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The Moscow offices of the Golos organization, which was added to Russia's controversial list of "foreign agents" in 2014.

A Russian nongovernmental election monitoring organization called the Golos (Voice) movement has received the 2017 international Democracy Defender Award from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

A ceremony for the formal presentation of the award was held on January 18 in Vienna, Austria where the OSCE headquarters are located.

Golos said on its website that that it had received the award for what the OSCE described as an "exclusive contribution to promote democracy and human rights."

The annual award was established in early 2016 by OSCE member states to honor the activities of civil society and democratic institutions and to attract attention to problems they face.

In 2014, Russia's Justice Ministry added the Golos organization to its list of what it deems to be "foreign agents" under a controversial Russian law.

That law states that any nongovernmental organization involved in politics that receives foreign funding must register as a "foreign agent."

A number of public floggings were carried in Iran in 2016, a year in which Amnesty International said there was "spree of cruel punishments" in the Islamic republic (file photo).

Amnesty International has sharply criticized Iran over what it called the prolific use of "cruel and inhuman" corporal punishment including flogging, amputations, and forced blinding.

In a recent case, a journalist was lashed 40 times after being convicted of inaccurate reporting, the London-based human rights group said.

The flogging on January 5 in Isfahan province was carried out after a court found the journalist guilty of inaccurately reporting the number of motorcycles confiscated by police in the city.

"The latest flogging of a journalist raises alarms that the authorities intend to continue the spree of cruel punishments we have witnessed over the past year into 2017," said Randa Habib, Amnesty International's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The group said that Iran uses internationally banned corporal punishments including amputation, stoning, and flogging under the pretext of protecting religious morals in the predominantly Muslim country, a theocratic Islamic republic where a cleric -- the supreme leader -- has the last say in all state affairs.

It listed a number of cases of flogging in 2016 for a range of offenses, including "having an illegitimate relationship," dancing, mingling, and consuming alcohol.

Lashing sentences were also carried out against 17 miners who protested against their employment conditions and dismissals in West Azerbaijan Province.

Amnesty International also recorded a case in November 2016 when a man was forcibly blinded in both eyes in Tehran as punishment for blinding a four-year-old girl in an acid attack in 2009.

The group said it has also recorded at least four amputations carried out for robberies, including "cross amputations" of several fingers and toes.

Amnesty said "severing people's limbs, taking away their eyesight and subjecting them to brutal lashings cannot be considered justice."

The group called on the Islamic republic to "immediately" abolish all forms of corporal punishment and take steps to bring the country's "deeply flawed criminal justice system" in line with international human rights laws and standards.

"These cruel and inhuman punishments are a shocking assault on human dignity and violate the absolute international prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment," Habib said.

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"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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