CSO of the Week: Team 29 has disbanded

This week Team 29, an association of human rights lawyers, journalists and activists headed by prominent St. Petersburg lawyer Ivan Pavlov, disbanded. This followed news last week that (on 16 July) the group’s website had been blocked at the request of prosecutors. The authorities accused the group of disseminating content from a Czech non-governmental organisation, Společnost Svobody Informace, that they have recently declared ‘undesirable.’ Ivan Pavlov has been under criminal investigation since April 2021, when he was accused of “disclosure of the data of a preliminary investigation” relating to one of his clients, former journalist Ivan Safronov. On 19 July a court rejected Ivan Pavlov’s appeal and left the pre-trial restrictions imposed on Pavlov.


RFE/RL, 18 July 2021: An association of Russian human rights lawyers linked to jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny’s group says it has suspended its work to protect its members and supporters from criminal prosecution amid a government pressure campaign. Komanda 29 announced on July 18 that it was liquidating, the latest independent civil-society organization to fold under new, repressive “foreign agent” laws. Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking to quash growing opposition to his two-decade-long tenure running the country, including four years as prime minister, with draconian laws that make it all but impossible for opposition groups to function.

The Moscow Times, 18 July 2021: A Russian legal group that recently defended the organizations of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny said on Sunday it was disbanding over fears of criminal sanctions. Team 29 said its website had been blocked after a request from prosecutors, who accuse the group of links with a Czech organization that has been deemed “undesirable.”

The Guardian, 19 July 2021: A rights group in Russia has announced it is shutting down, citing fears its members and supporters may be prosecuted after authorities blocked its website for allegedly publishing content from an “undesirable” organisation. Team 29 – an association of lawyers and journalists specialising in treason and espionage cases and freedom of information issues – said on Sunday that Russian authorities accused it of spreading content from a Czech non-governmental organisation that had been declared “undesirable” in Russia. The group’s website was blocked on Friday, even though it rejected the accusations, and its lawyers said they believed the government’s next step could be to prosecute members and supporters.

Human Rights Watch, 19 July 2021: On July 18, Team 29, a leading association of Russian human rights lawyers, announced it was shutting down because its members, clients, and supporters faced imminent risk of prosecution. Several days earlier, the state media and communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, blocked the group’s website on orders of the Prosecutor General’s Office. Team 29’s said the prosecutor’s office had falsely equated their group with a Czech freedom of information organization, Společnost Svobody Informace, recently banned in Russia as “undesirable.”   

Front Line Defenders, 21 July 2021: On 19 July 2021, the Moscow City Court rejected Ivan Pavlov’s lawyer’s appeal and left the restriction measures against the human rights lawyer unchanged. Ivan Pavlov has been under criminal investigation since April 2021, when he was accused of “disclosure of the data of a preliminary investigation” relating to one of his clients, former journalist Ivan Safronov. On 16 July 2021 Roskomnadzor blocked the website of the human rights lawyer’s organisation, Team 29, based on a request from the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation. According to the notification of the Prosecutor General’s Office, they identified Team 29 with an NGO called Společnost Svobody Informace registered in the Czech Republic, which is included in the list of undesirable organizations. Based on this, the Team 29 members were forced to suspend the work of the organisation in order to protect its team who may be targeted because of the connection with the  “undesirable” organization.

The Moscow Times, 23 July 2021: Jailed former journalist Ivan Safronov has said he will not make a plea bargain with Russian authorities over what he argues is an unfounded investigation into treason. Safronov’s lawyers said last month that investigators had pressured him to take a plea deal in exchange for a phone call to his mother on her birthday, an offer the ex-journalist rejected.

RFE/RL, 23 July 2021: Jailed former Russian journalist Ivan Safronov, who is charged with high treason, has slammed state authorities, including the judiciary, for their treatment of suspects and methods used in investigating espionage amid a wave of cases aimed at muzzling dissent.

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