Russia: The UN reviews dramatic crackdown on civil and political rights in Russia

Press release
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Today and tomorrow, the UN Human Rights Committee will review the state of civil and political rights in Russia, where the situation has dramatically deteriorated over the past year.

The annexation of Crimea by Russia and the ensuing military conflict in southeastern Ukraine have shaped the present civic and political climate in Russia, leading to an increase in the already massive harassment and repression of activists and human rights organisations in the country. The UN’s review of the situation in Russia in the context of the 113th session of the UN Human Rights Committee on March 17, 2015 presents a key opportunity to address the ongoing crackdown on rights in the country.

In recent months, the Russian authorities have shown their determination to intimidate dissident voices notably by putting a repressive legal framework in place that has tightened the government’s grip on fundamental freedoms.

Protests against the war in Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimean territory have been violently and repeatedly repressed. In this context, the assassination of political opposition figure Boris Nemtsov on February 28, 2015, just before he was to publish a report on the war in Ukraine, indicates the extent to which access to information and freedom of expression are under threat. Russian authorities should ensure a transparent and just investigation of Boris Nemtsov’s death. Evidence that points to the use of torture on the suspects arrested in the course of the investigation into Nemtsov’s murder should be thoroughly and promptly examined.

The NGO law adopted in 2012 has hindered the activity of many Human rights organisations, forcing them to shut down or face harassment and persecution at the hands of the authorities. Over 40 organisations have been registered as "foreign agents", an indication that their activities are considered to be a threat to the nation.
Moreover, according to a new law adopted in 2014, those who have been charged with a misdemeanor for participating in unauthorised protests more than twice in 180 days will be criminally prosecuted. Vladimir Ionov and Mark Galperin were the first civil activists to be condemned under this law.

Vulnerable groups are increasingly under the threat of violence and minorities’ rights are blatantly violated. The anti-LGBTI law of 2013 legalizes homophobia and fosters acts of violence against members of the LGTBI community.

In parallel, those who instigate violence, such as those who attack stores and cars owned by migrants, or those who injure individuals and destroy their property, do not face prosecution for hooliganism nor for hate-crimes.

According to a law adopted in 2014, Russians with dual citizenship or who have been granted permanent residence in another country were required to report this fact to the Federal Migration Service before October 4, 2014. The same requirement applies to parents of children who, by birth, are citizens of two or more countries. Failure to report this information entails a criminal penalty. Having dual citizenship in itself causes no harm and poses no threat, therefore the criminalization of this status has no logical basis. At the same time, the law makes it possible to stigmatize those who are deemed “potentially disloyal” to Russia and can be used as the basis for repressive measures against them at any time.

Foreign citizens and stateless persons kept in pre-deportation centres (while deportation is impossible for stateless persons) suffer from inhumane detention conditions. They also lack periodic judicial supervision of their detention conditions and access to legal assistance. The same situation applies to Ukrainian refugees despite public statements made by high-level officials and claims that simplified procedures have been put in place.

The situation of minorities is also a subject of concern. A State plan aiming at developing the social and economic situation of Roma in Russia has been suspended after the liquidation of the Ministry of Regional Development.

Roma refugees from Eastern Ukraine often face discrimination in Russia. Most of them have not followed the procedures granting them refugee or temporary asylum status, which would give them the right to remain in Russia for more than 90 days. Their migration cards therefore expire, putting them at constant risk of being detained, fined and deported, with a ban on re-entry into Russia for up to ten years. An clear majority of Roma from Ukraine live in extreme poverty and require assistance in order to obtain food and daily necessities, including clothing and adequate housing. Their lack of legal status makes these basic things inaccessible to them.

Crimean Tatars face daily harassment and violent attacks, are prohibited from peacefully demonstrating and are denied property rights. Many cases of forced disappearance have also been reported.

ADC Memorial, with the support of FIDH, submitted a report to remind the UNHRC of the on-going violations of human rights in Russia and request that the Human Rights Committee share their concerns and endorses their recommendations.

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