Russia: Assault to the office of International Memorial in Moscow

20/10/2021
Urgent Appeal
Credit: Daria Krotova

RUS 006 / 1021 / OBS 106
NGO assault /
Harassment /
Obstacles to freedom of association /
Obstacles to freedom of expression
Russian Federation
October 20, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the attack of the office of the non-governmental organisations International Memorial [1] in Moscow.

On October 14, 2021, around 7.30 pm, a group of over a dozen unknown attackers equipped with video cameras burst into the offices of International Memorial and Human Rights Center “Memorial” [2], interrupting International Memorial’s screening of the film“Mr. Jones”, about a Welsh journalist who reported the Stalin-era mass famine in Ukraine in the early 1930s known as Holodomor. The screening at Memorials’ office, which had started at 7pm, was organised jointly with the Polish Cultural Centre in Moscow and was coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation by the Polish Cultural Centre. The attackers shouted slogans such as "Shame" and "Down with fascism", forcing the interruption of the screening. The staff of International Memorial called the police, but most of the attackers had left before the police arrived. Yet a few were prevented from leaving by Memorial staff.

When the police later arrived,they said that the event was “unauthorised” and did not meet safety standards. Instead of searching for the attackers, the police reportedly allowed the rest of the men who had stormed the Memorial’s offices to leave without being questioned. They further started to gather information about the attendees of the screening and International Memorial’s staff, and handcuffed the entrance doors of Memorial’s office, locking in everyone inside for several hours. Any attempts to leave the premises were prevented by the police, including by physical force. All the staff and attendees were required to fill out a form, including detailed personal data and information about possible criminal records. Until midnight, Memorial’s lawyer who had a warrant was not allowed to enter the office. The police also dismantled the office’s fire alarm system and took away a video recording device. International Memorial subsequently lodged a complaint to the police.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time that the Memorial movement has faced acts of harassment and obstacles to its work, including through fines and searches of their premises across the country. Several human rights defenders from the Memorial movement have been imprisoned on politically motivated charges, including Oyub Titiev, head of Human Rights Center Memorial’s office in Chechnya and Yury Dmitriyev, head of Karelian branch of International Memorial. Furthermore, since 2013, Russian authorities labelled some member organisations of the Memorial movement as “foreign agents”, including both International Memorial and the Human Rights Center.

The Observatory strongly condemns the above-mentioned attack on International Memorial and calls on the Russian authorities to carry out an immediate, fair, impartial and independent investigation in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal and sanction them as provided by the law.

The Observatory reminds the Russian authorities that the obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, encompassed in the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which were ratified by Russia, include the positive obligations to exercise due diligence in preventing attacks on freedoms of expression and assembly by private individuals, and to effectively investigate such acts.

The Observatory further urges the Russian authorities to ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders in the country are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals and to guarantee the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russia, urging them to:

i. Put an end to all acts of harassment against International Memorial in Moscow as well as against all human rights organisations and defenders in Russia, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

ii. Carry out an immediate, fair, impartial and independent investigation into the above-mentioned events, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal and sanction them as provided by the law;

iii. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression, of freedom of assembly and of freedom of association, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Addresses:

· Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @KremlinRussia_E
· Mr. Mikhail Mishustin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter:@GovernmentRF
· Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, E-mail: ministry@mid.ru
· Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, Email: pressa@genproc.gov.ru
· Mr. Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Federal Security Service (FSS), Email: fsb@fsb.ru
· Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
· Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
· Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Email: russia.coe@orange.fr

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Russian Federation in your respective countries.

***
Geneva-Paris, October 20, 2021

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

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel. OMCT: +41 (0) 22 809 49 39
· Tel. FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18

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