Democracy Alert: Russian-Chechen Friendship Society Forced to Close
Jan 25th, 2007 - 13:20:43
Here are the details on that democracy alert:
Democracy Alert: Russian-Chechen Friendship Society Forced to Close
On January 23, the Federal Supreme Court of Russia denied an appeal of a
lower court's order to close the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS).
The RCFS, based in Nizhny Novgorod, was one of the few remaining
organizations in Russia that was reporting on human rights conditions in
Chechnya and the North Caucasus. The RCFS has issued a press release
(reproduced below) on the court's decision and its consequences. According
to Human Rights First, Russian authorities have manipulated the law to force
the organization to close.
The RCFS was closed down in October last year largely on the basis of the
new Anti-Extremism and NGO laws that made it illegal for an organization to
be headed by a person convicted of extremist activities. The Executive
Director of the RCFS, Stanislav Dmitrievskii, had been convicted on February
3, 2006, on race hate charges for publishing non-violent articles by
Chechen separatist leaders.
For the last few years, the RCFS has been the subject of intense persecution
and harassment. More than a dozen employees, volunteers, and journalists
associated with the RCFS or their family members have been persecuted,
beaten, or killed. In 2005, the organization was subjected to legal
proceedings by both the tax authorities and the registration department of
the Ministry of Justice. At the same time, both Stanislav Dmitrievskii and
another staff member, Oksana Chelysheva, were the subjects of constant
harassment and threatened with death.
Amnesty International and Human Rights First have condemned the closure of
the RCFS and call on the Russian government to uphold basic rights of
freedom of expression and association. Others around the world, including
leading Russian and international figures, such as Nobel Prize laureates
Elie Wiesel and Harold Pinter, have appealed to the Russian authorities
against the closure of the RCFS.
The RCFS intends to appeal to the European Court on Human Rights claiming
that Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention have been violated.
To read the statement by Amnesty International, go to:
To send a petition to President Putin through Human Rights First, go to:
To read a statement to President Putin by over 100 intellectuals and
politicians in support of the RCFS, go to:
To read the US Congressional Letter to President Putin, go to:
Open statement by the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society on the decision
taken by the Russian Supreme Court to liquidate it.
RCFS IS NOT GOING TO STOP OUR HUMAN RIGHTS, PEACEMAKING AND HUMANITARIAN
On 23 January 2007 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation upheld the
decision of the Regional Court of the Russian Federation to liquidate our
organization, the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society.
We were originally ordered to close down in October last year on the basis
of a new NGO and anti-extremism law that made it illegal for an NGO to be
headed by a person convicted of extremist activities. The Russian
authorities wanted us to denounce the acts of our chair Stanislaw
Dmitirevskiy and to remove him from our board. Furthermore, they expected us
to announce this big news about our act of repudiation from our friend and
colleague in public. It would have been dishonorable for us. Neither people
in Nizhny Novgorod nor in the North Caucasus permitted such a disgraceful
option of saving our bacon by sacrificing our friend.
The proceedings at the Supreme Court were observed by representatives of the
European Commission Delegation as well as embassies of the USA, Germany,
Austria, Portugal, Lithuania, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Representatives
of the Amnesty International and Human Rights watch also attended the court
session. There were also observers from Russian human rights organizations,
including Memorial human rights center, Civic Assistance Committee and For
Civic Assistance Foundation. There were several journalists working for
foreign media outlets as well as for Echo of Moscow radio. All of them
became witnesses of absolute disregard to the law.
Although we have expected this outcome, the undisguised farce of
considering the appeal at the Supreme Court that the Russian authorities
didn't hesitate to organize in presence of international observers was
absolutely shocking. Although we did our utmost to prevent Russia from
losing its face once again at the world scene, no miracle is possible under
the current circumstances in Russia. We, the Russian-Chechen Friendship
Society, have been liquidated as a Russia-based organization. Thus, the
Russian authorities have proved once again that they remain absolutely
indifferent to all voices of protest, regardless of what countries people
who speak up in defense of liberal values and democracy come from or what is
their level of recognition in the world community.
We have been supported by more than a hundred public figures from some
twenty countries, including Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United
Kingdom, France, Slovakia, Serbia, Montenegro, Estonia, the Czech Republic,
Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Norway, Ukraine, Turkey, Mexico, Belgium, Brazil,
Finland, Portugal, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, the USA, Canada, Malaysia,
Philippines, Syria, and Zimbabwe. More than one hundred Russian human rights
people and journalists have signed their Open Letter to President Putin in
support of our organization.
It is evident that the so-called positive image of Russia is also of no
concern for the present Kremlin authorities. They keep complaining about
somebody's evil intention to discredit them in the eyes of their free world
counterparts when murders of dissident politicians and journalists in the
contemporary Russia are raised at the international fora from time to time.
They have got used to avoiding answering unsuitable questions about Chechnya
for so long that now they feel free to mockingly neglect them. There has
been no other response from the Russian authorities to the claim of the
international public figures to the murder of Politkovskaya but mere words
about continuing investigation. The Russian authorities have responded to
the concerns expressed about the ruling to liquidate the Russian-Chechen
Friendship Society on absurd extremist charges with the final decision to
crack down on us.
The court session held at the Supreme Court yesterday was a farce. Firstly,
the hearing was postponed until late afternoon without warning. It was an
obvious attempt to get rid of observers but all of them were at the door of
the Supreme Court at 3 pm. Then officers of justice claimed that there was
not enough room for all the observers in a tiny court room where the hearing
was organized. However, it turned out that they had deliberately brought a
group of people who just occupied the seats in an attempt not to let
observers attend the trial. When those people were asked what organization
they represented, they mockingly responded, No organization. We are just
public". Later two of those people confessed that some of them were students
of the Law Academy and that they had been ordered to stay in the court room.
All the arguments of the defense side presented by our lawyer Anna
Stavitskaya and Stanislaw Dmitrievskiy were ignored by the judges whereas
the prosecutor's side didn't offer any grounded proofs of extremism in
actions of Stanislaw Dmitrievskiy in his positions of the chief editor of
the newspaper and the executive director of the Russian-Chechen Friendship
The liquidation ruling came into force immediately after the judge had read
it out. At present, the inter-regional public association Russian-Chechen
Friendship Society has stopped their activities as a Russian legal entity.
However, it doesn't mean that we, members of the Russian-Chechen Friendship
Society, have ceased our work. Due to the circumstances, we have moved the
legal entity to Finland. The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society in Europe
has been registered there with Stanislaw Dmitrievskiy, Oksana Chelyshev,a
and Tatiana Banina being board members. We have Nizhny Novgorod Foundation
for Promoting Tolerance established in Nizhny Novgorod and another regional
Tolerance association was registered in Chechnya a few days ago. We are
continuing our projects informational, humanitarian and the legal project
on the tribunal - in spite of our innumerous problems.
We are definitely going to appeal to the European Court on Human Rights in
the liquidation ruling as we deal with obvious violations of Articles 10 and
11 of the European Convention.
Executive director of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society
Editor of the Russian-Chechen Information Agency
Get Hotmail, News, Sport and Entertainment from MSN on your mobile.