Simon Cosgrove: A look back at the past week in Russia

12 March 2021

By Simon Cosgrove

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 in a joint statement 45 states addressed the UN’s Human Rights Council with a call for “the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Navalny and of all those unlawfully or arbitrarily detained, including for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of religion or belief.” Meanwhile members of the Moscow Public Oversight Commission voted to exclude Marina Litvinovich, one of the commission’s most active members, from its number. The Supreme Court of Yakutia upheld the compulsory confinement in a psychiatric clinic of Aleksandr Gabyshev, a shaman from Siberia who has tried to walk to Moscow apparently in order to remove President Putin from office. The Moscow-based NGO Nasiliyu.Net [Насилию.Нет] that works to combat domestic violence and to advance LGBT rights received an eviction notice from its landlord and lost an appeal against inclusion in the ‘foreign agent’ list of NGOs. Roskomnadzor, the government’s media watchdog, announced it would take measures to slow speed of access to Twitter since the latter had failed to delete content deemed unlawful by the Russian authorities and therefore represented a threat to the Russian Federation. This week six judgments of the European Court of Human Rights found Russian had violated Articles 2 (right to life), 5 (liberty and security), 6 (fair trial), 8 (private family life) and 41 (just satisfaction) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The republic of Kabardino-Balkaria marked, on 8 March 1944, the 77th anniversary of the deportation of the Balkar people of the North Caucasus to Central Asia under Stalin.

End note

While international pressure on Russia over the jailing of Aleksei Navalny and other human rights violations continues to mount (and here the day-by-day, routine work of the European Court of Human Rights handing down judgments against Russia must not be forgotten), within the country repressive measures continue. These are usually of a direct nature where state authorities take specific actions – as in the cases of Aleksandr Gabyshev, a shaman from Siberia now forcibly confined to a psychiatric clinic, the Moscow-based NGO Nasiliyu.Net [Насилию.Нет] that opposes domestic violence that has been included in the ‘foreign agent’ list of NGOs, or the government agency Roskomnadzor taking action against Twitter. Often, however, repressive measures are also indirect in nature, where individuals take their cue from state authorities to act against organisations or individuals – as in the case of the landlord of Nasiliyu.Net, now seeking to evict that organisation, or the members of the Moscow Public Oversight Commission who voted to exclude Marina Litvinovich from the commission. As so many events today in Russia are increasingly redolent of the Soviet past (not least the abhorrent practice of punitive psychiatry and the intolerance of independent civil society activity), it is worth paying attention to the outright condemnation this week by Kazbek Kokov, leader of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, of the Stalinist era deportation of the Balkar people to Central Asia as ‘a monstrous crime’ and ‘blatant injustice.’

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