Annual Report: Russian Federation 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Russian Federation 2013

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  • On the night of 19 January, Issa Khashagulgov, held in a pre-trial detention centre in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, was allegedly taken to an undisclosed location and beaten and threatened with further violence for refusing to co-operate with the investigation against him. Reportedly, between 6 and 8 February he was transferred from the detention centre to a different location in North Ossetia for several hours each day when his lawyers tried to see him, and subjected to ill-treatment. Issa Khashagulgov, suspected of armed group membership, had earlier been repeatedly transferred between different detention facilities while his family and lawyers were denied information about his whereabouts, sometimes for several days. His complaints were not investigated.
  • Russian opposition activist Leonid Razvozzhayev went missing on 19 October in Kiev, Ukraine, outside the office of a partner organization to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. On 22 October, the Investigative Committee in Moscow stated that he had voluntarily returned to the Russian Federation and handed himself in to the authorities. Leonid Razvozzhayev disavowed this statement via his lawyer, and alleged that he had been abducted and smuggled into the country, held at a secret location, ill-treated and forced to sign a statement implicating himself and other political activists in plotting mass disturbances in Russia on foreign orders. The Russian authorities dismissed his allegations and refused to investigate them.

Justice system

The need for judicial reform was widely acknowledged, including by senior officials. However, no effective steps were taken towards ensuring the independence of the judiciary. Reports of unfair trials were numerous and widespread. A range of court decisions, including those concerning extremism and economic and drug-related crimes, were affected by political considerations, and a growing number of convictions appeared politically motivated, including those of the Pussy Riot members (see above).

Allegations were frequently made of collusion between judges, prosecutors, investigators and other law enforcement officials resulting in unfair criminal convictions or disproportionate administrative penalties.

Lawyers across the country complained of procedural violations undermining their clients' right to a fair trial. These included denial of access to clients, detention of individuals as criminal suspects without promptly informing their lawyers and families, appointment of state-paid lawyers as defence counsel who are known to raise no objections about procedural violations and the use of ill-treatment.

  • Lawyer Rustam Matsev complained that on 31 May a senior police official at a pre-trial detention centre in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, demanded that he should “stop teaching his defendant to lie” and convince him to withdraw a complaint about abduction and ill-treatment by police. The officer allegedly told Rustam Matsev that lawyers “get blocked” in the same way as members of armed groups during their “elimination” in security operations. The authorities refused to investigate the lawyer's allegations.
  • On 27 October, dozens of protesters lined up 50m apart (a form of picketing which requires no prior authorization) in front of the central FSB headquarters in Moscow. Later, when several known political activists tried to leave, surrounded by reporters, they were detained by police. On 30 October and 4 December respectively, activists Alexey Navalny and Sergei Udaltsov were fined nearly US$1,000 each for organizing and participating in an unauthorized rally that violated public order. The judge hearing Alexey Navalny's case reportedly declined his defence lawyer's request to cross-examine the police officers who had detained him, and refused to admit video footage of the event as evidence.

North Caucasus

The region remained highly volatile. Human rights violations in the context of security operations remained widespread.