February 8, 2012
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.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the attack against Mr. Philipp Kostenko, a member of the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial”, also known for his participation in various protest actions to denounce notably corruption, electoral irregularities, abuse by the police, racism, etc. in Saint Petersburg.
According to the information received, on February 3, 2012, Mr. Philipp Kostenko was approached by two unidentified males while he was heading towards ADC Memorial’s offices, passing through a deserted park. After identifying him by calling his name, they pushed him to the ground and started beating him, particularly on his legs. Then, the assailants, who did not attempt to take his money or personal belongings, fled. Mr. Philipp Kostenko managed to return home by himself. There, an ambulance came to bring him to the hospital. Before the ambulance left, the police arrived and tried in vain to force Mr. Kostenko to sign a refusal to file a complaint.
After the beating, on the same day, Mr. Kostenko received an email from the address firstname.lastname@example.org on his personal account saying “well, does your leg hurt?” and threatening him in an obscene manner of worse acts of reprisal should he continue his activities. The Observatory recalls that Mr. Vassily Trifan, who is an officer at the Centre of Countering Extremism of Saint-Petersburg and the Leningrad region, had previously participated in the arrest and interrogation of Mr. Kostenko on June 17, 2011, conducted a search of his apartment and threatened him on November 3, 2010.
As a result of the beating, Mr. Philipp Kostenko was diagnosed with concussion and a knee injury and hospitalised.
The Observatory strongly condemns this assault, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning Mr. Philipp Kostenko’s human rights activities, all the more as Mr. Kostenko’s assault took place one day before peaceful protest demonstrations to denounce electoral irregularities and call for fair, free and independent electoral processes were planned to take place all over the Russian Federation and might therefore be an attempt to impede him from participating in such demonstrations.
Furthermore, according to a statement published on February 4, 2012 on the website of the Head Department of Police, the refusal to investigate the assault against Mr. Kostenko was under consideration because Mr. Philipp Kostenko had allegedly not filed a complaint and refused an ambulance. Only after ADC Memorial contradicted this information in a statement published on February 6, 2012, a police officer visited Mr. Kostenko in the hospital in the night between February 6 and 7 to interrogate him and file his complaint, i.e. three days after the assault.
It is the second attack against Mr. Philipp Kostenko in recent weeks. In the morning of January 31, 2012, he had already been beaten up by four unknown people who also took his picture.
The Observatory also recalls that on November 26, 2011 Mr. Kostenko had been arrested as he was picketing near the Embassy of Belarus to request the release of Mr. Ales Bialiatski, FIDH Vice-President and President of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” in Belarus, and, more generally, all political prisoners in the region. He was finally released during the night after eight to nine hours of detention.
On December 6, 2011, Mr. Kostenko was again arrested in Saint Petersburg on accusation of “disobeying the orders of the police officers” and of “refusal to put an end to his participation in the rally” following his participation in a peaceful demonstration to denounce electoral irregularities and called for fair, free and independent electoral processes following the elections results on December 4, 2011.
On December 7, he was sentenced to the maximum sentence of 15 days of administrative detention. On December 10, the appeal lodged by his lawyer was rejected. On December 22, the 153rd court department sentenced Mr. Kostenko to an additional 15 days of detention for “disorderly conduct” under Article 20.1.1 of the Criminal Code after he allegedly swore before police officers on October 16, 2011. This decision was handed out a few minutes before Mr. Kostenko’s expected release.
On January 4, 2012, the Vasileostrovsky District Court ordered the provisional release of Mr. Kostenko on “vandalism” charges under Article 214 p. 2 of Criminal Code of Russia for allegedly damaging an All-Russia People’s Front poster during the parliamentary electoral campaign in autumn 2011 in St. Petersburg. On January 5, 2012, upon his release from pre-trial detention, agents from the Centre of Countering Extremism of Saint-Petersburg threatened to “break his legs” if he continued protest actions. The charges remain pending.
Please write to the authorities of the Russian Federation, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Philipp Kostenko as well as of all members of ADC Memorial and all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation;
ii. Order a thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the above mentioned facts in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;
iii. Put an end to any act of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Philipp Kostenko as well as against all members of ADC Memorial and all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
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”,
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.
Mr. Dmitri Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, Ilinka Str, 23, Moscow, 103132, Moscow, Russian Federation, Faxes:+ 7 495 606 5173 / 630 2408
Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Rashid Nurgaliev, ul. Zhitnaya, 16, 117049 Moscow, Russian Federation, Telegram: Rossiia, 117049, Moskva, Fax: + 7 495 637 49 25
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Smolenskaya-Sennaya pl, 32/34, 121200 Moscow, Russian Federation, Telegram: Fax:+ 7 495 644 2203
Mr. Alexander Ivanovich Bastrykin, Chairman of the Investigations Committee of the Russian Federation, Building 28, house 15, Naberezhnaya Akademika Tupoleva, Moscow, 105005, Russia, Tel: + 7 495 640 10 48
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, E-mail : email@example.com, Fax: +4122 734 40 44
Ambassador Mr. Alexandra Romanov, Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, 66, avenue de Fre, Brussels,, 1180 Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 374 26 13. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of the Russian Federation in your respective country.