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

March against hatred: racism in Russia


This Sunday people in St Petersburg will take to the streets for the fifth consecutive year running to demonstrate against racism in Russia. Members of Amnesty International from all over the world are sending messages of solidarity to the organisers of the "March Against Hatred".

The march was first organised after the murder of 64-year-old Nikolai Girenko, an ethnology professor who often testified as an expert witness on racism and discrimination in trials for racially motivated attacks.

Before his murder neo-Nazi groups had passed a "death sentence" on Girenko and posted it on the internet. On 19 June 2004 Girenko was at home. When the doorbell rang he went to answer it. He was killed by shots fired through his front door as he approached.

Girenko is only one of many killed by members of racist groups in Russia. According to the Russian non-governmental organisation SOVA, which monitors xenophobia and racism in Russia, 68 people died and 262 were injured in racially motivated attacks in Russia in the first eight months of this year alone.

This number includes only incidents reported in the media and on the internet. Many more attacks go unreported. Six years ago I spent a year studying in Moscow. One Sunday afternoon a Japanese student who lived with me was attacked by a mob of teenage racists in one of Moscow's main underground stations. My friend was lucky. Passers-by intervened and chased the attackers away. He escaped battered and bruised, but too frightened to raise the issue outside the university.

This is not surprising. Many victims of racist attacks don‘t trust the Russian police to be fair and dispassionate. A student from Liberia studying in Moscow told Amnesty last year: "I've been physically attacked five times. The first three times, when I approached the police department, the first question is ‘what are you doing here and where are your papers', even if you have blood pouring down, they don't care. And I'm here legally, I'm a student. They would check your papers before doing anything, even calling an ambulance."

According to Irina Asenova, from the Youth Human Rights Movement, a monitoring organisation from the western Russian city of Voronezh, "In the last two years analysts have noticed a rise in the number and the brutality of racially motivated attacks in Russia". "Every-day xenophobia" is, she says, "high" in Russia, and the conflict with Georgia has only intensified this mood. "This gives right-wing groups the opportunity to present their extremist views as mainstream opinions."

Racism, xenophobia and discrimination are hardly the exclusive preserve of Russia. The 2005 report by the European Commission of Racism and Intolerance on the United Kingdom concluded that "Members of ethnic and religious minority groups continue to experience racism and discrimination. The media has continued to play an important role in determining the current climate of hostility towards asylum seekers, refugees, Muslims, Roma/Gypsies and Travellers."

However, serious racially motivated attacks - including murder - on the streets of Britain are few and far between. By contrast, they occur with alarming regularity in Russia. Foreigners, who do not "look European", Russian citizens who do not seem typically "Russian" (not least Chechens), and young Russians who dress differently (like "goths" or "punks"), are at serious risk of assault on Russian streets. Despite this, there have been only a small number of prosecutions, which included racial hatred or enmity as a motivating factor.

Anti-racism campaigners in Russia are in some cases themselves being subjected to terrifying intimidation. Three months ago an attempt was made to burn down the family home of human rights activist Dmitrii Krauikhin. His 86-year-old mother, daughter and six-year-old granddaughter were trapped inside the flat but managed to call the fire brigade just in time. The arson attack followed a series of other incidents clearly intended to stop Krauikhin from doing his anti-racism work in Russia.

Meanwhile, photographs and home addresses of Russian human rights activists are regularly being published on right-wing websites. In cases like Nikolai Girenko's, this led to murder.

Actually, though, I'm particularly disturbed to learn that Irina Akesnova thinks the greatest threats for anti-racism campaigners are coming not from neo-Nazi groups but from the authorities themselves. They appear to regard any independent activity by campaigners as dangerous and Akesnoa has described how the authorities in Voronezh have been circulating lists of supposed "extremist organisations" that included human rights groups.

An Amnesty colleague of mine, Graham Jones, an Amnesty country coordinator for Russia, reckons that "collaboration between the state and racist thugs" is part of a dark reality that puts all anti-racist campaigners in Russia at risk.

Last year the organisers of the March Against Hatred were genuinely grateful for the many solidarity messages sent to by well-wishers from around the world. If you have a message of support this year, please add a comment here and I'll pass it on.