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Russia: Human rights review 2015

In this review, Franseza Pardoe presents some of the key human rights events and European court cases affecting Russia this year.

January

In a podcast interview, Swedish MP Julia Kronlid, discusses the voting rights of the Russian delegation, debated during the Parliamentary Assembly’s session. Parliamentarians voted to renew voting rights sanctions against Russia, to mark their concern over its “illegal annexation of Crimea.”

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly expresses concern regarding the decision taken by the Russian authorities to designate the Committee against Torture, a leading human rights NGO, as a ‘foreign agent.’


February

In the case Razzakov v. Russia, human rights judges award 23,000 euros, after ruling that Rashid Razzakov was tortured in police custody to make him confess to a murder.

The court also acepted in the case Dzhabbarov v. Russia (no. 29926/08), that Russia’s Internal security agents ‘beat and bagged’ a Russian man to make him confess to murder.

The killing of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, is roundly codemned by Theodora Bakoyannis and Liliane Maury Pasquier, co-rapporteurs for the Parliamentary Assembly’s monitoring of Russia. Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland and Parliamentary Assembly President Anne Brasseur urge swift justice for Nemtsov’s killers.

March

The humiliation and degrading treatment of a conscript caught trying to escape from the army, leads to a European court award of €15,000.

For breaches of human rights law, the court makes awards of more than €140,000, after ruling that Russia was in breach of human rights law over disappearances in Chechnya.

Congress President Jean-Claude Frécon condemns Russia’s ‘treaty on alliance and integration’ with the South Ossetia region in the Republic of Georgia.

Michael Aastrup Jensen and Boriss Cilevics, the assembly’s co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Georgia, join in the treaty condemnation.

Marietta Karamanli, General Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly on the abolition of the death penalty, is similarly disturbed by reports alleging that a working group at the Russian State Duma is preparing legislation to introduce capital punishment for certain crimes relating to terrorism.

With Russia increasingly the subject of parliamentarians’ attention, assembly president Anne Brasseur, deplores the jail terms imposed on Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko.

“The sentencing of Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko on charges of terrorism, respectively to 20 and 10 years in prison, appears to be manifestly excessive and raises concerns about respect for the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights in the legal proceedings against them, especially in the context of the deterioration of the human rights situation in Crimea since its illegal annexation by the Russian Federation,” Brasseur says.

April

A challenge is made to the court’s €15,000 award to regional politician (Amirov v. Russia – no. 51857/13), who complained about his treatment whilst in jail.

In the case Islamova v. Russia, the court awards more than 142,000 euros against Russia, following a complaint from Zulay Islamova that her two sons were abducted by state servicemen in 2000.

Human rights judges also say that the Russian Federation is in breach of human rights law over the death of a Moldovan citizen at peacekeeping checkpoint.

May

A new law on ‘undesirable’ NGOs, earns the displeasure of Assembly President Anne Brasseur. “This law makes it easier for the government to shut down foreign and international NGOs, citing national security, and punish their workers with up to six years in prison,” she reveals.

June

Secretary General Jagland writes to Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, urging that Russia signs and ratifies the Convention on Actions against Trafficking of Human Beings

July

Human rights judges say that Russia’s prison regime, allowing only short-term family visits twice a year over ten-year period, violates a prisoner’s right to family life.

The Commissioner for Human Rights publishes an update on the legislation and practice in the Russian Federation on non-commercial organisations in light of Council of Europe standards.

Parliamentary Assembly President Anne Brasseur admits she is “very concerned” by a judgment of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, which states that the European Convention on Human Rights and the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights cannot ‘annul the precedence of the constitution’ and that Strasbourg court judgments should not be followed ‘to the letter’ if they violate Russian law.

Congress President Jean-Claude Frécon, exprsses his fears that the recent Russian expansion of territory in South Ossetia risks destabilising the whole region.

September

Protests against the conduct of presidential elections in Russia led to human rights violations, Strasbourg judges rule.

Secretary General Jagland says a law banning “homosexual propaganda” as a “threat to heterosexual life” is “completely wrong and out of date.”

A week later, the Council of Europe returns to the theme of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. Blocking the website ‘Children-404,’ which according to Russian authorities distributes illegal “teenage gay propaganda,” is discriminatory, Daniel Holtgen, the Secretary General’s spokesperson, declares in an interview with the Interfax news agency.

The month ends with the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2015 awarded to Russian activist Ludmilla Alexeeva

December

The European Court of Human Rights rules that the arbitrary and abusive secret surveillance of mobile telephone communications in Russia violated European human rights law.

The complaint was brought by Roman Zakharov, the editor-in-chief of a publishing company, who subscribed to the services of several mobile network operators.

The court held, by 16 votes to one, that the finding of a violation constituted in itself sufficient just satisfaction for any non-pecuniary damage sustained by Zakharov. It further held that Russia was to pay Zakharov 40,000 euros (EUR) in respect of costs and expenses.

Within days, President Vladimir Putin signs a law which gives the country’s Constitutional Court decision-making power on the implementation of judgements from the European Court of Human Rights.

The year ends with a signal from the European court that it will soon examine life prisoner sentencing policy.

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