Rights in Russia week-ending 17 January 2020

Russian Court Arrests Activist For YouTube Show Mocking Putin, Close Associates
A court in the Russian republic of Tatarstan has arrested a local civil rights activist on suspicion of promoting terrorism after he mocked President Vladimir Putin and two of his close associates in a YouTube video. Karim Yamadayev, a former police officer, was arrested on January 11 for a video he posted last month on his YouTube channel, Interfax reported. If found guilty, Yamadayev faces up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of 1 million rubles ($16,390).  RFE/RL, 12 January 2020 

Russian penitentiary officials next to police may be authorized to issue cautions
A bill authorizing penitentiary officials to hand down official warnings has been submitted to the lower house of Russian parliament, according to the State Duma database.  Amendments are proposed to the Law On the Detention of Persons Suspected and Accused of Committing Crimes and the Penitentiary Code of the Russian Federation.  The bill was drafted as existing legislation does not include provisions concerning such powers of penitentiary officials.
RAPSI, 13 January 2020

Half a year later, police officers who arrested Meduza’s Ivan Golunov face criminal charges
Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case against the police officers who arrested Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov. Golunov was arrested on June 6, 2019, when he said police planted drugs on him and framed him for intent to distribute. Though he was released on June 11 following a major solidarity campaign, efforts on the part of Golunov’s legal team to apprehend the police officers involved in his arrest met with stagnation for several months. Meduza 13 January 2020

Russian Opposition Party Head Says Supreme Court Has Suspended Its Activities
The head of the Russian opposition political party Civic Initiative says the country’s Supreme Court has suspended its operations for politically motivated reasons and is looking to wipe the party out altogether. Dmitry Gudkov said on Facebook that on January 14 the court suspended the party’s activities for three months in what he said was the first step towards its full “liquidation.” RFE/RL, 14 January 2020

European Court Rules Russia’s Khodorkovsky Denied Fair Trial
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and business partner Platon Lebedev were denied their right to a fair trial in the case of their conviction by a Russian court for embezzlement and money laundering. The Strasbourg-based court said on January 14 that it did not find any political motives in the criminal prosecution of Lebedev or Khodorkovsky, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main opponents, and that no compensation would be ordered. RFE/RL, 14 January 2010

Court In Russia-Occupied Crimea Expunges Journalist Semena’s Criminal Record
A court in Ukraine’s Russia-controlled Crimea region has ruled to prematurely terminate the probation period and expunge the criminal record of Mykola Semena, an RFE/RL contributor who was convicted of separatism on the peninsula. The court in Simferopol, the region’s capital, on January 14 upheld the motion filed by the lawyer of Semena, who has contributed to the Crimea Desk of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service. The ruling is supposed to take effect in 10 calendar days. RFE/RL, 15 January 2020 

Moscow court vacates fine imposed on designer as part of illegal summer rally case
MOSCOW, January 16 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court has overturned imposition of a 10,000-ruble ($160) fine on designer Konstantin Konovalov for rally violations before an unauthorized action held in central Moscow on July 27, his lawyer Fedor Sirosh has told RAPSI. The case has been returned to a lower court for reconsideration, he added. The designer was arrested on July 27 two hours before the illegal rally. Konovalov claimed that he was arrested during a morning running insisting that he did not take part in the event. However, according to him, police used force and broke his leg. RAPSI, 16 January 2020

Top Russian University Moves to Ban Political Speech
One of Russia’s elite universities is considering banning its students and faculty from exercising political speech in the wake of high-profile scandals involving free speech last year, according to its newly proposed rules. Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (HSE) became embroiled in several controversies in 2019, including the cancellation of its student talk show after it invited an opposition activist and revoking a student newspaper’s student-body status over a critical article. HSE political science student Yegor Zhukov also became a de-facto face of last summer’s election protest movement, splitting university leadership and students into opposing camps. The Moscow Times, 17 January 2020

Russian Cameraman Who Spoke Of Censorship On TV Savagely BeatenMOSCOW — A former cameraman for a Russian state TV broadcaster who has spoken out and given interviews about political censorship and corruption at his former employer has been severely beaten by two men in Moscow, he told RFE/RL in an interview on January 15. Leonid Krivenkov, 61, who shot political shows on Channel One for 10 years, said the beating took place as he was leaving Kuzminsky Park in the capital on January 11. The two assailants “were athletically built, tall, and aged approximately 25-30 years, with a dog in tow,” he said. RFE/RL, 15 January 2020

Second Russian Prison Guard Sentenced In High-Profile Torture Case
The second of at least 17 Russian prison guards charged in a high-profile inmate torture case has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison. A court in Yaroslavl, some 250 kilometers northeast of Moscow, on January 17 convicted Maksim Yablokov of abuse of authority for beating three inmates. The court handed down the sentence the same day. Two days earlier, former prison guard Sergei Yefremov, who made a deal with investigators, was sentenced to four years in prison. RFE/RL, 17 January 2020 

Russia’s President proposes to bolster Constitutional Court’s roleMOSCOW, January 15 (RAPSI) – In his address to the Federal Assembly on Wednesday Russia’s President Vladimir Putin proposed to enhance the role played by the Constitutional Court in order to improve the quality of the national legislation and to secure the interests of the country’s citizens. For this, the President said, the Court needs to be empowered to verify, on Presidential requests, the constitutionality of legislation approved by the Federal Assembly before it is signed by the Head of the State. RAPSI, 15 January 2020

Why Legal ‘Innovation’ Might be Bad News for Rights in RussiaYesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans for constitutional reform that, among other things, seem to clear a path for him to remain in power – albeit not as president – after his term expires in 2024. But the reforms have implications beyond Putin’s political future. Some, like me, are pondering the impact on the rights of millions of Russians if Putin’s call “to directly guarantee the priority of the Russian Constitution in our legal framework” becomes law. This is the third time in four years that Russia’s authorities have pushed for the primacy of Russian law over international law. In July 2015, Russia’s Constitutional Court ruled that judgments of the European Court of Human Rights cannot be implemented if they contradict Russia’s constitution. Human Rights Watch, 16 January 2020

Russia: Race to the Bottom on RightsRepressive Laws, Charges Against Critics, Impunity for Abuse
(Moscow) – Repression escalated in Russia during 2019 as the government answered rising civic and political activism with bans, repressive laws, and showcase prosecutions, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2020.  The authorities carried out large-scale smear campaigns against independent nongovernmental groups, using fines against groups and their leaders to impede and even end their work. The government took this campaign to a new level with criminal investigations targeting activists of the pro-democracy Open Russia civic movement and the opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s Foundation Against Corruption. The authorities forcibly shut down two human rights organization, including one specializing in minority rights. Human Rights Watch, 14 January 2020

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