Geneva (6 June, 2013) - United Nations human rights experts have voiced grave concern that two Russian non-governmental organizations that gave evidence to the UN Committee against Torture have been charged by Russian prosecutors.
The Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial in St Petersburg and the Public Verdict Foundation in Moscow were charged in April and May respectively with allegedly violating legislation under which non-profit organizations involved in political activity must register as "foreign agents" if they receive money from abroad.
Committee against Torture Chairperson Claudio Grossman and the Committee’s Rapporteur on Reprisals George Tugushi said they had been informed that extracts from the groups’ submissions to the Committee last November had been cited as a basis for the charges.
They have written to the Russian ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Alexey Borodavkin, seeking urgent clarification and reassurances that Memorial, Public Verdict and other NGOs will not face any reprisals “as a result of their legitimate activities, including providing information to the Committee against Torture”.
The experts reminded the Russian authorities that reprisals would contravene the Convention against Torture, to which Russia is a party.
Under the Convention, “Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given”, Mr Grossman and Mr Tugushi noted.
The action by prosecutors against Memorial and Public Verdict was, they wrote, “part of the worrying shift in the legislative environment governing the enjoyment of the freedoms of assembly, association, speech and information”.
They recalled that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay last year expressed concern about legislative amendments in the Russian Federation.
On 14 May 2013, three UN independent human rights rapporteurs highlighted the “obstructive, intimidating and stigmatizing effects” of the law on non-commercial organizations (NCOs), which were being subjected to an “unprecedented wave of inspections”.
The Committee against Torture periodically reviews countries to monitor their implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Punishment.
The Russian Federation was among those countries examined in November 2012.
In its concluding report, the Committee Against Torture urged Russia to ensure no individual or group would be subjected to prosecution for communicating with or giving information to the Committee or other UN human rights bodies.
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