Analytics and Interview

On 16 January 2015 late in the evening the website of the Ministry of Justice published a statement that the NGO Committee Against Torture had been added to the register of non-profit organizations designated as ‘foreign agents’.
Tanya Lokshina is the Russia program director at Human Rights Watch and Honorary Participant of International Youth Human Rights Movement: As the crisis in Ukraine escalated this spring, the Kremlin’s vicious crackdown on civil society also escalated. Space for independent civic activity in Russia is shrinking dramatically, but international policymakers and the media have been understandably too distracted to do much about it. Since early spring, it seems as though every week brings a new pernicious law or legislative proposal.
Earlier this year, the correspondent of Youth Human Rights Movement from Germany Jakob Stürmann interviewed Konstantin Baranov, member of the Coordination Council of the International Youth Human Rights Movement. They discussed so called “law against homosexual propaganda” and the overall situation of LGBT in Russia.  

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Oleg Sentsov, Olexander Kolchenko, Hennadiy Afanasiev and Oleksiy Chyrniy have been held in Russian jails for two years already under fabricated charges of ‘terrorism’. We consider it being necessary to express solidarity with those who are persecuted due to their pro-Ukrainian views, civic stand and desire for freedom in Russia-annexed Crimea.
Helsinki Committee of Armenia has published “Human Rights in Armenia 2014” Annual Report. The report reflects on the Right to Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, Political Persecutions, Freedom of Conscience and Religion, The Rights of the Child, Protection of Labor Rights.
«We have a few questions for you,» a border guard told Sinaver Kadyrov, a Crimean Tatar activist, at the Armyansk checkpoint in northern Crimea on Jan. 23. Kadyrov was on his way to Kherson, in southern Ukraine, to fly to Turkey for medical treatment. It was the beginning of an ordeal that ended with a local court expelling him from Crimea, his home of almost 25 years.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority It is time to sit back and reflect.

Mark Twain


Youth Human Rights Movement

Russia Uses Microsoft to Suppress Dissent

Neither Microsoft’s Moscow office nor its local lawyer contacted Baikal Wave to hear its side. The lawyer did provide testimony to the police about the value of the software that Baikal Wave was accused of illegally obtaining.

Baikal Wave sent copies of its software receipts and other documentation to Microsoft’s Moscow office to show that it had purchased the software legally. The group said it believed that the authorities would be under pressure to drop the case if Microsoft would confirm the documents’ authenticity.

Microsoft declined to do so. In a letter to Baikal Wave, the company said it would forward the materials only to the authorities in Irkutsk, which already had copies of them.

“A determination of the actual circumstances of this case and the question of whether a violation of the law took place is the duty of the court,” Microsoft said.

The company also told Baikal Wave that it was willing to have its specialists assist the police in Irkutsk in evaluating the computers.

In response to written questions, Alexander Strakh, Microsoft’s chief antipiracy lawyer in Moscow, said that in all these cases, Microsoft assisted the authorities only as called for under Russian law.

Mr. Strakh was asked whether Microsoft believed that these raids were a tool to suppress the opposition. “We have no direct knowledge of decisions by authorities to use investigations in that manner,” he said.

Microsoft has hired numerous private lawyers across Russia who represent the company in piracy cases. Several of the lawyers have cropped up in these politically sensitive inquiries.

This year, prosecutors in the southwestern city of Krasnodar brought a piracy case against an immigrant rights activist named Anastasia Denisova. She said in an interview that she was surprised at the aggressive posture of Microsoft’s local lawyer.

In an official document, the Interior Ministry said the case against Ms. Denisova was begun “based on an application” from the lawyer. (Microsoft’s Moscow office said that statement was not correct.)

Ms. Denisova said the lawyer overestimated the value of the allegedly pirated software. As a result, the accusations were more serious.

“The Microsoft lawyer was very active, coming to the court all the time, even though he was not summoned,” she said. “He also claimed that he was going to sue me, despite the fact that Microsoft had publicly stated that it would not do so against an advocacy group.”

In May, after Ms. Denisova had spent several months under the threat of a prison sentence, the charges were dropped. Prosecutors acknowledged that the investigation had been mishandled.

Samara, in Russia’s industrial heartland, has been a focal point for these raids. In May 2007, when Mr. Putin was holding a summit meeting there with European leaders, the police sought to prevent protests by seizing computers from several organizations, including Golos, an election monitoring and human rights group, and the local edition of Novaya Gazeta, the country’s most influential opposition newspaper.

Last year, they took computers from another newspaper, Samarskaya Gazeta. According to case records, the police conducted that search based upon a complaint from a man who admitted that he had never been in the newspaper’s offices or seen its computers.

Mr. Kurt-Adzhiyev, the editor of both newspapers, said Microsoft’s lawyer in the case regularly appeared at court hearings to back prosecutors and the police. He said the lawyer testified that seized computers contained pirated software even though it was later shown that the computers had never been examined.

“Microsoft says publicly that they have no claims in these cases, but then their lawyers come into the court and say whatever the police want them to say,” Mr. Kurt-Adzhiyev said.

Information from The New York Times