17 April 2021
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 12 human rights organisations issued a joint statement condemning the deportation of Magomed Gadaev from France to Russia. Gadaev, a key witness in a high-profile torture investigation against Chechnya’s authorities, was subsequently abducted by Chechen police and is at risk of torture. As Aleksei Navalny continued his hunger strike in prison, Yulia Navalnaya said she was growing more concerned about the health of her husband after visiting him in prison. Independent doctors continue to be denied access to Navalny. In Moscow police raided the offices of DOXA, an online student publication, and searched the homes of four staff members in connection with a video about the pro-Navalny protests held in January. The four were later charged with ‘inciting minors to take part in illegal activities’ and placed under house arrest. In Kemerovo at a trial of two Jehovah’s Witnesses prosecutors asked for the defendants to be sentenced to terms of five years in prison each on charges of organising the activities of a group banned as ‘extremist.’ The on-going criminal case in which independent investigative journalist Roman Amin has been classified as a witness, and which appears to be intended to intimidate him, has been brought under Article 137, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code concerning violation of privacy. It is believed the case is linked to Anin’s investigation in 2016 into the head of Rosneft, Igor Sechin. This week the European Court of Human Rights handed down two rulings with regard to Russia finding violations of Convention Article 5 (liberty and security of person).
This week the statement by 12 human rights organisations calling out France’s deportation of Magomed Gadaev to Russia highlights the need for all States to abide by international law. Meanwhile, in Russia itself there is continuing evidence of the manipulation of the justice system for political ends. In the case of Aleksei Navalny, the Russian authorities are ignoring a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights to release him; indeed, they are even failing to provide him with an appropriate level of medical care. Blatant violations of freedom of expression have been seen in the charging of student journalists (whose ‘crime’ would seem to have been to support the right to freedom of assembly) and the searching and questioning of a prominent investigative journalist (who sought to investigate possible corruption by a powerful, highly-placed official). Freedom of conscience is similarly being vitiated at the Kemerovo trial of two Jehovah’s Witnesses and the two rulings the European Court of Human Rights this week have pointed to violations that are all too common in the Russian justice system related to inappropriate and excessive use of pre-trial detention (that can be used, among other things, to put pressure on defendants). In sum, too often violations of human rights in Russia seem to be the direct result of politically motivated abuses of the law enforcement and justice systems by the country’s authorities.