Another Abuse of Russian anti-extremism legislation: Computers of a Nizhny Novgorod NGO Seized on Suspicion of Extremism
The office of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance was visited today by three police officers, who carried an order signed by the head of the regional department of the Ministry of Interior to check their office and seize all computers in order to investigate possible “extremist” content. Besides the intimidating character of this action, it effectively disables the work of the NGO. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) protests this latest attempt to silence NGOs that pursue legitimate goals.
The Nizhny Novgorod Foundation for Promoting Tolerance was established in Nizhny Novgorod in March 2007, with a board that partly overlaps with the one of the former Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS), an organization known for being outspoken on behalf of victims of human rights violations in Chechnya.
Applying the new NGO law, the RCFS was forcibly dissolved in January 2007 after the Russian Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Regional Court of Nizhny Novgorod ordering the closure of the RCFS because of the refusal/failure of its director, Stas Dmitrievsky, to resign from his position after his conviction for an “extremist” crime (“inciting hatred or enmity on the basis of ethnicity and religion”) in a highly politically-motivated trial and the failure of the RCFS to publicly denounce Dmitrievsky after his conviction. Mr. Dmitrievsky is staff-member of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance.
Today’s action of the police is clearly politically motivated. After the 28 August 2007 meeting of the Anti-Terrorism Committee of the Nizhny Novgorod region, the regional governor Valery Shantsev declared that all youth organisations of Nizhny Novgorod had to be checked for “signs of extremism” to reveal the “degree of danger of the organization”. Shantsev even stated that this process of check is “necessary in connection with the forthcoming elections”.
Stas Dmitrievsky Now Faces a Real Risk to be Imprisoned
Earlier this month, on 17 August, the Nizhny Novgorod District Court followed a motion of the Regional Department of the Implementation of Criminal Sentences and ruled to change the terms of the April 2006 suspended sentence for Stas Dmitrievsky — a very unusual thing to do. Also the extra-condition of his probation itself is very unusual: If Mr. Dmitrievsky, during his four-year probation term, commits two administrative offences in the same year, this would lead to the execution of the two-year sentence he received. This clearly is another step in the continuation of the harassment of the banned RCFS and its former director.
Vienna, 29 August 2007
For further information:
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
IHF Press Officer, +43-676-725 48 29
Nizhny Novgorod Foundation for Promoting Tolerance
Oksana Chelysheva, Director,+7-831-4337334
Project Coordinator International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
Wickenburggasse 14/7 A-1080 Vienna Tel.+43-1-408 88 22 ext. 35 Fax: +43-1-408 88 22 ext. 50