Press conference: “Human rights activists accuse authorities of anti-Gypsyism”

In 2009, the mayor of Sochi made anti-Gypsy remarks but was never held accountable under criminal or civil laws, declares a Roma activist Alexander Klein, who is preparing to file a claim against the mayor with the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial” supported Klein’s position.

A press conference of Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” entitled “Human rights activists accuse the authorities of anti-Gypsyism” took place in the Independent Press Centre in Moscow on April 5. The following people participated in the event: Alexander Klein, his lawyer from Sochi Marina Dubrovina, lawyer from St. Petersburg Sergey Golubok and ADC “Memorial” attorney Anna Udyarova.

The main topic of the press conference were the statements the mayor of Sochi Anatoliy Pakhomov made, from which can be referred the “debasement of all the Roma people.”

Let us remind that at the conference on October 19, 2009, Anatoly Pakhomov proposed to send the homeless and the Gypsies to the construction sites for the Olympic Games and force them to work there. “It is necessary to transport the Gypsies and the homeless to the construction sites and force them to work there, like in days the Soviet Union,” announced Pakhomov, who was a city administrator then, and whose words were quoted by the federal and regional mass media.

Alexander Klein: Anatoly Pakhomov made a racist declaration

After the community leaders found out about Anatoly Pakhomov’s remarks, they filed a civil lawsuit to defend their national dignity and recover compensation for moral harm, told Alexander Klein.

“In October of 2009 the mayor of Sochi, Anatoly Pakhomov, while performing his official duties, in the presence of reporters, made a racist statement. Pakhomov publically, using the mass media, committed an act that was intended to incite hatred and enmity toward the Roma people, and debase the Roma based on their nationality,” asserts Alexander Klein.

According to him, Klein appealed to the Sochi’s prosecutor’s office; however, the supervising committee refused to initiate criminal proceedings against Anatoly Pakhomov, and the court denied the petition.

“It is interesting that the mayor never refuted his public remarks,” noted Alexander Klein.

Right now, documents, related to the claim against Anatoly Pakhomov, are being prepared to be transferred to the “international authorities,” since the “Russian courts have turned out to be ineffective,” states Alexander Klein.

“A person of such rank, like Pakhomov, a mayor, does not have the right to make racist statements, offend and debase a group of people. It is necessary to prevent such behavior,” believes the Roma activist.

Marina Dubrovina: the court closed the case because of the lack of evidence

Alexander Klein appealed for support to ADC “Memorial”, told the centre’s attorney Anna Udyarova. The case was picked up by lawyer Marina Dubrovina, who continued to maintain the Roma activist’s position in the Sochi and regional courts.

According to her, Dubrovina tried to hold Pakhomov criminally liable based on Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, “Incitement of hatred or enmity, but is equal to the debasement of human dignity.” The lawyer asserts that the prosecutor’s office has “explicitly drawn out” the inspection of the case related to Anatoly Pakhomov’s statements.

“It felt like the claim was being ignored. Only when I came, in person, to the investigation department, I was told that my claim to incite criminal proceedings was denied because “the statement was sent to an expert examination,” told Marina Dubrovina.

Based on the linguistic expertise, a case was made to recover compensation for moral harm. Moreover, the appeal about the denial of initiation of criminal proceedings was also disputed.

Due to discovery of new evidence, the case was returned for another review. “Pakhomov himself, naturally, did not go to the legal proceedings. In general, the representatives of the Sochi administration were surprised – how is it possible that criminal proceedings could be initiated against Pakhomov?” informed Dubrovina.

In the end, the case review was discontinued due to insufficient evidence against Pakhomov. “The defense counsel claimed that there is no audio nor video recording of the plenary session. We had the transcript in our hands, but it was not notarized by anyone. The court did not accept it. The mayor declared that he did not pronounce that phrase, and blamed it all on the reporters’ unprofessionalism,” the lawyer said.

“The chief of the city Sochi, Pakhomov A.N., who was interrogated as part of the investigation, explained that at the plenary session, a report was being heard on the violations of the law in the city of Sochi, in which representatives of various nationalities were mentioned; negative remarks in relation to the Roma people were not made,” as noted in the Sochi’s Central District Court’s decision from October 7, 2011, a copy of which is uploaded on the court’s official website.

Sergey Golubok: we want to take the case to an international level

After unsuccessful attempts to hold Anatoly Pakhomov accountable in Russia, the decision was made to appeal to the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, explained Alexander Klein’s lawyer, Sergey Golubok.

He reminded that Russia had signed the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. “The Fourth Article of the Convention requires all authorities to hold criminally accountable all those, who promote ideas based on hatred and persecution of any kind of race. In the first place, this extends to all government authorities,” informed Sergey Golubok.

Noting that, although the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination is not as well known as the European Court for Human Rights, nevertheless, Alexander Klein and his lawyers intend to maintain their position specifically in the United Nations.

“We want to take the case to an international level. Yes, the Committee is not as well known as the European Court for Human Rights, it is not capable of collecting monetary compensation. But this agency, working for decades, is capable of understanding “anti-Gypsyism,” – remarked Sergey Golubok.

The lawyer reminded, that in 2008, the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination noted in its evaluation that a problem of anti-Gypsyism exists in Russia.

Based on the materials of: Oleg Krasnov; source: reporter from the “Caucasion Knot”

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