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Russia
06.11.19
Statements

Joint Statement: Judicial harassment of human rights NGOs must end!


JOINT STATEMENT


Paris-Geneva-Brussels-Moscow,November 6, 2019 – Russian state agents searched the Perm office of thehuman rights NGO International Memorial and the house of its Chairman, RobertLatypov, last Thursday over alleged “illegal logging”. The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT), theAnti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” (ADC Memorial), the Human Rights Center“Memorial” (HRC Memorial), Citizens’ Watch, and the Committee Against Torture(INGO-CAT) denounce the mounting pressure and the proliferation of actsof judicial harassment against human rights NGOs in Russia.

International Memorialis a human rights NGO investigating Soviet-era political repressions as well asongoing repressions in Russia. On October 31, 2019, State agents from theCenter for Counter-Terrorism and Anti-Extremism, the Ministry of the Interiorand the Federal Security Service seized some of the organisation’s key workingequipment during their search of the NGO’s office, including several computers,a notebook, and financial and other documents.

Authorities’ search and seizure ofInternational Memorial, just one day after the Remembrance Day for the Victimsof Repressions, is a clear attempt to intimidateMemorial’s members and prevent their important memory, denunciation andrehabilitation efforts.Robert’s apartment search is especially outrageous given the obvious fact thatthere couldn’t be any ‘evidence’ of deforestation there”, said Stephania Kulaeva, Head of the ADC Memorial.


A criminal case over “illegal logging” (Article 260 of the Russian CriminalCode) was opened against International Memorial after its volunteers organisedan expedition to Galyashor, in the Perm region, during the summer of 2019, toclean up a monument dedicated to the memory of Lithuanians and Poles persecutedduring the Soviet regime. Under Article 260,Memorial’s volunteers could face up to three years’ imprisonment. Lastmonth, the Ministry of Natural Resources of Perm fined Memorial International200,000 Rubles (approximately 2 850 Euros) and Mr. Latypov 50,000 Rubles(approximately 700 Euros) for “unauthorised occupation of forest plots”.

As Mr. Latypovwrote on his Facebook page, it is crystal clear that the case is politicallymotivated: the searches led by the Perm regional division of the FederalSecurity Service in a remote area of the Perm region to counteractdeforestation could not be explained otherwise. The searches are part of acampaign by the authorities to discredit memorialisation efforts and a broadercrackdown on NGOs.

Judicialharassment against human rights NGOs is growing in Russia. The Supreme Court ruled last Fridayin favour of the Justice Ministry lawsuit demanding the dissolution of the “ForHuman Rights” movement. And Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev, Head of the InternationalMemorial in the northern Republic of Karelia, is still arbitrarily detainedover false accusations”, recalled Alexandr Cherkasov, Chairman ofthe HRC Memorial.

The “For Human Rights” movement, led byMr. Lev Ponomarev, plans to appeal the Supreme Court’s ruling, which is basedon the movement’s suspected violation of the 2012 Foreign Agent Law, and submita petition to the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev, who has dedicated his life to locating anddocumenting the remains of victims of Stalinist repressions, has beenarbitrarily detained since December 2016 on fabricated sexual abuse charges. Iffound guilty, Mr. Dmitriyev faces from 12 to 20 years in prison.

Theauthorities’ thinly-veiled attempt to whitewash Soviet-era crimes causes NGOsto pay a heavy price for exercising their legitimate and peaceful memory andhuman rights activities. We call on the Russian authorities to unconditionallyrespect freedom of association and assembly and to put an end to any acts ofharassment, including at the judicial level, against all human rights NGOs anddefenders in the country”,concluded the Observatory.

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For furtherinformation, please contact:

· FIDH: Ms. EvaCanan (English, French), +33648059157 (Paris)

· OMCT: Ms.Iolanda Jaquemet +41 79 539 41 06 /Email: ij@omct.org; Mr. Miguel Martín (English, French,Spanish), +41 22 809 49 39 (Geneva / Brussels)

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The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (theObservatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation AgainstTorture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent orremedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCTare both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.

ADC Memorial defends the rights ofminorities and vulnerable groups in Eastern European and Central Asiancountries, including women, Roma, LGBTI people, migrant children and migrantworkers. Initially based in Saint Petersburg, Russia, it was forced to relocateto Brussels in 2014 after having been designated as a “foreign agent” as partof a wave of anti-democracy laws passed since 2012. The organization continuesits crucial work from abroad.

HRC Memorial is a self-governednon-commercial civil organization founded in 1991, whose members are united byhumanistic and moral principles and the aspiration to assist the defence ofhuman rights and the formation of people’s civil dignity. The HRC was createdand functions within the Memorial International Historical, Educational, Human Rights andCharitable Society. The Human RightsCenter’s mission is to promote general respect and observance of human rightsand fundamental freedoms both in the Russian Federation and in other states.

The Committee Against Torture (INGO-CAT) is aRussian non-governmental organisation. Established in 2000, it investigatesallegations of torture by state agents, provides victims of torture withmedical psychological support, and represents them at the national level andbefore the European Court of Human Rights in cases where domestic remedies areineffective. Based on its casework and research, it publishes information onsystemic obstacles to effective investigation and prosecution of torturein Russia.

Citizens’Watch is a human rights NGO initiated in 1992 by agroup of Russian human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, and deputies tothe Russian Parliament and to the St. Petersburg City Council. The goals wereto assist in establishing parliamentary and civic control over police, securityservice, and armed forces, and to help prevent violations of constitutionalrights by these governmental agencies.

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