Rights in Russia week-ending 31 January 2020

Freedom of assembly

On 27 January 2020, Russia’s Constitutional Court ordered a review of the conviction of activist Konstantin Kotov. He is currently serving a four-year prison sentence for “repeated violation of the established procedure of organizing or holding public events” under Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code (popularly known as “Dadin’s Article”, after Ildar Dadin, the first exercise his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Konstantin Kotov is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally.  Amnesty International, 28 January 2020 

Russian activist’s sentence for repeated violations at rallies appealed in cassation 
MOSCOW – A 4-year jail sentence given to activist Konstantin Kotov for repeated violations of a rally holding order has been appealed in cassation, his lawyer Maria Eismont has told RAPSI. According to the attorney, Kotov should be released as soon as possible. Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court convicted and sentenced Kotov in September. A month later, the Moscow City Court upheld the verdict. RAPSI, 31 January 2020 

Jail sentence of 27 July riots participant Malyshevsky reduced by 3 months 
MOSCOW, January 29 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court on Wednesday reduced sentence given to Eduard Malyshevsky for assault on a police officer at the unauthorized rally held in Moscow on July 27 from 3 years to 2 years and 9 months in jail, RAPSI reports from the courtroom.  In December, Malyshevsky was sentenced to 3 years in a penal colony. He was found guilty of using violence against a representative of authority. RAPSI, 29 January 2020

Russia: Intrusive facial recognition technology must not be used to crackdown on protests 
The Russian authorities must halt their plans to broaden the use of widespread facial recognition systems which will pose a real threat to their citizen’s privacy and human rights, Amnesty International said today as a court in Moscow hears a complaint against the use of such technologies to crack down on peaceful protest. On 31 January, the Tverskoy District Court of Moscow will begin consideration of a complaint submitted by the civil rights activist Alyona Popova and the politician Vladimir Milov. They argue that data collection about participants of lawful public gatherings results in the violation of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Through the court case they seek to prohibit the use of facial recognition technology at rallies and delete all stored personal data previously collected. Amnesty International, 31 January 2020 

Right of association

Russia: Judicial harassment of members of “Siberia Without Torture” Mr. Svyatoslav Khromenkov and Ms. Natalya Varshney
URGENT APPEAL RUS 001 / 0120 / OBS 005
Judicial harassment / Seizure of electronic equipment 
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your intervention in the following situation in Russia. FIDH, 28 January 2020

Freedom of expression

Blogger denied reversal of sentence for threats against children of law enforcement
MOSCOW, January 29 (RAPSI) – The Second Cassation Court of General Jurisdiction on Wednesday dismissed a cassation appeal filed by blogger Vladislav Sinitsa against his 5-year jail sentence for online calls for violence against children of law enforcement officers, RAPSI reported from the courtroom. In his appeal Sinitsa asked to overturn the sentence as evidence laid in its basis, including results of an examination and witness testimony, were divergent and inadmissible. RAPSI, 29 January 2020
Putin Fires Chuvashia Governor Who Called For Journalists To Be ‘Wiped Out’ 
President Vladimir Putin has dismissed the governor of the Russian region of Chuvashia, Mikhail Ignatyev, who has faced harsh criticism recently for his public behavior. The Kremlin said on January 29 that Putin relieved Ignatyev of his duties due to a “loss of trust.”  Lawmaker Oleg Nikolayev was immediately appointed Chuvashia’s acting governor, according to a decree signed by Putin. RFE/RL, 29 January 2020 

Former Moscow Police Charged With Fabricating Case Against Journalist 
Five former Moscow police officers have been charged for their roles in the attempted framing of Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov by planting drugs in his backpack and apartment last year. The Basmanny district court’s press service said on January 30 that the former officers of the Moscow narcotics unit were charged with abuse of service duties, falsification of evidence, and illegal handling of drugs. RFE/RL, 30 January 2020

Students Charged With Terrorism for Anti-Putin Graffiti 
A St. Petersburg court has charged two students with inciting terrorism for painting stencil graffiti of President Vladimir Putin that calls for his murder.  The two young men were detained after spray-painting portraits of Putin with the words “If you see him, kill him” in central St. Petersburg, a local court said. Anti-extremism police detained the suspects, both aged 22, after tracking a car that they had been seen exiting, the Fontanka news website reportedThe Moscow Times, 30 January 2020

25 Detained in Chechnya Over Photoshopped ‘Patriarch’ Kadyrov – Reports Two dozen men have been detained in Russia’s republic of Chechnya for sharing a doctored image of the region’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov in Orthodox Christian garb, the Kavkaz.Realii news website reported Saturday.  The detentions, which reportedly took place in three Chechen towns and districts, follow Kadyrov’s repeated threats of violence to online critics last year. Kadyrov has ruled the majority-Muslim republic since he was appointed its leader in 2007 after two bloody separatist conflicts in the 1990s and early 2000s. The Moscow Times, 28 January 2020 

Criminal Record Of Crimean Journalist Semena Officially Cleared SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — An RFE/RL contributor in Ukraine’s Russia-controlled Crimea region has received court papers officially confirming the termination of his probation and the expunging of his criminal record. A court in Crimea’s capital, Simferopol, on January 14 ruled to prematurely terminate the probation period and expunge the criminal record of Mykola Semena, who had been convicted of separatism on the peninsula. Semena received a copy of the ruling on January 28 and is now considered totally free. RFE/RL, 28 January 2020 

Ukrainian journalist Taras Ibragimov banned from entering Russia for 34 years 
Vilnius, Lithuania, January 30, 2020 — Russian authorities should immediately lift the ban imposed on journalist Taras Ibragimov and allow him to freely report in Crimea, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. On January 18, officers of the Russian Federal Security Service denied Ibragimov, a Ukrainian national and freelance reporter for the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, entry to the Crimea peninsula and gave him a written notice saying he was barred from entering Russia until May 31, 2054, according to a report by his employer. Committee for the Protection of Journalists, 30 January 2020 

Facebook, Twitter suspected of breaching Russia’s personal data storage rules 
MOSCOW – Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor has instituted administrative proceedings against Facebook and Twitter over alleged breaching of user data storage requirements. The proceedings were commenced as the companies failed to provide in time information on fulfilment of requirements on the localization of databases of Russian social media users on servers located in Russia, as stipulated by the Law On Personal Data, the watchdog’s statement reads. The companies could face fines ranging from 1 to 6 million rubles ($16,000 – 94,000) each, according to the Code on Administrative Offenses. RAPSI, 31 January 2020 

LGBT rights

Russian LGBT Activist Receives Dutch Asylum After Police Threats
An LGBT activist fled southern Russia for the Netherlands after facing threats of prosecution from law enforcement and retribution from conservative vigilantes, she said in an interview Tuesday.  Anna Dvornichenko has said that authorities in the city of Rostov-on-Don refused to investigate two attacks — one with pepper spray and another with a smoke bomb — against her that took place in the same week last summer. Instead, Dvornichenko said anti-extremism officers had threatened to prosecute her for her activism. The Moscow Times, 30 January 2020

A New Film Brings Chechnya’s Horrific Anti-Gay Purge to the Screen 

Graeme Reid, Director, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program
I was recently invited to a private prescreening of David France’s new documentary Welcome to Chechnya. The film focuses on activists working day and night under extreme duress to rescue complete strangers from a violent purge of gay men in Chechnya.  I sat with the director after watching the film, notebook in hand, to give him feedback. But instead I found myself quite unable to speak. And despite my best efforts to maintain professional composure, I sobbed. And sobbed. Instead of our planned discussion, the director found himself looking for tissues, bringing me water, giving me comfort. Later, on the sidewalk, I called a friend, himself a filmmaker. “I guess the film is effective,” he said. Human Rights Watch, 28 January 2020

Justice system

Report: Kremlin Rights Official Was Deceived While Probing Deadly Chechen Police Raids 
A Russian newspaper has reported that the Kremlin’s main human rights advocate may have been deliberately deceived as part of her investigation into police raids in Chechnya that allegedly killed more than two dozen men. Novaya Gazeta reported on January 27 that Tatyana Moskalkova held a meeting in Chechnya in September 2017, as part of her investigation into the raids. RFE/RL, 27 January 2020 

Russian Prosecutors Drop Murder Charges Against Sisters Who Stabbed Their Father Maria (left) and Angelina Khachaturyan, sisters who admitted killing their father, are shown in court in June. Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office has ordered investigators to drop murder charges against teenage sisters accused of killing their abusive father in a closely watched case that fueled debate on the issue of domestic violence in the country. Prosecutors on January 30 said the case of sisters Maria, Angelina, and Krestina Khachaturyan should be reclassified as self-defense, likely ending the legal case against the three, their lawyer said. RFE/RL, 31 January 2020

U.S. Ambassador Slams Russia’s ‘Shameful Treatment’ Of Jailed Former U.S. Marine MOSCOW — The United States’ new ambassador to Russia has urged Moscow to release Paul Whelan and accused the Russian authorities of “shameful treatment” of the former U.S. Marine, who is accused of spying. Ambassador John Sullivan made the comments outside Moscow’s Lefortovo detention center on January 30 after visiting Whelan, who is being held in pretrial detention in a case that has ratcheted up already tense relations between Russia and the United States. RFE/RL, 31 January 2020 

Russia’s Share of European Human Rights Cases Hits 7-Year High The share of Russian cases in Europe’s top human rights court has reached a seven-year high in 2019, the Vedomosti business daily reported Wednesday, citing the court’s annual report. Russia remains the runaway leader in the number of pending cases among the 47 member states that fall under the court’s jurisdiction, according to European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) data. Russia last year accounted for 15,050 out of a total of 59,800 pending cases in the Strasbourg-based court, or one-quarter of all applications. The Moscow Times, 30 January 2020 

The Constitution

‘Volodya, aren’t you tired?’: Russia’s youth on Putin’s 20 years in power
Russians born when Putin first rose to power have come of age. And they’re curious about change.
On New Year’s Eve, activists from the Vesna Movement, a Russian pro-democracy youth movement, held solitary pickets in the Siberian city of Omsk. These young protesters were marking the twentieth anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s rise to power and they had just one question for the Russian President: “Volodya [diminutive form of Vladimir – ed.], aren’t you tired?” Hoping against hope, the activists put their photos on Facebook, along with a post wondering whether Putin would follow in the footsteps of Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, by announcing his resignation on New Year’s Eve: Global Voices, 28 January 2020

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