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Russia: Democracies Must Condemn New Wave of Attacks on Human Rights Institutions
In response to a new onslaught by the Russian government against prominent human rights defenders and institutions, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The Russian government’s intimidation of individuals who stand up for justice and protect basic universal values must cease,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Freedom House’s Europe and Eurasia programs. “On the heels of the summer crackdown against peaceful protesters, the Russian authorities are now targeting prominent human rights organizations, such as Memorial and the Movement for Human Rights, and cleansing the Presidential Human Rights Council of respected human rights advocates—many of them survivors of previous crackdowns. Before it is too late, we call upon democratic governments to demand that Russian authorities cease these attacks, and commit to protecting the fundamental rights of Russian citizens.”
On October 21, 2019, Russian president Vladimir Putin dismissed the head of the Presidential Human Rights Council, officially due to old age. Simultaneously, another presidential decree altered the makeup of the council, removing notable human rights defenders from the body. The following day, a Moscow district court fined one of the most respected Russian human rights organizations, Memorial, 300,000 rubles ($4,700) for not declaring itself a “foreign agent” under the country’s restrictive law on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Three more fines were imposed on Memorial and its staff over the course of two weeks, totaling one million rubles ($15,750). On November 1, the Supreme Court of Russia ordered the Movement for Human Rights to shut down its operations for allegedly violating a number of regulations. The court also noted that organization’s refusal to register as a “foreign agent.”
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.