Russia: judicial harassment of women arrested during peaceful demonstration on March 8

Press release
en ru
Photo: courtesy of David Frenkel

Paris-Saint-Petersbourg. FIDH and its member organisation Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) Memorial denounce arrests of women who came out in Saint Petersburg on International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017 for an impromptu demonstration (or walk) to support the fight of women all over the world for their rights. Some women brought signs protesting against domestic violence and calling for the protection of women’s reproductive rights and gender equality in the socio-economic and political spheres. Police officers stated that “women with feminist views” were violating the procedures for holding an event and started detaining people who brought signs, people who were singing songs, and people who tried to hold onto one another in solidarity with those detained. A total of 14 people were arrested; the majority (at least 10) were accused of violating the rules for holding events (Article 20.2) and with failing to obey the orders of police officers (Article 19.3). Those charges are generally lodged against peaceful demonstrators detained in Russia.

The participants of the walk were officially accused that they “chanted the slogans “Freedom, Equality, Sisterhood,” “Russia will be Free,” with the goal of expressing their opinion and shaping the opinion of the people around and listened to and participated in discussions about the issue of equality of women in society, i.e. participated in holding a meeting that was not coordinated with the Committee for Law, Public Order, and Security of Saint Petersburg”.

Several of the women detained were wounded by the police officers’ actions – one reported that she suffered two injuries (contusions) as a result of the harsh treatment, and another two had to urgently address to a doctor because of health problems (trouble breathing, panic attack). The detained women were held for an inordinately long time in police cars and then in a room that lacked sufficient seating (some stood or lay on the floor until the evening).

The police department chief (OP 78) told two of the detainees (a man and a woman), that they could also be charged under an article of the Criminal Code (Article 318 of the RF Criminal Code, violence against a police officer), even though according to the witnesses there were no grounds for this accusation against them.

The protesters were released on the evening of March 8. People who came to support them were repeatedly chased out of the precinct, and OMON officers and Russian Guards troops used physical force to disperse the group of supporters. Trials are expected to take place later, but no official notice of the date was announced yet.

“Meanwhile, as the country’s leaders hypocritically congratulated women in the media, those who protested against discrimination were detained, beaten, and falsely accused of violating the Administrative Code”

head of ADC Memorial Stephania Kulaeva.

FIDH and ADC Memorial deplore the break-up of this peaceful demonstration to protect women’s rights and the use of physical force against people who went for a peaceful walk on the internationally recognised day of women’s rights to draw attention to gender inequality, femicide, and the violation of women’s economic rights.

“The rights of women – including the right to state one’s opinion and protect one’s rights – must be fully observed. Women’s rights cannot serve as a decorative screen (covered in flowers) to conceal violence and the abuse of power”

FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.
Read more