Russia

 

  • 5 countries on CIVICUS Monitor watchlist presented to UN Human Rights Council

    Statement at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    This Council has identified restrictions on fundamental freedoms as a warning sign of an impending human rights crisis. Five countries were highlighted in the latest CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist, which puts a spotlight on a group of countries where there has been a rapid decline in respect for civic space. 

    These include Myanmar, where a military coup has led to deaths of at least 50 protesters, and the arbitrary detention of more than a thousand activists, protesters and politicians, while journalists are targeted daily. 

    In Nicaragua, there has been systematic repression of demonstrations. Human rights defenders, journalists and perceived political opponents face criminalisation and harassment, and a recent onslaught of repressive laws hinders civic space still further.

    In Poland, months of ongoing protests sparked by a near-total ban on abortion have been met with excessive force by authorities and far-right groups. Laws and reforms which undermine judicial independence and the rule of law have been passed since 2015 and media freedom is under threat. 

    In Russia, there have been large scale attacks on peaceful assembly and journalists during the massive nationwide peaceful protests. Over 10,000 protesters have been detained.

    In Togo, where civic space has been backsliding since 2017, the detention of a journalist and trade unionists and the suspension of a newspaper are recent examples highlighting the deterioration in the respect of civic freedoms.

    The Council cannot fulfill its protection or prevention mandates unless it is prepared to take meaningful action in situations which show such warning signs. We call for stronger scrutiny on Myanmar and Nicaragua to be brought by the Council this session, and for due attention on Poland, Russia and Togo to prevent deteriorating situations on the ground. 

    Civic space ratings by CIVICUS Monitor
    Open Narrowed Obstructed  Repressed Closed

     

     

  • 5 países de la lista de vigilancia de CIVICUS se presentan al Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU

     

    Declaración en el 46º período de sesiones del Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU

    Este Consejo ha identificado las restricciones a las libertades fundamentales como una señal de alarma de una inminente crisis de derechos humanos. Cinco países han sido destacados en la última lista de vigilancia de CIVICUS Monitor, la cual pone el punto de mira un grupo de países en los que se ha producido un rápido declive del respeto al espacio cívico.

    Entre ellos se encuentra Myanmar, donde un golpe militar ha provocado la muerte de al menos 50 manifestantes y la detención arbitraria de más de mil activistas, manifestantes y políticos, mientras que los periodistas son objeto de ataques diarios.

    En Nicaragua se ha producido una represión sistemática de las manifestaciones. Los defensores de derechos humanos, los periodistas y los presuntos opositores políticos sufren criminalización y acoso. Además, una reciente oleada de leyes represivas obstaculiza aún más el espacio cívico.

    En Polonia, las autoridades y los grupos de extrema derecha han respondido con una fuerza excesiva a los meses de protestas desencadenadas por la prohibición casi total del aborto. Desde 2015 se han aprobado leyes y reformas que socavan la independencia judicial y el Estado de derecho. Asimismo, la libertad de los medios de comunicación está amenazada.

    En Rusia se han producido agresiones a gran escala contra las reuniones pacíficas y los periodistas durante las masivas protestas pacíficas a nivel nacional. Más de 10.000 manifestantes han sido detenidos.

    En Togo, donde el espacio cívico se ha visto limitado desde 2017, la detención de un periodista y de sindicalistas y la suspensión de un periódico son ejemplos recientes que ponen de manifiesto el deterioro del respeto a las libertades cívicas.

    El Consejo no puede cumplir sus mandatos de protección o prevención a menos que esté preparado para tomar medidas significativas en situaciones que muestren tales señales de alerta. Pedimos que el Consejo lleve a cabo un examen más riguroso de Myanmar y Nicaragua en este periodo de sesiones, y que preste la debida atención a Polonia, Rusia y Togo para evitar el deterioro de la situación sobre el terreno.

    Calificaciónes de espacio cívico - CIVICUS Monitor
    Abierto Estrecho Obstruido  Represivo Cerrado

     

     

  • A joint call to the UN to Address human rights situation in the Russian Federation

    This statement is made on behalf of 8 organisations, who together call on the Human Rights Council to address the human rights situation in the Russian Federation.

     

  • As NGOs speak out, expect clampdowns to grow

    By David Kode

    Across the globe, from East Africa to eastern Europe, there is a trend of increasing attacks on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that support reforms governments are opposed to.

    Read on: Open Global Rights

     

     

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  • Can Democracy Stand Up to the Cult of the Strongman Leader?

    By Mandeep Tiwana and Andrew Firmin

    Donald Trump’s presidency, recent protests in Russia and South Africa and the referendum to consolidate presidential power in Turkey have reignited debate about an emerging form of macho conservative politics called ‘Putinism’. This new form of politics is shaping contemporary notions of democracy while undermining the international rules-based system and harming civil society.

    Read on: Diplomatic Courier

     

     

     

  • Country recommendations on civic space for the UN´s Universal Periodic Review

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 9 countries in advance of the 30th UPR session (May 2018). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations. Countries examined include: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Cuba, Djibouti, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan:

    Bangladesh (Individual/Joint): In this UPR, CIVICUS draws attention to a range of legislative restrictions which have been strengthened and imposed to curtail the operation of independent civic groups in Bangladesh. Of particular concern, are new restrictions on groups seeking funds from abroad, as well the repeated use of the penal code to arrest HRDs and place blanket bans on meetings and assemblies. We further examine the spate of extrajudicial killings against secular bloggers and LGBTI activists which is illustrative of Bangladesh’s downward spiral with respect to civic freedoms and systemic failure to protect civil society.

    Burkina Faso (EN/FR): CIVICUS, the Burkinabé Coalition of Human Rights Defenders and the West African Human Right Defenders Network examine unwarranted limitations on freedom of expression and assembly. Despite several positive developments since the popular uprising of 2014, such as the decriminalisation of defamation and the adoption of a law on the protection of human right defenders, restrictions on the freedom of expression including suspensions of media outlets by the national media regulator and attacks and threats against journalists continue.

    Cameroon: CIVICUS, Réseau des Défenseurs Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) and the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) highlight Cameroon’s fulfilment of the right to association, assembly and expression and unwarranted persecution of human rights defenders since its previous UPR examination.  We assess the ongoing judicial persecution and detention of human rights defenders on trumped up charges, the use of anti-terrorism legislation to target journalists and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.  

    Colombia(EN/SP): CIVICUS highlights the hostile environment for human rights defenders, social leaders and unions workers who are routinely subject to physical attacks, targeted assassinations, harassment and intimidation by state and non-state actors. CIVICUS examines the increased number of attacks against journalists as well as the government’s lack of effective implementation of protection mechanisms to safeguard the work of journalists and human rights defenders.

    Cuba (EN/SP): CIVICUS and the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) highlight the constitutional, legal and de facto obstacles to the exercise of the basic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. The submission discusses the situation of CSOs, HRDs, journalists and bloggers, who face harassment, criminalisation, arbitrary arrests, searches of their homes and offices and reprisals for interacting with UN and OAS human rights institutions. The submission further examines the multiple ways in which dissent is stifled both in the streets and in the media, offline and online. 

    Djibouti (EN/FR): CIVICUS, Defend Defenders and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) submission describes how the government of Djibouti has patently ignored the 14 recommendations made during the second UPR cycle related to the protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression. Instead, in the intervening period, authorities in Djibouti have continued their campaign against dissent, regularly detaining human rights defenders, journalists and trade union activists because of their criticism of the government or human rights activists.  

    Russia: CIVICUS and Citizens’ Watch address concerns regarding the adoption and application of several draconian laws that have resulted in the expulsion and closure of numerous CSOs and restrictions on the activities of countless others. The submission also lays out the increasing criminalisation and persecution of dissenting views by means of growing restrictions, in both law and practice, on the exercise of the fundamental freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. 

    Turkmenistan: CIVICUS highlights restrictions to freedom of association in Turkmenistan including recent amendments to the 2014 Law on Public Associations which further limit CSOs’ ability to register, operate independently and receive funding from international sources. Additionally, we assess the use of the arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders as well as unwarranted limitations to online and offline freedom of expression.

    Uzbekistan: CIVICUS, The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia and the International Partnership for Human Rights assess the conditions of freedom of association, assembly and expression in Uzbekistan. We highlight the lack of progress made in implementing recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle. It particular, we note that although there have been some notable improvements to the environment for civic space, the situation for human rights activists and journalists remains deeply constrained.

     

  • Environmental Movement in Russia Once Again Under Attack

    19 April 2010, Johannesburg. CIVICUS has received information from local sources that the offices of Socio-Ecological Union (SEU) in Samara, Russia, have been raided by the police in connection with alleged criminal charges of extremism against Mr. Sergey Simak the Co-Chair of the Organization,.

    On the 13th of April, staff from the regional branches of the Department for Economic Crimes and the Center for the Combat of Extremism raided the SEU offices and seized Mr. Simak's computer and documents, which are alleged to have been used for criminal purposes.

    According to local reports, a source in the regional Police Department stated that the case was initiated on 12 April, the same day that activists from Samara, and 44 other cities in Russia, held protests over the felling of virgin Mediterranean pistachio-juniper forests, to make space for a health and sports complex. Furthermore, ecologists and activists from Samara have been actively involved in protesting the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, which reopened with the support of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and has grave ecological consequences for Lake Baikal and surrounding region.

    CIVICUS is deeply concerned that attacks on the environmental movement in Russia are becoming common and systematic. A member of SEU has expressed fears to CIVICUS that, as SEU is currently headquartered out of Samara, the whole organization may be jeopardized by this latest attack. CIVICUS urges President Medvedev to protect freedoms of association and expression in the country, and ensure that peaceful environmentalism is not regarded as extremism in Russia.

    Environmental groups in Russia are repeatedly stripped of their fundamental right to freedom of expression when the issues are political or economic in nature. In January 2010, police raided NGO Baikal Environmental Wave, a member of the SEU Network, and confiscated computers in response to the NGO's advocacy surrounding the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill. Further, in Turkmenistan, the authorities arrested Mr. Andrey Zatoka under trumped up charges, a renowned ecologist, activist and member of SEU.

    The Socio-Ecological Union remains to be the oldest, largest, and one of the most respected NGOs in the post-Soviet region. The compromise of the operations and existence of this organization would have grave consequences not only for the region's rich and diverse ecology, but also for the civil society in Eurasia as a whole.

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. The Civil Society Watch (CSW) programme of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world. In 2009, CSW tracked threats in 75 countries across the globe.

    For more information, please contact:

    Devendra Tak, Media and Communications Manager, CIVICUS
    or
    Sonia Zilberman, Civil Society Watch Programme, CIVICUS
    Tel: +27 -11- 8335959

     

  • People power is China’s great untapped resource

    By Frances Eve, Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) and Cathal Gilbert, World Alliance for Citizen Participation, CIVICUS

    From 3-5 September, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met at the ninth BRICS summit. The venue was Xiamen - a gleaming port city which symbolises China’s rise as the new economic and political force in the world. It is also a fitting venue to mark the continued emergence of BRICS as a bloc with some serious geopolitical heft.

    But what does BRICS mean for Chinese people and how can they have any say in these annual meetings, which bring together heads of state from 5 of the most prosperous and populous emerging economies?

    These are uncomfortable questions for a group of leaders who, thus far, have not sought any meaningful inputs from their citizens on the future direction of BRICS. They are particularly awkward questions for host, China, where civil society activists, human rights lawyers, and others who seek to have a say in tackling China’s 21st century problems are systematically repressed by a small elite determined to hold on to power.

    Regular monitoring of the space for civil society by the CIVICUS Monitor and the China Human Rights Briefing shows the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression are systematically curtailed in China. These research tools show that civic space is ‘repressed’ in China, indicating that citizens are not able to safely and fully exercise their fundamental rights, namely to associate, peacefully assemble and express themselves. Based on these indicators, the state of civil society rights in China is the lowest amongst BRICS countries and in the bottom quarter for all UN member states.

    Since 2014, a series of restrictive new laws on national security, non-profit organisations and anti-terrorism have been passed, coinciding with a sustained escalation of detentions of dissidents. The latest of these is China’s new National Intelligence Law, which gives authorities “sweeping powers to monitor and investigate foreign and domestic individuals and institutions”. The Law on the Management of Overseas NGO Activities, which allows the police to control CSOs' funding sources, staffing and activities, came into force on the 1st of January this year.

    Aside from laws, China has relentlessly pursued its critics through mass arrests of lawyers and activists in 2015, the shutdown of websites promoting peaceful dialogue and deploying riot police to prevent a demonstration on poor air quality in Chengdu. The list goes on.

    The Chinese authorities’ distaste for free speech and human rights activism was perhaps best displayed following the death in July 2017 of China’s only Nobel Peace Prize Laureate  Liu Xiaobo. Rather than allow Xiaobo’s colleagues and friends to mourn, the authorities tightly controlled his burial at sea to prevent a commemoration, arrested activists after his funeral and orchestrated the subsequent disappearance of his widow, Liu Xia, whom they have held in arbitrary detention since 2010.

    None of these issues were discussed at the summit in Xiamen. The agenda was dominated by concerns of international security, especially as North Korea tested a hydrogen bomb on the first day of the summit, global trade and the rebalancing of the global financial systems.

    But if any of this is to be achieved, and particularly if BRICS is to realise its goal of “strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive economic growth”, its leaders will have to start listening to their people. Fans of China’s spectacular economic growth may say that political reform  is not necessary but history shows us that silencing your citizens is always a strategy with a limited shelf life. Either education and prosperity will rise to levels where citizens demand a proper say, or exclusion and frustration will spill over onto the streets.

    China’s leaders are smart enough to know that even their industrial-scale repression is only partly successful. Indeed, China does allow for tens of thousands of protests to take place across the country every year. By adopting this pressure valve strategy, China allows citizens to let off steam while it simultaneously goes after the organisers or those who share information. This month’s sentencing of a citizen journalist to four years in prison for documenting labour protests is one such example of this tactic.

    Deep down, China’s leaders know that a state can never completely kill the spirit of activism and resistance. Nowadays, the rising influence of the internet, despite being  a tool of repression and rigidly controlled and monitored in China, continues to make the spread of ideas and calls to action easier.

    BRICS may seem a strange place for China to begin the journey towards a more open society. But within the BRICS framework, China can learn from South Africa, where one of the world’s most progressive constitutions is still largely intact, there is a pluralism in the media and protests take place on a daily basis. This dialogue about the merits of democracy could take place through a genuine South-South spirit of partnership, devoid of the often toxic dynamics of North-South dialogue.

    An empowered and engaged civil society doesn’t just mean there will be greater checks on power. It is also a means to create innovation, social cohesion and prosperity within society, share new ideas, challenge the status quo and explore the wealth of generosity and creativity in each individual.

    With almost 1.4 billion people, surely this is China’s greatest untapped resource?

    Frances Eve is a Hong Kong-based researcher with the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), a coalition of Chinese and international NGOs dedicated to the promotion of human rights in China.

    Cathal Gilbert is a researcher at The World Alliance for Citizen Participation, CIVICUS

     

  • Reaction to human rights resolution on reprisals

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Response to resolution on reprisals

    CIVICUS welcomes the new resolution on reprisals, passed by the Human Rights Council this afternoon, which detailed trends and patterns in reprisals and identified the increased risk for those most marginalized. 

    The latest report to the Human Rights Council on reprisals – presented to the Council by the Assistant Secretary-General of the UN last week – showed that reprisals against activists continue unabated, without accountability. This undermines the strength of the entire United Nations when its member states persecute and punish those that provide evidence and testimonials of human rights abuses. 

    The UN depends on information from the ground in order to fulfil its mandate of protecting human rights. Every act of reprisal, including those detailed in the latest report as well as the countless others that go unreported, is a direct challenge to this. We were particularly concerned to see 13 Human Rights Council members listed in the report as perpetrators of reprisals, and reiterate calls for a mechanism which imposes real political costs and accountability for states that engage in reprisals.

    Several hostile amendments to the resolution were tabled by Russia, but were defeated by the Human Rights Council. We welcome the strong statements made by a number of states today in support of the resolution, and we call on states, and the UN bodies, to step up their efforts to both prevent and address reprisals.

    Read our statement to the Human Rights Council here.

     

  • Resilience in times of shrinking civic space: How Resilient Roots organisations are attempting to strengthen their roots through primary constituent accountability

    Soulayma Mardam Bey (CIVICUS) and Isabelle Büchner (Accountable Now)

    The systematic crackdown on peaceful protests and demonstrations across the world has shaped our understanding of repression against civil society organisations (CSOs). Yet, less-spectacular restrictions such as increased bureaucratic requirements imposed by governments are not necessarily less threatening to CSO resilience.

    While those tactics significantly hamper CSOs’ ability to operate and can reduce primary constituents' trust in CSOs' ability to represent them legitimately, we also need to acknowledge that these symptoms can stem from our own inappropriate approaches to accountability. When CSOs are not accountable to their roots, this can serve as a breeding ground for governments’ and other non-state actors’ anti-CSOs strategies and rhetoric.  

    The Resilient Roots initiative is aiming to test whether CSOs who are more accountable and responsive to their primary constituents are more resilient against threats to their civic space. 15 organisations from diverse countries and contexts have partnered with us to design and rollout innovative accountability experiments over a 12 month period. These experiments will explore how public support and trust in CSOs can be improved through practising what we call primary constituent accountability, which aims to establish a meaningful dialogue with those groups that organisations exist to support, and increase their engagement in CSO decision-making.

    Accountability and resilience are both highly context-specific and vary not just from country to country but also along an organisation’s thematic focus, size and approach. This means that we need to explore the relationship between accountability and resilience on a case by case basis and across a variety of very different contexts. Keeping this in mind - and without further adieu - read on to meet the some of Resilient Roots Accountability Pilot Project organisations:

    One of these organisations is the Poverty Reduction Forum Trust (PRFT) from Zimbabwe. In the rural area of Dora, in the district of Mutare, they aim to systematically validate actions and strategies through constituent-led monitoring of programme progress. As a platform for civil society that aims to address the root-causes and diverse manifestations of poverty in Zimbabwe, they may face very different challenges from an organisation that works on more politically polarising topics.

    For example, Russian CSO OVD-Info is an independent human rights media project that monitors detentions and other cases of politically motivated harassment, informs media and human rights organisations on the state of political repression in Russia, and provides legal assistance to activists. For the Resilient Roots initiative, OVD-Info seeks to set up a dashboard to serve as a data visualisation tool, which will help evaluate the efficiency of its projects and motivate their constituents to play a stronger role in the organisation’s decision-making.

    In contrast to the technology and data-driven approach of OVD-Info, FemPLatz is a women’s rights organisation from Serbia that seeks a more direct and personal approach. They plan to gather feedback from their constituents through focus group discussions, interviews and workshops while also improving their communication with their constituents through the publication of a regular newsletter. This will allow their constituents to monitor their work and get in contact with them to provide feedback.

    A newsletter can also contribute to closing the feedback loop. Projet Jeune Leader (PJL) from Madagascar, for example, will engage young adolescents, their parents and school administrations to establish a coordinated and systematic means to collect feedback. They will collect feedback through participatory scorecards, stories from primary constituents around the changes triggered by the project, and an updated youth magazine to get closer to their constituents. PJL works on a comprehensive sexual-reproductive health education and leadership development program integrated into public middle schools.

    A particularly creative approach comes from Solidarity Now. Through multimedia productions, their primary constituents will express their daily perceptions, challenges, and dreams through the making and sharing of interactive material like video clips. Solidarity Now consists of a network of organisations and people whose goal is to assist and support the populations affected by the economic and humanitarian crises in Greece. Through the provision of services to both local Greeks and migrant populations, it seeks to restore the vision of a strong Europe based on solidarity and open values.

    In Asia, Climate Watch Thailand (CWT) is an organisation working to drive changes in attitudes towards climate change, and trigger action on the topic. As part of the initiative, CWT is going to strengthen how they formulate policy asks, by continuously testing their relevance to their constituents and this gaining wider support.

    Unfortunately, not all the organisations we work with in this initiative feel comfortable enough to publicly associate themselves to Resilient Roots, without the fear of inciting further anti-CSO responses in their local context. Such is the case of our Ugandan partner, a reminder of how delicate civic spaces are and how important it is for our sector to better understand how to strengthen CSO resilience in recent times.

    These diverse organisations are using a variety of approaches to work on CSO accountability, and we are incredibly excited to be exploring with them how different accountability practices fare in different regional and thematic contexts. What factors will make them successful and where will they need to adjust? In what circumstances does increased accountability actually lead to increased resilience? We are looking forward to sharing this journey with you: how they progress with their projects, the things they are learning, and what you can draw from their experiences to inform the work of your own organisation.

     

    Resilient Roots blog

     

  • RUSSIA: ‘Human rights activism can be expected to increase in reaction to repression’

    CIVICUS speaks with Leonid Drabkin, a coordinator with OVD-Info, an independent human rights civil society organisation (CSO) that documents and helps the victims of political persecution in Russia. Through a hotline and other sources, OVD-Info collects information about detentions at public rallies and other cases of political persecution, publishes the news and coordinates legal assistance to detainees.

     

  • Russia: Human Rights Council must respond to crackdown on civil society

    Joint statement ahead of the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council, condemning Russia (a new member of the body) for recent attacks against protestors (over 12,000 detained since late January).


     

  • Russia: Stop violence against peaceful protesters

    Russia Navalny Protests GettyImages 12307445752

    Read the statement in Russian

    The arrest of more than five thousand protesters in Russia calling for the release of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny is a gross violation of the constitutional rights of all Russians to assemble peacefully, as Russia continues to openly deny its international human rights obligations, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today.

     

  • Russia’s presidential election: a decline in citizen rights

    By Natalia Taubina and Bobbie Jo Traut

    The re-election of Vladimir Putin has been preceded by a significant crackdown on freedom of assembly and rule of law. The CIVICUS Monitor, which tracks and rates civil society conditions across all UN member states in close to real-time, has found that civic space in Russia has closed dramatically as civil society groups have been publicly vilified and marginalised.

    Read on: Open Democracy