Russian human rights groups in Moscow in the searchlight of the Prosecutor's Office | Den norske Helsingforskomité

Russian human rights groups in Moscow in the searchlight of the Prosecutor's Office

(16/09-2010) Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Moscow -- among them partners of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee such as Moscow Helsinki Group, Memorial, GOLOS, Human Rights Watch, and Centre for Human Rights and Democracy – received letters from the Prosecutor's Office late on September 13. They were requested to present all documents detailing their activities early the next day.

They were requested to present all documents detailing their activities early the next day. It is unclear why the Office of the Prosecutor wants this information. According to the "law on NGOs", the task of checking NGOs, belongs to the Ministry of Justice. The Prosecutor’s Office can only be involved if there is information about a criminal act. Only NGOs of the international origin (as for instance, Human Rights Watch or Transparency International), or NGOs supported by international donors received letters. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is concerned that the requests from the Prosecutor Offices is another example of pressure on civil society groups, directed in particular against NGOs that cooperate with foreign or international institutions. Several of the organizations that received letters, are among the participants of a Strategic Conference on human rights in the Russian Federation, hosted by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Amnesty International, Norway, in Oslo from the 20 to 21 of September.

The Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre are currently visiting Russia. We hope that their conversations with Russian officials will address the worsening situation for human rights defenders in Russia.

Russia is a signatory to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which states that (Article 2):

1. Each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms, inter alia by adopting such steps as may be necessary to create all conditions necessary in the social, economic, political as well as other fields and the legal guarantees required to ensure that all persons under its jurisdiction, individually and in association with others, are able to enjoy all these rights and freedoms in practice.

We urge Russian authorities to live up to President Medvedev’s pledge to fight “legal nihilism”, and honor Russia’s international political and legal obligation to support and defend human rights defenders.