13 November 2022
Simon is chair of Rights in Russia but writes these comments in a personal capacity and they may not necessarily represent the views of the organisation
This week new OVD-Info‘s review of the week focused on new trumped-up charges laid against prisoner of conscience Aleksei Navalny concerning incitement and financing of terrorism and extremism and rehabilitation of Nazism; the deportation of a Tiktoker from Russia for a post that joked about the military; and the first criminal prosecution for repeated violation of the law banning display of Nazi symbols. Meanwhile, Amnesty International published a report arguing that Russia’s unlawful transfer of civilians is a war crime and likely a crime against humanity and Human Rights House Foundation highlighted the human rights situation in Crimea and the plight of Ukrainians who have fled areas of their country occupied by Russian forces.
OVD-Info reported that TikToker Nekoglai, a Moldovan national, was found guilty of violating the rules of his stay in Russia and deported after posting a video parodying a Russian military officer in which a recent incident was depicted showing a Russian soldier allegedly throwing away from himself a grenade dropped by a Ukrainian drone.
In this way the authorities try to force people who live in this country but are not its citizens to refrain from activism or expressing their opinions on political issues – even in a humorous way.OVD-Info
OVD-Info also reported that new criminal charges have been laid against Aleksei Navalny for alleged incitement of terrorism and extremist activity, the financing of such activity and the rehabilitation of Nazism on the internet.
The prosecution of Aleksei Navalny seems never-ending: the politician is facing more and more charges. According to his lawyers’ estimates, he could spend up to 30 years in prison because of the latest criminal case. The authorities clearly have no intention of letting him walk free. And all this is done in order to isolate their political rival by any means. They also continue to put pressure on him in prison, sending him repeatedly to a punishment cell.OVD-Info
A 42-year-old man, OVD-Info reported, is being criminally prosecuted for repeated propaganda or display of Nazi symbols for a Nazi-style tattoo in a public place. He had previously been prosecuted several times under a similar article of the Code of Administrative Offences. The SOVA Centre for Information and Analysis notes that this is the first case they are aware of under this criminal article.
Having a tattoo with Nazi symbols is not an offence, though there is nothing good about it. However, displaying such symbols can lead to administrative, and now to criminal liability.OVD-Info
Russia’s War against Ukraine
Amnesty International published a report arguing that Russia’s unlawful transfer of civilians is a war crime and likely a crime against humanity. The report, “Like a Prison Convoy”: Russia’s Unlawful Transfer of Civilians in Ukraine and Abuses During ‘Filtration’, ‘details how Russian and Russian-controlled forces forcibly transferred civilians from occupied Ukraine further into Russian-controlled areas or into Russia. Children have been separated from their families during the process, in violation of international humanitarian law.’
Separating children from their families and forcing people hundreds of kilometres from their homes are further proof of the severe suffering Russia’s invasion has inflicted on Ukraine’s civilians. Since the start of their war of aggression against Ukraine, itself an international crime, Russian forces have indiscriminately attacked and unlawfully killed civilians, destroyed countless lives, and torn families apart. No one has been spared, not even children. Russia’s deplorable tactic of forcible transfer and deportation is a war crime. Amnesty International believes this must be investigated as a crime against humanity. All those forcibly transferred and still unlawfully detained must be allowed to leave, and everyone responsible for committing these crimes must be held accountable. Children in Russian custody must be reunited with their families, and their return to Ukrainian government-controlled areas must be facilitated.said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General
Amnesty International also published a petition stating that Russia is committing war crimes, and likely crimes against humanity, through the forcible transfer and deportation of civilians from Ukraine, and setting out three demands to the Russian authorities, and above all that Russia immediately stops the forcible transfer of civilians from Ukraine. The organisation said that as people leave their homeplaces, they are forced to undergo an invasive screening process called filtration that involves being interrogated and searched, and many are detained and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment which is a war crime against civilians.
We demand that: * Russian and Russian-controlled forces must immediately stop the forcible transfer of all civilians from Ukraine to Russia or other occupied areas of Ukraine; * Russian and Russian-controlled forces must immediately end the abusive process known as ‘filtration’ and release all those who are being held unlawfully in detention; * Russia should facilitate the safe evacuation of civilians from Ukraine directly to government-held parts of Ukraine if that is their choice and ensure that mechanisms are in place to help the most at-risk members of the population, including children, older people and people with disabilities, to leave Russia or Russian-occupied areas and to reunite with their families.Amnesty International
On 8 November 2022, Human Rights House Foundation co-organised a side event at the 77th UN General Assembly focused on the human rights situation in occupied Crimea following the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. The panel, consisting of Tetiana Pechonchyk, Human Rights Centre ZMINA / Human RightsHouse Crimea / Ukraine 5AM Coalition, Olga Skrypnyk, Crimean Human Rights Group / Human Rights House Crimea / Ukraine 5AM Coalition and Dr Rory Finnin, Professor of Ukrainian Studies, Cambridge University, with opening remarks by H.E. Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, and moderated by Dave Elseroad of Human Rights House Foundation focused on two main issues: 1) What are the most pressing human rights issues in Crimea today and how is the situation changing in light of Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine? 2) What role do UN member States and the General Assembly have in addressing the human rights situation?
In the eight months since the start of Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine, occupied Crimea remains a location of severe human rights violations. As of September 13, 2022, at least 140 citizens of Ukraine have been deprived of liberty due to politically and/or religiously motivated criminal prosecution. Increasingly draconian laws limiting the freedoms of assembly, association, and expression and opinion in Russia continue to be applied in occupied Crimea.Human Rights House Foundation
Human Rights House Foundation also published an article by Artem Kostyuchenko, a Ukrainian activist and head of the NGO Young Initiatives, one of the largest civil society organizations in the Skadovsk area and Kherson region, telling the story of how he, together with his family, was forced to flee the Kherson region following the launch of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine and relocate to Lviv but hopes to return to his home.
The military will do their job – they will liberate Kherson territory from the occupiers. And we, as activists, have to do our part. After all, the information front is equally important as the military one.Artem Kostyuchenko,head of Young Initiatives
This week the Russian authorities demonstrated their continued determination to eliminate political opposition in the country: Aleksei Navalny’s lawyer reportedly estimated that the new trumped up charges against their cllient would keep their client in prison for another 30 years. At the same time, in the case of the Moldovan Tiktoker Nekoglai the authorities chose to deport the non-Russian citizen rather than prosecute him, in marked difference from the treatment, for example, of a whole series of US citizens, the latest of whom, basketball star Brittney Griner, was recently transferred to a penal colony to being her sentence. Against this general background of Russian law enforcement, criminal prosecution for a tattoo of a Nazi symbol may not seem so extraordinary, and indeed there is, no doubt, in the eyes of the authorities a certain logic since one of their absurd ‘justifications’ for the war against Ukraine is that the country is ruled by Nazis. As many point out, the rhetorical obsession with Nazism is paradoxical given that the Russian regime evinces ever more features of fascism, not least, of course, in Russia’s treatment of civilians in Ukraine. As the latest reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights House Foundation indicate, Russia’s violations of international law in Ukraine are becoming ever more numerous with each passing week.