Russian Federation : Judicial harassment and media smear campaign against the NGO “Planet of Hopes” and its director Ms. Nadejda Kutepova

17/07/2015
Appel urgent

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the judicial harassment and media smear campaign against the NGO “Planet of Hopes” (Planeta Nadejd) and its director Ms. Nadejda Kutepova, Nuclear-Free Future award winner in 2011.

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

RUS 001 / 0615 / OBS 058
Judicial harassment / Sentencing
Russian Federation
July 17, 2015

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.

Description of the situation :

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the judicial harassment and media smear campaign against the NGO “Planet of Hopes” (Planeta Nadejd) and its director Ms. Nadejda Kutepova, Nuclear-Free Future award winner in 2011 [1]. Since 2000, "Planet of Hopes" has been defending the rights of victims of exposure to increased radiation and has been advocating for the review of the legal regime put in place under the Law "On Closed Administrative-Territorial Units" (CATU) [2]. Over the past 15 years, "Planet of Hopes" has provided legal aid to a number of high-profile cases, including the ones related to victims of the nuclear accident "Mayak" in 1957, victims of nuclear contamination of the Techa river and the one of a six-year old girl who passed away from cancer caused by extreme levels of radiation. The radiation was passed on to her genetically by her grandmother who took part in the clean-up works after the "Mayak" accident.

According to the information received, on May 26, 2015, the Ozersk City District Court (Chelyabinsk region) sentenced “Planet of Hopes” to pay a 300,000 roubles fine (4,760 Euros) for refusing voluntary registration as a "foreign agent".

Starting from the next day following the court ruling, a series of defamatory reports on national television groundlessly accused Ms. Kutepova of espionage and violated her right to privacy.

On May 27, 2015, the national TV channel Russia-1 broadcasted a defamatory report about the trial. The 5:26 minutes report on prime time TV news programme disclosed the NGO’s funding sources and accused Ms. Kutepova of industrial espionage in the city of Ozersk, where the nuclear waste reprocessing plant is located. The plant rendered Ozersk a "closed city" according to the law on CATU.

On June 24 and on July 1, 2015, another two defamatory reports were broadcast on the same TV channel. Their content resembled the May 27 report, yet the last one disclosed the address of Ms. Kutepova hereby infringing her right to private life. Following the defamatory reports, Ms. Kutepova filed a lawsuit.

The Observatory recalls that on April 15, 2015, the Ministry of Justice included the NGO "Planet of Hopes" into the "foreign agents" list. The NGO appealed the decision claiming the non-political nature of its activity and the violation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Funding from the US non-profit organization "National Endowment for Democracy" (NED - United States) and Women in Europe for a Common Future (Netherlands) as well as Ms. Kutepova’s interviews about violations of rights of victims of nuclear contamination in the Chelyabinsk region were cited by the Ministry as an official reason for recognizing "Planet of Hopes" as a "foreign agent". Ms. Kutepova has sufficient reasons to believe that she is being harassed and intimidated for her human rights work [3].

The Observatory furthermore emphasises that this is not the first time that "Planet of Hopes" is subject to harassment.

On May 20, 2014, Ms. Kutepova was summoned by a local police division, following instructions received from the Ozersk Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutor asked the local police division’s Economic Crimes Unit to verify Ms. Kutepova’s criminal record. Moreover, he also asked to pay special attention to the NGO’s office lease. According to the information received, the office leaseholder was also summoned to appear at the police station. Creating obstacles to civil society organisations for officially leasing an office is a common form of harassment in Russia.

The Observatory strongly denounces the judicial and media harassment targeting "Planet of Hopes" and its Head Ms. Nadejda Kutepova. It expresses its deepest concern regarding the restrictive legislative arsenal that Russia continues to complement aiming to silence all forms of criticism against the regime as well as all forms of human rights activities in the country, in contradiction with international human rights standards [4].

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 Ozersk city socio-environmental NGO “Planet of Hopes”, its head Ms. Nadejda Kutepova, as well as all environmental NGOs and 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. Publicly acknowledge and recognise the legitimacy of the human rights work carried out by Ms. Nadejda Kutepova, the NGO “Planet of Hopes“ and all human rights defenders and human rights defenders in the country ;

iii. Repeal the law on “undesirable foreign organisations”, the law on “foregin agents“, the Law on Non-commercial Organizations, the “Bloggers law” and other legislation contravening international human rights standards and put an end to the clampdown on freedom of association in the Russian Federation ;

iv. 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”,
- its Article 5, endowing everyone with the right to meet or assemble peacefully ; to form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations and groups ; and to communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
- 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” ;

v. 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 ;

vi. 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.

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

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Paris-Geneva, July 17, 2015

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