EU-Russia Summit must address Human Rights

Press release
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Paris-Brussels, 24 January 2014

Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission
Mr. Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council
Ms Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs

Open Letter: The EU-Russia Summit must address Human Rights

In two weeks time, the world will have its eyes on Russia for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. At the door of the Caucasus, this part of Russia is most caught up in arbitrariness and violence. At the occasion of the EU-Russia summit on the 28th of January, the EU must denounce the human rights violations committed in Russia and in the EU neighbouring countries where Russia’s influence is decisive. The EU should express its utmost concern on:

The repressive laws adopted since Vladimir Putin’s return for a third presidential term in May 2012. These include the law on demonstrations that strangles public dissent, the law on foreign funding for non-commercial organisations that seriously hinder NGOs’ human rights activities, the libel and slander law, the Internet censorship law, the treason law and the “Anti-Magnitsky” law that all impede freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to be informed and to take part in public affairs. Finally, the law on “propaganda of homosexuality” is discriminatory, criminalises individuals and threatens the work of activists and NGOs. All these laws drastically reduce the space for civil society. Russia must be asked to repeal them and to put its legislation in conformity with its international obligation.

The repressive practices: the targeted repression of social activists, journalists and human rights defenders, reflects a general perversion of the administration of justice in Russia as well as the prevailing impunity of law-enforcement bodies. Dozens of independent NGOs face judicial harassment, some are forced to close. Russia should be called upon to ensure freedom of association, rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary.

The issue of political prisoners: on 12 December 2013 Mr Putin introduced an amnesty that allowed the release of some political prisoners. While welcoming the release of the Pussy Riot activists and of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, it has to be noted that they were amnestied just a few months ahead of their scheduled releases, and that dozens of other political prisoners, less internationally known, remain in jail, victims of unfair trial. Russia should be requested to release them.

The issue of human rights violations against migrants: they are systematically stigmatised and exploited, following an openly discriminatory discourse by the authorities and migration-related legislation and practices. The price of this approach is high: ethnically motivated attacks cause numerous victims. Barbaric pogroms like the one in Birulovo in late 2013 have been banalised.

The situation in Ukraine, where Russia’s influence is decisive, and where reportedly protesters were killed and hundreds have been injured in clashes with the special police forces Berkut and Omega. Russia should join the EU’s condemnation of this disproportionate use of force. The support given by Russia to the restrictive laws adopted in Ukraine on 17 January 2014 should be challenged. These laws, largely copied from the repressive laws adopted in Russia, have fueled an escalating violence.

Sincerely yours,

Karim Lahidji
FIDH President

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