Quote for the Week. Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: “I am dismayed by recent measures that further undermine people’s right to express critical views, and their ability to take part in the parliamentary elections scheduled in September.”

Week-ending 25 June 2021

“In the Russian Federation, I am dismayed by recent measures that further undermine people’s right to express critical views, and their ability to take part in the parliamentary elections scheduled in September. Earlier this month, following closed hearings, a court in Moscow ruled that the Anti-Corruption Foundation led by the imprisoned opposition figure Aleksei Navalny was an “extremist organization”. It also ruled that the associated Citizens’ Rights Protection Foundation, and Navalny’s nation-wide network of political offices, are “extremist”, based on vaguely defined allegations of attempting to change the foundations of constitutional order. Earlier, a law was passed prohibiting people involved in the activities of outlawed ‘extremist organizations’ from running in any election. I call on Russia to uphold civil and political rights. Legislation restricting the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association should be brought in line with international human rights norms and standards. I further urge the authorities to end the arbitrary practice of labelling ordinary individuals, journalists, and non-governmental organizations as ‘extremists’, ‘foreign agents’ or ‘undesirable organizations’.”  

– from Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Statement at the 47th session of the Human Rights Council, 21 June 2021

Other sources and related news:

The Guardian, 21 June 2021: The UN rights chief has called for concerted action to recover from the worst global deterioration of rights she had seen, highlighting the situation in China, Russia and Ethiopia among others. “To recover from the most wide-reaching and severe cascade of human rights setbacks in our lifetimes, we need a life-changing vision, and concerted action,” Michelle Bachelet told the opening of the UN Human Rights Council’s 47th session. […] Bachelet also criticised recent measures by the Kremlin shrinking the space for opposing political views and access to participation in September elections. She highlighted the recent moves to dismantle the movement of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Barring his organisations from working in the country, a Moscow court earlier this month branded them as “extremist” in a ruling Bachelet said was “based on vaguely defined allegations of attempting to change the foundations of constitutional order”. Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has signed legislation outlawing staff, members and sponsors of “extremist” groups from running in parliamentary elections. “I call on Russia to uphold civil and political rights,” Bachelet said.

RFE/RL, 20 June 2021: The United States is preparing new sanctions against Russia over the poisoning of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan has said. “We are preparing another package of sanctions to apply in this case as well,” Sullivan said on CNN on June 20. Sullivan said the sanctions will come once the United States ensures that the right entities are targeted. “When we do that, we will impose further sanctions with respect to chemical weapons,” Sullivan said.

RFE/RL, 21 June 2021: Police have demanded that a court force the former coordinator for jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s team in the Russian city of Yaroslavl to cover the amount of money spent to disperse a rally to support the Kremlin critic in January. Yelena Lekiashvili said on June 20 that the Yaroslavl city police department want her to pay 510,000 rubles ($7,000), which, according to the police department, would reimburse the labor costs for 204 police officers who had to work at the demonstration on January 23.

The Moscow Times, 22 June 2021 : More Russians are legally deprived of the right to run for office today than they were during the Soviet period, according to newly published research by the Golos independent election monitor. Golos estimates that at least 9 million Russians, or 8% of the population, have been stripped of so-called “passive suffrage” even before Russian lawmakers tightened election laws in recent months and shut out members of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s movement.

RFE/RL, 22 June 2021: A Moscow district court has postponed until June 25 the hearing of a suit by imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei Navalny asking the court to rescind a decision by prison officials designating him as a “flight risk.” The Preobrazhensky District Court on June 22 granted a request by Navalny’s lawyers for additional time to study some case materials. Navalny participated in the hearing by videolink from prison in the Vladimir region.

RFE/RL, 23 June 2021: A court in Moscow has sentenced a man and a woman to two years in prison each for attacking police during an unsanctioned rally in January to support jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. The Telegram channel of Moscow courts announced the sentencing of Aleksandr Glushkov and Olga Bendas by the Tver district court late on June 21. OVD-Info, a group that monitors arrests and convictions of activists, said that Glushkov pleaded guilty, while Bendas rejected the charge and refused to make a deal with investigators.

RFE/RL, 23 June 2021: The team for jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny says a court ruling labeling his political network as “extremist” fails to show any evidence of wrongdoing — a sign of a “truly new level” of lawlessness in the country. Navalny’s associates on June 23 made public the court ruling and the documents used against them by prosecutors during the trial, which was held behind closed doors because some materials were considered classified.

RFE/RL, 23 June 2021: The independent monitoring group Golos says legal restrictions enacted by the government have deprived at least 9 million Russians, about 8 percent of the eligible population, of their right to be elected as September parliamentary elections near. In an analysis of the impact of a series of recent legal amendments, which it says are harsher than those in place in the Soviet Union from 1961 to 1991, the group said it is impossible to calculate the exact number of citizens who have now been deprived of their passive suffrage.

HRW, 23 June 2021: EU-Russia relations will be on the agenda of the European Council, which defines the European Union’s political priorities, when it meets on 24-25 June. It’s an important time for the EU to call out the Kremlin for human rights violations committed in Russia. As the EU implements its “principled pragmatism” approach to its affairs with Russia, it should stay true to its human rights commitments. Supporting Russia’s civil society and Kremlin critics who face harassment, intimidation, and persecution should be key.

The Moscow Times, 24 June 2021: Russian human rights activists have criticized the country’s official report to the United Nations regarding its detentions of protesters at this winter’s nationwide pro-Navalny protests, the Kommersant business daily reported Wednesday.  Tens of thousands of Russians protested nationwide in January and February to call for Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s release after he was detained upon his return to Russia from Germany, where he had spent months recovering from a near-fatal poisoning by a miliary-grade nerve agent. Independent monitors said over 11,000 protesters were detained, with widespread reports of police brutality, and over 100 were later convicted on various charges.

RFE/RL, 25 June 2021: Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin says he has been barred from running in an upcoming election due to his support of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, whose network of organizations has been declared by the authorities to be “extremist.” “I submitted documents for elections to the Moscow City Duma. In response, the Election Commission said I was declared ‘a person involved in extremist activities’ and that I am not allowed to participate in elections,” Yashin wrote on Facebook on June 25.

The Moscow Times, 25 June 2021: It’s 11 p.m. in a south Moscow hypermarket and Roman Yuneman is feeling philosophical. “Either I’ll end up in jail, or on the ballot,” says the twenty-six-year-old independent candidate for Russia’s State Duma, over supermarket cafe sushi. “I knew that sooner or later it would come to this. I just didn’t think it would be so soon.” With under three months left until elections to the lower chamber of Russia’s parliament, the management consultant turned opposition politician is feeling the pressure.  Amid an escalating crackdown on Russia’s political opposition, Yuneman is one of a bare handful of independent candidates set to mount a real challenge to the pro-Kremlin United Russia party.

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