Today Amnesty International has released a new report entitled “Freedom Limited. The right to freedom of expression in the Russian Federation,” which investigates how the Kremlin interprets and utilizes vague legislation to restrict rights to free expression, clamp down on journalists, and criminalize independent sources of influence and information such as NGOs. According to Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International, “The rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association are a cornerstone for a functioning civil society. The Russian authorities are curtailing these rights as part of their strategy to counter so-called western influence. Without the right to freedom of expression, other basic human rights may be violated more easily. Silence is the best breeding ground for impunity – a powerful tool to undermine the rule of law.” Duckworth of course is assuming that there is any rule of law left to undermine in Russia. The press release can be read here, a PDF of the report can be downloaded here, a wire report here, and an excerpt from the report regarding the harassment of a legal and human rights advocacy group run by Karinna Moskalenko, which has been targeted as a direct result of her involvement on the Khodorkovsky defense team.
From the Amnesty report “Freedom Limited“:
International Protection Centre (IPC)The International Protection Centre (Tsentr sodeistvia mezhdunarodnoi zashchite), a human rights organization which provides legal advice and support for applicants to the European Court of Human Rights, is run by lawyer Karinna Moskalenko. She is also a member of the legal team for former head of the Yukos oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovskii. Since 2004 – even before the legal amendments to the law on NGOs came into force – the IPC had numerous visits from tax inspectors, the FRS and the prosecutor’s office. Karinna Moskalenko told Amnesty International that a substantial part of her and her colleagues’ time is spent submitting documentation to the different authorities that are conducting investigations into or reviews of the work of the NGO. Amnesty International believes that the targeting of the IPC for repeated inspections may be the result of Karinna Moskalenko’s role in the defence team of Mikhail Khodorkovskii.When Karinna Moskalenko and several of her colleagues from the legal team of Mikhail Khodorkovskii travelled to Chita in Eastern Siberia in February 2007 to meet with their client, they were ordered to meet with representatives of the office of the Russian Prosecutor General in the office of the head of the administration of the pre-trial detention centres (SIZO). Reportedly, the lawyers were pressured to sign documents relating to the exchange of information about the case. As all members of the defence team refused to sign these papers, they were made to sign a statement confirming their refusal in order to be able to leave the SIZO. On 7 February, Karinna Moskalenko was threatened with being taken off the flight back to Moscow if she did not sign a document, stating that she would not reveal any details about a specific criminal case against her client, of which she was not even aware.In May 2007, the Office of the Prosecutor General initiated a complaint procedure against her at the Moscow Bar Association, calling for her disbarment, accusing her of having failed to represent Mikhail Khodorkovskii with due diligence. However, the Bar Association rejected the complaint in June as they could find no evidence in her conduct for taking disciplinary measures against her.