The guest on our latest podcast is Dmitry Piskunov, a lawyer and human rights activist from Russia who works for the Moscow-based human rights organization OVD-Info. OVD-Info monitors politically motivated prosecutions, with a particular focus on the right to freedom of assembly. Previously, Dmitry worked for the Committee against Torture, a human rights organisation based in Nizhny Novgorod. He was also a member of the Moscow Public Oversight Commission.
This podcast was recorded on 22 February 2022
The topics we discuss include: the work of a human rights lawyer, the work of OVD-Info, the most important human rights issues in Russia today, and what’s coming in the near future and in the long term.
The questions we ask Dmitry are:
- Where does your interest in jurisprudence and human rights in particular come from?
- What types of cases are you currently working on?
- How has the human rights situation in Russia changed in recent years? What examples can you give?
- To what extent does the legislation on foreign agents negatively affect the work of civil society organizations?
- To what extent has anti-extremist legislation become an instrument of political repression?
- What role does the European Court of Human Rights play? And how do you see the relationship between this court and Russia? And with the Council of Europe?
- What do Russian citizens know about the Russian leadership’s intentions toward Ukraine?
- What will happen if there is a war? Will the population support such a policy?
- What is your prognosis for the future of human rights in Russia?
You can listen to the podcast in full here:
For your convenience we have also divided the podcast into three parts that you can listen to separately.
Part One: A career in human rights; current legal cases; changes in the human rights situation in Russia:
Part Two: The impact of the foreign agent law; anti-extremism legislation; the European Court of Human Rights:
Part Three: The possibility of war; protests; prognosis for the future:
Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “No one wants war. And if there is anyone who wants it, it’s radicalized people who hold nationalist views. I don’t think this is the dominant view in Russian society,” said Dmitry Piskunov in an interview shortly before the aggressive attack by the Russian armed forces and the start of the invasion of Ukraine. “The actions of the Russian authorities do not deserve support. Nevertheless, I think only a small part of the Russian public will express their dissatisfation. Most will be afraid. Most of those who can organize protests will keep in mind that now there is a possibility to be prosecuted for treason or for extremism. At any moment, they can start branding individuals as foreign agents, especially in relation to dissemination of information about the army.”
Now all the social networks and news feeds are full of information about the army. Law enforcement authorities in Russia are merciless, threatening and intimidating. Peaceful anti-war protests are brutally suppressed by police. The Kremlin is at war with the Ukrainian people. It is also at war with the Russian people, on whom, however, it has not yet dropped bombs and which it has not yet crushed with the caterpillars of tanks. Dmitry sees the future of the human rights movement in Russia in a grim light. He speaks about the possibility of Russia`s isolation from the rest of the world and the likelihood that Russia may withdraw from the Council of Europe and the European Convention of Human Rights. “How close that prospect is, I can’t say,” Dmitry said when we spoke last Tuesday. A few hours later, war broke out.