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Russia
14.06.22
Urgent Interventions

Russia: Human rights organisation CAT-Russia designated as a foreign agent

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

RUS 008 / 0622 / OBS 044
Harassment /
Obstacles to freedom of association /
Russian Federation
June 14, 2022

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the designation of the Committee Against Torture -Russia (CAT Russia) as a foreign agent. CAT-Russia is a prominent and one of the oldes anti-torture human rights organisation in the country and a member of the OMCT SOS-Torture network. Among other things, CAT Russia helps victims of torture through efforts to further accountability, particularly in places like Chechnya. The organisation provides assistance to victims of torture and conducts independent investigation of torture cases. Since its creation, the organisation has received 3178 complaints, won 78 cases in European Court of Human Rights and contributed to verdicts to 159 perpetrators of torture.

On June 10, 2022, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation designated CAT-Russia as a non-registered foreign agent organisation under the “Foreign Agent” Law. On June 11, 2022, the human rights organisation announced its liquidation due to the impossibility to continue carrying out its human rights work in a safe manner under the label of “foreign agent”.

The Observatory recalls that it is not the first time that the Committee Against Torture faces harassment and obstacles to its rights to defend human rights and to freedom of association. In January 2015, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation listed CAT-Russia as a “foreign agent.” The organisation continued its activities under a new name, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, which was again declared as a “foreign agent” in January 2016. Since August 2016, the anti-torture organisation had been operating under its initial name without forming a legal entity.

The Observatory further recalls that the harassment against CAT-Russia takes place in the context of an increased crackdown on the Russian civil society and is the latest example of the systematisation of the abusive use of the "Foreign Agent” Law to hinder the work of organisations and individual defending human rights in the country. In late December 2021, International Memorial and the Human Rights Center “Memorial” (HRC Memorial), the latter member of FIDH, were both liquidated by court orders for alleged violations of the “Foreign Agent” Law. In September 2021, the independent human rights media project OVD-Info was declared a “foreign agent” and its website was blocked in January 2022.

The Observatory expresses its concern over the ongoing targeting of CAT-Russia as well as over the crackdown on all independent human rights organisations in Russia and urges the authorities to guarantee, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, as enshrined in international human rights law, and particularly in Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Observatory calls on the authorities to immediately repeal the decision to designate CAT-Russia as a “foreign agent” and to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against CAT-Russia as well as against all human rights organisations in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russia, urging them to:

i. Immediately repeal the designation of the CAT-Russia as a “foreign agent”;

ii. Put an immediate end to all act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against the CAT-Russia, their members, as well as against all human rights organisations and defenders in Russia, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iii. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, as enshrined in international human rights law, and particularly in Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @KremlinRussia_E
  • Mr. Mikhail Mishustin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter:@GovernmentRF
  • Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, E-mail: ministry@mid.ru
  • Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, Email: pressa@genproc.gov.ru
  • Mr. Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Federal Security Service (FSS), Email: fsb@fsb.ru
  • Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
  • Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
  • Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Email: russia.coe@orange.fr

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Russian Federation in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, June 14, 2022

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

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
  • Tel. FIDH: +33 1 43 55 25 18
  • Tel. OMCT: +41 22 809 49 39
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