Russia: Amid Repression, Civil Society Sends Clear Message Demanding Human Rights
As Russia continues to abuse and ignore human rights, a strong and determined civil society has stepped up their efforts to challenge the state and advocate change. Despite repression and intimidation, several partners to Civil Rights Defenders have recently brought their demands to the UN, making it clear that they will stand ready as the international community reviews Russia’s dismal human rights records.
Russia has in recent years introduced a new set of repressive laws that target human rights defenders, the independent media, LGBT persons, and severely restrict human rights work in the country. All this in contradistinction to the recommendations given to Russia in its last UPR review in 2013. Russia left the sessions with a large number of recommendations to adhere to in order to live up to its international human rights obligations.
“The fact that Russia has effectively rejected the majority of the UPR recommendations from the last process is unacceptable. The regime systematically uses repressive legislation to undermine human rights work in the country,” said Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director for Eurasia at Civil Rights Defenders.
Russia’s systematic crack-down on human rights related work has been unmistakable, not least through the adoption of widely criticised laws such as the foreign agent law, the law on undesirable organisations, and the LGBT propaganda law. These laws are highlighted as of great concern in recent alternative UPR reports, for example in the one submitted by Civil Rights Defenders’ partner Citizens Watch and the network Civicus ahead of Russia’s next UPR in May 2018.
The report addresses how the draconian laws have resulted in the expulsion and closure of numerous civil society organisations, and restrictions on the activities of countless others. It draws attention to how the restrictions lead to increased criminalisation and persecution of for example human rights defenders.
During the UPR process in 2013, Russia was given multiple recommendations in relation to freedom of expression. However, as also highlighted in a recent joint alternative report submitted by Civil Rights Defenders’ partner Mass Media Defence Centre and others, not a single recommendation has been implemented. Instead, they argue, the Kremlin has enacted restrictive legislation and pursued policies that cannot be seen as other than grave violations to the right to freedom of expression, particularly targeting political opposition and civil society.
“The repressive legislation highlights that Russia lacks the will to live up to its international obligations. Despite the repressions, the Russia LGBT Network, Citizens Watch, Mass Media Defence Centre and other civil society actors continue to hold the regime accountable. Their courageous work deserve recognition and support,” said Joanna Kurosz.
Taking into account online freedom of expression issues and media freedoms, the report largely focuses on the safety of journalists and the operating environment for NGOs. Among other things, the Mass Media Defence Centre urges Russia to prevent and protect against threats and violence against journalists, and to immediately and unconditionally release all journalists held on politically-motivated charges.
Other organisations that have noted and criticised Russia’s lack of adherence to the 2013 recommendations are Civil Rights Defenders’ partner Russian LGBT Network and the Anti-Discrimination Center Memorial. In their recent submission to the Human Rights Council, they highlight issues of ethnic, gender, and religious discrimination, as well as discrimination on the grounds of health and sexual orientation and gender identity. The two organisations urge Russia to annul the draconian law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”.
The Russian LGBT Network and Memorial condemn Russia’s hate crimes against LGBT persons, and the mass persecution of homosexual persons organised by the authorities in the North Caucasus region. The message from the organisations is loud and clear: Russia must adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation as well as to urgently investigate the situation with LGBT persecution in the North Caucasus as crime against humanity or special intent.
Tags: Citizens Watch, Foreign Agent Law, Mass Media Defence Centre, Propaganda laws, Russian LGBT Network, Undesirable Organisations Law, and UPR.