OSCE PA human rights chair decries 'week of abuses' in Russia

COPENHAGEN, 25 July 2014 – Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal), the Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, today expressed concern over events this week in Russia that appear aimed at stifling civil society and political dissent.

“While the world focuses on the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s troubling role in those events, no one should overlook what has been a disturbing week of abuses in Russia itself,” Santos said.

“With the naming of several more NGOs as ‘foreign agents’ -- including perhaps the country’s most prestigious, Memorial -- all Russian civil society groups that do not mirror the Kremlin have reason to fear for their very existence,” she said. “Separately, the sentencing of leading opposition figures in connection with the infamous Bolotnaya case sends the message that in the political sphere as well, there is ever-shrinking room and ever-increasing risk for dissent.” 

The OSCE PA human rights chair also noted comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin this week that "tightening the screws" on civil society is not the aim of the state. 

“Words mean little unless they are accompanied by deeds that prove Russia’s commitment to OSCE principles. At this point, deeds only suggest further backsliding. I call on the government to urgently reevaluate and reform its draconian anti-protest and anti-civil society legislation,” Santos added.

On 21 July, Russia’s Foreign Ministry registered five more civil society organizations -- Agora, Ekozashchita, Memorial, Public Verdict and Yuriks -- on its list of “foreign agents,” a move that critics say publicly discredits the groups’ work and imposes burdensome restrictions on their activities. Hundreds of NGOs, from environmental groups to LGBT rights groups to election-monitoring organizations, have been subject to searches by the authorities since the “foreign agent” legislation came into effect in late 2012.

The OSCE PA’s 2014 Baku Declaration, approved earlier this month, recalls the Assembly’s concern regarding “new legislation in a number of participating States placing further restrictions and constraints on the activities of human rights defenders, in particular by making them subject to unnecessary bureaucratic burdens.”

On 24 July, a Moscow court sentenced opposition leaders Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev to 4 ½ years in prison for organizing an anti-Putin rally on Bolotnaya Square in May 2012 that subsequently turned violent. The Kremlin’s human rights council and other groups say that police may have initiated the violence.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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