Russia: Russian authorities must condemn and investigate threats against human rights defender
10 Oct 2012
ARTICLE 19 is concerned that Russian authorities have not responded quickly enough to reports of death threats made against a pregnant human rights defender in Moscow. ARTICLE 19 is calling for a genuine investigation as a matter of urgency to ensure that those responsible for the intimidation of Tanya Lokshina and her unborn child are brought to justice.
“The authorities must act quickly and respond seriously to the threats made against Tanya Lokshina. Tanya is a respected expert on human rights in Russia and should be able work without fear for her life or for the life of her unborn baby” said Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.
“The failure of the authorities to adequately respond to the threats made against Human Rights Watch researcher Tanya Lokshina reinforces a climate of impunity, where attacks against human rights defenders and journalists go unpunished. If the people responsible for this campaign of intimidation are not brought to justice, threats against those who speak out against human rights abuses will continue unabated, exposing them to greater vulnerability”, she added.
Tanya Lokshina, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Moscow received repeated threats in recent weeks against her, which have made explicit reference to her pregnancy, according to the organisation. Human Rights Watch have condemned the threats as an attempt to force the group to leave Russia. Messages were sent to Tanya’s mobile phone and contain information that the group say could only have been obtained by covert surveillance. The content of the messages included “we are waiting for the birth of your child” and said that Tanya would not have “an easy birth”.
This week has marked (on October 7th) the sixth anniversary of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent Russian journalist, who exposed human rights abuses in Chechnya. The perpetrators and masterminds of her murder, as well as those of the 2009 murder of her fellow journalist and human rights defender Natalia Estemirova have yet to be brought to justice. Impunity for those responsible will increase the level of violence and threats against those who speak out against human rights abuses and add to their vulnerability.
ARTICLE 19 is concerned that Tanya’s case is the most recent case in a trend. The environment in Russia is becoming increasingly difficult for those working on human rights. Initial approval was granted last month to a bill which would extend the definition of state treason which would mean that any Russian helping a foreign organisation could be charged and if found guilty face twenty years in prison. Recently adopted legislation means that for non-government organisations engaged in human rights to be able to receive money from abroad, they must register as “foreign agents” and comply with much tighter restrictions.
ARTICLE 19 notes that there is a positive obligation under international human rights law for states to protect those exercising their right to freedom of expression, including journalists, human rights defenders and public activists and investigate and punish those responsible for crimes against them.
A set of international standards relating to violence and crimes against freedom of expression was set out by jointly by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and the OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in a Declaration, adopted in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on 25 June 2012.
Those standards include, that:
* Attacks against freedom of expression should be condemned by state officials.
* Complaints of an attack against freedom of expression should be addressed immediately and there should be a swift and full investigation into those complaints.
* These investigations should be properly resources and transparent.
* Those who are found to be responsible for crimes against freedom of expression - which includes direct perpetrators; instigators; and those who conspire to commit, assist or cover up such crimes – should be prosecuted.
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