Vladimir Putin’s power vertical will come under further scrutiny if the Council of Europe follows through on plans to bring proceedings against Russia for infringing the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms through its atrocities in Chechnya, writes Antoine Buyse of the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) at Utrecht University:
The UK-based European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) and the Russian NGO Memorial Human Rights Centre have submitted a formal requested the Committee to start initiate proceedings against the Russian Federation for failing to comply with the Court’s 2005 Isayeva judgment. The case, about the aerial bombardment of a village in Chechnya by Russian security forces, revealed severe human rights violations.
The Kremlin is already under fire for a repressive new NGO law that targets civil society groups in receipt of foreign funding. The measure has been condemned by Greenpeace International, which funds its Russian branch.
“Let us not use a legislative intervention that is so weak, so backward-looking and so anti-democratic that it will actually embarrass Russia in the international community should this actually continue to be implemented,” said Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International. “This is a regressive step,” Naidoo told a news conference. “It sends a very negative picture of how the Russian government sees certain parts of civil society.”
While some Russian NGOs plan to reluctantly comply with the law, others will refuse to register.
“It is ridiculous to think that we would reject foreign donations,” said Oleg Orlov, the head of Russia’s Memorial Human Rights Center. “It is not because it is hard to raise money in Russia, though we try and will try to do it, but because we don’t see it as a crime to receive grants from legal foreign organizations.”
Memorial will not register as a foreign agent, he said, insisting that the group “will make all the possible steps against this discriminatory practice” since it is “humiliating and stupid to go and register yourself as foreign agent.” Another leading rights activist, Lev Ponomaryov (above), head of the For Human Rights group, noted that the new legislation “violated a number of international agreements that Russia had signed.”
For Human Rights and the Memorial Human Rights Center are supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.