Week-ending 19 February 2021
On 18 February 2021 activist Anastasia Shevchenko was given a four-year suspended sentence for ‘organising the activity of an undesirable organisation.’ Amnesty International has recognised her as a prisoner of conscience. Memorial Human Rights Centre designated her a political prisoner in February 2019. Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, Natalya Zviagina, called the decision a ‘travesty of justice’ and said Anastasia Shevchenko ‘has committed no crime. She should have never been deprived of liberty in the first place, as she was criminally persecuted solely for peacefully exercising her human rights.’ Human Rights Watch said: ‘This totally unjust ruling exemplifies the persecution civic activists continue to face in Russia.’
RFE/RL, 18 February 2021: Russian activist Anastasia Shevchenko has been handed a four-year suspended sentence for carrying out activities on behalf of an “undesirable organization,” in what Amnesty International has called a “travesty of justice.” A judge for the October district court in the city of Rostov-on-Don on February 18 found Shevchenko guilty of having links with the opposition group Open Russia, a British-based organization founded by exiled former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Shevchenko’s supporters say the case was a politically motivated attempt to stop her activism and punish her for showing dissent publicly.
Amnesty International, 18 February 2021: A Russian court today found human rights defender and prisoner of conscience Anastasia Shevchenko guilty of “organizing activity of an undesirable organization” and handed down a four-year suspended prison sentence. Responding to the conviction Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, Natalya Zviagina, said: “This decision is a travesty of justice. Anastasia Shevchenko has committed no crime. She should have never been deprived of liberty in the first place, as she was criminally persecuted solely for peacefully exercising her human rights. Her conviction must be quashed.” “Anastasia Shevchenko has already suffered unimaginably at the hands of Russia’s deeply flawed justice system. She has been under house arrest for over two years, and been subjected to humiliation and intrusive surveillance in her own home. Tragically, Anastasia’s teenage daughter died during the early days of her house arrest and Anastasia was not permitted to be with her in her final days. “Anastasia Shevchenko has been held hostage by a cynical, cruel, and inhumane system whose sole purpose is to suppress, intimidate and crush Russia’s bravest and strongest activists. And she will now have a criminal record.
Human Rights Watch, 18 February 2021: Today, a Russian court sentenced Anastasiya Shevchenko to a 4-year suspended sentence for affiliation with an “undesirable organization.” While it is a relief that Shevchenko will not have to serve prison time, this totally unjust ruling exemplifies the persecution civic activists continue to face in Russia. Shevchenko spent two years under house arrest and will now have a criminal record – all for merely taking part in a public discussion and a peaceful protest, which the authorities are equating with a threat to constitutional order and national security. The court ruled her activities were linked to a banned foreign organization, Open Russia Civic Movement (ORCM). Under a highly controversial Russian law, once designated “undesirable,” a foreign or international organization must cease all activities in Russia and anyone deemed to have affiliation can be held criminally liable.
RFE/RL: A Moscow court has upheld a ruling placing Oleg Navalny, the brother of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, under house arrest. The Moscow City Court on February 18 rejected Oleg Navalny’s appeal against a lower court decision to place him under house arrest on charges of breaking coronavirus restrictions by publicly calling on Moscow residents to take part in unsanctioned rallies to protest his brother’s arrest. Oleg Navalny is one of 10 supporters and associates of Navalny who were detained in January on the eve of unsanctioned mass rallies against the Kremlin critic’s arrest.
Human Rights in Ukraine, 19 February 2021: A Russian court has convicted Rostov civic activist Anastasia Shevchenko of taking part in an NGO which the state has declared ‘undesirable’ and passed a four-year suspended sentence. Since the ‘Open Russia’ activist had been under house arrest for over two years, and the prosecutor had demanded a real 5-year prison term, the sentence could undoubtedly have been worse. That does not make this first criminal prosecution for involvement in an ‘undesirable organization’ any the less ominous for NGOs and activists defending human rights in Russia and occupied Crimea.