Russian Federation: Searches carried out in the premises of the Human Rights House of Voronezh

09/01/2013
Urgent Appeal
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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), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.

The Observatory has been informed about arbitrary searches carried out in the premises of the Human Rights House of Voronezh (where several human rights organisations have their offices) and in the apartment of Ms. Natalia Zvyagina, programme coordinator of Interregional Human Rights Group - Voronezh/Chernozem and regional representative of Transparency International Russia.

Description of the situation:

According to the information received, on December 19, 2012, police officers in plain clothes carried out searches in the Human Rights House of Voronezh, refusing to identify themselves or to show a search warrant. It was later reported that a single warrant had been issued for the whole building, without mentioning any specific office of an NGO, commercial organisation or political group out of those which are operating there.

The office raided was rented by the Free Labour Confederation in the Human Rights House of Voronezh, which unites a number of human rights organisations, including the secretariat of the International Youth Human Rights Movement, the Interregional Human Rights Group, the "EKOSOCIS" Foundation, Voronezh regional branch of Memorial and Golos, an NGO working on election monitoring, among others.

During the search, the police officers violently removed Ms. Victoria Gromova, Director of the “Youth Human Rights Movement” Foundation, from one of the offices, and confiscated the phone of another activist from the human rights news agency Article 20, Ms. Liubov Zakharova, while she was commenting on Twitter on the events. The police officers also locked a number of defenders in one of the rooms, and refused to allow an attorney in the building. They confiscated two hard drives, a personal laptop, a personal tablet, an e-book and two USB drives. None of this equipment has been handed back to the owners since then. Appeals have been launched before the Voronezh Court to denounce procedural violations that occurred during the searches.

Shortly before, the apartment of human rights defender Natalia Zvyagina had also been searched by officials from the Anti-Extremism Department from the Interior Ministry and by officers of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation from Moscow, in relation to a case opened at the federal level against three opposition members accused of “plotting mass disorder”1. Later on the same day, Ms. Natalia Zvyagina and some opposition members were taken to the Investigation Department of the Voronezh region for questioning, and then released under a nondisclosure agreement with regards to that case. On the same
day, Mr. Vladimir Markin, the official spokesperson of the Investigative Committee, declared that they were involved as witnesses in this case.
1
Such charges were brought against Messrs. Sergei Usaltsov, Leonid Razvozzhaev and Konstantin Lebedev under Article 30-1 and Article 212-1 of the Russian Criminal Code. All three are accused of having travelled to Minsk in June 2012 in order to negotiate with Georgian politician Givi Targamadze about the financing of the demonstrations staged on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on May 6, 2012. Currently, Messrs. Leonid Razvozzhaev and Konstantin Lebedev are in custody, whereas Mr. Sergei Udaltsov is under house arrest. All of them pleaded not guilty.
2
The Observatory strongly condemns these searches and acts of harassment, which take place in the context of general crackdown led by the authorities against civil society activists, including human rights defenders, amid an increasingly repressive legal arsenal aimed at stifling freedoms of association, assembly and expression in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russian Federation, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights
defenders in the Russian Federation;
ii. Put an end to any act of harassment, including judicial harassment, against 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;
iii. Immediately return all the items belonging to the defenders and organisations mentioned
above;
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 6 (b) and (c), which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in
association with others [...] as provided for in human rights and other applicable international
instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and
knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms and [...] to study, discuss, form
and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and
fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public
attention to those matters”,
- 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. Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Minister of the Interior, Ulitsa Zhitnaya, 16, 117049 Moscow,
Russian Federation, Telegram: Rossiia, 117049, Moskva, Fax: + 7 495 637 49 25
3
• Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Smolenskaya-Sennaya pl, 32/34, 121200
Moscow, Russian Federation, Telegram: Fax:+ 7 495 644 2203
• Mr. Vladimir Lukin, Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, Tel: +7 495 607-19-22 / 607-
34-67, E-mail: press-sl@ropnet.ru
• Mr. Mikhail Fedotov, Head of the Council under the President for development of civil
society and human rights, Tel: +7 495 606-41-84,Fax: +7 495 606-48-55; E-mail: president-
sovet@mail.ru; fedotov_MA@gov.ru
• 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 : mission.russian@vtxnet.ch, Fax: +41 22 734 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:
amrusbel@skynet.be
• Ambassador Mr. Alexander Alekseev, Permanent Representation of the Russian
Federation to the Council of Europe, 75, allee de la Robertsau, 67000 Strasbourg, Fax: (+33)
(0) 3 88 24 19 74, representationpermderussie@wanadoo.fr
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of the Russian Federation in your
respective country.

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