Russia

In the North Caucasus human rights defenders live under constant threat to their lives. To empower them, we have initiated a long-term project named the Stockholm Process. Together with our partners we bring cases of human rights violations to the European Court of Human Rights. In Russia we also support marginalised groups such as LGBT in their fight to end discrimination.

Read about the current human rights situation in our country report Human rights in Russia

Multi-Front War Against Human Rights Organisations in Russia

Igor Kalyapin, leader of Joint Mobile Group, attacked with green coloured liquid in Chechnya’s main city Grozny in March 2016. Read more on page 16 in the report. Photo: Anastasiya Moskvychova RFE/RL

Today, Civil Rights Defenders launches the report “Never Give Up: Russian Human Rights Defenders Keep Swimming under the Ice” which highlights the situation for human rights defenders in Russia. The situation for human rights organisations in the country is becoming increasingly difficult. The Russian regime, led by President Vladimir Putin, has introduced a number of laws that, among other things, prevent foreign funders from donating money to civil society.

Chechnya Risk Becoming the Next North Korea

On Monday evening, 22 January, a car belonging to the Russian human rights group Memorial was torched in Makhachkala, Dagestan. Photo: Memorial

The ongoing campaign to oust the last critical voice from the Russian constituent republic of Chechnya is escalating. If Memorial, the last remaining human rights organisation on the ground, is forced to leave the republic, the local dictator Ramzan Kadyrov will have free rein to propagate a distorted, cleaned-up image of Chechnya. If we do not want a new North Korea in the world, the politicians of the West must act forcefully, today.

Seminar: Silence Over Chechnya – Oppression and Violence out of the Spotlight

On 22 February, Olga Sadovskaja and Oleg Orlov visit Civil Rights Defenders in Stockholm to speak about the deteriorating situation for human rights in Chechnya, North Caucasus. Photo (right): Anna Artemyeva.

The ongoing campaign to oust the last critical voice from the Chechnya is escalating. If the human rights group Memorial is forced to leave, we will have few ways of knowing what human rights violations are committed in the republic. Civil Rights Defenders invites you to a seminar with leading experts from Chechnya to examine the current human rights situation in region, the role played by the Russian Federation and what actions the international community can take in response to the situation.

Intensified Attacks Against Leading Russian Rights Group: “The Car is Just a Warning”

On Monday evening, 22 January, a car belonging to the Russian human rights group Memorial was torched in Makhachkala, Dagestan. Photo: Memorial

The recent series of threats and harassment of Russian human rights group Memorial over their work in the Republic of Chechnya seem to have no end. On Monday evening, 22 January, a car belonging to the organisation was torched in Makhachkala, Dagestan, and the local staff received multiple sms threats saying “Shut down! Next time we’ll burn your office, with you inside. The car is just a warning.”

Human Rights Group Memorial Hit by Arson Attack In North Caucasus

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Two unidentified men in masks have broken into and torched the Nazran office of Russian human rights organisation Memorial. The attack comes only a week after the arrest of Oyub Titiev, leader of Memorial’s Chechnya office. Civil Rights Defenders condemns in the strongest terms the recent attacks and demands Russia put all efforts necessary into ensuring the security and safety of human rights defenders in the region.

Joint statement in support of lawyer Mark Feygin

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In a joint statement, Civil Rights Defenders and Justice International call on the Russian authorities to comply with their international obligations to provide the necessary guarantees for the proper functioning of lawyers, including to do the utmost to protect lawyer Mark Feygin from persecution, improper restrictions and infringements, and to carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the threats against him.

Russia: Authorities Should Free Chechen Human Rights Defender Immediately

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On his way to work on 9 January 2018, Oyub Titiev, director of Memorial’s Grozny office, disappeared. He was later brought to the police station and charged with drug possession. “By all appearances Oyub Titiev’s case is fabricated as a revenge for his human rights work. We demand Russian authorities to drop charges, immediately release Oyub Titiev, and guarantee his safety,” said Joanna Kurosz, Eurasia programme director at Civil Rights Defenders.

Seminar: Persecution of gay men in Chechnya – how to respond to it?

Igor Kochetkov is the head of the Russian LGBT Network. On 6 December, he visits Civil Rights Defenders' headquarters in Stockholm to discuss the recent "gay purge" in Chechnya.

In the spring of 2017, the Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported about mass detentions, torture and killings of gay men in Russia’s autonomous republic of Chechnya. On 7 December, Igor Kochetov from the Russian LGBT Network joins Civil Rights Defenders for a breakfast seminar to discuss the recent events in Chechnya as well as what Sweden and other democratic states can do.

Russia: Amid Repression, Civil Society Sends Clear Message Demanding Human Rights

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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.

QueerFest in Russia: The Art of Being Yourself Here and Now

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The opening ceremony of the ninth QueerFest, supported by Civil Rights Defenders, was a success from start to finish. For the second year in a row, the festival could open without disruptions of violence, harassment and provocations. “The feeling of safety, whether destined to be temporary or long-lived, provides LGBT people with a boost of interest and confidence”, said Polina Andrianova, one of the organisers.

Russian Special Forces Found Guilty of Kidnapping and Beating Chairman of Memorial Human Rights Center

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Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which ruled that Russian special forces were directly involved in the kidnapping of Oleg Orlov, the then-head of Memorial Human Rights Center, and the assault and kidnapping of three journalists from Ren TV channel back in 2007 in the Republic of Ingushetia located in the Russian North Caucasus.

Investigate Threats against Editor-in-Chief

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Civil Rights Defenders is seriously concerned with public threats made by a high-ranking government official in Chechnya against Grigoriy Shvedov, editor-in-chief of the independent news portal Caucasian Knot. On 7 January, Magomed Daudov, speaker of the parliament of Chechnya, published on his personal Instagram account a post which implied that Shvedov was lying while reporting on events in the region in exchange for foreign funding.

Stop the Harassment of Human Rights Lawyers

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On 26 October, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation will consider an appeal by two human rights lawyers. In the ruling, the judge accused them of committing actions that “defame the honour and the dignity of a lawyer” and suggested revoking their license to practice law. Civil Rights Defenders urges the Russian authorities to immediately cease the judicial harassment, which aims to punish the lawyers for their work to defend human rights.

Reflecting on Queerfest 2016 – A Change for the Better in St. Petersburg

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In its eight year history as one of Russia’s largest LGBTI festivals, QueerFest has been marred by violence, hate speech, harassment of participants and forced venue cancellations by the authorities. Through dogged perseverance from the organisers and their supporters QueerFest has managed not only to survive but also thrive. In 2016 all the hard work seemed to pay off with not a single violent incident reported.

Video: Ten Years After Anna Politkovskaya’s Murder – The Mastermind Still Walks Free

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Anna Politkovskaya worked as a journalist at the investigative paper Novaya Gazeta and was internationally famous for her reports about human rights abuses in warn-torn Chechnya. On 7 October 2006 she was gunned down in the elevator of her house in central Moscow. While the assassins have been sentenced, the investigation however, has never established who ordered this brazen murder.

Parliamentary Elections in Russia

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Sunday’s parliamentary elections to the Russian Duma are held in a more repressive climate than ever, since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Freedom of Expression, Association and Assembly as well as the right to a fair trial, right to physical integrity and other basic rights are stifled. The space for the civil society has shrunk dramatically since the last Duma elections in December 2011, when independent observers reported widespread fraud.

St. Petersburg: “QueerFest 2016” Gets Off to an Unprecedented Start

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Civil Rights Defenders is delighted to support the 8th International Queer Festival – “QueerFest 2016” —which began yesterday in St. Petersburg and will run until September 25. The Festival aims to promote acceptance in Russian society, and to empower and provide support to the LGBT communities (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people), while contributing to a more pluralistic society. Yesterday’s opening got off to a great start with no trouble reported and in a relaxed environment for the first time in 8 years.

Human Rights Defender Brutalised and Sentenced on Fabricated Charges

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Civil Rights Defenders condemns the conviction of Zhalaudi Geriev, a reporter with the Russian news site Caucasian Knot, to three years imprisonment for possession of narcotics. According to his lawyers Geriev’s conviction was based on a forced confession, fabricated evidence, and numerous violations of legal procedures and basic human rights. Geriev, who is 23, was targeted because of his journalistic activities. Along with his colleagues at Caucasian Knot, which has no central office and whose journalists often publish anonymously for both themselves and their families’ safety, Geriev wrote regularly about human rights violations in the Russian republic of Chechnya.

Russia: First Time a Human Rights Defender Risks Prison Under the “Foreign Agents” Law

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The last several weeks have seen a marked deterioration in the human rights situation in Russia, including the first criminal case brought under the widely-criticised “foreign agents law” and the passage of anti-terrorist legislation that severely curtails existing human rights protections. The most recent legislation has yet to be signed into law, but it is part of an increasingly worrying trend that has alarmed observers both in and outside Russia.

(Svenska) Seminarium: Ramzan Kadyrov – ett hot för hela Ryssland?

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(Svenska) I början av året kallade Tjetjeniens överhuvud Ramzan Kadyrov ryska oppositionspolitiker för förrädare och mordhotade en före detta rysk premiärminister på sitt instagramkonto. Håller Kadyrov, som gjort Tjetjenien till en lokal diktatur, på att få mer makt i Ryssland? Vad innebär det i så fall för människorättssituationen? Välkommen på ett frukostseminarium med den ryske statsvetaren Andrej Piontkovskij.

Report on Freedom of Expression in Russia

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In this briefing paper, Civil Rights Defenders gives an overview of the state of freedom of expression in Russia. It describes how human rights defenders who rendered support to journalists, bloggers and other civil society actors have become the epicentre of the authorities’ unabated crackdown on human rights. Since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in May 2012 the human rights situation in Russia has worsened significantly.

Prominent LGBT Activist Charged Under Draconian Law

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Prominent Russian LGBT activist Sergey Alexseenko and long-term partner of Civil Rights Defenders was found guilty under the archaic “propaganda of homosexuality” law, which, was introduced in 2013. The law bans the distribution of propaganda to minors, which promotes non-traditional sexual relationships, and its introduction followed several administrative sanctions in various regions throughout Russia before being passed at a Federal level. The Arkhangelsk region where Sergey Alexseenko is based was one of the first regions to introduce punitive sanctions.

Putin Signs Law Which Will Allow Russia to Ignore International Human Rights Court Decisions

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“This law will have far reaching consequences for the people who depend on the judgements of international human rights courts to get moral and financial redress. In the North Caucasus region of Russia for example, thousands of victims and their families have benefitted from the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, having received compensation for extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave human rights abuses”, said Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Harassment and Intimidation Against Prominent Human Rights Defender in Ingushetia

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Civil Rights Defenders is gravely concerned regarding the security infringements of Magomed Mutsolgov, a prominent human rights defender and leader of MASHR, an Ingush human rights organisation located in Ingushetia in the North Caucasus region of Russia. The concerns relate to a search on the 06th of November carried out by regional authorities on the office and home of Magomed Mutsolgov during which office equipment and documents were seized and subsequently confiscated.

Russia’s Upper House Approves First List of 12 ‘Undesirable’ Foreign Organisations

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In less than a month since the passing of a controversial law on “Undesirable Foreign and International Organisations” the Russian authorities have now taken steps towards banning 12 overseas organisations. Many of the organisations contained on the list consist of prominent US based organisations. Under the law they are deemed “to pose a threat to the foundation of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation, the defense capability of the country or the security of the state”.

Human Rights in Russia

Since 2000 the human rights situation worsened in Russia and has greatly deteriorated since Putin was reinstalled as President of Russia in 2012. State repression over the past few years became more sophisticated as legislation was adopted to discredit and/or attack human rights defenders. New laws restricting the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association have been introduced since Putin’s re-election. Russian authorities have made efforts to control and limit the last available channels for freedom of speech – Internet and social media through two new laws introduced in 2014.

(Svenska) Förtrycket återuppstår när OS är över

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(Svenska) OS i Sotji är slut. Sverige åker hem med guldmedaljer i bagaget och Ryssland har fått utstå rättmätig kritik för sina människorättsbrott. Men när Ryssland nu försvinner ur rampljuset riskerar landets människorättsförsvarare återigen att utsättas för trakasserier och förföljelse. För att stävja utvecklingen krävs att svenska politiker och deras EU-kollegor fortsätter att arbeta aktivt för mänskliga rättigheter i Ryssland även efter Sotji.

Testimonies from North Caucasus

Den 5 maj 2011 mördades Khava Sultygovas enda son Muslim Agiev i Grozny, Tjetjenien under så kallad "antiterroristattack". Ingen utredning om hans påstådda kopplingar till terroristorganisationer hade gjorts. Foto: Pieter ten Hoopen

The North Caucasus is situated only 70 miles from Sotji. It’s the site for Europe´s bloodiest conflict in present times and it’s a region where the local population suffer indiscriminate violence on a regular basis and where fear and uncertainty are an every day reality. From January 30 to February 23 the photo exhibition entitled, “Testimony from North Caucasus”, can be viewed at the museum Fotografiska in Stockholm

Convicted for homophobic attack

On 22 January, Russian LGBT activists held "We are for Traditional Values" demonstrations in protest of the federal bill to ban "propaganda of homosexuality", as a response to the authors, who cited Russian traditional values as the basis for banning "propaganda of homosexuality to minors." Photo: Maria Kozlovskaya.

An attack on a participant of a peaceful action on LGBT-rights has been met with legal consequences for the first time in Russia. Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the ruling and hopes that the verdict is a step in the right direction. In the aftermath of the so called ”propaganda laws” there has been an increase of aggression and violence towards LGBT-people in Russia. Despite this the courts usually treat the cases as hooliganism instead of hate-crimes.

Unique action of a Supreme Court judge in a region of impunity

Judge Vakhid Abubakarov, photo from http://vs.chn.sudrf.ru

A judge from the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic has ordered the withdrawal of a case after being blackmailed. This is the first time ever that a judge in Chechnya has publicly spoke out regarding the pressure upon judicial bodies. Chechnya has gained an infamous reputation when it comes to impunity for grave human rights abuses and the lack of an independent and transparent judiciary.

Civil society suffocating under Putin’s rule

Over the past several years, Russia has adopted a series of laws that has impeded the work of NGO’s and severely worsened the overall human rights climate in the country. Freedoms of expression, assembly and association are constantly under threat and the increasing discrimination and aggression towards ethnic minorities, migrants, and the LGBT community is a real and serious on-going problem. Racism, homophobia and xenophobia are widespread among ordinary people and instigated in most cases by the Russian state.

Summoned to court for publication of human rights monograph

A new court case against Stanislav Dmitrievsky, Head of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, signals that Russian authorities continue to restrict the work of human rights defenders. Civil Rights Defenders calls for international attention to this case as this is yet another attempt to silence Stanislav Dmitrievsky and his organisation for their work against impunity in the North Caucasus.

(Svenska) Putins Tjetjenienpolitik

(Svenska) Det andra Tjetjenienkriget bröt ut 1999 strax efter att Rysslands president Jeltsin utsett Vladimir Putin till premiärminister för att bana väg för honom som sin efterträdare. Hanteringen av Tjetjenienkonflikten kom alltså att bli en tung fråga under Putins första mandatperiod. Ett halvår efter att Putin nu åter blivit president ställs frågan om resultaten av Putins Tjetjenienpolitik och om den har förändrats.

“Foreign agents” law now in effect – NGOs’ premises vandalised

Photo: Yuliya Klimova, Memorial

The Night Watch – this is what a group of about 20 Russia Young activists called the late-night act of vandalism on the premises of internationally funded Russian human rights organisations as well as the picket in front of Transparency International later that day. At least two organisations’ premises were vandalised with chalk drawings saying “foreign agent” and “I love USA” on their buildings on the same day as the “foreign agents” law came into effect.

Human rights in the new Putin era

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In May 2012, Vladimir Putin became President of Russia again. Since then, a series of laws that impede the work of human rights defenders have been adopted and in the North Caucasus the human rights violations continue. Civil Rights Defenders have gathered some of the most prominent experts on the North Caucasus to talk about how human rights are affected by Vladimir Putin’s return to Presidency.

Sapiyat Magomedova

Sapiyat Magomedova

The North Caucasian republic of Dagestan is one of the most dangerous places for lawyers in Russia today. In this region, Sapiyat Magomedova defends victims of grave human rights violations; like enforced disappearances, extra judicial killings and torture. She has taken on cases that many lawyers would reject due to security reasons, and althought it is considered almost impossible, she has won several of them.

Stockholm process strengthens human rights defenders at risk

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The situation for citizens and human rights defenders in the North Caucasus continue to deteriorate; grave human rights violations turn everyday life into a nightmare. In November 2012, Civil Rights Defenders gathers about 20 of the key human rights defenders from the region to the North Caucasus Conference. During a few intensive days in Stockholm we develop strategies to improve their security and to increase the awareness among decision makers in order to create real change.

Supreme Court allows dissemination of information on LGBT issues

Two of Civil Rights Defender’s partners have appealed the regional laws that prohibits ”propaganda for homosexuality” to the Russian Supreme Court. In the latest ruling, on 25 October, the Court decided in favor of the law in St Petersburg but stated that dissemination of information about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues cannot be banned. The laws have already been used to clamp down on LGBT activists.

Seminar: Propaganda laws strangles gay activism

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A new law prohibiting ”propaganda” for homosexuality was recently passed in St Petersburg’s local parliament. Similar laws have already been passed in Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and Kostroma, and there is a ongoing discussion about introducing propaganda laws on a federal level. Listen to Anastasia Smirnova and Alexandra Semenova about how the laws came about and how they affect the work for human rights, on Friday May 25.

Svetlana Isayeva

Svetlana Isaeva Photo: Tina Axelsson

Five years have passed since Svetlana Isayeva’s, at that time, 25-year old son ”disappeared”. In Dagestan, where the war against terrorism affects an increasing number of civilians, Svetlana, together with at group of others who have also lost someone dear, founded Mothers of Dagestan for human rights; an organisation that is on the victim’s side in the armed conflict between the Russian government forces and the separatists.

Support our emergency operations in the North Caucasus

Oleg Orlov. Photo: Pakhomenko

Human rights defenders in the North Caucasus live in constant danger. In 2009 Natalia Estemirova was murdered because of her work. Her collegue Oleg Orlov risked prison because he accused the Chechnyan President Ramzan Kadyrov of being responsible for her murder. Kadyrov had threathened Estemirova earlier. Through our Emergency fund will we be able to offer support in specifically vulnerable and urgent situations.

Maintaining the rule of law in cooperation with Russian Justice Initiative

The cooperation between Russian Justice Initiative and Civil Rights Defenders aims at highlighting the failure of the rule of law in Russia by taking legal approaches to secure legal remedies and reparations for victims of serious human rights abuses committed during the conflict in Chechnya and other North Caucasus republics, such as extraordinary killings, torture and enforced disappearances.

Discussion about Sweden’s and the EU’s politics regarding Russia

Oksana Tjelysjeva är verksam inom Rysk-tjetjenska vänskapsförbundet och kolumnist för den oberoende tidningen Novaja Gazeta. Usam Bajsajev arbetar för den ryska människorättsorganisationen Memorial, som i år tilldelats det prestigefulla Sacharovpriset. Ingmar Oldberg är Rysslandsexpert och associerad forskare vid Utrikespolitiska institutet. Robert Hårdh är chef för Civil Rights Defenders. Martin Uggla är ordförande i Östgruppen för […]