Human rights defenders ask UN experts to witness for the defense in court

May 7, 2013, Saint-Petersburg. Antidiscrimination centre (ADC) “Memorial” has appealed to the UN Committee against Torture with a request to witness in its defense in a court case against it which will consider whether ADC should be registered as a “foreign agent”.

ADC “Memorial”, which defends the rights of victims of discrimination, became the third Russian non-commercial organization facing an administrtaive court case concerning alleged violations of the trems of operation by a non-commercial organization which acts as a foreign agent (Article 19.34 of Russian code for administrative violations). Human rights report sent by ADC “Memorial” to the UN Committee against Torture was qualified as “political activity” following the enactment of the so-called “law on NCOs as foreign agents” even though the report was sent before the law went into effect. This report featured information on arbitrary police actions against Roma people, labor migrants and civil rights defenders. It was prepared for the 49th session of the UN Committee against Torture which was held in Geneva on November 8-13, 2012.

ADC “Memorial” called on the representaticves of the UN Committee against Torture, who participated in considering the report and preparing recommendations to the Russian Federation, to take part in court hearings against NCOs as a witness for the defense and claim the legal right of ADC “Memorial” and its directior Olga Abramenko, who has presented the report to the 49th session of the Committee, to cooperate with the Committee and have its own point of view concerning arbitrary police actions against vulnerable minorities.

“The court case against ADC “Memorial” could become a dangerous precedent and put in danger the operations of all other human rights defenders in Russia”, Olga Abramenko, director of ADC “Memorial”, stated.

Human rights defenders have also appealed to the special reporter on the right to free peaceful assembly and association, as well as to special reporter on the situation of human rights activists, calling them to denounce reprisals against NCOs for spread of information and preparing legal recommendations. Similar appeals are now being prepared to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which has specifically recommended to the Russian government in February this year not to place a tag of “organization serving as a foreign agent” onto the NCOs dealing with the violation of rights of national minorities, and to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is expected to consider report on the rights of children in the Russian Federation in June 2013 (the latter report also includes a report by ADC “Memorial” on the discrimination of certain groups of children).

Background information

While the UN Committee considered how Russia observes the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or DegradingTreatment or Punishment, it has taken into account alternative reports by NGOs, including the report “Roma, Migrants, Activists: Victims of Police Abuse” presented by ADC”Memorial” with the assistance of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Following the session Committee has adopted a list of recommendations, in which it has paid special attention to the problems of the human rights defenders and called on the government of Russia to “ensure that no individual or group will be subjected to prosecution for communicating with, or for providing information to, the Committee against Torture, the Sub-Committee on Prevention of Torture or the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture or to other United Nations human rights organs in performing their respective mandates”.

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