Respected election monitoring Association Golos brought to court
Russian authorities undermining trust in elections by impeding monitoring. In the run-up to Russian Duma elections taking place on Sunday 4 December, the country’s most experienced election monitoring group is being under scrutiny by prosecutors and pro-government media. –The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is concerned that these are deliberate attempts at hindering Golos important work, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary-General. “By limiting monitoring of the elections, authorities are also undermining trust in elections being conducted in compliance with international standards of freeness and fairness.”
On Thursday 1 December, the Prosecutor’s Office in Moscow opened an administrative case against Association Golos; charging that the organization has violated election laws by establishing a website for registration of election fraud and irregularities. According to Russian law, publication of statistics and polls that may influence election results is prohibited during the last five days prior to an election.
The administrative case is heard by a Court in Moscow today. Russian pro-government TV channel NTV, in an apparently coordinated move, will broadcast this evening an “investigative report on the financial sources of Golos”. – The purpose of the NTV report seems to be suggest that Golos is working against Russian interests; being financed by grants from the West”, says Engesland.
Golos has been working on election issues in Russia since 2000. The organization is an important partner of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) and in 2009 representatives of Golos even took part in election observation in Norway organized by NHC.
– The opportunity of non-state actors to monitor elections is an important component in a democratic society. Financial support from abroad for such activity is an internationally recognized and common practice world-wide, and in many countries the only possibility for ensuring independent monitoring, says Engesland. “We appeal to Russian authorities not to hinder the work of Golos. We also appeal to Norwegian authorities and to the international community to criticize Russian efforts to impede independent monitoring.”
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee representatives Lene Wetteland and Anders Nielsen are in Russia during the Duma elections.
Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General, Mobile: + 47 95752597
Lene Wetteland, Advisor, Mobile: + 47 97697553
Anders Nielsen, Information Advisor, Mobile: + 47 40844709