At the moment the struggle for political stability and state integrity in the Russian Federation is turning into the fight against dissidence, any signs of public political activity and the civil society as it is.
Law-enforcement bodies such as Ministry of Home Affairs (MVD), Federal Security Service (FSB) and Office of Public Prosecutor, play vital part in public activity suppression. They methodically create obstacles for different kinds of nonprofit organizations (NGO), mass media and some individuals on various pretexts. At that the law-enforcement bodies apply several tried and proved to be effective models of interference in the civil society’s life.
1. Direct interference, showing in dispersal of peaceful marches, processions and pickets, illegal and groundless arrests of their participants and organizers.
According to the Federal Law № 54-FZ from 19.06.2004 “On gatherings, mass-meetings, marches, processions and vigils”, the organizers shall inform the executive regional authorities of a forthcoming public event and have the right to carry it out, unless the executive authority makes a well-founded suggestion regarding the change of event’s place and/or date.
In spite of the timely notifications and absence of suggestions on the events’ postponement from authorities’ part, the organizers and participants of the public events are regularly arrested by special police forces (OMON) with use of force under pretence of public events’ order violation. However afterwards the detained persons are released without report or discharged by the court.
Thus on the 31st of March 2007 the Volunteer army march took place in Moscow. The notification was forwarded to the Moscow Government on the 15th of March 2007, i.e. within the time period prescribed by the law. There were no suggestions on the march’s place or date change from the Moscow Government. Yet some of the organizers and participants of the event were arrested by the special police forces during the action. The arrested were physically abused, at the police station no medical care was rendered in spite of the evident physical injuries. Relatives of the arrested weren’t informed of their detention. They were charged with the violation of the rules of public events organization and conducting, but all of them were acquitted by the court.
The same situation occurred on the 1st of April 2007 at the march “In support of marches”, in which representatives of the following organizations took part: Civil union of green alternative (GROSA), Moscow Youth Union GROM, Youth Human Rights Movement, Movement «Free Radicals». Youth organizations activists were intended to go into the streets with absolutely nonpolitical and rather jocular slogans such as “Forbid to forbid” etc. However most of participants were arrested on their way to the event’s site. The arrests were carried out with the use of physical force; no reasons for detention were given. The journalists also suffered from special police forces’s actions being forbidden to make photo shoot, as well as numerous passers-by. Police officials were having so called “preventive conversations” with the arrested; most of them were released even without drawing-up of the administrative breach report. March organizers’ cases were brought into court, but were returned to the police for further examination, no actions on them have been taken yet.
On the 28th of August 2007 on Lubyanskaya square in Moscow there took place a picket organized by the movement “Free Radicals” in support of Andrey Kalyonov and Denis Zelenuyk, accused of connection with the explosion on the train # 166 “Nevsky Express”. The participants were arrested for the violation of public events conducting order. Their guilt wasn’t confirmed by the court.
2. Show of Strength
Special police forces (ОМОН) in quantity evidently exceeding one necessary for the order maintenance, is present at almost every public event.
Thus on the 30th of August in Novopushkinsky park there was a mass-meeting dedicated to Anna Politkovskaya’s birthday. Police didn’t interfere, yet there were special police forces outposts positioned near the park as well as several buses for transportation of the arrested.
3. «Preventive» arrests, pressure on activists
In case of political actions (e.g. protest marches) regional law-enforcement authorities detain political activists for the period of the event on various pretexts. Law-enforcement bodies also use some other ways of putting pressure upon civic activists.
Group of Ryazan citizens supporting the National Bolshevist Party (NBP) was arrested on hooliganism charge couple of days before the Discordant March, conducted in Moscow on the 16th of December 2006. On the 14th of December 2006 police officers came up to the group of young men, then a few people left unknown tried to start up the fight with the activists in front of the law-enforcement officials. The latter ones did not interfere but made a video shoot. NBP supporters were detained at the police station until the 17th of December 2006. They were not provided with food, their relatives were not informed about their arrest. Later they were discharged by the court for the absence of corpus delicti.
On the 3rd of September 2007 an employee of Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance (NFPT) Uriy Staroverov, who had been conditionally sentenced for peaceful occupation of the waiting room of the President Administration in December 2004, was summoned to the penal inspection for questioning. The summoning was not scheduled and the conversation didn’t concern Uriy Staroverov’s penalty. Inspector put questions concerning NFPT’s activity, particularly its work in Chechnya as well as its intentions to carry out together with the Новой газеты в Нижнем Новгороде an international meeting dedicated to Anna Politkovskaya’s memory in Jctober 2007.
Accusations of arranging the explosion in the passenger train #166 “Nevsky Express”, brought against Andrey Kalyonov and Denis Zelinyuk, also seem to be questionable. The fact that procedural law provisions were violated during the investigation (the search in the apartment of one of the suspects was carried out in absence of its inhabitants and police officers served as witnesses) as well as the fact that they both were active participants of the protests against the war in Chechnya, allow to assume that accusations brought against them are connected with their political activity.
4. Requisitioning of organizations’ property
There are also obstacles for the non-profit organizations’ activity connected with the requisitioning of organizations’ premises and property.
Thus in 1994 the Ministry of Public Property of the Republic of Dagestan granted a building in Makhachkala to the voluntary hospital for women rendering free medical care to the socially unprotected patients, for use in the perpetuity. All formalities were executed in strict conformity with the law of that time. Yet in 2007 on the initiative of the Federal Security Service of the RF, Office of Public Prosecutor petitioned the Court of Arbitrage of the Republic of Dagestan for the vitiation of the Ministry’s order according to which the building was granted to the hospital. During the trial the Ministry of Public Property reversed the order in question and Office of Public Prosecutor withdrew its claim. Though the hospital has not been evicted from the building, the charitable organization lost its rights, which jeopardizes its activity.
In August of 2007 in Nizhny Novgorog there was a series of examinations of computers belonging to social organizations and mass-media (Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance, Nizhny Novgorod division of Novaya Gazeta and Nizhny Novgorod Human Rights Union) for the use of unlicensed software. During this check-up 6 computers belonging to «Новой газеты» and 4 computers of Фонда в поддержку толерантности were seized, thus their activity was blocked-up.
Nizhny Novgorod Human Rights Union doesn’t own any computers, that’s why the police officers checked the ones belonging to Nizhny Novgorod Human Rights Society, which is located in the same building. As licenses for the software were produced, police officers had to leave the premises without taking the equipment with them.
Representatives of the local Office of Domestic Affairs stated that such check-ups are carried out regularly in non-profit as well as in commercial organizations. However such close attention to human rights organizations was displayed for the first time and led to an unexampled blocking-up of the organizations’ activity.
According to the Public Verdict Foundation, «Legal Team», Youth Human Rights Movement, Nizhni Novgorod Human Rights Union, Sobkor®ru, www.namarsh.ru, www.prima-news.ru, Lenta.Ru and other Internet sources