EU: Speak out in defence of human rights activists in Russia

(Brussels, 17 November) The EU must convey in the strongest possible terms its concern for the successive killings of human rights defenders in Russia and the absence of credible investigations, says Amnesty International ahead of tomorrow’s EU-Russia Summit.

In a letter, the human rights organization conveyed its grave concerns in the face of the on-going threats against human rights defenders and other individuals in the Russian Federation.

“The Russian Federation’s ugly record of killings since the murder of Anna Politkovskaya shows that not enough steps were taken to protect others who were at risk. On the contrary, by failing to prosecute the perpetrators, the climate of fear and intimidation has deepened” says Natalia Alonso, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s EU office.

“Those who are at risk today will be following closely the signal the EU sends tomorrow” she added. 

Current intimidation extends to people such as Oleg Orlov, one of the winners of this year’s European Parliament Sakharov Prize. Mr. Orlov is facing criminal charges for having said that the political responsibility for the murder of his colleague, Natalia Estemirova, lay with Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov.

Amnesty International also remains very concerned about the detention of Aleksei Sokolov. The head of Pravovaia Osnova (Legal Basis) which campaigns against torture in prisons has himself been detained since May 2009. The organization believes he has suffered ill treatment and even though his pre-trial detention period ran out two weeks ago, authorities have refused to release him.

Even artists are increasingly at risk in the Russian Federation. In its letter to the EU, Amnesty International also urged it to raise the case of two men who face five years in prison on the charges of incitement to hate of Christians, because of an art exhibition that they organized. Amnesty International believes that the exhibition, counting works by some of Russia’s most famous artists, did not incite to hate and that the right to freedom of expression is in question.

In line with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and the EU’s own values of democracy and respect for human rights Amnesty International has urged it to:

» raise the cases of individuals who are currently under threat;

» request further information about the progress of the investigations on the killings of human rights defenders;

» enquire how the Russian authorities will ensure that these are being undertaken impartially and thoroughly.

For further comment/background and interviews contact Joana Gomes-Cardoso at 32-2-5021499, [email protected]