UN rights expert: Russian Government is ‘destroying civil society day by day’
Syndicated By GEO PRWire Channel – Gibraltar
A United Nations independent human rights expert called on the Russian Government on Wednesday to halt its clampdown on human rights defenders.
In the wake of their on-going war in Ukraine, Mary Lawlor also urged authorities to repeal “restrictive and discriminatory laws”, and reiterated her and other experts’ call made in July, against the Russian ‘civil society shutdown’.
“I…continue to be concerned about the use of the criminal provisions introduced shortly after the invasion of Ukraine to target critical voices. Under the ‘fake war news’ law, 114 people have already been prosecuted since its adoption on 4 March 2022”, she said in a statement.
Laws against defenders
Ms. Lawlor added that it was “deeply alarming” that authorities have introduced further punitive laws targeting human rights defenders which have had “a suffocating effect on civil society”.
She further explained that on 14 July, the Russian Parliament adopted amendments to the criminal code introducing prison terms of up to eight years for those convicted of “confidentially co-operating” with a foreign state, international or foreign organisation.
“The ‘co-operation’ is supposed to be punishable only if its aim is to assist in ‘activities knowingly aimed against the state security’. In practice, however, there is no guarantee that human rights work will not be considered a threat to the state security”, she underscored, adding that that same law has criminalised broadly defined “public calls for activities aimed against state security”.
Pressure on foreign organisations
The UN Special Rapporteur also expressed her concern for the expansion of laws aimed at “foreign agents” and “undesirable organisations”, which according to her, the Government has resorted to for years, to restrict, stigmatise and discriminate against human rights defenders.
Since 2015, 65 foreign and international non-governmental organisations have been declared “undesirable” and banned in Russia without recourse to any court challenge.
“A number of them had human rights and humanitarian programmes. People continuing to participate in these organisations, finance or organise their activity risk up to six years in prison”, she noted.
Ms. Lawlor added that 276 people, many of whom protect and promote human rights, are currently on various ‘foreign agents’ registers restricting their activities, and a related new law entering into force on 1 December, will allow authorities to expand the regulations.
“Russian human rights defenders told me how this stigmatising label scares away some partners and even people whose rights they defend. New vague and broad provisions of the law further marginalise the human rights community, which is completely unacceptable”
, she warned. Learn More /…
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