Representatives of ADC “Memorial” took part in the 13th session of OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which took place in Warsaw. During the plenary session on September 27, which was devoted to the problem of implementation of the right for free association, the lawyer of “Memorial” made a report concerning illegal persecution of ADC “Memorial”, describing in detail the court procedures launched against our NGO.
On the same day a side event “Xenophobia in the Russian Federation – challenge to the civil society” was organized together by ADC “Memorial”, Information and analytical centre “SOVA” and International partnership for human rights. During this event the problem of rising xenophobic sentiments in Russia, which is accompanied by deliberate campaigns for persecution of vulnerable groups and human rights organizations defending the rights of these groups, was discussed. Participants of this event noted a considerable deterioration of the situation of minorities, in particular labor immigrants and LGBT people. Alexander Verkhovsky of the “SOVA” Centre pointed out the growth of xenophobic sentiments, which continue to develop without any adequate response from the state authorities, while the number of hate crimes against various ethnic and religious minorities continues to rise. The expert stressed that in spite of the inclusion of hate motive as a qualifying feature of some crimes in accordance with the existing criminal legislation in Russia, these motives are often ignored during the actual criminal investigations of violent crimes against vulnerable social groups. This is a particularly alarming fact as the anti-immigrant campaign in Russia is in full swing. Natalia Taubina has analyzed the existing legislation and legal practices in the course of persecution of civil activists and human rights organizations, pointing out the openly repressive nature of the policies pursued by the authorities.
Lawyer Inessa Sakhno made a report about illegal persecution of ADC “Memorial”, which now is the only NGO in Russia subject to an appeal by the procurator’s office to a civil court in the interests of an “undefined group of persons” insisting that ADC “Memorial” should be registered as a foreign agent. The report stressed that it was in Saint Petersburg that some precedents of execution of the law on foreign agents were registered and described the methods of persecution of NGOs by various state authorities. Mrs. Sakhno has also made a general evaluation of repressive practices against LGBT community and NGOs in Russia, which were linked to the adoption of homophobic laws. She has also expressed concern over the growth of xenophobic sentiments and violence against LGBT people.
Expert of ADC “Memorial” Andrey Yakimov made a detailed report about the changes in legislation concerning migration, which made the terms of stay for labor immigrants and members of their families more harsh in Russia. He pointed out the fact that starting 2013 persecution of labor immigrants took a systematic character while the so called people’s militias, nationalist and Cossack organizations were involved in this and the state authorities supported the latter. Anti-immigrant campaign has resulted in activization of nationalists, which on a number of occasions initiated racist pogroms and campaigns aimed against ethnic minorities.
Reports of Inessa Sakhno and Andrey Yakimov were accompanied by photo and video footage, which illustrated the graveness of these problems.
ADC “Memorial” hopes that the attention drawn to the problems of vulnerable groups in Russia at such a high level will result in improvement of the situation, i.e. adoption of measures to fight against xenophobia, defense of the rights of minorities and an end to persecution of human rights organizations.