What We Say

A quota for killings, 1938: Arrest 5,000 more, and shoot 60%

posted 19 Jun 2017, 07:34 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Jun 2017, 23:12 ]

19 June 2017  

By John Crowfoot

"These encrypted telegrams mostly contain statistics rather than specific names. There are no people, just numbers," says ALEXANDER DANIEL in a recent comment about the DMITRIEV case. "Only in Karelia do we have everything at the level of individual people, and that is all thanks to Dmitriev."

Daniel was referring to the encrypted telegrams that passed between Moscow and the Republics and Regions of the USSR during the Great Terror. On 4 February 1938, for example, local Party boss YULY KAGANOVICH sent a brief message to Moscow, to STALIN and to YEZHOV, the head of the NKVD. He requested an increase in the quota for executions and arrests in his region (and a corresponding extension in the deadline). [Read more]

Photo: Memorial stone reads: 
"1,111 prisoners from the Solovki Prison were shot here from 27 October to 4 November 1937 "

The gadget you added is not valid

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 Rights in Russia alive. To donate, see HERE

Who is Yury Dmitriev - and why does he face 15 years' imprisonment?

posted 19 Jun 2017, 07:09 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Jun 2017, 23:14 ]

19 June 2017 

By John Crowfoot

Photo of Yury Dmitriev

The trial of historian YURY DMITRIEV began on 1 June. The hearings in Petrozavodsk, suggests journalist Maria Eismont, is "the most important thing happening in Russia today".

Because the charges are sensitive, and concern a minor, not everyone can attend. Journalists can gain access to the courtroom; and perhaps, behind the scenes, diplomats (and not just from Poland and Ukraine?) have been talking about the case to the Russian authorities. [Read more]

The gadget you added is not valid

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 Rights in Russia alive. To donate, see HERE

No Time to Cheer

posted 6 Mar 2017, 03:07 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Mar 2017, 03:16 ]

4 March 2017

♦ What Dadin’s release means for Russia’s other political prisoners ♦ 

“OPPOSITION ACTIVIST ILDAR DADIN left a prison in Rubtsovsk … on Sunday,” reported the Associated Press on 26 February. “Dadin was freed from his jail in the remote Altai Region in southern Siberia after Russia’s Supreme Court annulled his 2½-year sentence because of procedural violations” during the investigation and trial. 

The premature release of any Russian prisoner of conscience is cause for celebration. This apparent climb-down by Russia’s political and judicial authorities has a less desirable effect, however. It weakens a worldwide campaign just when people are again wondering about the country that will host the 2018 Football World Cup (Guardian, “Russia’s hooligan army”, 17 February). 

How many more political prisoners are there in Russia today? Who are they, and what (if anything) did they do to find themselves behind barbed wire or in prison? 

One among many 

For Ildar Dadin is only one among the many who have been sentenced or are awaiting trial in Russia not for acts of violence, but for expressing their beliefs and exercising rights freely practised in other countries around the world. 

Memorial Human Rights Centre 

The decision of the Constitutional Court in his case will have no direct impact on the fate of Russia’s other political prisoners. One, there is no official talk of rescinding the other repressive laws (particularly those concerning “terrorism” and “extremism” – Articles 205 and 282 of the RF Criminal Code) under which dozens have been prosecuted over the past 5-10 years. Two, in other cases when the public outcry began to have a negative impact for the regime, the mounting protests were met by a pre-emptive and divisive gesture: the two imprisoned Pussy Riot members, for instance, were released in a 2013 amnesty; Nadia Savchenko regained her freedom through a prisoner exchange in May 2016. Likewise, Dadin’s release at this moment undermines any co-ordinated pressure on Russia from international bodies, other governments and worldwide public opinion. 

Oleg Sentsov (b. 1976) 

In June 2016, stated the Inostrannyi Agent foundation, a handful of women (10) and sixty one men were imprisoned in Russia’s grim penal colonies (71). Oleg Sentsov from Crimea, for instance, convicted in 2016 of “organising a terrorist group” (Article 205.2), is presently serving a 20-year sentence in Yakutia (Far Eastern Russia). 

More prisoners of conscience (101) were being held in remand centres. Among them are the 23 Muslim men detained in Bashkortostan (Volga Federal District) in early 2015 who are still awaiting trial. A smaller number of those under investigation were free on bail (9), restricted by a travel ban (23), or — in the case of Natalya Sharina, director of the Ukrainian Library in Moscow — kept under house arrest (9). (In June 2016 a further 16 persons were hiding from arrest and investigation.) 

The dozens of prisoners and detainees fall into several groups of unequal size. Inostrannyi Agent divided the 320 individuals on its December 2016 list into the following categories. 

Inostrannyi agent (Foreign Agent) foundation 

Some were bloggers (22), some were political activists (75), and others had been targeted for their involvement in NGOs and civic activities (21). Some fell foul of the increasing levels of State repression inside Russia (13). A few were citizens of foreign countries (12) who, like Sentsov, were tried and convicted in Russia after being kidnapped beyond its borders. Since the March 2014 annexation of Crimea more and more Crimean Tatars are being detained (31) and charged with political and religious offences. 

The category of religious “extremists” (150) today amounts to over almost one half of the total. In December 2016 Memorial HRC decided to divide its list of political prisoners in two, separating religious “offenders” from those accused or convicted of secular offences. 

Little hope of change 

Political Prisoners in Russia (Inostrannyi agent), 
May 2014 to November 2016 

When Memorial first drew up a list of political prisoners in 2014 it named 40 individuals. Today the organisation’s Human Rights Centre gives over one hundred names and freely admits that its current list, while doubling in size, is nevertheless “incomplete”. 

This becomes obvious when the Memorial lists are compared to those of the Netherlands-based Inostrannyi Agent foundation. In 2013 the latter organisation identified 52 individuals as prisoners of conscience. Today its “List of Political Prisoners in the Russian Federation” contains over three hundred names. A graph tracing this accelerating growth in numbers was published with its 10 December 2016 list (“New Chronicle of Current Events” website). 

Without a change in the regime it is unlikely that the constant increase in the number of political prisoners can be halted, let alone reversed. Ominously, the total figure for such a captive population is fast approaching that of the late Soviet Union. (Compare “USSR News Brief – Human Rights in the Soviet Union”, 15 February 1987.) 

What we can do 

The cases of all Russia’s political prisoners must be highlighted, giving the less well-known some of the attention received by only a few of their colleagues in misfortune. From now on Rights in Russia will focus, each week, on a different political prisoner (or group of detained persons) from the lists of Memorial and Inostrannyi Agent. 

The first is 32-year-old Taisiya Osipova from Smolensk (western Russia), wife of one of the leaders of the Other Russia. On 28 February Osipova was freed on parole after serving six years of her 8-year sentence for possession and sale of drugs. The path to her release could not illustrate more clearly the plight of prisoners who do not attract widespread and sustained Western attention and concern. 

Rights in Russia
4 March 2017

SOURCES [R = Russian] 

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, 26 February 2017, “Russian Activist Ildar Dadin Released From Prison” 

Memorial HRC, February 2017, “The current list of political prisoners in Russia” [R] 

Inostrannyi agent foundation / New Chronicle of Current Events, 10 December 2016, “A new list of political prisoners in the Russian Federation” [R] 

USSR News Brief, No 3, 15 February 1987, “The release of a large number of political prisoners” [R] 

Medusa, 28 February 2017, “Other Russia activist Taisiya Osipova has been freed after six years’ imprisonment” [R] 

A Challenge to Us All

posted 6 Mar 2017, 03:04 by Rights in Russia

29 October 2012

A new situation has developed in the Russian Federation. The reaction by the Russian authorities to the peaceful demonstrations for free and fair elections that took place in the winter of 2011 and the first half of 2012 has reached a new intensity, severely restricting human and civil rights in Russia. On the one hand, a whole swathe of poorly drafted legislation has been passed, or is currently making its way through the legislative process, restricting public assembly, re-criminalizing libel, obliging NGOs that receive foreign funding and engage in loosely defined ‘political activities’ to register as ‘foreign agents’, increasing the scope of treason law, and criminalizing ‘insulting believers’. On the other hand, law enforcement agencies have progressively racheted up a series of repressive measures against those who publicly express disapproval of the authorities. [Read more]

Civil society in Russia takes lead in showing commitment to free and fair elections, rule of law and protection of human rights

posted 6 Mar 2017, 03:02 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Mar 2017, 03:03 ]

6 March 2012

According to OSCE election observers and the independent election monitors Golos and the League of Voters, the presidential elections held on 4 March were seriously flawed. In these circumstances, the authorities should conduct effective investigations into allegations of electoral fraud, and bring those responsible to justice. Elections which fall short of the standards for free and fair elections undermine the legitimacy of government. A failure to prosecute those responsible would undermine the rule of law. [Read more]

On the Eve: The Importance of Free and Fair Elections

posted 6 Mar 2017, 03:01 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Mar 2017, 03:04 ]

3 March 2012

A favourite phrase of Russian human rights defender Sergei Kovalev is: ‘Kto v dome khozyain?’ – ‘Who is boss in the house?’ In other words, who has power in Russia? Is it the government (the leadership in the Kremlin/the bureaucracy)? Or is it the public – civil society? In asking this question Kovalev is not questioning the role of government in conducting its legitimate functions. But he is demanding that government should not put itself above the law. He is demanding that governments respect the rights of their citizens. [Read more]

1-6 of 6