Legal rights activists informed the president about the problem of violation of freedom of assembly, illegal anti-extremism and political repressions in Russia and Belarus. The members of the Human Rights Council handed to Dmitry Medvedev the appeal in defence of Belarus legal rights activist and political prisoner Ales Belyatsky.
28 April there was the last meeting between Council for Civil Society and Human Rights and the President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev. Famous human rights activists, including Svetlana Gannushkina, Lyudmila Alekseyeva and Yuri Dzhibladze, participated in the meeting. Members of Council in their speeches focused on numerous issues of serious violations of human rights in Russia. The issue of freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and persecution of civic activists was brought up by director of Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights Yuri Dzhibladze.
Special attention was given to the issue of misuse of anti-extremism, criticism of abuse by Centre E (police centre responsible for combating extremism), whose activity was characterized as ‘political spying’, examples of persecution of activists in Nizhniy Novgorod and persecution of Philipp Kostenko in Saint-Petersburg were given:
‘We record more and more cases of misuse of anti-extremism by special anti-extremism departments – so-called Centres E. These departments appeared in 2008 from departments for combating organized crime, which were reorganized. So the same people, who for many years had been working with criminal groups, took up work with political activists, youth movements, religious organizations, bloggers. Appearance of these centres provoked well grounded criticism that has only been increasing since then. They are strongly criticized for three important reasons. Big amount of different legal procedure violation, pro-fascist sympathies of many employees of the centres and the very ‘political spying’, i.e. spying on political, civic and religious activists due to reasons that are not related somehow to criminal law. In many regions these centres actively and with provocations and illegal methods exert pressure upon activists who either authorities or very employees of the centres just dislike. Striking, glaring example of it can be the persecution of Philipp Kostenko, employee of Anti-discrimination centre ‘Memorial’, by employees of the centre E in Saint-Petersburg and strong campaign of threatening and pressure by centre on combating extremism in Nizhniy Novgorod against wide range of civic and opposition activists. Problem of misuse of anti-extremism must be solved till it doesn’t spread even further’.
Yuri Dzhibladze also brought up the topic of unlawful limitation on freedom of assembly, inadmissibility of persecution for expression of opinion including criticism of religious organizations, giving an example of persecution of group Pussy Riot. Especially there were mentioned drawbacks of legislation on public events and practice of ‘agreement’ which cause ‘administrative arbitrariness’ and provoke ‘radical protest’:
‘Implementation of the right of freedom of assembly still entails risks which depend on both attempts of authorities to refuse to agree the conduct of public event and preventive detentions, assault and battery during the actions, falsification of trials and long, now right up to 15 days and nights, administrative arrests… As a whole, system character of problem of freedom of assembly leads to radical protest and make people sure of uselessness to hand in notifications to conduct a public event as ‘they will not be agreed any way’’.
Also, resort to violence, that is widely practiced during detentions of participants of street actions, at police stations (Saint-Petersburg was named as notorious city with regard to violence from police as well), dishonest trials on administrative cases and repeated administrative arrests as ‘new repressive forms’ were mentioned. Imperfection of practice of detention was recognized in return comments by the president as well. There was also criticism of insufficient reaction by authorities on continuous violence with regard to human rights activists and journalists:
‘Alas, we must recognize that the progress leaves much to be desired. Yes, sentences to murderers of Stanislav Markelov, Anastasiya Baburova and Nikolay Girenko allowed us to build some hopes up. But, as a rule, people committing crimes against journalists and human rights activists stay not punished. Atmosphere of impunity remains, encourages new attacks, including recent ones. I will mention only two of them: assault and battery of the very activist from ADC ‘Memorial’ Philipp Kostenko and severe attack on activist of Khimkinsky forest Alexey Dmitriev the other day’.
Speaking about problems of Belarus, Yuri Dzhibladze named the situation with Belarus human rights activist Ales Belyatsky, sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment for human rights activity. Yuri Dzhibladze mentioned that Russia doesn’t do anything in its foreign policy to influence the situation of persecution of the human rights activist. In the frame of the meeting the statement on case of Ales Belyatsky, signed by members of the Council, was handed to the president.
Shorthand report of the meeting: http://kremlin.ru/news/15170
Text of Yuri Dzhibladze’s speech: http://dzhib.livejournal.com/57985.html