In response to the sealing off without any prior warning of the Amnesty International Moscow Office on 2 November ARTICLE 19 stands in solidarity with Amnesty International and its staff in Russia.
In the early hours of 2 November the Moscow office of Amnesty International was sealed and locks changed by municipal authorities. Members of staff who were taken by surprise and had no reason to suspect this might happen, have been left without their equipment, files and working space. The office has been rented from the city of Moscow for the past 20 years and contrary to claims by a spokesman for the city, rent has always been paid up to date (and last paid in October) and no notices or complaints in any form were received from the City.
The Amnesty International Moscow Office has long played an important role in raising awareness and campaigning for the end to human rights violations in Russia as well as worldwide. In the past month it’s highlighted the torture of political prisoner Ildar Dadin, blocking of a popular LGBT website and censorship of theatre productions.
While it is still early to reach conclusions there seems to be no legitimate basis for the actions of the authorities in sealing the office. It is hard not to see this incident in the context of the government crackdown on civil society that has seen continuing harassment of non-governmental organisations across Russia. Almost 150 NGOs have been designated as “foreign agents” for receiving funding from abroad, among them environmental groups, human rights defenders and history-cultural organisations. Seven international organisations who previously supported civil society have been labelled “undesirable” and their presence banned. Meanwhile government controlled media continually vilifies any critics or those with an alternate view.
ARTICLE 19 will be monitoring the situation and stands in solidarity with Amnesty International and its staff in Russia.