I make this joint statement on behalf of Human Rights House Foundation, Amnesty International, CIVICUS, Human Rights Watch, and the International Federation for Human Rights.
A year after last year’s joint statement on the situation in Russia, authorities there have further intensified the already unprecedented crackdown. A fully-fledged witch hunt against independent groups, media outlets and journalists, and political opposition, is decimating civil society and forcing many into exile.
In a shocking development, the authorities moved to shut down “Memorial,” one of the country’s most authoritative human rights organizations. At the end of December, courts ruled to “liquidate” the group’s key legal entities, International Memorial Society and Human Rights Center Memorial over alleged persistent non-compliance with the repressive legislation on “foreign agents.”
The rulings came at the end of a particularly terrible year for human rights, during which authorities threw top opposition figure Alexei Navalny in prison, banned three organizations affiliated with him as “extremist,” launched criminal proceedings against several of his close associates, doubled down on Internet censorship, and designated more than 100 journalists and activists as “media-foreign agent”s.
Recent months also saw a dramatic escalation of repression in Chechnya, where Russian law and international human rights obligations have been emptied of meaning. With the Kremlin’s blessing, the local governor, Ramzan Kadyrov has been eviscerating all forms of dissent in Chechnya, often using collective punishment. In December 2021, Kadyrov opened a brutal offensive against his critics in the Chechen diaspora, by having the police arbitrarily detain dozens of their Chechnya-based relatives. It continued in January with the abduction and arbitrary detention on fabricated charges of Zarema Musaeva, mother of human rights lawyer Abubakar Yangulbaev, and death threats issued against the Yangulbaevs family and some prominent human rights defenders and journalists.
It is crucial the High Commissioner and members of this Council press the Russian authorities to reverse the course of the unprecedented human rights crackdown, and appoint a dedicated Special Rapporteur to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Russia.