CIVICUS

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Russia

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Last updated on 14.04.2021 at 11:09

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Pro-Nalvany protests record unprecedented number of arrests and prosecutions

Pro-Nalvany protests record unprecedented number of arrests and prosecutions

more than 11,000 people were detained by law enforcement and over 9,000 administrative cases and 90 criminal cases were filed against protesters calling for the release of Navalny across 125 cities between January and February; New law to regulate foreign agents which introduces criminal liability for natural persons-foreign agents who have not applied for their inclusion in the register of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation takes effect in March; Journalists face pressure because of their investigative activities

Peaceful assembly

Unprecedented number of protesters arrested, prosecuted in pro-Nalvany protests

Following the violent crackdown on mass protests which took place in the country between January and February 2021, after the return of the Russian opposition leader, Alexey Navalny, previously reported on the Monitor, protesters took to other innovative ways to continue the actions away from the streets. As part of these efforts, a flash mob dubbed "Love is stronger than fear" was planned to take place on 14th February (Valentines day) with the idea that people would light lanterns or candles in their own yards at a particular time for fifteen minutes. However, even before the said date, on 11th February, the General Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Investigative Committee issued a stern warning to the public against participating in the flash mob, while also warning social networks of dire consequences if they did not remove calls to participate in the action.

According to reports, more than 11,000 people were detained by law enforcement and over 9,000 administrative cases and 90 criminal cases were filed against protesters calling for the release of Navalny across 125 cities between January and February. More than 150 journalists were detained during the protests, and several cases of torture were recorded against those arrested.

In March 2021, at the Human Rights Council’s 46th session, 45 states signed a joint statement to condemn the violation of human rights and the repression by the authorities against peaceful protesters.

Association

Criminal liability for natural persons-foreign agents

In February 2021, the Russian State Duma published on their web page a list of laws that will be applied starting March 2021. Among them were the new regulations on foreign agents which introduce criminal liability for natural persons-foreign agents who have not applied for their inclusion in the register of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, as previously documented. By law, non-profit organisations are included in the register of "foreign agents" if they engage in Russia's political activities with foreign money. However, in practice not all NGOs included in this list are involved in projects touching on political issues.

Expression

Journalists face pressure because of their investigative activities

On 21st March 2021, it was reported that the editorial board of "Open Media" issued a statement to denounce and call for a stop to the mounting pressure from unknown persons against the outlet’s journalists because of their work.

Since the end of last year the journalists, who have been involved in anti-corruption investigations involving public officials, have been pursued by unknown persons and have had their emails and social media accounts hacked. Correspondents Ilya Rozhdestvensky and Viktor Ovsyukov and deputy editor-in-chief Maxim Glikin had their email and social accounts hacked, while correspondent Ilya Rozhdestvensky reported being followed in his neighbourhood by unknown people who asked neighbours about him. Open Media believes that these pressures are linked to their published investigations which have demonstrated high-ranking officials' involvement in corruption.

Peaceful Assembly in Russia

Although the right to protest was previously constrained, its scope has been even further restricted in the years since large anti-government protests took place on the streets of Moscow in 2012.

Although the right to protest was previously constrained, its scope has been even further restricted in the years since large anti-government protests took place on the streets of Moscow in 2012. These demonstrations led to new regulations governing peaceful public assemblies and meetings in Russia. Although less well known than the ‘foreign agents’ law, the new assembly rules are potentially as insidious, falling well short of international standards for the management of peaceful assemblies. The law increases fines for violating the rules on gatherings, provides that no gathering can continue past 10pm and establishes ‘specialised locations’, which are often far from the centre of urban areas in which assemblies should ideally take place. Outside of those areas, demonstrators must seek permission to gather. As the number of protests has dwindled in the years since 2012, and spontaneous protest has become virtually impossible, pro-government counter protest groups have been allowed to operate unimpeded, often leading to violent clashes with legitimate protest groups. LGBTI groups are particularly unable to exercise their freedom of peaceful assembly and in 2015 the Moscow Gay Pride March was banned for the tenth year in a row. In 2014, even harsher measures were passed by the Duma, introducing a penalty of up to five years in jail for those repeatedly breaching rules governing assemblies. The law has since been used to target peaceful protestors, including Ilgar Dildin who was jailed for three years in December 2015.