Russian Police Seize Computers At Local NGO

Reuters, Human Rights Watch 

Russian Police Seize Computers At Local NGO

Reuters

August 30, 2007 — Russian police have raided the offices of a  non-government organization in the city of Nizhny Novgorod and seized  four computers.

Oksana Chelysheva, director of the Tolerance Support Foundation, said  police confiscated the computers purportedly for having unlicensed  software installed.

Human Rights Watch said the seizure was “part of a Kremlin campaign  against civil society.”

The Tolerance Support Foundation was formed by members of the  Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, which worked to fight abuses in  Chechnya and was closed down in 2006 under a law on extremism.

 

Human Rights Watch

Russia: Crackdown on Human Rights Groups

Seizure of equipment part of Kremlin campaign against civil society

(Moscow, August 30, 2007) – The Russian government should end its  campaign to silence political dissent by intimidating and harassing  human rights groups, such as the police seizure yesterday of computers  belonging to the Tolerance Support Foundation, Human Rights Watch said  today. The police seized the computer equipment in an apparent attempt  to stop the group from continuing its work, and in retaliation for its  connection to an embattled human rights defender. “The move against the Tolerance Support Foundation shows the  government’s readiness to use legal measures to harass organizations  dedicated to helping victims,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central  Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Cases like this are happening all  too frequently and must stop.”

The Tolerance Support Foundation works to promote tolerance among  various ethnic groups in Nizhegorodskaia Province. Formed after the  Russian-Chechen Friendship Society was liquidated in 2006 by a court  order under Russia’s law on extremism, the foundation also works on  issues of abuse in Chechnya.

According to Oksana Chelysheva, director of the Tolerance Support  Foundation in Nizhni Novgorod, about 280 miles east of Moscow, three  officers from the department of computer crimes in the Russian internal  affairs directorate, accompanied by two witnesses, appeared at the  foundation’s office. They presented a warrant ordering a complete  inspection of the foundation’s financial, administrative and other  activities. The warrant did not contain the grounds for the inspection.

After the search, the police confiscated all four of the organization’s  computers, claiming that the foundation could not provide licenses for  the software installed on them.

Chelysheva and Yuri Staroverov, the foundation’s system administrator,  received orders to appear for questioning at the Nizhni Novgorod police  station on August 31 in relation to unlicensed software discovered in  the office.

“We believe that the Tolerance Support Foundation was singled out for  inspection in retaliation for its activities,” said Cartner. “The  foundation cannot work without its computers, but confiscation of its  computers is just the beginning. Given what’s in the warrant, there’s a  risk that the organization will be buried with endless inspections.”

The inspection of the Tolerance Support Foundation appears to be a  reprisal for the organization’s affiliation with Stanislav Dmitrievsky,  an advisor to the foundation who in February 2006 received a two-year  suspended sentence on charges of “inciting racial hatred” for articles  he had published in the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society’s newspaper  and who organized the Dissenter’s March in Nizhni Novgorod in April.  Chelysheva told Human Rights Watch that the first question the police  asked upon arriving at her office yesterday morning was, “Where is  Dmitrievsky?”

The articles Dmitrievsky published featured statements from leading  Chechen separatists that Human Rights Watch found did not contain any  language that could legitimately be prohibited under international human  rights law.

http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/08/29/russia16771_txt.htm.

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