Paris, Saint-Petersburg — Over the last two years the Russian authorities have waged the largest offensive against freedom since the end of the Soviet Union, according to a report published today by FIDH and its member organisation ADC Memorial.
The report “Russia 2012-2013: Attack on Freedom” gives an alarming account of the judicial arsenal that Putin’s regime has built up since his re-election to the Presidency in 2012. Numerous laws have been adopted and amended in order to further the repression of any dissident voice. The most fundamental rights have been brought into question: the right to information, demonstration, association, equality of sexual orientation, etc.
“Everything has been rigged to disarm and defame Russian civil society,” declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “In one year Russia’s civic and peaceful opposition movement has been considerably weakened by violence and judicial persecution. With their capacity to act thus curtailed, NGOs experience increasing difficulty in helping victims of arbitrary action by the authorities” he added.
There are constantly acts of repression that spring from such legislation. Never a day passes without opposition activists, journalists, artists and human rights defenders being prosecuted. Some charges are absurd: ADC Memorial was recently prosecuted for the “electromagnetic pollution” produced by their computers.
That association alone, which is renowned internationally for its defence of the rights of migrants, Roma and minorities, was subjected to several trials in 2013. It was convicted last December 12 for being “a foreign agent” and for having “drafted and submitted” a report for the UN Committee against Torture on violations by the police of the rights of activists, migrants and Roma.
The recent release of Pussy Riot band members, of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and of Greenpeace activists in no way indicates that the Russian regime is abandoning its repressive policies. In the same week that the release of these political prisoners was announced a new law regulating Internet content and enabling any content that might be judged subversive to be censored, was adopted. The regime’s determination to strengthen still further its judicial arsenal persists, as evidenced in a bill currently before the Duma that would permit the use of force by popular militia without the need to call for police.
“The judicial persecution of persons who demonstrated on 6 May 2012 on Bolotnaya Square gives the measure of the repression meted out against dissenting voices in Russia, as do the sentences recently called for against them. These persons must be released immediately,” declared Stefania Kulaeva, the director of ADC Memorial. “These laws must be repealed to prevent Russia from reverting to the Soviet practice of hunting down freedoms. Furthermore, these laws are contrary to the Constitution of the Russian Federation and to all international treaties and standards ratified by Russia,” she added.