Press Release Regarding Human Rights in Russia and Central Asia Republics
Wednesday, February 15, 2006 11:20 AM

The Assault on Human Rights Organizations in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and other Central Asian Republics

International Human Rights Group Appeals to EU for Support -- 13.2.2006

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) today appealed for steps to protect civil society human rights monitoring groups in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and other Central Asian republics. An assault against human rights activity in Russia, Belarus, and Uzbekistan is more damaging than any since the fall of communist regimes, and demands condemnation by top international leaders,” according to Aaron Rhodes, Executive Director of the IHF. The IHF, a formation of 44 independent human rights monitoring groups throughout the OSCE region, believes that the process, if not reversed, will have profound negative consequences for human rights, democratic accountability, transparency and freedom in these states and in others, as well. If the campaign against human rights activity succeeds, it can be duplicated by other governments that wish to abridge international obligations without fear of exposure and condemnation by the world community.

The IHF appealed to the EU-Troika to take up these issues with the Russian Federation on 15 February, and to use their possibilities regarding the assault on human rights activity in Belarus and Central Asia. The IHF referred to a number of recent developments its members have documented, including:

- an FSB-organized effort to discredit the Moscow Helsinki and other leading human rights groups in Russia, and the conviction in a flawed, politically-motivated trial of the leader of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, Stanislav Dmitrievsky

- a new Russian law on NGOs, published in January 2006 and coming into force in April 2006, which will drastically diminish the capacity of civil society to monitor and promote human rights. The legislation will allow the government to exercise intrusive control on NGOs operating on the territory of the region Russian Federation, especially those receiving funding from abroad. Its powers are not stipulated by clear legal provisions, leaving room for arbitrary interference into the activities of NGOs. Authorities will have unprecedented powers of scrutiny of sources of funding, as well as planned and actual spending

- a continuing attack on the Belarusan Helsinki Committee that threatens its existence, while virtually all other national human rights groups have been liquidated, including the well-known NGO Viasna, as well as independent media

- a new draft law that would damage the work of human rights defenders and other segments of Belarusian civil society, through increased penalties for “actions aimed against a person and public security”, paving the way to wide discretionary powers for authorities to interpret legitimate human rights activities as illegal attempts to discredit or harm the Belarusian state

- unprecedented harassment of Uzbek human rights activists since the 13 May 2005 massacre in Andijan, including the systematic persecution of members of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU), criminal prosecutions based on politically-motivated charges and court proceedings held behind closed doors, such as in the case of Mukhtbar Tojibaeva, the head of the NGO Burning Hearts

- recent amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code on Administrative Liability of Uzbekistan, establishing sanctions for employees of foreign and international NGOs who carry out political and funding activities deemed beyond the mandate of the organization; sanctions for registered NGOs, when authorization has not been previously sought for an event or access is denied to representatives of the authorities; sanctions for anyone advocating participation in the activities of non-registered NGOs or groups or simply for violating NGO regulations, all of which will further restrict the liberty of non-governmental organizations working in Uzbekistan.

 Cited in: Press Release, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, 13 Februrary 2006.