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

In war on free expression, Putin approves restrictive legislation


Russia keeps adopting repressive laws that further restrict freedom of expression and other fundamental rights of its citizens.

President Vladimir Putin worked hard last Saturday, sacrificing his week-end to state affairs. He signed two laws, previously passed by the national parliament. The first one bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships”; it provides for heavy fines for “promotion of denial of traditional family values among minors.” The second law amends the Russian Criminal Code providing for up to one year in prison for “insult to religious feelings of believers.”

Adoption of both laws marks not only further deterioration of the freedom of expression situation in Russia, but also signals the country’s authorities ignore appeals from international community, human rights standards and their own international commitments.

Last week Index together with 23 more human rights groups called the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to condemn the “homosexual propaganda” bans. We reminded about the decision of the UN Human Rights Committee that found prohibition of “homosexual propaganda” in Ryazan Region of Russia violating Article 19(2) and Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The principles of that decision were later affirmed in the opinion of the Venice Commission, which considered that bans on “homosexual propaganda” are “incompatible with the ECHR and international human rights standards.”

On 27 June PACE called on Russia to reject the law. But only two days later President Putin inked it to show no one is allowed to interfere with his manner of ruling his “sovereign democracy.”

Another blow against the LGBT-community followed last Wednesday, when Vladimir Putin signed a law that bans adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples or even by citizens of countries where same-sex marriage is allowed.

One more legal act that received Putin’s signature on 3 July is the “anti-pirate” law aimed against web sites that illegally distribute copyrighted video content. It will come into force on 1 August 2013, despite criticism from key industry players. Leading web companies are concerned with provisions of the law that suggest corporate censorship.

“The law provides for a possibility of blocking of internet platforms by ISPs that we have always opposed to as it inevitably threatens resources of legal content distribution,” Svetlana Anurova, a representative of Google in Russia, told
Russia keeps building repressive legislative network that restricts freedom of expression, as well as other fundamental rights. Previous legal initiatives brought to life included the notorious “foreign agent” law, aimed against NGOs that receive foreign funding, re-criminalisation of defamation, and creation of a blacklist of sites with “harmful” information under a pretext of child protection.

“Law-making the State Duma has been down to over the last year makes me question common sense of Russian MPs. It looks like they do believe they can regulate everything by laws, from street rallies to sexual relationships of citizens. Passing of such laws is an attempt to shift the focus of public attention from internal problems of Russia, people’s disaffection and questionable legitimacy of MPs themselves to search for enemies in ‘foreign agents’, LGBT community or ‘insulters’ of religious feelings,” Dmitry Makarov, a co-chair of the International Youth Human Rights Movement, told Index.

The scale and pace of passing repressive laws won the Russian State Duma a nickname of “a Crazy Printer.” And it does not seem to run out of paper and new ideas about what to restrict.

Andrei Aliaksandrau,
Index on Censorship