Racism, Discrimination and Fight Against “Extremism” in Contemporary Russia and its Controlled Territories

Alternative Report of ADC Memorial, CrimeaSOS, SOVA Center, together with FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) on the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination By the Russian Federation. For the 93rd Session of the UN CERD, July 31 – August 11, 2017.

A new form of discrimination was analyzed in the report, namely the persecution of ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, primarily caused by military intervention and annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Representatives of these ethnic groups face serious human rights violations – forced disappearances, torture, illegal detention based on their ethnicity, as well as limitation for speaking and studying their native languages, practicing of religion and culture” – commented Evhenia Andreyuk, Ukrainian Human Rights defender, vice-coordinator of CrimeaSOS. 

Practicing Muslims in general suffer from persecution related to unsubstantiated allegations of their connection to religious extremism and radicalism or even terrorist groups. Thus, in addition to Crimean Tatars, persecution affects residents of the North Caucasus and many millions of migrant workers from Central Asian countries. Regular repressions against religious organizations and groups paired with ethnic profiling by the police results in multi-layered discrimination.

Many Caucasians who are Russian citizens suffer from “Caucasus-phobia”: they cannot rent housing, get a decent job, their access to education or social services is hampered. The situation is even harder for non-citizens, who are seen as “foreigners” on the basis of religion, country of origin, and citizenship” – says Alexander Verkhovsky, head of the SOVA Center.

Although the statistics shows the decline in hate murders over the recent years, in comparison with 2002-2012 when their number had reached its peak, human rights defenders warn against the consequences of state-sponsored spreading of fear of migrants and Caucasians used in political struggle in Russia.

Propaganda has created an “image of the enemy”, state television stations are regularly intimidating the audience with stories about “the hand of the West” and the conspiracy of neighboring countries against Russia” – says Marceau Sivieude, Director of Operations at FIDH.

Moreover, the official data portrays an incomplete picture of the scale of hate crimes in Russia since investigators often do not qualify hate crimes as such, but rather as “murder” or “damage to health”.

It is important to emphasize that the measures designed to fight extremism are often inadequate or even violating the right to freedom of expression.

Organisations defending minorities and indigenous people from discrimination. Many such NGOs were declared “foreign agents” while the representative body of Crimean Tatars was declared an “extremist organization” and thus banned.

In their alternative report prepared for the 93nd UN CERD session scheduled for early August to examine the official report provided to the Committee by the Russian authorities, defenders brought to the attention the issue of xenophobia against Roma, including discrimination by law enforcement agencies.

“Ethnic discrimination manifests itself in such practices as segregation of Roma children in schools, evictions of Roma settlements contradicting international law, anti-Roma campaigns in local media and brutal police behavior” – says Stefania Kulaeva, head of ADC Memorial.

Finally, the report recommendations call upon the Russian government to stop state discrimination against a number of ethnic groups, to amend contradictory anti-extremist legislation violating the freedom of speech, adopt measures in order to render anti-extremist law enforcement practices compliant with the international law and to cease oppression of the civil society.