatherings. Court rulings usually state that there is no reason to distrust evidence given by the police. In the majority of cases, their testimonials contradict both those of the “offenders” and of the eyewitnesses as well as evidence from video recordings. Previously, the courts preferred to disregard all the above.
Throughout the week in St Petersburg, all hell has been breaking loose at polling stations. First the police arrested independent candidates trying to register to stand in the municipal elections, to which end they queued up and stood watch all night. Then, a candidate from Navalny’s staff and a lawyer from the Yabloko party were both anonymously attacked. Meanwhile, a candidate from the Yabloko party was beaten while he was trying to hand in his papers.
  • Why do I need to know this? Independent candidates who register to take part in the municipal elections have had their voting rights infringed – in particular, the right to stand for election. The electoral commission has received several complaints, but this has not had any effect so far. The head of the Central Electoral Commision, Ella Pamfilova, has announced that she will authorise the cancellation of the St Petersburg municipal elections.
The European Court of Human Rights has awarded a total of €75,000 in compensation for unlawful arrests during protests. Compensation was awarded to nine complainants from Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Kaliningrad.
  • Why does this matter? Russia systematically infringes its citizens’ rights to freedom of assembly, and our country is consistently one of the highest producers of complaints to the ECHR. The court’s decisions are important not only because of the compensation they award to those whose rights have been infringed by the State, but also because they help paint a general picture of the human rights situation in the country and, in the best case scenario, force the government to change its wrongful practices.
Anarchists in Nizhny Novgorod are being called in for interrogation in connection with a murder case. In 2013, items bearing anarchistic symbolisms were found among the possessions of a murdered man. Now, the investigation is interrogating anarchists, supposedly to identify the body, but the security forces are primarily interested in the ideologies espoused by these anarchists.
  • Why do I need to know this? Anarchists in Russia often come under pressure from the authorities and many have faced politically-motivated court cases. Following an explosion in the FSB’s Archangelsk offices, this pressure has only increased.
If you are an anarchist living in the Nizhny Novgorod Region and are called in for interrogation in connection with murder case No. 400107, contact Arkady Galker, head of Memorial’s Nizhny Novgorod branch. He is concerned that there are some cases of anarchists being called in for interrogation which are not yet known to him. You can contact him on: arkady.galker@gmail.com

Torture and the FSB. Ivan Astashin, a defendant in the case against an Autonomous military terrorist organisation is in his ninth year of imprisonment. He is accused of involvement in a series of arsons which the FSB considers to be acts of terror. Astashin has written a letter to OVD-Info, in which he explains why it is so difficult for those detained by the FSB to report torture and what barriers there are to reporting at each stage, from solitary confinement to the courts.

The case of civil unrest in Rostov-on-Don. Hearings began in June on the case against Yan Sidorov, Vladislav Mordasova and Vyacheslav Shasmin, who have been accused of attempting to incite and participate in civil unrest. Anna Romashchenko spoke to Yan Vladimir Sidorov’s grandfather about the courts, the conditions in detention, and how he is trying to achieve justice.

And more torture, still by the FSB. The fifth global Barhsir Kurultai was held in Ufa in late June. Ramilia Saitova – a human rights activist who is standing for election as the head of the Republic of Bashkortostan – wanted to attend the congress but was not able to. She was arrested in her home by the security forces and taken to the FSB. From there, she was taken to hospital. OVD-Info has recorded her monologue, where she explains how and why she was arrested.

Each day we publish news reports and provide assistance to people who have been arrested. We very much need your assistance. After all, we depend for all our work on your support. Please sign up to make a monthly donation to OVD-Info. That way we can continue to send you your favourite mailing, our Weekly Bulletin.

Translated by Judith Fagelson