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Increasingly Regressive Climate Turns Human Rights Work into Minefield in Russia: Amnesty International

Jailed Activist Oyub Titiev of Chechen Memorial Human Rights Centre

Human rights work in present-day Russia is like navigating a minefield. Every day poses a new threat to a human rights defender; whether it’s severe beatings by ‘unknown’ assailants who have never been found, criminal prosecution and imprisonment for a crime that has never been committed, financial starvation through bank account freezes and extortionate fines, or intrusive state media attention targeting close relatives,” Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty  Russia Researcher said.

She emphasized the fact that very day poses a new threat to a human rights defender; whether it’s severe beatings by ‘unknown’ assailants who have never been found, prosecution for a crime that has never been committed, financial starvation through bank account freezes and extortionate fines, or intrusive state media attention.

According to a new briefing released by Amnesty International on 17 September, Unfair Game:Persecution of Human Rights Defenders in Russia Intensifies , Since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, new repressive laws and policies, and reprisals against human rights defenders and activists, have had a crippling effect on vital human rights work in the country.

The briefing revealed the wide range of instruments the authorities have used over the past seven years to restrict, obstruct or halt human rights work in Russia. These include the passing of new restrictive laws, persecution of human rights defenders, and condoning the attacks on and threats to activists.

The briefing also highlight the fact that those protecting human rights in Chechnya and Russia’s LGBTI activists are among the most targeted, with numerous vicious attacks recorded. For example, Igor Kochetkov from St Petersburg, whose organization Russian LGBT Network exposed the crimes against gay men in Chechnya, received death threats in January 2019 through a video that circulated widely on social media. To date there is no indication that police have effectively investigated the matter. 

Commenting on the arrest and imprisoned of Oyub Titiev, Chechen Memorial Human Rights Centre, for drug possession, Natalia said, “we call on the authorities to end the reprisals and smear campaigns that have become their modus operandi, and to impartially and effectively investigate all crimes committed against human rights defenders and activists. They should also repeal the excessively restrictive laws undermining the work of NGOs, and abide by Russia’s international human rights obligations to protect those who protect others’ rights.”

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