To the Governor of St. Petersburg
Dear Valentina Ivanovna,
Following your election to the position of Governor of St. Petersburg, the voluntary organisation “Memorial”, the St. Petersburg-based voluntary organisation for the defence of human rights “Civil Control”, the Russian Committee of Advocates for the Defence of Human Rights, the St. Petersburg-based voluntary organisation “African Unity”, the Group for the Rights of National Minorities of the St. Petersburg-based Union of Scientists, and the Harold and Selma Light Legal Assistance Center would like to address you in order to express their deep concern at the increase in the number of manifestations of extreme nationalism in our city.
On 21 September 2003, a group of 17-18 year-old youths describing themselves as skinheads attacked Luli women and children, cruelly beating them with the aid of an axe, a piece of metal and a knife. Two small girls and two women were hospitalised with numerous injuries as a result of the beating. One of the girls – aged six – died in hospital. This monstrous crime was by no means the only racially-motivated murder to have been committed in our city by young fascists. Recently a student from Mauritius was killed, and at the end of September, hearings commenced in the city court regarding the murder of an Azerbaijani water melon-seller. In the latter case, a charge was filed for murder on the basis of racial hatred. This gives cause to believe that the authorities are sincerely concerned about the increase in racist feeling among young people, since until now the investigators and courts preferred to ignore racial motives in such crimes, and generally categorised them as acts of hooliganism.
In connection with the fact that, under the auspices of the voluntary organisation “Memorial”, a special centre for the social and legal protection of Roma (Gypsies) has been established, we would like to draw particular attention to the lot of this national minority. The militia have commenced criminal proceedings with regard to the murder of the Luli girl; the murderers have been arrested and have been charged. It might seem that the law has triumphed. However, we must not ignore the fact that timely intervention by the agents of law and order could have averted this tragedy. The youths arrested for the murder of the child had, on a number of occasions, been identified by the militia as members of stable extremist groups, and attacks on Tajik Gypsies were a regular occurrence. But the necessary preventative measures had not been taken. Instead of providing protection to people under threat of attack, the authorities took the decision to deport these Luli people, knowing perfectly well that they did not have the resources to carry out the deportation. As a result of this, these people – themselves victims of violence – spent more than three days at the premises of the militia.
The fate of immigrants and citizens of other states who have arrived in our city for some reason only seems to concern the authorities when beatings and murders occur. Those same Tajik Gypsies have been living in Saint Petersburg for years without registration, but the representatives of the authorities do nothing to improve the lot of these people, who live in inhumane conditions, hungry and sick. They may not have legal status, but this does not mean that we should remain indifferent when we see their children being murdered.
Saint Petersburg has always been populated by many different national groups. We hope that you, as the Governor, will give this problem the attention it deserves. It is essential that neonazi crimes, which bring shame to our city , are ended. The most recent of these occurred ten days ago, when a student from Nigeria was crippled by skinheads.
Chairman of the Board of the voluntary organisation “Memorial” V.E. Schnitke
Chairman of “Civil Control” B.P. Pustyntsev
Chairman of the Russian Committee of Advocates for
the Defence of Human Rights Y. M. Schmidt
Chairman of the Group for the Rights of
National Minorities of the St. Petersburg-based
Union of Scientists N.M. Girenko
Director of the Harold and Selma Light
Legal Assistance Center L.A. Lvov
Chairman of the Board of the
Saint Petersburg-based voluntary organisation
“African Unity” Aliu Tunkara