Annual Report: Russian Federation 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Russian Federation 2011

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Investigations into attacks on, and the murders of, other prominent human rights defenders and journalists produced few results. The Investigative Committee continued to name the same men as suspects in the murder of journalist and human rights defender Anna Politkovskaya, shot in October 2006, although they had been acquitted on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Vague definitions in the law on combating extremism were frequently exploited to restrict freedom of expression.

  • In January the Supreme Court of Tatarstan confirmed the sentence of Irek Murtazin, the former press officer of the President of Tatarstan, who was sentenced in 2009 to 18 months' imprisonment in an open colony for inciting hatred against the government. He had published a book criticizing the Tatarstan authorities.
  • In July, Andrei Yerofeev and Yuri Samodurov were convicted and fined for inciting hatred against the Orthodox Church. In 2007, they had organized an exhibition entitled "Forbidden Art 2006", which displayed contemporary art that had previously been removed from museums and exhibitions on account of its controversial content.
  • A member of the Jehovah's Witnesses faced trial at the end of the year in the Gorny-Altai region on charges of inciting hatred after he distributed leaflets of his religious denomination.

Human rights defenders

The environment for human rights defenders and independent NGOs remained difficult. Threats, assaults, administrative harassment and public attacks on their character and integrity continued, with the intention of impeding their work and undermining their credibility with the public.

  • In April, the Investigative Committee announced that it had identified the murderer of Natalia Estemirova, a human rights defender from Chechnya who was killed on 15 July 2009. According to the Investigative Committee, her murderers were members of an armed group, an explanation which was widely doubted.
  • In May, human rights defender Aleksei Sokolov was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for theft and robbery. There were reports at the time that the trial procedures were unfair. In August the sentence was reduced to three years. Aleksei Sokolov was transferred from his native Sverdlovsk Region to Krasnoyarsk in Siberia to serve his sentence. Reportedly, he was beaten and ill-treated on the journey to Krasnoyarsk. Friends and colleagues remained concerned that the case against him had been fabricated in order to stop his activities for the protection of detainees.
  • In September, the criminal trial of Oleg Orlov, head of the human rights centre Memorial, started. He faced charges of defamation following his remarks about the responsibility of the Chechen President for the murder of his colleague Natalia Estemirova in July 2009.

Racism

Racially motivated violence remained a serious problem. According to preliminary data from the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, 37 people died as a result of hate crimes. In April, Moscow judge Eduard Chuvashov was killed, reportedly by members of a far-right group, after he had sentenced several perpetrators of hate crimes to long-term imprisonment. In October, 22-year-old Vasilii Krivets was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of 15 people of non-Slavic appearance. The detention of two suspects in the murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova in January 2009 was extended until the end of the year. The investigation announced that the two suspects belonged to a right-wing group and had planned to kill Stanislav Markelov following his representation of the family of a murdered anti-fascist campaigner.

Insecurity in the North Caucasus

The security situation in the North Caucasus remained volatile, with violence continuing to spread beyond Chechnya to the neighbouring regions of Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia. Government authorities publicly acknowledged that measures to combat armed violence were not effective. High numbers of law enforcement officials were killed in attacks by armed groups, who also targeted civilians indiscriminately in suicide bombings. In September, a car bomb in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia-Alania, reportedly killed at least 17 people and left over 100 injured.