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«The Russian Federation has a centralized political system, with power concentrated in a president and a prime minister, a weak multiparty political ...»

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information often remained difficult and subject to prolonged bureaucratic procedures. Under a law signed in February 2009, officials are required to disclose within 30 days of a citizen's request any information controlled by the government that is not considered a state secret. Those seeking information must file their requests via the Internet. Officials who do not comply may be fined or imprisoned for up to five years if the withholding of information causes serious bodily harm, as was the case in the Chernobyl disaster. Although the law was billed as comparable to freedom of information laws in other countries, observers expressed concern that officials would use the "state secrets" provision to deny citizens access to information arbitrarily. There were no reports of court cases implementing this law during the year. INDEM reported that journalists were generally granted access to such information upon request.

Bloggers, such as Aleksey Navalniy, have increasingly become sources for revealing corruption. Navalniy published a series of detailed reports and materials outlining corruption in the construction of major energy pipelines in Russia. As a result of his efforts, authorities opened an investigation into the allegations.

Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights Domestic and international human rights groups operated in the country, investigating and publicly commenting on human rights problems, but official harassment continued, and the operating environment for these groups remains restricted. Authorities increasingly harassed NGOs that focused on politically sensitive areas. Other official actions and statements indicated a lack of tolerance for unfettered NGO activity, particularly by those NGOs that received foreign funding or reported on human rights violations. NGOs operating in the Northern Caucasus were severely restricted. However, at times government and legislative officials recognized and consulted with some NGOs, primarily those focused on social issues, and some NGOs participated, with varying degrees of success, in drafting legislation and decrees. Some officials, including Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and the former and current chairs of the Presidential Council for Promoting the Development of Institutions of Civil Society and Human Rights (Human Rights Council), Ella Pamfilova and Mikhail Fedotov, regularly interacted and cooperated with NGOs.

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persecution of activists were counted in 50 regions of the country, up from 308 in

2009. In 2006 there were 118 such cases.

During the year some senior officials made critical statements that contributed to, and reflected, increased suspicion of NGO activity. In July Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov referred to human rights activists and NGO Memorial as "enemies of the people, enemies of the law, enemies of the state." The president's first deputy chief of staff, Vladislav Surkov, has questioned the loyalty of some human rights NGOs that covered human rights issues or received foreign funding.

On May 19, President Medvedev met with human rights activists, and listened to their criticisms of Kadyrov's government. On June 23, a Russian delegation to the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly approved a draft resolution on Russia's actions in the North Caucasus, which stated that "human rights violations and the climate of complete impunity were bound to foster the rise of extremist movements."

There were several dozen large NGO umbrella organizations, as well as thousands of small grassroots NGOs. In the regions, NGO coalitions continued to focus their advocacy on such causes as the rights of the disabled and entrepreneurs, environmental degradation, violations by law enforcement authorities, local corruption, and the conflict in the North Caucasus.

The law regulating NGOs requires them to register with the Ministry of Justice.

They are required to submit periodic reports to the government that disclose potentially sensitive information, including sources of foreign funding and detailed information as to how they used their funds. Since foreign funding remained a sensitive issue for the security services, NGOs indicated that they were increasingly cautious about accepting this support, and in many cases those that continued to do so either restricted their activities to less sensitive issues or suffered harassment by the FSB. Many NGOs rely on foreign funding due to insufficient financial support from within the country. In June 2009 the measures recommended by a working group convened by President Medvedev resulted in a decrease in the registration requirements for NGOs.

Observers believed that the government selectively applied the NGO law to target certain NGOs, such as human rights organizations, whose activities they regarded as hostile to the authorities. The law on extremism was also employed to restrict the activities of NGOs and criticism of the government. The law defines extremist

RUSSIA

activity to include public libel of a government official or his family, as well as public statements that could be construed as justifying or excusing terrorism.

During the year officials applied the libel law against NGOs and individuals. Since 2008, amendments to this law have enabled authorities to act upon an accusation of extremism without evidence or a court order; however, in practice, outside of the North Caucasus, this generally did not lead to detention without court proceedings.





The local affiliates of foreign NGOs faced more stringent registration requirements than purely domestic ones. Most NGOs with foreign ties that met the requirements for continuing operation in the country were subject to a 2009 prime ministerial decree that removed their tax-exempt status, making their grants taxable.

Officials are authorized to scrutinize NGOs intrusively, and the law gives NGOs only limited procedural protections. Under the law the Ministry of Justice has discretion to deny registration or to request that the courts close organizations, based on vague and subjective criteria.

Authorities continued to apply a number of indirect tactics to suppress or close domestic NGOs, including creative application of various laws and harassment in the form of investigations and raids. One tactic was selective investigations of alleged use of pirated software as a pretext for confiscating computers and pressuring NGOs and media (see section 2.a.). For example, on January 7, according to media reports, four plainclothes police officers raided the offices of Baikal Environmental Wave, an NGO opposing the government's decision to reopen an old paper mill on Lake Baikal. Stating that they had received a complaint about unlicensed software on its computers, police seized all 12 of the group's computers and its Web server, making it difficult for them to operate for a period of time. Baikal Wave's leaders told one newspaper that they had known that the authorities used such raids to pressure advocacy groups, so they had made certain that all their software was legal. They showed the raiding officers receipts and other evidence that the software was not pirated. However, a supervising police officer issued a report on the spot, stating that illegal software had been uncovered. According to the environmentalists, they had attached certificates of authenticity onto their machines, but noticed, as the machines were being removed, that the stickers were gone. In July the equipment was returned.

Between September 13 and 16, the Moscow prosecutor's offices carried out a series of coordinated inspections of approximately 40 NGOs. Many NGOs received faxes demanding that documents be submitted in an unrealistically short period of time.

RUSSIA

These documents included registration papers, minutes of meetings, accounting information, and tax and reporting documents. In some cases the NGOs were given until the following morning to supply the required documents. However, following foreign and domestic criticism, the government appeared to call off its inquiry.

At times authorities refused to cooperate with NGOs that were critical of their activities. Chechen Human Rights Ombudsman Nurdi Nukhazhiyev continued his predecessor's practice of not cooperating with the area's leading human rights NGO, Memorial. He and Chechen President Kadyrov spoke out publicly against the NGO. Smaller Memorial centers throughout the country reported that city administration officials frequently instructed landlords not to rent them office space.

Official pressure continued against the Novorossiisk local human rights organization Committee for Human Rights. In March Amnesty International reported an attack on one of its members, Vadim Karastelev, who was beaten and suffered a concussion, reportedly for supporting a police officer, who had spoken out against police corruption (see sections 1.c. and 4).

As of year's end, the ECHR had not ruled on Stanislav Dmitriyevskiy's appeal of his 2006 conviction in a domestic court for inciting racial and ethnic hatred. At the time of his conviction, Dmitriyevskiy was head of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, which advocated negotiations between the government and Chechen rebels to settle the Chechen conflict. The incitement charge was based on Dmitriyevskiy's publishing statements by Chechen rebel leaders.

In the Jewish Autonomous Republic and some areas in Primorskiy Krai, local governments worked with NGOs to encourage citizen participation in local selfgovernance. In Astrakhan government officials worked closely with local NGOs devoted to building civil society.

Some international NGOs maintained small branch offices within Chechnya staffed by local employees. Following the 2009 killing of Natalya Estemirova (see section 1.a.), almost all NGOs left Chechnya or temporarily closed their operations there due to fear for their safety and ability to operate.

Government human rights institutions continued to promote the concept of human rights, to challenge the activities of some local governments that violated human rights, and to intervene in selected abuse complaints. Ombudsman Lukin

RUSSIA

commented on a range of human rights problems, such as police violence, prison conditions, the treatment of children, and hazing in the military. During the year Lukin criticized intolerance and the growing wave of ethnic and religious hatred.

In his 2009 annual report, Ombudsman Lukin stated that his effectiveness was limited because he was not empowered to propose human rights legislation. He also noted the difficulty of getting some government officials to respond to inquiries from his office. Lukin's office has used its influence to draw attention to human rights problems in prisons. Many leaders of human rights NGOs continued to note that Lukin was generally effective as an official advocate for many of their concerns, despite the legal constraints on his position.

The Ombudsman's Office includes several specialized sections responsible for investigating complaints. As of September 2009, 47 of the country's 83 regions had regional human rights ombudsmen with responsibilities similar to Lukin's; their effectiveness varied significantly.

The Human Rights Council continued to include prominent human rights advocates strongly critical of the government's human rights record. In May the council met with President Medvedev, Federal District Representatives for the North Caucasus Aleksandr Khloponin, and Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov to discuss human rights in the Northern Caucasus. Medvedev urged the region's leaders to work closely with civil society. Mikhail Fedotov succeeded Ella Pamfilova as head of the council in October.

Despite a 2008 law apparently intended to increase its authority, many observers did not consider the 126-member Public Chamber of the Russian Federation to be an effective check on the government. Some prominent human rights groups declined to participate in the chamber from the beginning due to concern that the government would use it to increase control over civil society.

In January the State Duma ratified Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights, permitting the ECHR to streamline the pace of its work in the face of a seven-year backlog of cases. The government had previously blocked passage of this protocol due to the ECHR's numerous rulings criticizing violations of basic human rights in the country. The government had ignored more than 100 court rulings that found the government responsible for killings, abductions, and torture in Chechnya, according to Human Rights Watch.

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In April 2009 Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev signed a decree allowing rights groups to monitor conditions of arrest and detention for those being held in pretrial detention. According to some observers, there has been some success associated with the decree. In Moscow a committee comprising civil society members has generally been permitted to observe some detentions. However, increasingly members of such committees consisted of police personnel rather than human rights activists, reducing its usefulness as an accountability tool. According to other activists, there has not been as much compliance with this decree outside of Moscow, and there has been a level of unsatisfactory compliance for those not yet serving a criminal sentence. The decree also lacked firm instructions on a mechanism to implement the plan, effectively giving law enforcement authorities discretion as to whether to cooperate. The decree also required that law enforcement authorities be present during any discussions of conditions with detainees (see section 1.c.).

Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, language, social status, or other circumstances; however, the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions.

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