Violent Attacks Against Russian Activists Focus of Al Jazeera’s The Stream

By Fighting Discrimination Program

Yesterday, Al Jazeera’s innovative and social-media friendly television daily The Stream delved into the subject of Russian protests. The show’s principal guest was Oleg Vorotnikov of the art collective Voina, known for radical and critically acclaimed conceptual art stunts that often get them into trouble with law enforcement.

Voina is frequently a target of “extremist” laws in Russia, and its members are often prosecuted for nonviolent acts. Voina’s prosecution last year became the most high-profile example of selective enforcement of the controversial antiextremism laws. That is when prosecution turns into persecution.

In Russia, law enforcement and prosecutorial officials also use antiextremism legislation to persecute nonviolent government critics including journalist, independent media, human rights organizations, and religious groups–draining resources away from police units tasked with combating real threats of racist violence. Just last week, Human Rights First reported on the case of Philip Kostenko, an employee of the Anti-Discrimination Center in Saint Petersburg and a Voina affiliate. Kostenko was beaten on his way to work and is convinced that the attack was carried out by the antiextremism unit police for his involvement in organizing last weekend’s protests in the city. (On Al Jazeera, Vorotnikov referred to Kostenko by his nickname Pusha.)

Human Rights First’s Tweet Featured on Al Jazeera’s The Stream

In the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod, another activist, Nikolay Nikolaev, was kidnapped and beaten on February 4 after participating in a protest he organized. After the attack, Nikolaev identified a high-ranking antiextremism policeman whose subordinates can also be seen in the video of the kidnapping. Today, Nikolaev called on the federal investigators to examine the case evidence and build a case against the police.

In our two cameos–via a video question and a tweet–on The Stream, Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov raised these two recent attacks, which, together with cases like Voina’s, continue to reinforce the story of abuse stemming from the selective enforcement of antiextremism laws and actions of the police units responsible for combating “extremism.”

Check out our podcast on selective enforcement of antiextremist laws in Russia.

Published on February 7, 2012


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