Alternative Report on the Implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities by the Russian Federation. The 4th Monitoring Cycle, October 2017
Violation of the rights of indigenous peoples. The situation of indigenous shor and teleut peoples
Indigenous peoples living in the harsh climatic conditions of the North, Siberia, and the Far East regularly come up against the predatory policies of mining and oil and gas companies, which have been able to reach the most remote areas of Russia thanks to developments in technology. RF law, which guarantees the rights of indigenous peoples, is not being implemented. According to media reports, the November 2016 report of the Human Rights Council under the RF President stated that 50 indigenous minorities and their languages and cultures are in danger of disappearing.
Mining and oil and gas companies have caused irreparable harm to territories where indigenous peoples have traditionally lived and used natural resources. Any protests from residents of territories where the work of oil, gas, and coal companies has caused a real environmental catastrophe and made it impossible to practice ceremonial rituals and traditional activities of indigenous peoples (hunting, fishing, reindeer herding, gathering wild plants) devolve into the persecution of activists and even criminal cases.
The local police applied constant pressure to residents of Kondopoga District in the Republic of Karelia who were protecting the Suna Forest from being cut down and living a tent camp in the forest for 9 months to prevent equipment of Saturn Nordstroy LLC, which intended to develop a sand borrow pit in its place, from entering the forest. The office of the Karelian environmental organization SPOK, which supports local residents in their protest and has documented the violation of their rights, was searched by the FSB in September 2016.
A number of defenders of indigenous rights have been forced to leave Russia and seek political asylum in other countries.
The foreign agent law, which entered into force in November 2012, has had an extremely negative effect on the activities of social organizations defending the rights of indigenous peoples. This law has made it more difficult for NGOs to operate, harmed their reputation, and caused a schism within the community. There have even been instances when independent human rights defenders from the indigenous community have faced persecution.
Amendments to this law proposed by the RF government have failed to eliminate legal deficiencies and have created new risks for ensuring the rights of indigenous peoples. Experts and representatives of indigenous peoples have repeatedly expressed alarm regarding the recent bill “On Amendments to the Federal Law ‘On Territories of Traditional Land Use by Small Indigenous Groups of the North, Siberia, and the Far East of the Russian Federation.’” For example, the Opinion of the Standing Committee of the State Assembly (Il Tumen) of Sakha Republic (Yakutia) recommends rejecting this bill for the following reasons: it is not in line with the provisions of international documents on indigenous rights and the RF Constitution; various provisions of this bill are primarily aimed at protecting the interests of business entities instead of the interests of the population residing in these areas; the participation of representatives of indigenous peoples in the creation and operation of territories of traditional land use has been reduced to a minimum; the distribution of powers between regional and federal authorities during the creation of the territories of traditional land use listed in the bill is not in line with the interests of indigenous peoples; the bill does not regulate the status of existing territories of traditional land use; and the territories of traditional land use are not classified as “specially protected territories,” which lowers the level of protection for the traditional environment in which indigenous peoples live.