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

Microsoft changes its policy concerning Russian NGOs


On September, the 13th, Microsoft reported about its intention to introduce radical changes that make it impossible for the authorities in Russia and other countries to use anti-piracy enforcement actions to harass non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others which are engaged in public advocacy. It will result in creating a new unilateral software license for NGOs and a ban on involvement of the corporations advocates in such situations. This statement was an answer to the criticism of the company. The company had somehow supported the pressure on NGOs in Russia.
The new policy of Microsoft is expressed in the apology letter of Brad Smith, senior vice president and Microsoft general counsel. His letter followed the article Russia Uses Microsoft to Suppress Dissent,which was published in the New York Times on 11th of September. In the article is told about the cases of persecution of famous human rights groups and newspapers for pirated software, which also concerned Baikal Environmental Wave Irkutsk, one of the most influential Russian ecological organizations in Russia.
The human rights defenders turned to Microsoft many times to take action on their support of the political cases against civil and human rights organizations. However, the company’s only reply was that their lawyers have to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities according to the Russian legislation. The reason for the article in The New York Times, besides the case against BEW, was the cases against Ludmila Kuzmina, the head of Samara branch of the Association for voters’ rights GOLOS, Sergey Kurt-Adzhiev, the editor of the newspaper Novaya in Samara and Samarskaya Gazeta, as well as Anastasia Denisova, the head of Krasnodar non-governmental organization ETnIka.

Dmitry Makarov, member of YHRM Coordinating Committee, explains that several human rights organizations tried to draw a confession from Microsoft that the individual lawyers hired by the company across the country have formed obvious close relationship with the police. He adds that after introducing the new policy these lawyers will not be able to harm the interests of NGOs.

In the post at the official blog of the corporation Brad Smith mentions that hereafter Microsoft will not support politically motivated pursuits for anti-piracy enforcement actions. With the help of a new unilateral software license for NGOs and some types of media organizations that will ensure they have free, legal copies. The new license means that any programs of Microsoft on the computers of civil rights groups will automatically get an approval from the corporation that will prevent the authorities from accusing the organizations, explains Brad Smith. The policy will work until 2012 but, according to Smith’s words, it may also be extended. That is more, Mr. Smith claims that one more program of the corporation will be to provide free judicial assistance.

The human rights activists and journalists who were involved in the raids are satisfied with the new reforms of Microsoft. However, some of them doubt the fact that all these intentions will come true.
In response to inquiries from The New York Times about Microsoft’s role in antipiracy inquiries in Russia, Kevin Kutz, director of public affairs at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash., states that one of the additional antipiracy efforts in Russia is to increase awareness of Microsoft’s Infodonor program among NGOs in Russia, particularly outside the capital cities. This program makes software available to NGOs with no charge by Microsoft. Just a few NGOs benefited from it because most Russian organizations didn't know about this possibility.
"Better late than never", comments on the new policy of the corporation Anastasia Denisova, member of the Coordinating Council of the YHRM. "I'm personally very happy. The automatic license will help NGOs avoid what I was to overcome - seizures, rummage, interrogations, trials and an actual collapse of the organization. I would only wish other corporations to follow the example of Microsoft.

Information The New York Times