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Amnesty International on Russia

Amnesty International‘s Secretary General Irene Khan held a press conference in London today to present the group’s 2007 global report on human rights. As expected, the section on the Russian Federation was particularly critical, and mention of the status of Mikhail Khodorkovsky is also made. (see excerpts below). Khan also penned a column on the Guardian blog, calling for the end of the politics of fear.

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From the Russian Federation section of the 2007 Amnesty International Report:

Human rights defenders and independent civil society came under increasing pressure. The authorities clamped down on the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Journalists were intimidated and attacked and one, Anna Politkovskaya, was killed. The authorities failed adequately to tackle racism and discrimination against people because of their ethnic identity or sexual orientation. Racist and homophobic attacks, some of them fatal, continued. Violence against women in the family was widespread and the state failed to provide adequate protection for women at risk. Police frequently circumvented safeguards designed to protect detainees against torture. Extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and abductions, torture including in unofficial detention centres, and arbitrary detentions continued in the North Caucasus region, in particular in Chechnya. In Chechnya, impunity remained the norm for those who committed human rights abuses, and people seeking justice faced intimidation and death threats. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia had violated the rights to life, to liberty and security, to respect for private and family life and to an effective remedy, and to the prohibition of torture. The government failed to co-operate fully with international human rights mechanisms against torture. ….. Attacks on journalists Attacks on journalists Journalists were intimidated, faced with groundless criminal proceedings and attacked. Human rights defenders were subjected to administrative harassment and some received anonymous death threats. – Russian journalist and human rights defender Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead on 7 October at the block of flats where she lived in Moscow, in all likelihood because of her work as a journalist. Her courageous coverage of the conflict and human rights situation in Chechnya since 1999 for Novaia Gazeta (New Newspaper) had won her numerous awards, and she had also written extensively about violence in the army, state corruption and police brutality. She had been subjected to intimidation and harassment by the Russian and Chechen authorities because of her outspoken criticism. A vigil in her memory on 16 October in Nazran, Ingushetia, was broken up violently. At least five human rights activists were detained by police and charged with administrative offences. Four were cleared, but the vigil organizer was fined. – On 3 February, Stanislav Dmitrievskii was sentenced to a suspended two-year prison term and four years’ probation for inciting “race hate” after he published articles by Chechen separatist leaders that advocated neither racism nor violence. The NGO he led, the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, was ordered by a court to close in November. The decision was motivated in part by Stanislav Dmitrievskii’s conviction, applying a new NGO law forbidding individuals convicted of an “extremist” crime from heading an NGO. Demonstrations Many bans on demonstrations did not appear to be legitimate or proportionate restrictions of freedom of assembly. Peaceful protesters were detained despite informing the authorities of their intention to demonstrate as required in law. – Anti-globalization protesters were detained on their journey to St Petersburg in the run-up to the G8 summit in July, apparently sometimes on spurious grounds. – In April officers of a special police unit (OMON) reportedly used excessive force to disperse over 500 men, women and children protesting at alleged corruption by local authorities in Dagestan. Murad Nagmetov was killed and at least two other demonstrators were seriously injured after police reportedly fired tear gas canisters directly into the crowd without warning. The local procuracy opened investigations. … Fair trial concerns Prisoners served sentences after trials that failed to meet international fair trial standards, and in which their lawyers considered the charges to be politically motivated. – Former YUKOS oil company head Mikhail Khodorkovski and associate Platon Lebedev, serving nine-year prison sentences following convictions in 2005 for fraud and tax evasion, were denied the right to serve their sentences in or near their home areas. Mikhail Khodorkovskii was unlawfully held in a punishment cell for two weeks in January for having a copy of publicly available government decrees on prisoner conduct. He was also held in a punishment cell for a week in March for drinking tea in an unauthorized place. – Mikhail Trepashkin, a lawyer and former security services officer, was denied adequate medical treatment for chronic bronchial asthma. He was serving a four-year sentence in a prison colony imposed by a military court in 2005 following conviction on charges including divulging state secrets. He was reportedly placed in an unheated, unventilated punishment cell by the prison administration in an attempt to make him withdraw complaints about the fairness of his trial and his treatment.