Last week, on November 6, 2019 the Moscow city court took decision about liquidation of the non-governmental organization Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North. We consider that another gesture of persecution of defenders of indigenous peoples by the Russian government.
Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North (SCIPN) is a leading expert organization, which for more than 20 years protects the rights of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of Russia and raises awareness regarding the problems of the indigenous peoples at the international level, having special status and accreditation within numerous UN agencies and bodies.
The formal ground for the court decision has become the irrelevant legal address and outdated provisions in the statute of the organization. Despite the needed documents were provided before the court setting, the Moscow city court refused to allocate additional time for the Center to change the statute. The liquidation for these minor violations is excessive. The Ministry of Justice of Russia – the claimant in the court – could choose the other milder form of coercion, for example the suspension of the work of NGO until it addresses the deficiencies. These factors demonstrate the unwillingness of the Russian authorities to support the NGO and intention to shut it down.
For the last five years Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North have being under pressure from the government. In 2015 Ministry of Justice has forcibly added the organization into the registry of so-called «foreign agents» and fined it for 300 thousands of Russian rubles. However, the organization refused from the foreign funding, and in 2018 Ministry of Justice excluded it from the registry.
In 2014 the Russian State Border police did not allow the director of SCIPN Rodion Sulyandziga to leave to New York for participation in the conference on indigenous peoples; the proceedings of an administrative offence were initiated against him. On December 11, 2016 on the eve of Forum of Indigenous peoples in Moscow, the police searched an apartment of Rodion Sulyandziga, his laptop was confiscated and he was detained for interrogation. In 2017 the office of the Center was searched, the police confiscated the computer and documents of the organization. The brother of Rodion – Pavel Sulyandziga, also the defender of rights of indigenous peoples, was forced to leave Russia. He emigrated to the USA, where he applied for an asylum due to threats and persecution by the FSB.
The decision about the liquidation of the SCIPN is another gesture of pressure on the independent civil society in Russia. It seriously violates freedom of association and aims at suppression of activities in defense of rights of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of Russia.
We call on the authorities of the Russian Federation to provide independent and impartial consideration of an appeal of the Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North on the decision of Moscow city court; and to allow the Center to resolve the formal violations of the legislation and maintain its activities.