5 November 2022
OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests and prosecutions in Russia. Each week OVD-Info publishes a bulletin with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.
Hello! An environmental activist has been stripped of his only citizenship, a Russian journalist has been detained in another country, and in Moscow an arrested picketer has been on hunger strike for almost a month.
Environmental activist Arshak Makichyan has been stripped of Russian citizenship. The court also took the same decision with regard to his father and two brothers. None of the men have citizenships of another state. The formal reason was allegedly false information, provided 18 years ago. Makichyan himself believes that the reason is his anti-war views and activist activities.
- Why is this important? In the words of the First Department lawyer Maksim Olenichev, this is the first prominent case of Russian citizenship being revoked because of activist activities. Also, in 2021 the ECtHR ruled that revoking citizenship for the submission of incomplete information is not permissible. Olenichev thinks the state might use this precedent to strip other activists of citizenship, if they do not hold it by right of birth. The possibility cannot be ruled out that this may become another instrument of repression – after all, in this way it is possible to force dissenters to leave the country.
An arrested activist has been on hunger strike for almost a month in Moscow. In a special detention centre, Grigory Saksonov, 66, has for 27 days refused to eat in protest against the war in Ukraine. The man was detained on 7 October for holding a picket with a poster depicting Vladimir Putin and a swastika. The next day, a court jailed him for repeated violation of the rules of participation in public rallies.
- Why do I need to know this? People deprived of their liberty have little opportunity to assert their rights and express protest, so some of them turn to radical measures such as hunger strikes. Grigory Saksonov’s hunger strike went almost unnoticed – it only became known towards the end of his detention. In Russia, such actions are often fruitless, and the demands of prisoners, if they don’t relate to the conditions of detention, remain unfulfilled. In 2018, for example, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov held a hunger strike for 145 days, seeking the release of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia, but ended it under threat of force-feeding. For the same reason, Sergei Udaltsov ended a 25-day hunger strike in 2014, which he had declared because of a 4.5-year prison sentence for involvement in the Bolotnaya Square riots.
A Buryat journalist was detained in Kazakhstan in connection with “fake news” about the Russian army. The security forces took Yevgenia Baltatarova off a flight at the airport in Almaty airport. Two cases were opened against her in Russia under an article on “fake news” about the army. The woman was about to be taken to the temporary detention centre, but in the end she was only searched, her personal equipment was confiscated and she was taken for a medical examination, and then released.
- Why is this important? Pressure on journalists and activists may not end even after they leave Russia. A person who is prosecuted for “fake news” about the Russian army cannot be deported from Kazakhstan, as there is no relevant article in the local criminal code. However, a political case may be opened under another article, for example, one concerning terrorism. In such a case, it would be more difficult for the person to escape prosecution, as the authorities of the other state may already have the right to extradite them.
Six people have been detained in Russia on suspicion of involvement in At-Takfir wal-Hijra. They were charged with the offence of participating in the activities of an extremist organisation. According to the Investigative Committee, they “conducted meetings and disseminated doctrines” as well as “recruited to and involved new adherents in” Al-Takfir Wal-Hijra. During searches in Moscow, Voronezh and Dagestan, religious literature with “extremist content” and “other items indicating their adherence to radical religious trends” were found in the possession of the detainees.
- Why do I need to know this? It’s possible that the organisation called Al-Takfir wal-Hijra does not actually exist. All allegations about it are based only on some secret service sources, with no description of the procedure for joining or membership and no information about its hierarchy or leader. “There is no convincing evidence confirming the existence of Al-Takfir wal-Hijra, either in Russia or elsewhere in the world,” human rights activist and researcher Vitaly Ponomarev stressed. Despite this, the Supreme Court declared the organisation extremist in 2010 and banned its activities on Russian territory. Muslims continue to be prosecuted and sentenced to prison on related charges.
The UN Human Rights Committee has published its concluding observations on the state of human rights in Russia. The organisation called for the repeal of laws on “fake news’, discrediting the Russian army, “foreign agents” and “undesirable organisations”; as well as [for the Russian state] not to use facial recognition systems. We have prepared a detailed analysis of the Committee’s comments.
Translated by Anna Bowles