Rights in Russia week-ending 24 January 2020

Right of association

Russia: Persecution of ‘Undesirable’ Activists House Arrests, New Criminal Charges(Moscow) – A Russian court has extended the house arrest of Anastasiya Shevchenko, a member of the Open Russia Civic Movement, alleging that she is involved in an “undesirable” organization, Human Rights Watch said today. The decision is consistent with Russian authorities’ use of an abusive law on “undesirable organizations” to silence activists, with several other activists on trial or facing prosecution on similar accusations. “That Anastasiya Shevchenko has been confined to her apartment for over a year is absurd,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “No one should spend even a minute in detention for what Open Russia activists are accused of, yet Russian authorities are using criminal prosecutions as a scare tactic against civic activism and critical voices.” Human Rights Watch, 18 January 2020

A Perversion of Justice in Russia
Police Surveil Activist’s Bedroom with Hidden Camera
Last weekend, news broke that Russian police had placed a surveillance camera in the bedroom of Anastasiya Shevchenko, an activist currently facing criminal charges for involvement in an “undesirable” foreign organization. Shevchenko’s daughter, who posted the news on social media, also said Anastasiya’s apartment had been wired for nearly five months in 2018, prior to her initial arrest. Unbeknownst to Anastasiya, the police installed a hidden camera pointing at her bed. It’s unclear what police were trying to catch on film in Shevchenko’s home, but what is certain is they have grossly violated her privacy in an inappropriate and humiliating manner. Human Rights Watch, 23 January 2020

Appeals court upholds marking of Navalny’s foundation as foreign agentMOSCOW, January 20 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court on Monday upheld inclusion of a foundation established by opposition figure Alexey Navalny in the list of NGOs acting as foreign agents, RAPSI was told in the court’s press service. On November 1, the Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky District Court refused to overturn the Justice Ministry’s decision to include Navalny’s foundation in the list of NGOs acting as foreign agents, therefore dismissing a lawsuit lodged by the blogger. RAPSI, 20 January 2020

RFE/RL Files Documents To Register As ‘Foreign Agent’ With Russian Tax Service
PRAGUE — RFE/RL’s Russian Service has filed documents with Russia’s Federal Tax Service to register as a “foreign agent” to comply with a law that critics say the Kremlin uses to muzzle dissent, limit news plurality, and discourage the free exchange of ideas. Andrei Shary, the director of RFE/RL’s Russian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda, said on January 24 that the papers had been filed in recent days. REF/RL, 24 January 2020

Freedom of conscience

Jehovah’s Witness In Russia’s Far East Gets Suspended Six-Year Prison Sentence
The Jehovah’s Witnesses say a court in Russia’s Far East has handed a suspended six-year prison sentence to one of its members amid what activists call an escalating campaign of persecution of the religious group. Judge Natalia Derevyagina of Nadezhdinsky District Court in the region of Primorye on January 21 found Grigory Bubnov guilty of “organizing the activities of a banned group” and handed down the sentence on the same day. RFE/RL, 21 January 2020

Freedom of expression

Crimea Bans for Journalists Are Choking the Truth
Russian Authorities Trying to Silence Information Flow from Occupied Crimea
Russian authorities barred an independent Ukrainian journalist, Taras Ibragimov, from entering Crimea last weekend and issued him a 34-year-ban. Ibragimov had traveled regularly to Crimea the past four years, and in May 2019 joined me in Crimea as a videographer, when I interviewed dozens of lawyers and family members of Crimean Tatars jailed on bogus terrorism chargesHuman Rights Watch, 21 January 2020

Russian Republic’s Leader Accused Of Inciting Violence Against Critical Journalists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for the leader of Russia’s Republic of Chuvashia in the Volga region to be tried for inciting violence when he said journalists who constantly criticize the government should be “wiped out.” Speaking on January 18, which marked Press Day in Russia, Mikhail Ignatyev urged journalists to “wipe out” colleagues who “criticize from morning to night.” The word he used for “wipe out” was “mochit” — a Russian underworld slang term. RFE/RL, 21 January 2020 See also RSF, 21 January 2020

Popular Russian Stand-Up Comic Flees Russia After Police Probe 
Alexander Dolgopolov opened his hour-long routine with a joke about Jesus and his mother Mary. Later, he mocks Putin’s voters and Russia’s presidential elections. Dolgopolov has fled Russia pending further information about the police probe, human rights lawyer Leonid Solovyov told the MBKh news website Thursday. “We can’t say where he went yet,” Solovyov said, citing security reasons.  Dolgopolov warned his Instagram followers that his late Wednesday performance in Moscow was canceled.  Police near Moscow have put out a request for information about a popular comic’s stand-up performance from a year ago, the comic said Tuesday, prompting speculation that he could be targeted for jokes he made about religion and the authorities.  The Moscow Times, 23 January 2020; see also Human Rights Watch, 24 January 2020

Right of assembly

Ruling on extension of detention of Moscow student accused in illegal rally case vacated
MOSCOW, January 22 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court on Wednesday overturned a lower court’s ruling extending detention of the Moscow Aviation Institute student Andrey Barshay, who had allegedly gave a National Guard officer a poke in the back during an unauthorized July 27 rally, his lawyer Svetlana Bayturina told RAPSI. Until the matter is reconsidered, Barshay is to remain in detention. RAPSI, 22 January 2020

Convicted participant of illegal Moscow rally to stay in detention until June
MOSCOW, January 22 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court on Wednesday upheld detention of a convicted participant of the unauthorized rally held in Moscow on July 27 Sergey Surovtsev, RAPSI reported from the courtroom.  He will remain in detention until June 10.  RAPSI, 22 January 2020

Journalist Golunov demands apology from authorities for illegal prosecution
MOSCOW, January 22 (RAPSI) – Journalist Ivan Golunov has filed a complaint to a new Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov asking for official apology from the state for illegal prosecution, according to his attorney Sergey Badamshin.  He also demands to recognize failure of the officials of the Prosecutor General’s Office to issue a formal apology on behalf of the state as illegal, Badamshin told RAPSI on Wednesday.  RAPSI, 22 January 2020

Moscow Metro’s dispute with opposition figures over illegal rally to continue in February
MOSCOW, January 22 (RAPSI) – The Moscow Metro state enterprise added to its lawsuit against opposition figures Lyubov Sobol and Georgy Alburov a list of metro stations where more employees had to work because of an unauthorized rally on August 3, RAPSI reported from the Simonovsky District Court of Moscow on Wednesday.  For this reason, the hearing was adjourned until February 17. The court granted time to the defendants to read the documents.  RAPSI, 22 January 2020

Hearing of police claim against illegal Moscow rallies organizers to resume in February
MOSCOW, January 23 (RAPSI) – Moscow’s Simonovsky District Court will continue to hear a 4.3-million-ruble lawsuit filed by the Interior Ministry’s Moscow Main Directorate against organizers of unauthorized summer rallies on February 13, according to a RAPSI correspondent.  The defendants are expected to give their testimony at the next hearing.  RAPSI, 23 January 2020

Detention of Moscow student accused in illegal rally case extended again
MOSCOW, January 23 (RAPSI) – Moscow’s Basmanny District Court on Thursday again extended detention of the Moscow Aviation Institute student Andrey Barshay, who had allegedly given a National Guard officer a poke in the back during an unauthorized summer rally, until January 27, RAPSI reports from the courtroom.  On Wednesday, the Moscow City Court overturned a lower court’s ruling extending detention of Barshay and ordered the matter to be reconsidered.  RAPSI, 23 January 2020

Ingush Activist Sentenced Over Violence At Rallies Against Chechnya Border Deal
A court in Russia has sentenced an Ingush activist to 16 months in a colony-settlement for assaulting police officers during mass rallies against a controversial border deal with neighboring Chechnya last year. A colony-settlement is a penitentiary in which convicts live close to a facility where they work. A court in the city of Zheleznovodsk in the Stavropol region on January 23 found Magomed Ozdoyev guilty and sentenced him the same day. RFE/RL, 24 January 2020

Justice system / Law enforcement

Prisoner population in Russia is on decline – Rights Commissioner Moskalkova 
MOSCOW, January 23 (RAPSI) – The number of individuals held in custody in Russia has decreased by 40,000 in 2019 as compared with the figures registered in the same period of 2018, and makes at the moment 523,900, according to Russia’s ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova.  RAPSI, 23 January 2020 

Russia to Install ‘Spiritual’ Domestic Apps – Vedomosti
Russian authorities will give priority to “spiritual values” when deciding which Russian-made apps should come pre-installed under a controversial law banning smartphone sales without domestic software, the Vedomosti newspaper reported Thursday. The Moscow Times, 24 January 2020 

Lawsuit against face recognition system filed with Moscow court
MOSCOW, January 24 (RAPSI) – A lawsuit against the Moscow Information Technologies Department and the city Directorate of Internal Affairs over illegality of the face recognition system use has been filed with the Tverskoy District Court, lawyer Kirill Koroteyev has told RAPSI. According to the attorney, the face recognition technology is collection of biometric identity information without any legal causes, however, personal data are collected in Russia with an individual’s consent, in accordance with legislation. RAPSI, 24 January 2020

LGBT rights

Young Russian Tries to Sue Over Violent Lesbian ‘Exorcism’ in Chechnya 
The practice of “exorcising” LGBT people is prevalent both in Chechnya and among the Chechen diaspora, activists say. A young woman from Russia’s conservative republic of Chechnya is seeking criminal charges against her parents, one of their acquaintances and a psychiatric clinic for allegedly torturing her based on her sexual orientation, a Russian LGBT support group said Tuesday.  The latest incident comes after widespread reports of anti-gay abuse, including torture and killings, in the majority-Muslim region in recent years. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has denied the existence of gay people in Chechnya, a claim that Russia has also submitted to the UN.  The Moscow Times, 22 January 2020 

Russian LGBT Activist Under House Arrest is Facing New Charges 
Authorities Should Drop Charges, Release Activist, Repeal Propaganda Law 
Russian feminist and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activist Yulia Tsvetkova, already under house arrest for two months on bogus charges of pornography distribution, faces new charges of allegedly violating Russia’s “gay propaganda” law.  In the new charges, police claim Tsvetkova, 26, violated the country’s notorious “gay propaganda” law by posting on social media her drawing, depicting two same-sex couples with children and the caption “Family is where love is. Support LGBT+ families!” Tsvetkova already faces up to six years imprisonment for the pornography charge.  Human Rights Watch, 22 January 2020 

Chechen Minister Says Reading Of Koran Therapeutic For Lesbian A minister in Russia’s Chechnya region has said it would be “remedial” for an openly gay woman to read the Koran, following beatings she accused her parents of orchestrating over her homosexuality.  “You can express yourself as you like, but reading the Koran in a certain setting, situation, and with certain conversations really is therapeutic in traditional Islamic medicine,” Dzambulat Umarov, Chechen minister of national policy, foreign relations, press, and information, told the 360 channel on January 22. RFE/RL, 22 January 2020 

Gender equality

‘Men Only’: Largest Pool in Russia’s North Caucasus Bans Women
A swimming pool in southern Russia has banned women without explanation, according to its announcement published by the popular listings magazine Afisha on Monday. The Anzhi Arena spa in Russia’s republic of Dagestan did not say what prompted the abrupt rule change. Afisha reported that a different public pool in the Dagestani city of Makhachkala had turned away a female visitor in 2011 because other clientele were “embarrassed by the presence of half-naked women.” The Moscow Times, 21 January 2020


Putin Removes Top Russian Prosecutor, Replaces Him With Investigative OfficialYury Chaika will step down after 14 years as prosecutor-general.
Russia’s top prosecutor, Yury Chaika, who as one of the most powerful law enforcement figures in the country oversaw a raft of politically charged criminal investigations, will leave his position after nearly 14 years in office. The Kremlin said on January 20 that President Vladimir Putin had nominated Igor Krasnov, who has served as deputy chairman of the Investigative Committee, to replace Chaika as prosecutor-general. RFE/RL, 20 January 2020

Russian Activists Launch ‘Public Campaign’ Against Putin’s ‘Constitutional Coup’
A group of more than 30 activists, public figures and local Moscow politicians have created an online “manifesto” urging Russian citizens to resist President Vladimir Putin’s proposed constitutional amendments. Novaya Gazeta, which published the document late on January 23, said more than 8,000 have already signed the manifesto, which calls Putin’s amendments a “constitutional coup” that is directed at keeping “Putin and his corrupt regime” in power until he dies. RFE/RL, 24 January 2020 See also Novaya gazeta, 23 January 2020

Human rights advocates to discuss amendments to Russian Constitution
MOSCOW, January 24 (RAPSI) – The Presidential Council for Human Rights will discuss amendments proposed by President Vladimir Putin to Russia’s Constitution on January 28, the advisory body’s Chairman Valery Fadeyev told journalists on Friday. The Civic Chamber will discuss the amendments on January 29, according to the body’ s secretary Lidia Mikheyeva. On January 23, the State Duma passed a bill on amendments to the Russian Constitution in the first reading. RAPSI, 24 January 2020

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