In 2008, the number of attacks owing to national intolerance in the Russian Federation declined. Deputy Director of the Information-Analytical Center “SOVA” Galina Kozhevnikova said it with reference to the monitoring data of the Center. 71 people were killed and 268 were injured as a result of racist attacks this year in the Russian Federation. (30-SEN-08)
Written by Maria Paramonova/HRH Moscow
Reducing the number of attacks motivated by xenophobia and national intolerance
According to human rights defenders in 2008, compared with the previous year, the number of attacks motivated by xenophobia and national intolerance in the Russian Federation has declined. “Wave of violence was shot down in Moscow, the decline was nearly twice”, – said Mrs. Kozhevnikova. She said that in February-March this year law enforcement agencies conducted the detention of several activists of radical nationalist groups in the capital of the Russian Federation. While in St. Petersburg this year´s decline in the number of attacks by skinheads were not observed.
In accordanse with the SOVA Center, the main seats of violence are Moscow (41 killed, 129 wounded) and St. Petersburg (14 killed, 31 wounded), while the third place again became Voronezh after a two-year break (1 person killed, 13 wounded). The main targets of violence are people from Central Asia, they foot up to more than a third of all victims (38 dead, 83 wounded).
In accordance with the SOVA Center, this year there were more than 50 acts of vandalism against religious properties in the Russian Federation. 20 attacks on Jewish religious sites, 11 – to the Orthodox and 5 – to the Muslim were recorded”.
Activity of radical right-wing groups
In August 2008, during a military conflict with Georgia the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (MAII) made a call to identify and internment citizens of Georgia in the territory of the Russian Federation, to initiate the verification of businesses owned by ethnic Georgians. Such lists of names began to emerge on the Internet. These actions the MAII did not attracted any attention of law enforcement agencies. Moreover, “Novaya Gazeta” in St. Petersburg received an «anti-extremist» warning which published an article expressed outrage such acts and declarations of the far right.
Opposition to radical nationalism
In July-August 2008, the Russian Federation submitted to The UN´s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination a Periodic Report on the Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. At the same time, the Committee was presented an Alternative Report of Russian NGOs supported by 33 Russian NGOs. The Committee treated very critical a document submitted by the Russian Federation that was reflected in the recommendations published on 20 Aug 2008. In particular the Committee offered to conduct an independent investigation Anti-Georgian campaign in 2006, systematically punish officials and other persons directly involved in discrimination, to improve accounting for racist crimes, etc.
Opposition from the state
Government’s countermeasures towards activity of radical right-wing groups
According to human rights defenders, several tens of thousands of skinheads and activists of various radical nationalist groups act in the Russian Federation. The objects of their attacks are the people from Caucasus and Central Asia by origin, representatives of youth subcultures and sexual minorities. While «anti-extremist» activity of state bodies is clearly growing, it generally looks rather imitation of activity rather than real activity.
In general, little positive change in the prosecution of xenophobic propaganda could be notified. In this field a decline in the number of suspended sentences, and sentences related to the unreasonable deprivation of liberty was seen. One of symbolic event was conviction of two law enforcement officials under article 282 of the Criminal Code.
Overall, since the beginning of the year for violent crimes was made at least 15 convictions (v. 50 people) which was taken in one form or another into account of hate’s motive.
Unlike violent crimes prosecution of xenophobic propaganda is much more active. In assessment of the SOVA Center, during the summer months at least 10 legitimate was made for these crimes, convictions under article 282 against 12 people, and at least five convictions under article 280 (calls for extremist activity) to 6 people. Article 280 gradually ceases to be a «dormant» norm and incriminates increasingly. Overall, at least 28 sentences were made only for the xenophobic propaganda (Article 282) since the beginning of the year that fact has already compared the results of 9 months of 2008 with the figures of the whole of 2007.
The practice of illegal and questionable application of the anti-extremist laws
Unlawful practices, or at least questionable application anti-extremist laws is still growing. The federal list of extremist materials rapidly expands, in opinion of the SOVA Center, disturbing is the fact that not only a large number of unreasonable prohibitions, but also extremely low quality of the list, obviously allowing people to violate the law.
Equally disturbing is the growing practice of prosecution for comments on Internet forums and Internet blogs, the number of criminal prosecutions and sentences on them continues to grow, while the most popular and influential radical right-wing Internet resources continue to operate freely.
On 7 July the City Court of Syktyvkar sentenced Syktyvkar bloggers Savva Terentiev (photo) one year suspended imprisonment and 19 August the court of second instance approved the verdict. A few days prior to the approval of the sentence in another region of the Russian Federation, the Kemerovo region, for the same act – writing the posts against the police and the FSB, in Live magazine has been prosecuted for inciting hatred of police and the FSB which clearly has a political subtext: trying to bring to justice an activists of an oppositional Movement “Oborona” (Defense) Dmitry Solovyov.
On 25 June a more than two-year criminal epic ended by sentence of 2 years suspended prison for Bashkir oppositionists Ayrat Dilmuhametov and Victor Shmakov accused of calling for extremist activity and inciting riotous (although there was no rioting) for publishing articles which were sharply opposition against to the head of Bashkortostan Murtaza Rakhimov.
Persecution of Mass-Media
Developing and practice of unjustified «anti-extremist» persecution of Mass-media which often suffer even for a quotation on their pages a views of a figure which was not clearly shared by editorial staff.
Summer 2008 was marked by tightening the pressure on independent North Caucasus media. So, on 6 June 2008 the Kuntsevsky Moscow court decided to close the site «Ingushetiya.Ru» with numerous violations and extremely controversial circumstances, and ordered all Russian Internet providers to block access to the site (though it has not yet done). Virtually there is no doubts of the political nature of harassment of independent online publications which ended tragically – on 31 August a site owner Magomed Evloev (photo) was killed in Magas with circumstances indicating the political nature of the crime.
Persecution of religious organizations
«Anti-extremist» persecution of religious organizations went at a qualitatively new level, prosecutors didn’t even try to link the activities of these organizations to the danger of terrorist or other violent activities. At such a threat repeatedly pointed the SOVA Center that today the approval of religious superiority, a natural for the very many religious people, by the law is «extremism». At the end of May – June for several weeks «anti-extremist» warnings were received by the organizations of Jehovah´s Witnesses in Yekaterinburg and Taganrog (the Rostov Region), soon a criminal charges was brought of excitation by Jehovah´s Witnesses religious hatred in the Sverdlovsk region. In June Moscow Baptists received the same «anti-extremist» warning.