Russia

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

Restricted freedom of expression in Russia

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.

Stockholm Pride – A Time to Show Solidarity and Support

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This week, thousands of people gather in the capital of Sweden to take a positive stance against discrimination toward LGBT people, and to celebrate dignity, equality, diversity and human rights. While the concept of Pride is widely recognised in many parts of the world, the acceptance is not. In order to draw attention to the environment our friends and colleagues are forced to work in, Civil Rights Defenders is glad to welcome LGBT activists from Belarus, Russia and the Western Balkans to this year’s Stockholm Pride.

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.

International Human Rights Mechanisms Under Threat with New Proposed Russian Bill

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In yet another worrying development the Russian parliament, the Duma, adopted a bill in its first reading allowing the Constitutional Court to deem as unenforceable decisions from the International Courts including the European Court of Human Rights. While the bill will require several more readings before being passed and signed into law by President Putin, recent history has demonstrated that bills opposing human rights and the space in which civil society organisations can operate in are routinely passed with little objection.

Read the Third Newsletter of the Year

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In the third newsletter of the year you can read about the first Pride Parade held in the Ugandan capital city Kampala which took place only a year after the introduction of a law that made homosexuality a punishable offense, that the Russian authorities recently blacklisted one of Civil Rights Defenders donors as a consequence of the latest in a series of Russian Laws that restricts opportunities for civil society to act freely and that Civil Rights Defenders has moved to new premises.

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”.