Paris-Geneva-Brussels-Moscow, November 6, 2019 – Russian state agents searched the Perm office of the human rights NGO International Memorial and the house of its Chairman, Robert Latypov, last Thursday over alleged “illegal logging”. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT), the Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” (ADC Memorial), the Human Rights Center “Memorial” (HRC Memorial), Citizens’ Watch, and the Committee Against Torture (INGO-CAT) denounce the mounting pressure and the proliferation of acts of judicial harassment against human rights NGOs in Russia.
International Memorial is a human rights NGO investigating Soviet-era political repressions as well as ongoing repressions in Russia. On October 31, 2019, State agents from the Center for Counter-Terrorism and Anti-Extremism, the Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Security Service seized some of the organisation’s key working equipment during their search of the NGO’s office, including several computers, a notebook, and financial and other documents.
“Authorities’ search and seizure of International Memorial, just one day after the Remembrance Day for the Victims of Repressions, is a clear attempt to intimidate Memorial’s members and prevent their important memory, denunciation and rehabilitation efforts. Robert’s apartment search is especially outrageous given the obvious fact that there couldn’t be any ‘evidence’ of deforestation there”, said Stephania Kulaeva, Head of the ADC Memorial.
A criminal case over “illegal logging” (Article 260 of the Russian Criminal Code) was opened against International Memorial after its volunteers organised an expedition to Galyashor, in the Perm region, during the summer of 2019, to clean up a monument dedicated to the memory of Lithuanians and Poles persecuted during the Soviet regime. Under Article 260, Memorial’s volunteers could face up to three years’ imprisonment. Last month, the Ministry of Natural Resources of Perm fined Memorial International 200,000 Rubles (approximately 2 850 Euros) and Mr. Latypov 50,000 Rubles (approximately 700 Euros) for “unauthorised occupation of forest plots”.
As Mr. Latypov wrote on his Facebook page, it is crystal clear that the case is politically motivated: the searches led by the Perm regional division of the Federal Security Service in a remote area of the Perm region to counteract deforestation could not be explained otherwise. The searches are part of a campaign by the authorities to discredit memorialisation efforts and a broader crackdown on NGOs.
“Judicial harassment against human rights NGOs is growing in Russia. The Supreme Court ruled last Friday in favour of the Justice Ministry lawsuit demanding the dissolution of the “For Human Rights” movement. And Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev, Head of the International Memorial in the northern Republic of Karelia, is still arbitrarily detained over false accusations”, recalled Alexandr Cherkasov, Chairman of the HRC Memorial.
The “For Human Rights” movement, led by Mr. Lev Ponomarev, plans to appeal the Supreme Court’s ruling, which is based on the movement’s suspected violation of the 2012 Foreign Agent Law, and submit a petition to the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr. Yuri Dmitriyev, who has dedicated his life to locating and documenting the remains of victims of Stalinist repressions, has been arbitrarily detained since December 2016 on fabricated sexual abuse charges. If found guilty, Mr. Dmitriyev faces from 12 to 20 years in prison.
“The authorities’ thinly-veiled attempt to whitewash Soviet-era crimes causes NGOs to pay a heavy price for exercising their legitimate and peaceful memory and human rights activities. We call on the Russian authorities to unconditionally respect freedom of association and assembly and to put an end to any acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all human rights NGOs and defenders in the country”, concluded the Observatory.
For further information, please contact:
· FIDH: Ms. Eva Canan (English, French), +33648059157 (Paris)
· OMCT: Ms. Iolanda Jaquemet +41 79 539 41 06 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Mr. Miguel Martín (English, French, Spanish), +41 22 809 49 39 (Geneva / Brussels)
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
ADC Memorial defends the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups in Eastern European and Central Asian countries, including women, Roma, LGBTI people, migrant children and migrant workers. Initially based in Saint Petersburg, Russia, it was forced to relocate to Brussels in 2014 after having been designated as a “foreign agent” as part of a wave of anti-democracy laws passed since 2012. The organization continues its crucial work from abroad.
HRC Memorial is a self-governed non-commercial civil organization founded in 1991, whose members are united by humanistic and moral principles and the aspiration to assist the defence of human rights and the formation of people’s civil dignity. The HRC was created and functions within the Memorial International Historical, Educational, Human Rights and Charitable Society. The Human Rights Center’s mission is to promote general respect and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms both in the Russian Federation and in other states.
The Committee Against Torture (INGO-CAT) is a Russian non-governmental organisation. Established in 2000, it investigates allegations of torture by state agents, provides victims of torture with medical psychological support, and represents them at the national level and before the European Court of Human Rights in cases where domestic remedies are ineffective. Based on its casework and research, it publishes information on systemic obstacles to effective investigation and prosecution of torture in Russia.
Citizens’ Watch is a human rights NGO initiated in 1992 by a group of Russian human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, and deputies to the Russian Parliament and to the St. Petersburg City Council. The goals were to assist in establishing parliamentary and civic control over police, security service, and armed forces, and to help prevent violations of constitutional rights by these governmental agencies.