Russian Federation: Prolonged arbitrary detention of environmental rights activist Mr. Evgeny Vitishko

02/12/2015
Urgent Appeal
Credit : Creative Commons

New information
RUS 001 / 0214 / OBS 014.1
Arbitrary detention / Judicial harassment
Russia
December 2, 2015

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the prolonged arbitrary detention of environmental rights activist Mr. Evgeny Vitishko, member of the Environmental Watch on North Caucasus (EWNC) [1].

According to the information received, on November 20, 2015, the Tambov Regional Prosecutor’s office challenged the decision of the Kirsanov Court of the Tambor Region, issued on November 10, to commute the sentence of Mr. Vitishko into an early conditional release ten days after.

The Kirsanov Court decision aimed to replace Mr. Vitishko’s remaining prison term with a more lenient form of punishment, releasing him from prison but maintaining restrictions on his freedom of movement, as he was set to remain at his place of permanent residence until the end of his sentence (scheduled for February 2017).

By challenging this Court decision, the Prosecutor’s office therefore prevented Mr. Vitishko’s early release just before it was to happen.

On December 3, 2015, the Court of Appeals will consider the appeal of the Prosecutor’s office. Mr. Vitishko is set to remain in detention until that date.

On November 24, 2015, to protest against his continuous detention, Mr. Vitishko started a hunger strike, and filed an official statement denouncing the Prosecutor’s office non compliance with Russian Laws on correctional facilities. As Mr. Vitishko’s lawyer Sergey Loktev confirmed, the Tambor Court’s decision should have come into force, and his client should have been released on November 21. In addition, although Mr. Vitishko announced his hunger strike, he was reportedly sent to hard labour and forced to complete difficult tasks such as loading and unloading operations, as well as harvesting cabbage in snowed fields.

The Observatory strongly condemns the continuous judicial harassment of Mr. Vitishko, and calls on the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him and drop all charges against him as he is targeted solely for his legitimate human rights activities.

Background information:

Mr. Vitishko was arrested on February 3, 2014, one day before the Olympic Torch was due to arrive in Sochi. The arrest took place while he was going out of the building of the Tuapse Criminal Executive Inspection (UFSIN), where Mr. Vitishko had to report regularly after his sentencing to a suspended term of prison in June 2012. He was also subjected to other travel restrictions, such as not being allowed to leave Tuapse District. When he reported to UFSIN, Mr. Vitishko informed the authorities that he intended to travel to Sochi. Shortly after, Mr. Vitishko was arrested for “theft” and then “swearing at a bus stop”. Though no evidence was brought in, Mr. Vitishko was sentenced for “hooliganism” the same day to 15 days in administrative detention. It is believed that these trumped-up charges were brought by the police in order to prevent Mr. Vitishko from carrying out protest actions in Sochi.

On February 12, 2014, Judge Andrey Konnov of the Krasnodar Regional Court upheld in appeal the decision of the Tuapse District Court, which, on December 20, 2013, had decided to enact a suspended sentence against Mr. Evgeny Vitishko. The latter decision stated that the activist had violated a curfew imposed on him in connection with his conditional three-year prison sentence. The original sentence dates from June 20, 2012, when the Tuapse District Court sentenced Mr. Vitishko to three years in custody with two-year probation for “wilful destruction or damage of property” (Article 167 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

Mr. Vitishko had attended the appeal hearing only through video conference, as on February 12, 2014, he was already serving a 15-day administrative detention sentence for “hooliganism”.

On February 18, 2014, Mr. Evgeny Vitishko was transferred to the pre-trial detention facility (SIZO) No. 1 of the City of Krasnodar, pending his transfer to a penal colony to serve his three-year prison sentence.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of the Russian Federation, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Evgeny Vitishko as well as of all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Evgeny Vitishko and drop all charges against him;

iii. Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Evgeny Vitishko, as well as against all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation,

iv. Comply with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, especially:
- its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,
- its Article 5, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels (a) to meet or assemble peacefully”;
- and Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v. Comply with the provisions of the Declaration of the Committee of Ministers of the Council
of Europe on the protection of human rights defenders and the promotion of their activities,
and in particular With Article 2.i), in which the Committee calls on member States to “create
an environment conducive to the work of human rights defenders, enabling individuals, groups and associations to freely carry out activities, on a legal basis, consistent with international standards, to promote and strive for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms without any restrictions other than those authorised by the European
Convention on Human Rights;

vi. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by the Russian Federation.

Addresses:

Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Ilinka Str, 23, Moscow, 103132, Moscow, Russian Federation. Faxes : + 7 495 606 5173 / 630 2408
Mr. Yurii Ya. Chaika, Prosecutor General, 15 A, Bolshaia Dmitrovka 125993 Moscow, Russian Federation. Fax : +7 495 692 17 25, Email : prgenproc@gov.ru
Mr. Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Minister of the Interior, Ulitsa Zhitnaya, 16, 117049 Moscow, Russian Federation. Fax : + 7 495 637 49 25
Mr. Alexander Konovalov, Minister of Justice, 14, ul. Zhitnaya, 119991 Moscow, Russian Federation. Fax : +7 495 955 59 99. Electronic appeals via website : http://minjust.ru/electronic-appeal/email
Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Smolenskaya-Sennaya pl, 32/34, 121200 Moscow, Russian Federation. Fax : + 7 495 644 2203
Ms. Ella Pamfilova, Ombudsman of the Russian Federation. E-mail: press-sl@ropnet.ru
Mr. Mikhail Fedotov, Head of the Council under the President for development of civil society and human rights. Fax : +7 495 606-48-55. E-mail: president-sovet@mail.ru, fedotov_MA@gov.ru
H.E. Mr. Alexey Borodavkin, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Avenue de la Paix 15, CH-1211, Geneva 20, Switzerland. Fax : +41 22 734 40 44, E-mail : mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
Ambassador Alexander Romanov, Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, 66, avenue de Fre, Brussels, 1180 Brussels, Belgium. Fax : +32 2 374 26 13. E-mail : amrusbel@skynet.be
Ambassador Alexander Alekseev, Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, 75, allee de la Robertsau, 67000 Strasbourg, France. Fax : (+33) (0) 3 88 24 19 74. Email : representationpermderussie@wanadoo.fr

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of the Russian Federation in your respective country.

Paris-Geneva, December 2, 2015

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

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
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