Russia Needs to Stop Arresting Human Rights Activists

Bolotnaya 3 RussiaThe 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are just around the corner. Although the country has made headlines for its treatment of the LGBT community, Russia also hasn’t been kind to those who actively oppose the government. Pussy Riot is a prime example, but the Bolotnaya 3 is another example of Russia arresting people solely for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression.

The Bolotnaya 3 – Vladimir Akimenkov, Artiom Saviolov and Mikhail Kosenko – were three men among tens of thousands that protested the reelection of Vladimir Putin in Moscow’ Bolotnaya Square. The protest started peacefully, but then broke out into localized violence. Over 650 people were detained and 47 others were hospitalized. The three men were among those who were detained.

Akimenkov, Saviolov and Kosenko were released, only to be rearrested a month later for “participating in mass riots.” Police allege that Kosenko and Saviolov used force against them, but eyewitness accounts and video footage contradict these allegations. Despite this, all three men are held without bail and were committed to a psychiatric unit in 2013. Amnesty International considers the three men prisoners of conscience, and need to be released immediately and unconditionally.

Sample Letter

Yurii Yakovlevich Chaika
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Prosecutor General’s Office
Ul. B. Dmitrovka, d. 15a
125993 Moscow GSP-3

RUSSIAN FEDERATION

Dear Prosecutor General,

I am writing to call for the release of Vladimir Akimenkov, Artiom Saviolov and Mikhail Kosenko. These three men are prisoners of conscience, unjustly detained for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly while participating in the Bolotnaya Square protest on May 6, 2012. Video evidence >supports their claims of innocence, and police statements against Akimenkov and Saviolov have changed substantially since the protests.

Furthermore, Mikhail Kosenko has been sentenced to forcible psychiatric treatment and may be deprived of his freedom indefinitely. There is no evidence that he poses a risk to himself or society, nor was he given an independent medical exam to assess his mental health.

I am also concerned that the health of Akimenkov and Saviolov is reportedly deteriorating in detention. Akimenkov, Saviolov and Kosenko all should be immediately and unconditionally released, but while they are detained, I respectfully urge you to guarantee that they receive appropriate medical care.

While I recognize that a considerable amount of violence broke out in Moscow on May 6, it is imperative that Russian authorities uphold all Bolotnaya detainees’ right to a prompt and fair trial, as well as their right to freedom of expression and association. Please drop all charges against those who were peacefully protesting at Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, and release all Bolotnaya Square protestors who present no risk of endangering public security for the duration of their trials.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Advertisements

Write for Rights Starts Today

Ihar Tsikhanyuk

Ihar Tsikhanyuk

Your voice has power! Today is the first day of Write for Rights, the annual Amnesty International campaign that’s one of the largest human rights events in the world. From today until Dec 17, activists all over the world will be writing letters on behalf of 12 individual prisoners of conscience. It’s one last push to effect change and to let governments know that human rights abuses won’t be tolerated. The world is watching, and today’s case involves LGBTI rights and the need to respect those rights as valid human rights that are non-negotiable.

Today’s Case: Ihar Tsikhanyuk

Ihar Tsikhanyuk is an openly gay man in Belarus who, in February 2013, was at the hospital being treated for an ulcer. While there, two police officers came and asked him to go with him. Tsikhanyuk complied, where we was verbally abused and physically beaten by several officers at the police station. They taunted him for being gay and threatened more violence. When they returned him to the hospital, he asked staff to document the injuries and hospital staff refused. This event took place one month after he tried to register the Human Rights Center Lambda, a non-governmental organization that supports the rights of LGBTI people in Belarus

Tsikhanyuk and other LGBTI individuals have been abused by police in Belarus, as well as founding members of the Human Rights Center Lambda. Those who beat Tsikhanyuk have never been held accountable, while other LGBTI individuals and affiliates with the Human Rights Center Lambda remain at risk for violence. We can help change this with a letter to the Belarussian government.

Sample Letter

Generalnyi Prokuror
Alyaksandr Koniuk
Generalnaya Prokuratura
ul. Internatsionalnaya 22
220030 Minsk
Belarus
Dear General Prosecutor:
I write to you out of deep concern for Ihar Tsikhanyuk, a human rights activist from Hrodna who advocates for equal rights and dignity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. In February 2013 police questioned, beat, verbally abused, and threatened Ihar Tsikhanyuk, one month after he attempted to register Human Rights Center Lambda, an LGBTI non-governmental organization (NGO).
I am disturbed that, nearly a year later, no progress has been made in holding the officers responsible for abusing and threatening Ihar Tsikhanyuk accountable. In this environment of impunity, he and other activists connected to Human Rights Center Lambda remain at risk of further threats and abuses due to their sexual orientation or gender identity and their continued LGBTI rights activism.
I urge you to initiate a thorough, independent, and impartial investigation into the ill-treatment and threats that he suffered at the hands of police officers in the October District police station in Hrodna. I call on you to ensure that those responsible are subjected to disciplinary and criminal proceedings as appropriate and to see to it that Ihar Tsikhanyuk is protected from further ill-treatment and humiliation.
As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Belarus has undertaken a legally binding obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all those on its territory without discrimination of any kind, including on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. I thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Sincerely,
[Your Name]

We Have Our Own Write for Rights Event

If you’re not going to have much time throughout the holidays to write letters, then please just take an hour out of your day to join the chapter at its own Write-a-Thon event. From 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Dec. 7, we will be at the Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood writing letters in person as well as providing sample letters for patrons to sign on their way to eating in the restaurant. If you don’t want to sit and write letters with us, then you can also come and sign the sample letters while also having a glass of beer. Help us reach our goal of 200 letters! Below is additional information regarding the event:

Who: Our Amnesty International chapter and anyone else who wants to do something good for someone else this holiday season.

What: To write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience worldwide

When: Saturday, Dec. 7 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Schlafly Bottleworks – 7260
Southwest Ave.@ Manchester. Maplewood, MO 63143

Why: Because people need our help and we can make a difference, and because it’s fun

How: Just show up and enjoy great company, food, and beer (food and beer not free). We’ll provide the paper, pens, and pertinent information on each of the cases.

What You Missed at Last Night’s Letter Writing Meeting

letter writing meetingLast night, we held a successful letter writing meetings, writing 14 letters to various governments around the world on behalf of prisoners of conscience. If you missed this meeting, then you still have a chance to write a letter if you want. You do have to send it yourself, but below is all the information you need to advocate for human rights.

Reggie Clemons Update

There isn’t much to say on the Reggie Clemons case, except that Justice Michael Manners is starting a new position with a law firm on August 1. He needs to make a decision by then, and our chapter predicts that he will announce the decision on July 31, on the last possible day that he can make/announce the decision.

Last Night’s Urgent Action

One of the more popular urgent actions from the meeting was an action about anti-LGBTI violence in Macedonia. Specifically, a series of homophobic attacks in June and July has led to grave concerns for the safety of LGBTI people and organizations. In June, during Pride Week in the capital Skopje, the LGBTI center was attacked by around 30 people and on July 5, unidentified suspects attempted to set fire to the center.

If you’re interested in writing a letter, then here’s a good action for you. You have until August 23 to send your letter, but the sooner the better. Don’t worry about the language. It’s more important that the government officials receive a large quantity of letters and realize that people care deeply about the issue and would like action. Please send the letter to:

Gordana Jankulovska

Dimce Mircev BB

1000 Skopje, Macedonia

Please touch upon the following information when writing your letter. You can either copy these verbatim, or put them in your own words:

  • Urge the Minister of Interior to end the climate of impunity for homophobic attacks by acknowledging and condemning publicly these crimes, and ensure that impartial, thorough and prompt investigations are conducted into the June and July attacks, and into all previous attacks on the lives or property of LGBT people or organizations, with those found responsible brought to justice;.
  • Urge the Prime Minister and other ministers to introduce amendments to the anti-discrimination legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity as specific grounds for discrimination;
  • Urge all ministers without delay and in consultation with LGBTI organizations, to introduce legislation prohibiting hate crime, specifically including hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as ethnicity, race, gender and other grounds for discrimination recognized in international standards.

4 Recent Human Rights Issues in Europe

human rights in europeEurope may seem like one continent that would be few and far between when it comes to human rights issues and abuses, but the European continent has several human rights issues within its borders. Granted, the death penalty and female genital cutting may not be present, but the human rights issues in Europe require equal attention from the local governments, the international community, and human rights organizations. Here four recent human rights issues in Europe right now:

Discrimination and Intolerance

The Roma, as well as members of the Jewish, Arab, and Muslim communities, have all faced discrimination and intolerance in various countries in Europe. In Hungary, the ultra-nationalist Jobbik party won 13 percent of seats in the country’s parliament in 2010, making it the country’s third-largest political party. The party has strong anti-Semitic and anti-Roma rhetoric and is known to demonstrate in predominantly Roma communities.

Also in 2010, French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced that he would be cracking down on Roma camps, and the new president has not changed that policy or made a clear commitment to respect the Roma. Just weeks ago, residents in Marseille took it upon themselves to expel about 50 Roma from their camp before burning it down, so this is a problem that is continuing.

Persecution of Journalists and Human Rights Activists

Russia remains one of the most dangerous countries in Europe for journalists, while human rights activists have been prosecuted in Russia as well as Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, just to name a few. Countries in Eastern Europe are more likely to have persecution because of the corruption in government and the restrictions against the media and freedom of expression.

Russia is also the home of Pussy Riot, of whom we are still working to get out of prison. The three members of the rock band were sentenced to several years in prison for “hooliganism” because they sang a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral. Only one member has been freed, and we are continuing to put pressure until the other two are released as well.

Indefinite Detention

The case against Julian Assange has not been resolved, and the United Kingdom held him for 700 days without charged. Over 100 of those days were in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he was unable to leave and the UK government threatened to storm the embassy to arrest him.

Greece, Bulgaria, Poland and Romania are the worst European Union countries at delivering justice through criminal trials. Some took up to four years to bring a case to trial, while others don’t have a legal maximum for detention. The EU currently has no common standard on how long anyone can remain in custody before being brought before a court. There are several reasons for taking so long, including a lack of interpreters, a lack of legal counsel, judicial corruption, and inability to challenge one’s detention.

Human Trafficking

This is a huge problem in Bulgaria, but in several other Eastern European countries as well. Thousands of women are trafficked to the West each year, almost two-thirds of them trafficked for sexual exploitation. On top of that, human trafficking in all of Europe increased by 18 percent between 2008 and 2010, while convictions for that crime decreased by 13 percent in that same period. In spite of this, only six EU members, out of 27, have tough anti-trafficking legislation.

Related Links:

3 Human Rights Issues in Africa

What’s the Veolia Contract Got to Do with Human Rights?

4 Recent Human Rights Issues in Asia