Harassment and Legal Woes of a Russian NGO Must Stop
New York City – Human Rights First condemns the attempt of the Russian government to ban a publication about human rights in the country. On December 6, 2012, activist Stanislav Dmitrievsky will appear before a Russian court in Dzerzhinsk in connection to a recent request from the state prosecutors to ban the monograph “International Tribunal for Chechnya” as extremist. Human Rights First notes the attempt to outlaw this publication is a continuation of the long string of government abuse of anti-extremism laws against Mr. Dmitrievsky and his nongovernmental organization, the Russian–Chechen Friendship Society.
“Long before the world discovered Pussy Riot, the Russian government tried to use those same anti-extremism provisions to silence activists like Stanislav Dmitrievsky,” says Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov. “In 2006, Dmitrievsky was convicted, under article 282 of Russia’s criminal code, of inciting ethnic hatred through his work promoting tolerance between ethnic Russians and Chechens. The recent attempt to ban a book he co-authored is as equally lacking in legal basis as the 2006 politically motivated trial. The authorities are once again trying to silence his work.”
The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS) is now registered in Finland because its Russian credentials were revoked by the authorities. Over the years, the organization has been the subject of intense persecution and harassment as a result of its work to expose abuses committed during the Chechnya conflict. More than a dozen employees, volunteers, and journalists associated with the RCFS or their family members have been pursued, beaten or killed. Mr. Dmitrievsky was himself the victim of several brutal beatings. None of the perpetrators has been brought to justice in any of these cases.
In 2012, the harassment and attacks against the organization intensified. On March 2, unknown perpetrators vandalized the entrance of the organization’s premises, and the next day a threatening leaflet was posted on the office door. On March 22, the police disrupted a meeting of local civil society activists at the organization’s premises, citing a bomb threat and conducting a lengthy fruitless search of the premises. On March 24, an unidentified man attempted to set the office on fire. On July 31, orange paint mixed with diesel fuel was found on a staircase to the office, and on November 1, four masked men armed with sledgehammers broke several windows and spread orange paint at the entrance. The police have yet to arrest or identify any suspects in any of the attacks.
“Instead of working to protect civil society activists and investigating attempts to intimidate and physically hurt them, the Russian government is adding to the activists’ woes by initiating dubious criminal cases against them,” continued Grekov. “This practice must stop, and the country’s vaguely defined antiextremism laws that are the source of these abuses must be reformed.”
Human Rights First urges U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to raise the abusive practices of the Russian government during this week’s meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) participating States. On December 6-7, Secretary Clinton will lead the U.S. delegation to the annual meeting organized by the current OSCE Chair Ireland in Dublin. The State Department’s annual human rights reports list numerous examples of Russia’s abuse of anti-extremism laws, and U.S. diplomats have in the past used various OSCE forums to raise such cases.
“We urge the United States government to continue openly and directly communicating to the Russian authorities an alarm over the misuse of anti-extremism laws in general and the persecution of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society in particular,” concluded Grekov.