#18 - JRL 2009-176 - JRL Home
Russian Public Chamber members report rights abuses by Moscow city hall

Moscow, 22 September: The rights of the people of Moscow and Moscow Region to the freedom of conscience and the freedom of speech are often violated, says a study presented by Russian Public Chamber members Vladislav Grib and Aleksandr Brod at the Moscow mayor's office on Tuesday (22 September).

They conducted the study from March to September this year together with the Man and Law nationwide human rights centre, the Russian Association of Lawyers, the MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) civil society department, and a number of other legal organizations. Experts met local human rights organizations and gathered information about the human rights situation.

"The Moscow city authorities ban opposition organizations' processions quite a lot. 'Dissenters' Marches' were banned and dispersed on 15 April and 24 November 2007, and on 3 March, 6 May and 14 December 2008, and so were a series of other public events organized by opposition figures," the study says.

The rights campaigners also point out that some religious groups in the capital are persecuted. These include protestants, "all of whom are branded as 'sectarians' by radical Orthodox and quasi-Orthodox activists", the authors note. In Moscow Region, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is also dominant, they maintain.

"As in many other Russian regions, one can says that the equality of religious faiths is in fact being skewed in favour of the ROC," the document says.

"There is no municipal opposition press," the authors of the study note. According to the rights campaigners' information, in most districts of Moscow Region the heads of administrations also control the press quite tightly, and pressure is put on opposition publications.

The experts also assessed the situation with citizens' rights to participate in state governance, the right to elect and be elected, the right to appeal to state bodies, the right to housing and social provision, and a number of other issues. The study covers about 1,200 pages.

"This activity will continue not only in some constituent parts of the Russian Federation, but throughout Russia and in foreign countries where the rights of Russian citizens may be violated," Grib said.
He said that the authorities' reaction to the rights campaigners' visits varied in different regions.

For instance, the governor of Kirov Region helped them in every way, while in Rostov the Public Chamber members could not even find a normal venue to meet local rights organizations and lawyers. "Moscow and St Petersburg showed indifference," Grib said.

For his part, Brod said that various human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Freedom House, had in recent years been publishing reports on the human rights situation in Russia.

"Their sources of information and assessment methods are not always clear," Brod noted, adding that the reports often contained tendentious and political views. "Our project aims to draw up methods for compiling reports of this kind, and relies on quite transparent sources of information," he said.

Deputy head of the press service of the mayor's office and government of Moscow Leonid Krutakov has told RIA Novosti that he was not familiar with the results of the rights campaigners' study, and would therefore not comment on anything. RIA Novosti does not yet have comments from the authorities of Moscow Region to the newly published document.

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