Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Fourteen Killed In Xenophobic Attacks In Russia This Year

Antigay activists trample on a rainbow flag during a protest by gay-rights activists in Moscow in 2013.


A Moscow-based think tank that monitors xenophobia and extremism says 14 people have been killed and 77 injured in ethnically motivated attacks across Russia since the beginning of the year.

According to the latest report presented by the Sova Center for Information and Analysis on September 30, 31 individuals have been sentenced for hatred attacks since January 1.

The report did not include ethnically or racially motivated attacks in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region or in Crimea, the Ukrainian region that was annexed by Moscow in March.

The main victims of the attacks were migrant workers from Central Asia and the Caucasus, as well as representatives of youth subculture groups and sexual minorities.

The Sova Center said that 20 people were killed in ethnically motivated attacks across Russia last year.

Anar Mammadli, A Tireless Rights Advocate

Anar Mammadli

Claire Bigg

From his jail in Azerbaijan, human rights activist Anar Mammadli conveyed his gratitude on September 29 after being awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize.

"Anar says that this prize constitutes a big boost of moral strength and a show of solidarity not just for him and the organization whose member he is, but to all currently detained right defenders," his father, Asaf Mammadov, said in Strasbourg.

Mammadov was addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which awards the annual prize in partnership with the Vaclav Havel Library and the Charter 77 Foundation. 

The prize is named after the late former Czech president, a playwright, and world-renowned democracy campaigner. It recognizes outstanding work in support of civil society and the defense of human rights.

Mammadli embraced civic engagement early on, founding the Secular Youth Progress Organization in the late 1990s when he was just 19.

After working as a journalist, he quickly went on to establish the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS), an independent election watchdog that since 2001 has denounced election fraud and politically-motivated arrests.

While Mammadli is well-known in his home country, it was his prosecution and subsequent jailing earlier this year that brought his work to international attention.

EMDS came under investigation by the Azerbaijani authorities after documenting widespread violations during the October 2013 presidential election that gave Ilham Aliyev a third term.

Its scathing assessment of the vote was echoed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Mammadli is currently serving a 5 1/2-year sentence for illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, and abuse of authority for allegedly seeking to influence election results.
He has firmly rejected the charges, which he denounced in closing remarks before his verdict as "harassment and pressure against freedom of association, assembly and expression."

His jailing has drawn international condemnation, particularly since Azerbaijan currently chairs the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers.

The United States, Britain, the European Union, and a series of rights groups have called for his release.

Amnesty International, which has declared Mammadli a prisoner of conscience, described his arrest as "the latest in a series of increasingly repressive measures adopted by the Azerbaijani authorities to silence dissenting voices" and said it sent "a chilling message to Azerbaijani civil society."

"Anar would like to assure his colleagues and Europe that the latest wave of political repressions will not undermine the belief in the victory of human rights shared by him and other political prisoners," his father added in Strasbourg. "Anar says that although the movement for human rights has been weakened in our country, there is no other option but to continue on this path."

The Vaclav Havel prize is accompanied by a sum of 60,000 euros, a trophy, and a diploma.

The 2013 prize, the first, was awarded to Belarusian human rights activist Ales Byalyatski.

Moscow Court Prolongs Detention For Ukrainian Director

A Moscow court has extended the pretrial detention of Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov, who was arrested in Crimea and accused of plotting terrorist attacks.

The Lefortovo District Court ruled on September 29 that Sentsov's pretrial detention be extended until January 11.

Sentsov and three other Ukrainian citizens were arrested in May on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks in Crimea's major cities of Simferopol, Yalta, and Sevastopol.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March after a controversial referendum that was condemned as illegal by the United States, the European Union, and the UN General Assembly.

On September 10, the chief of Ukraine's Security Service, Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, said Sentsov was on a list of people to be exchanged for pro-Russian rebels captured by Ukrainian forces in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Based on reporting by Interfax and RIA Novosti


PACE Awards Annual Havel Prize To Azerbaijani Activist

Anar Mammadli is serving a 5 1/2 year jail sentence on charges his supporters say were politically motivated.

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 29.09.2014 12:11


The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has awarded its annual Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize to jailed Azerbaijani human rights activist Anar Mammadli.

Mammadli was chosen over two other finalists: Israel's B'tselem, which defends the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians, and the Malta Branch of the international Jesuit Refugee Service, a group that defends the rights of asylum seekers.

The $79,000 prize, now in its second year, aims to reward outstanding civil sociey action in the defense of human rights.

Mammadli's prize was accepted on his behalf by his father as the activist serves a 5 1/2 year prison term, which began in May.

Anar says that although the movement for human rights has been weakened in [Azerbaijan], there is no other option but to continue on this path."

Mammadli's father, Asaf Mammadov, relayed a message to the PACE assembly from his son, saying, "Anar says that this prize constitutes a big boost of moral strength and a show of solidarity not just for him and the organization of which he is a member, but to all currently detained right defenders.

"Anar would like to assure his colleagues and Europe that the latest wave of political repressions will not undermine the believe in the victory of human rights shared by him and other political prisoners. Anar says that although the movement for human rights has been weakened in [Azerbaijan], there is no other option but to continue on this path."

Mammadli is founder of the Baku-based Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS), which promotes democratic institutions and civil and political rights.

He was imprisoned on charges of illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, and abuse of official authority with grave consequences in a trial widely seen as a reaction to EMDS's critical assessment of Azerbaijan's presidential election in 2013.

In the 2013 poll, which was marred by claims of irregularities, incumbent President Ilham Aliyev won more than 84 percent of the vote, while the leading opposition candidate received just over 5 percent.

In the same trial, Mammadli's deputy, Bashir Suleymanli, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail. 

Another defendant, the head of the Public Association for International Cooperation of Volunteers, Elnur Mammadov, was given 3 1/2 years with two years on probation.

The Berlin-based European Stability Initiative think tank called the decision by the jury for the prize a "good, just, and even courageous decision," saying that it also highlights a "dramatic failure by the very institution on whose behalf this prize is awarded, the Council of Europe."

In a statement, the group noted that the Council of Europe's committee of ministers is currently chaired by Azerbaijan.

The European Stability Initiative called on the Council of Europe to take immediate action to boycott or suspend all activities by Azerbaijan's chairmanship until Mammadi is released.

It also called on the secretary general of the Council of Europe to immediately appoint a panel of respected European judges to look at the list of political prisoners in Baku and report on the problem of systemic arrests of critics in Azerbaijan.

It also said the Committee of Ministers should sternly warn Azerbaijan about its treatment of prisoners and demand full cooperation with international monitors -- including full access for outsiders to visit prisoners in order to investigate "serious allegations of abuse." 

There were a total of 56 candidates for the Havel prize this year, reduced to a shortlist of three competitors last month.
The selection panel determined the final winner on September 28 but delayed the announcement until September 29 to coincide with a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg.

The 2013 prize went to Belarusian human rights activist Ales Byalyatski.

Photogallery HRW Documents Uzbekistan's Torture Of Political Prisoners

  • Opposition politician Murod Juraev was arrested in 1994. Authorities have extended his sentence four times for so-called “violations of prison rules,” including “peeling carrots incorrectly.”

  • Yodgoroi Yuldasheva is the wife of imprisoned spiritual leader Akram Yuldashev. Authorities accuse him of organizing the Andijon protests of May 2005, even though he has been imprisoned since 1999 on other politically motivated charges. Authorities refuse to disclose his current whereabouts.

  • Bobomurod Razzakov, 61, is the head of the Bukhara office of Ezgulik. He was arrested on fabricated charges of human trafficking and sentenced to four years in prison in September 2013.

  • Seventy-five-year-old rights activist Turaboi Juraboev was sentenced to five years in prison in 2013 and suffered torture in custody before being amnestied.

  • Writer and opposition figure Mahmadali Mahmudov was released in 2013 after serving over 14 years on trumped-up charges of extremism. He suffered torture and had his sentence extended in prison.

  • Rights activist Gulnaza Yuldasheva was imprisoned in July 2012 on extortion charges after conducting an investigation into officials’ involvement in human trafficking.

  • Farkhodkhon Mukhtarov and his wife, Surayo, five days after his release from prison in December 2010. His release came one day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly promised to raise cases of imprisoned human rights activists with President Islam Karimov during a visit to Tashkent.

  • Kayum Ortikov is a former employee of the British Embassy in Tashkent who was tortured to extract a confession of espionage for the U.K. Released in 2009, he fled Uzbekistan and now lives in the United States with his family.

  • Imprisoned spiritual leader Akram Yuldashev allegedly confessing on Uzbekistan’s state-controlled television to organizing the May 2005 protests in Andijon. His family has not heard from or seen him for three years.

  • Erkin Musaev served in the Ministry of Defense and then the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) before being imprisoned on espionage charges in 2006.

  • Imprisoned since 2010, authorities repeatedly hid journalist Solijon Abdurakhmanov from representatives of the International Committee for the Red Cross when they tried to visit him in Karshi prison.

  • Since 2005, Fahriddin Tillaev has advocated for workers’ rights in southeastern Uzbekistan. He was arrested in 2014. Authorities stuck needles between his fingers and toes to force him into a false confession for human trafficking. He is serving an eight-year sentence in Navoi prison.

  • According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Muhammad Bekjanov (seen here in his Kyiv apartment circa 1998) and a colleague, Yusuf Ruzimuradov, both of whom were jailed in 1999, have been in prison for longer than any other journalists worldwide.

  • Dilmurod Saidov is an investigative journalist known for his muckraking reports on corruption. Saidov suffers from tuberculosis and is imprisoned near Karshi. His brother, Obid, told Human Rights Watch that his brother “is no longer living, but merely existing."

  • Authorities should have released imprisoned rights activist Ganikhon Mamatkhanov in March 2014 but extended his sentence for unspecified “violations of prison rules” following a closed hearing.

  • Following the May 2005 Andijon massacre, Isroiljon Kholdorov spoke to international media about mass graves in Andijon. Uzbek authorities later kidnapped him in 2005 from neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where he had fled for safety, brought him back to Uzbekistan and imprisoned him. He is serving a 10-year sentence, but his relatives fear his sentence could be further extended.

  • Before his arrest and torture by authorities in 2014, Nuriddin Jumaniyazov headed the Tashkent chapter of the Union of Independent Trade Unions, which protects the rights of labor migrants.

  • Azam Farmonov has been tortured repeatedly since his arrest in 2006. He is currently held at Jaslyk prison. UN bodies and several governments have called for Jaslyk to be closed after repeated allegations of torture.

  • Yuldash Rasulov is a rights activist from Karshi currently imprisoned on charges of “threatening the constitutional order” and “membership in a banned religious organization.”

  • In 2013, Ferghana Valley-based activist Nematjon Siddikov was arrested after his family was assaulted at home by unknown assailants following his investigation into local police corruption. He was sentenced to six years but later released under amnesty.

  • An eyewitness to the Andijon massacre, Dilorom Abdukodirova fled in 2005 to Kyrgyzstan, then Australia. In 2010, after returning to Uzbekistan to reunite with her husband and children, authorities arrested her at the Tashkent airport, prosecuted her on charges of “extremism,” and sentenced her to 10 years. Abdukodirova suffered ill-treatment in custody. In 2012, authorities extended her sentence by an additional eight years.

  • Rights activist Chuyan Mamatkulov, imprisoned in Navoi, photgraphed with his two children in Kashkadarya Province.

  • By the time of his arrest in 2009, rights activist Gaybullo Jalilov had collected information on over 200 arrests of independent Muslims in his native province of Kashkadarya. He is currently serving an 11-year sentence in Navoi prison.

Based on court documents and extensive interviews, a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) finds that those jailed in Uzbekistan on politically motivated charges are subjected to torture and abysmal prison conditions. HRW says Uzbekistan has one of the world’s worst human rights records and has unlawfully imprisoned thousands of people for the peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression. HRW spoke with more than 150 people, including 10 recently released prisoners. Here are the stories of some of those prisoners. (Captions by HRW)

Russia Asks Facebook, Gmail, Twitter To Register As Information Distributors

Russia's mass media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has officially asked social network Facebook, e-mail service Gmail, and microblogging site Twitter to register in Russia as "organizers of information distribution."

Media reports in Russia quoted Roskomnadzor's deputy chairman, Maksim Ksenzov, as telling the "Izvestia" newspaper that the move had been made in accordance with a new law on Internet companies and bloggers.

In July, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law binding mail services and social networks to place personal data about Russian users only on servers in Russia as of September 2016.

The law also requires bloggers with more than 3,000 daily readers to register with Roskomnadzor, and conform to the regulations that govern Russia's regular media outlets.

Last week, the Russian State Duma adopted amendments in the first reading, according to which, the law will come into force as of January 2015.

Based on Izvestia and ITAR-TASS


Activists From Limonov's Group Disrupt Makarevich Moscow Concert

Andrei Makarevich performs with his band, Mashina Vremeni, during the 2014 Nashestvie rock festival in Russia's Tver region in July.

Activists from the group led by nationalist Eduard Limonov have taken responsibility for disrupting a concert in Moscow by legendary Russian rock musician Andrei Makarevich.

Makarevich was performing at Moscow's House of Music on September 25 when a group of people released a gas into the concert hall that made those watching the concert feel ill and forced them to exit the building temporarily.

Limonov's group, which calls itself Other Russia, posted a message on its website claiming responsibility.

The group emerged out of the now-defunct Other Russia movement, a broad opposition coalition that also included liberals like Garry Kasparov.

Limonov, its leader, is a former Kremlin critic who has supported President Vladimir Putin's intervention in Ukraine.

Pro-Kremlin lawmakers and commentators branded Makarevich a traitor after he gave concerts in Ukraine for refugees from the eastern part of the country, where government forces have been fighting pro-Russian separatists.

Based on reporting by ITAR-TASS and Interfax

About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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