Human Rights Center “Memorial” condemns Russia’s massive crackdown on civil society

News 15.03.2021

On March 15, 2021, during the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, on the occasion of the General Debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, Tatiana Glushkova from Human Rights Center “Memorial”, 2004 Right Livelihood Laureate, delivered a statement condemning the harsh repression of peaceful protesters following the arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

As prominent Russian dissident Alexei Navalny voluntarily returned to Russia following an attempt on his life, in February 2021 he was sentenced to 3 years and 6 months on politically motivated charges. His arrest sparked mass protests around the country asking for his release. In response, the Russian authorities have unleashed a massive political crackdown against peaceful protesters, including through the unlawful use of force by the police, arbitrary arrests, and criminal prosecutions. Some protesters were reported to have been fired from their jobs and expelled from educational institutions. The authorities blocked main roads, disrupted public transport and restricted Russian citizens’ freedom of movement. 

These repressive measures are only the most egregious episode in the campaign of intimidation against Russian civil society of recent decades, which already began last year with the introduction of constitutional amendments and of new bills expanding on Russia’s “foreign agent law”, further shrinking an already scarce space left for civic activism.

In addressing the Council, Human Rights Center Memorial demands that the Russian authorities stop mass violations of human rights, ensure freedom of assembly, release all those wrongfully detained and jailed for taking part in peaceful protests, and immediately release Alexei Navalny and other political prisoners. 

Read the full statement below: 

Thank you Madam President, 

On behalf of Human Rights Center Memorial, 2004 Right Livelihood Laureate, we would like to draw your attention to the recent wave of mass protests in the Russian Federation, following the arrest of Alexei Navalny. We estimate that over 15,000 protesters were detained for exercising their right to peaceful assembly, some of them in inhumane conditions, which could amount to torture. 

We also condemn in the strongest terms the increasing restrictions on civic space and the political pressure directed towards human rights activists. Since the adoption of the Foreign Agent Law in 2012, human rights organisations have been targeted with heavy sanctions, which are becoming increasingly aggressive. The latest amendment, in force since March 1st, requires that any member of an organisation labelled as “Foreign agent” has to make it public and indicate it on social media, in complete breach of the right to privacy. We are further alarmed at a draft amendment that would oblige individuals working for civil society organisations to register as foreign agents individually. 

Madam President, 

We call on the Human Rights Council to urge Russia to promptly release Alexei Navalny, all those detained following the recent protests and all political prisoners. We also urge the authorities to bring the existing legislation into line with Russia’s obligation under international law by, among others, repealing the Foreign Agent law and cease all harassment, intimidation and attacks directed towards civil society, the media and human rights defenders. 

Thank you. 

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