Russian Federation: lawsuit filed against the renowned Historical, Educational, Human Rights and Charitable Society “Memorial” (Society “Memorial”)

17/10/2014
Urgent Appeal
en ru

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

RUS 003 / 1014 / OBS 080
Slandering / Judicial harassment
Russian Federation
October 17, 2014

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.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about a lawsuit filed against the renowned Historical, Educational, Human Rights and Charitable Society “Memorial” (Society “Memorial”), of which the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Memorial” is a member.

According to the information received, on September 24, 2014, a lawsuit was filed before the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation by the Ministry of Justice. The news were revealed by the media on October 10, 2014. In its complaint, the Ministry requests the closure of the Society “Memorial”, citing “infringements” in its organisational structure.

Since its foundation, the Society “Memorial” has consisted in a number of independent NGOs, united within the society. The Ministry of Justice requests the closure of the Society, for failing to have a clear vertical structure, with headquarters and departments in other regions.

Ironically, the first hearing in this case has been set for November 13, 2014, a few days before a Conference of members of the Society “Memorial” planned for November 19, 2014, which was notified to the Ministry of Justice, and was precisely aimed at determining what changes shall be brought to the organisational structure of the society, so as to conform with new Russian laws.

The Observatory considers the lawsuit of the Ministry of Justice as a clear attempt to harass the Society “Memorial”, and expeditiously lead to its closure.

The Observatory is all the more concerned that a slandering media campaign is currently being waged against the HRC “Memorial”, which is a member of the Society. Notably, on October 10, 2014, the Gazprom-owned NTV channel broadcast a video defaming the HRC “Memorial”, using images shot on September 26, 2014, when human rights defenders from the HRC were visiting the village of Vremennyi, Dagestan, blocked by the military and whose residents were arbitrarily detained. The human rights experts were there to inspect the abuses of the military, but were not allowed to enter the village.

NTV entirely distorted the images, claiming that “Memorial” and its partners were “openly supporting extremists and terrorists”. Moreover, the channel stated that the latter were receiving foreign funding for these activities and stressed that the HRC “Memorial” had already been included in the list of “foreign agents”. NTV also suggested that these activities were the reason why the Ministry of Justice asked the Supreme Court to close the HRC “Memorial”, while in reality the Ministry of Justice filed its lawsuit against the Historical, Educational, Human Rights And Charitable Society “Memorial”, which is a different organisation from the HRC.

The Observatory deplores that these groundless accusations are solely meant to discredit and undermine the work of renowned human rights defenders and the entire prominent network “Memorial”, which, since 1992, has done tremendous work of recording the situation under the Soviet Union, and monitoring current human rights issues in the Russian Federation and other post-Soviet countries.

Actions requested:

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

i. Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against the Historical, Educational, Human Rights and Charitable Society “Memorial”, the Human Rights Centre “Memorial”, their members, as well as 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;

ii. 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 realization 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”;

iii. 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 authorized by the European Convention on Human Rights;

iv. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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, October 17, 2014

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

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 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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