PACE's General Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Sunna Ævarsdóttir (Iceland, SOC), has expressed deep concern over the ongoing crackdown on Russian civil society amid Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine.
“I strongly condemn the recent reprisals against two prominent human rights defenders – Oleg Orlov, a member of the Executive Board of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial” and winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2009, and Svetlana Gannushkina, chairperson of the Civic Assistance Committee, an organisation providing legal assistance to refugees and migrants. On 6 March, both were arrested in Moscow for more than ten hours after they had attended a protest against the war in Ukraine. They are now subject to criminal prosecution. Moreover, the Moscow premises of their organisations and of International Memorial – all three listed as “foreign agents” – have recently been raided by law enforcement officers and several materials of the two Memorial organisations have been confiscated.
These reprisals have taken place in the context of an ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society organisations, coupled with the increased censorship of independent media. Since the beginning of the war, more than 13,000 peaceful anti-war protesters have been arrested in 147 cities across Russia and, according to independent media reports, some of them were beaten or even tortured by the police.
I urge the Russian authorities to stop all forms of harassment of human rights defenders, including those who oppose the war in Ukraine. Their human rights, and in particular their freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, should be respected in line with the international and European human rights standards by which Russia is bound."