Authorities should stop harassing Nobel Peace Prize nominee Svetlana Gannushkina
One of Russia’s most respected human rights defenders, Svetlana Gannushkina, is prosecuted for “failure to comply with legal requirements by the Prosecutor” and is to stand trial on 4 June. Gannushkina, the head of the Civic Assistance Committee (CAC), suspended cooperation with the Moscow Prosecutors' office in April 2013 because unreasonable requirements were imposed on her organization. In 2007, Svetlana received the Sakharov Freedom Award from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. She has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize by Erna Solberg, the head of the Conservative Party in Norway.
- The prosecution of Gannushkina is part of a wider campaign by Russian authorities to delegitimize and harass human rights defenders, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General. The campaign amounts to a systematic violation of Constitutional rights and international standards on freedom of association which are binding upon Russia.
As part of an ongoing campaign of inspections and prosecution of hundreds of Russian NGOs, CAC was inspected in March and April this year. On April 4 CAC decided to suspend further provision of documents to the Moscow Prosecutor’s office awaiting a decision of the legality of the Prosecutors’ requirements. The decision was made after CAC was ordered to submit not only copies, but original documents on a new and revised list, which the organization was to provide during the same day. CAC had already provided copies of 30 different financial instruments. According to Gannushkina, the new requirements were unacceptable both from a time-perspective and from a legal point of view. Providing original documents would effectively mean seizure of documents, an act for which the prosecution had no legal basis.
On 5 April CAC filed a complaint against the requirements to the Moscow Prosecutor's Office. Awaiting for the outcome of this complaint, Gannushkina will be tried for an administrative offense under Art. 17.7 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation in the capacity as the Chairwoman of the CAC.
CAC offers legal, medical and psychological assistance to asylum seekers in Russia and to deprived migrants from former Soviet countries. The organization frequently publish views critical of the Russian Government, and has been under attack from several corners lately. A representative from the Russian Public Chamber (State institution for civic control), Georgy Fedorov, has sent requests to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, demanding that the activities of the Civic Assistance Committee should be inspected. Fedorov specifically asked to check the organization on the matter of legalisation of criminals and radical extremists.
Gannushkina strongly denies these claims, underlining that she has no possibility of legalising anybody. That is the competence of the state, only. – Cooperating with Gannushkina for many years, we know the quality of her work and her principled approach to protecting and promoting human rights, said Engesland. – The current efforts to undermine her credibility and to stop her organization to provide assistance to some of the most vulnerable groups in Russia should be seen as what it is: A malicious attack on the rights of a courageous human rights defender. Gannushkina should be supported strongly both inside Russia and by the international community.