Russia: Strongly condemns arrests of protesters
Human Rights House Foundation condemns the arrests of several hundred people demonstrated after the Duma election in Russia on the 4th of December and call upon Russian authorities to respect freedom of assembly.
Saturday, 24 December 2011, by HRH
Several thousand people took to the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg and other Russian cities after the election of new parliament, the Duma, 4th December.
The demand from opposition politicians and protesters were new elections, after it came into reports of extensive electoral fraud from across the country.
90 PERCENT IN NORTH CAUCASUS
During Election Day, it became clear that the ruling party United Russia would get about 50 percent of the total votes. In some regions, especially in the troubled North Caucasus region has the United Russia received over 90 percent of all votes, the results in favor the ruling party in Chechnya is over 99 percent.
Demonstraters in Moscow on the 24th of December."Low support for United Russia in central Russia is compensated with inflated and falsified figures in some republics, including the North Caucasus. We have also documented that in the election districts in Chechnya are given more votes than there are in fact registered voters", says Grigory Shvedov, Editor-in-Chief for the Caucasian Knot information agency.
Independent observers from both the Russian non-governmental organizations and the OSCE have documented violations and irregularities in the way the election was carried on.
There is evidence that people have been voting several times in different electoral districts and election workers have falsified inventory results. Election observers from both Russian and foreign organizations have also been denied access to polling stations.
It is notified for major demonstrations in several Russian cities on Saturday 24th of December. In demonstrations after 4th of December several hundred people were arrested, including opposition politicians, leaders of NGOs and the famous blogger Alexei Navalny - the man who baptized on the United Russia "party of thugs and crooks."
He was last week sentenced to 15 days in jail for his role in the demonstrations in Moscow, demonstrations he helped to organize.
From a rally in Russia's second largest city St. Petersburg.Despite of absence of police harrasment of demonstrators during the large demonstration in Moscow on December 10, the situation was different in many cities across Russia.
There are reports of people being detained and beaten by the polcie in Syktyvkary, Tula, Perm, Belgorod, Samara, Brjansk, Ryazan, Vladivostok, Rostov-on-Don, Pyatigorsk and other Russian regions on December 10.
In Syktyvkar Ernest Mezak, deputy head of local Memorial human rights group, was beaten by the police after his detention on December 10, 2011. He was later hospitalized.
In Ulyanovsk and Samara some of organizers of the protest were subjected to preemptive attacks preventing them from participating in the rally.
GOLOS - TARGET OF STATE DEFAMATION
The arrests of peaceful protesters are a continuation of a state directed harassment of independent non-governmental organizations, opposition, media and journalists.
Golos (“the Voice”), a major Russian NGO specializing in election monitoring, has been the target of a State-organized harassment and a defamation campaign since November 26, 2011.
The harassment started a week before the holding of the elections when a State-controlled media, the pro-Government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, published an article dated November 26, criticizing Golos and accusing them of “reducing the process of observing the electoral campaign and voting on election day into a way of making money”.
Watch Al-Jazeera English's reportage on the harrasment of Golos
Later, on December 2, 2011, the State-controlled TV channel NTV entered Golos headquarters to question the staff with cameras in order to broadcast in the evening a half-hour documentary containing sharp criticism of the NGO.
In line with the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's statement of November 27, the broadcast alluded that Golos had been a “recipient of grants” following “instructions of foreign governments”, and that the NGO's executives were handling millions of dollars in cash, in an attempt to discredit them.
Vladimir Putin had accused the “representatives of some foreign countries” to pay money to influence the elections and accused western-granted associations to make a “wasted effort” as “Juda [was] not considered the most respected biblical character” in Russia.
This defamation campaign was doubled by acts of judicial harassment.
FINED 30.000 RUBLES
On December 2, Golos was summonsed to appear before an administrative court, following a complaint filed by the Head of Russia's Central Electoral Commission, Mr. Vladimir Churov.
On the basis of a vaguely-worded law that prohibits the publication of any poll data over a period of five days before the Election Day, Golos was fined 30,000 rubles (approximately 720 euros) for having published on the Internet a digital map reporting pre-electoral irregularities – based on complaints reported by 5,300 citizens, known as the “map of violations”.
On December 3, Golos' Director, Ms. Lydia Shibanova, was detained during 12 hours at the Sheremetevo International Airport by the customs as she was returning from a trip abroad.
Her laptop was confiscated for “examination” purposes by the customs officials, who denied her the right to contact her attorney.
On December 4, in the early morning of Election Day, Golos' website crashed, together with others, due to a massive cyber-attack targeting different independent media outlets, including Echo of Moscow, Bolshoi Gorod, The New Times, Slon.Ru.Zaks.Ru, LiveJournal and the Russian News Agency.
Ms. Lydia Shibanova’s email account was hacked as well as that of her Deputy's.
As the polling places opened, many Golos electoral monitors were prevented from entering the polling places and were subjected to acts of threat and intimidation by polling officers. Their mobile phones were also cut off.