Russia
28.01.20
Urgent Interventions

Judicial harassment of Mr. Svyatoslav Khromenkov and Ms. Natalya Varshney, respectively the Director and the psychologist of the NGO “Siberia without Torture”


URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

RUS 001 /0120 / OBS 005

Judicial harassment /

Seizure of electronic equipment

Russia
January 28
, 2020


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a jointpartnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requestsyour intervention in the following situation in Russia.

Descriptionof the situation:

The Observatory has been informed byPublic Verdict Foundation about the judicial harassment of Mr. SvyatoslavKhromenkov and Ms. Natalya Varshney, respectively the Director andthe psychologist of the NGO “Siberia without Torture”[1],based in Irkutsk, Russia.


According to the informationreceived, on December 12, 2019, law enforcement authorities broke down the doorof a flat belonging to Mr. Svyatoslav Khromenkov to conduct a search. Mr.Khromenkov was abroad at the time but his mother was present. After twelvehours the authorities left with three hard drives, three laptops and equipmentfor conducting live streams. They also confiscated a mobile phone and a sum ofmoney (approx. 2,800 Euro) belonging to Khromenkov’s mother, who was alsocharged under article 318 of the criminal code for using violence against apolice officer. Allegedly, she hit a policeman’s hand with a wicket gate.According to Mr. Khromenkov, who has a video of the incident, the policeman’scontact with the gate was purely accidental. Officials claimed that the searchwas connected to a fraud investigation against another person. However, Mr.Khromenkov has not been in contact with this person for five years. Theauthorities refused to present a written record of the search, as is required underRussian law. They also brought their own witnesses to attest the search,instead of asking neighbours or random people in the street, as is standardpractice.

Khromenkov claims that the searchwas led by investigator Alexander Kornev, who is the lead investigator on ahigh-profile case of torture by the Irkutsk police of a local resident MarinaRuzayeva. Svyatoslav Khromenkov has been very active defending the rights ofthe victim in this case jointly with the “Public Verdict Foundation”.

On December 17, 2019, lawenforcement authorities conducted a search in the flat of Ms. Varshney, Mr.Khromenkov’s spouse. The authorities again brought their own witnesses toattest the search.

The Russian authorities have notofficially notified Mr. Khromenkov nor Ms. Varshney about any charges againstthem but on January 17, 2020, Mr. Khromenkov’s mother claimed that according toinformation received directly from a police officer, a criminal case was openedagainst Mr. Khromenkov. The policeman, on condition of anonymity, told themother of the human rights defender that the authorities opened a criminal casecharging him with extremism.[2] At the time of publication of this UrgentAppeal, the items confiscated on December 12 remained under custody of the lawenforcement authorities.

The Observatory strongly condemns the harassment of Mr. Khromenkov and Ms. Varshney and fears these is areprisal from law enforcement authorities linked to the successful work of"Siberia without Torture" which has led to four police officers beingheld accountable for their actions in 2019 and to the ongoing work of theorganisation which was working on five cases involving nine additional policeofficers, including the case of Marina Ruzayeva. The searches, the criminalcase and the seizure of the laptops and other technical equipment as well astheir legal harassment seems to be only aimed at disrupting the work of “Siberia without Torture”.

The Observatory urges the Russianauthorities to return the items confiscated during the search on December 12,2019; to respect in all circumstances the freedom from unreasonable searchesand the freedom of association as enshrined in Articles 17 and 22 of theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and to ensure inall circumstances that human rights defenders are able to carry out theirlegitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.

Actionsrequested:

Please write to the authorities ofRussia asking them to:

i. Return the items confiscatedduring the search on December 12, 2019;

ii. Put an end to all forms ofharassment, including judicial harassment, against Ms. Varshneya and Mr.Khromenkov, as well as against his mother;

iii. Ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders andorganisations are able to carry out their legitimate activities without anyhindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Comply with all the provisionsof the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UNGeneral Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1 and 5;

v. Ensure in all circumstancesrespect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance withinternational human rights standards and international instruments ratified byRussia.

Addresses:

· Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495606 3602; + 7 495 625 3581

· Mr. Mikhail Mishustin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitteraccount: @GovernmentRF

· Mr. Sergueï Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the RussianFederation, Fax: + 7 495 644 2203

· Mr. Viktor Vasilievitch Ignatenko, Human Rights Ombudsman, Irkutskoblast', ombudsman38@mail.ru.

· Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations inGeneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 734 40 44, E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch

· Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 37426 13. E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch

· Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council ofEurope, France. Fax: (+33) (0) 3 88 24 19 74. Email: russia.coe@orange.fr

Please also write to the diplomaticrepresentations of Russia in your respective countries.

***

Geneva-Paris, January 28, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertakenquoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 bythe World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of thisprogramme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergencyline:

· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

· Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39/ +41 22 809 49 29

· Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 2518 / +33 1 43 55 18 80


[1] Siberia without Torture””has been cooperating with “PublicVerdict Foundation,” a human rights NGO based in Moscow, providing legalassistance to victims of torture. In particular, Mr. Khromenkov has representedMarina Ruzayeva, who in 2016 accused police of torturing her. The investigation into her complaint is ineffective.During a recent court hearing in the case, Khromenkov cross-examined one of theinvestigators in chargeof the investigation, Alexander Kornev. The same investigator led the search in Khromenkov’s flat on 1ecember 12, 2019.

[2] See:https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2019/12/12/v-kvartiru-k-irkutskomu-yuristu-kotoryy-vystupaet-zashchitnikom-v-dele-o

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