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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

 

Uzbek oppositionist's husband shot

From ferghana.ru:

Marat Zakhidov, Chairman of the Committee of Individual Rights (an organization denied official registration by the Uzbek authorities) maintains that the husband of Nigara Khidoyatova, leader of the oppositionist Ozod Dekhkonlar or Free Peasants, was assailed and shot in the head in the city of Sarygvach, Kazakhstan, on November 28 night.

Orifzhan Oidin, citizen of Turkey of Uzbek origin, was deported from Uzbekistan in early 2005. Oidin has lived in Kazakhstan since then, running a business there. The attackers fired seven shots but only one bullet hit Oidin the head. When he came to, Oidin suggested that the attack had been organized by the men he worked with in Uzbekistan in the past. Uzbek law enforcement agencies were informed of his suspicions.

 

Moscow chief rabbi's visa cancelled

From Forum 18:

Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt is still in Israel, after his Russian visa was annulled without explanation at a Moscow airport in September. But his wife, Dara, told Forum 18 News Service that he may return to the Russian capital next week. "With God's help, we think the situation will be resolved shortly," she told Forum 18. Dara Goldschmidt, who is in Moscow with the couple's seven children, told Forum 18 that she had returned without problems from a visit to Israel in October and that she had no idea why her husband's visa had been annulled. Tankred Golenpolsky, editor of the Moscow-based International Jewish Newspaper, told Forum 18 that Israeli Vice-Premier Shimon Peres had raised the issue of Goldschmidt's deportation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on 27 October. According to Golenpolsky, "Lavrov said that it sounded like a technical thing they could solve in several minutes." Swiss-born Rabbi Goldschmidt leads Moscow's Choral Synagogue and has lived in Moscow since 1989.

 

Thousands protest Armenian referendum

From Radio Free Europe:

Almost 10,000 people attended a rally in Yerevan on 29 November to protest the perceived falsification by the authorities of the outcome of the 27 November referendum on a package of constitutional amendments, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian (Hanrapetutiun) and Stepan Demirchian (People's Party of Armenia), gave the authorities 72 hours (until Friday 2 December) to annul the outcome or risk mass popular protests that they hope will force the present leadership to step down. Also on 29 November, the Armenian NGO It's Your Choice unveiled the findings of its monitoring of the 27 November vote, which its leaders characterized as failing to meet international standards for democratic elections, Noyan Tapan reported.

 

Lawyer: Kazakh politician's death not suicide

From Radio Free Europe:

A lawyer for the widow of Kazakh opposition figure Zamanbek Nurkadilov, who was found dead on 12 November, is disagreeing with the official finding on Nurkadilov's death -- that it was suicide.


The official investigation says that Nurkadilov first shot himself twice in the chest before putting the gun to his head and firing a bullet into his brain.

Serikkali Musin, a lawyer for Nurkadilov's wife, says he does not believe that Nurkadilov killed himself. He says findings of the probe -- for example, that a pillow was used to muffle the gunshots -- indicate foul play.

Nurkadilov was a former mayor of Almaty and government minister. He later joined the opposition and accused the government of corruption.

 

New arrest warrant for Yukos lawyer

From Radio Free Europe:

A Moscow court today issued a fresh arrest warrant against Dmitrii Gololobov, the chief lawyer of Russia's Yukos oil company.


Russian media reports say the new warrant was issued on money-laundering charges.

Gololobov is already wanted in Russia for allegedly having illegally taken control of shares in the Russian Eastern Oil Company that are worth more than 3 billion rubles ($105 billion). Four other Yukos employees have been arrested in connection with this case.

Gololobov reportedly lives in Britain.

 

Belarusian bill to ban criticism

From Radio Free Europe:

On 25 November, the Belarusian lower chamber of parliament passed amendments to the Criminal Code that would make it a crime to discredit the country. They would also increase penalties for "public appeals for...forcible change of the constitutional system."

The bill is still pending in parliament.

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights said in a statement on 30 November that the "vague wording" of the proposed amendments will allow Belarusian authorities to interpret legitimate human rights activities as illegal attempts to harm the state.

 

Observers barred from Andijan trials

From Human Rights Watch:

The Uzbek government has blocked international observers from monitoring two trials related to the May 13 events in Andijan, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called on the government to uphold fair trial standards, including the right to a public hearing, by allowing trial monitors into the courtroom.

At least two trials related to the Andijan events are underway in cities near Tashkent, with unconfirmed reports that others are also taking place. The police guarding the courthouses denied Human Rights Watch access to both of the known trials.

One of those trials, of at least 15 defendants, is taking place in the Orta Chirchik (Center Chirchik) district court in Toitepa. According to local residents of the town, the trial has been underway for three or four days. When a Human Rights Watch representative arrived in Toitepa on November 28, the road to the court was blocked and the courthouse was guarded by three soldiers. The Human Rights Watch representative observed as a bus and two trucks arrived at the courthouse. Approximately 15 soldiers and one dog jumped out of the bus. The policemen took 15 men, apparently the defendants, one by one from the trucks into the courthouse. The men had their hands bound behind their backs, and the policemen held them by their necks, forcing their heads and torsos down. Fifteen minutes later a bus arrived with people believed to be the defense lawyers; they were accompanied by unidentified people in plain clothes. At least one of the lawyers had also participated in the recent Supreme Court trial related to the Andijan events.

A second trial is ongoing in the Yurqora Chirchik (Upper Chirchik) district court in Yangibazar. On November 29, a Human Rights Watch representative tried to attend the trial and was also denied access.

Policemen outside the Orta Chirchik demanded that Human Rights Watch obtain written permission from the Supreme Court to monitor the trials. When Human Rights Watch attempted to get permission from the Supreme Court, a person in the secretariat of the chairman of the Supreme Court who did not identify himself on the telephone told Human Rights Watch to write a letter to the head of the respective district court. According to him, the Supreme Court is not in charge of trial monitoring.

The Supreme Court and the police outside the courthouses refused to reveal the names of the defendants, lawyers and judges as well as any information regarding the charges against these defendants or information about other trials related to Andijan that may be underway.

On November 14, the Uzbek Supreme Court handed down a guilty verdict for all 15 defendants in the first Andijan-related trial. Human Rights Watch had serious concerns. that the trial did not comply with international fair-trial standards. According to official reports, more than 100 people were detained and charged in relation to the Andijan events and are currently awaiting trial.

 

HRW: Migrants to Ukraine in danger

From Human Rights Watch:

Ukraine regularly subjects migrants and asylum seekers to abuse, including extended detention in appalling conditions, violence, extortion, robbery and forced returns to face torture or persecution, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today on the eve of the EU-Ukraine summit.

The European Union is exacerbating these problems by pressing Ukraine to prevent migrants from entering the European Union and to accept the return of those who do reach EU territory. Migration is expected to be high on the agenda of tomorrow’s summit in Kiev.

The 77–page report, “On the Margins - Ukraine: Rights Violations Against Migrants and Asylum Seekers at the New Eastern Border of the European Union,” documents the routine detention of migrants and asylum in appalling conditions, including severe overcrowding, frequently inadequate bedding and clothing, and little or no access to fresh air, exercise and medical treatment.

The report also documents the physical abuse, verbal harassment, robbery and extortion suffered by those in detention. Migrants and asylum seekers in detention often have no access to a lawyer and are unable to apply for release. The asylum system is barely functioning, leading to the forced return of people to countries where they face persecution or torture.

Asylum seekers from Chechnya are particularly vulnerable, both to abuse at the hands of the Ukrainian police and forced return to Russia, despite the risk of persecution they face in that country. Although Russian citizens do not require visas to enter Ukraine, Chechens are routinely denied access at the border unless they pay bribes. Chechens detained in Ukraine trying to enter the European Union are denied access to asylum. In fact, no Chechen has been recognized as a refugee in Ukraine. A Chechen woman told Human Rights Watch, “They don't consider us human beings.”

The report is based on interviews with more than 150 migrants and asylum seekers in Ukraine and its EU neighbors, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. It concludes that Ukraine cannot be considered a safe country for the purpose of returning migrants who are foreign nationals and failed asylum seekers unless Ukraine shows a significant improvement in its human rights and refugee-protection capacity.

 

Beslan mothers ask for foreign help

From MosNews:

The organization Voice of Beslan has asked the leadership of the United States and the European Union to help investigate the bloody school siege in the city that took place in September 2004.

In a statement quoted by the Interfax news agency, the organization, which is made up of members from the Beslan Mothers’ committee, asked the U.S. leadership to publish satellite photographs of the school made during the siege. The organization asked for those photographs to be presented to local citizens at the trial of the suspected attacker, Nurpashi Kulayev.

“We also address the European Union and the European Parliament whose members spoke publicly about their intentions to hold an international investigation of the Beslan terrorist attack. We cannot demand, but we ask for support for our efforts to investigate the terrible crime that took the lives of our relatives,” the statement read.

 

Russian-Chechen Friendship society faces more harassment

From the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, via A Step at a Time:

Legal Harassment Against the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society
An Update

Vienna, 29 November 2005. The legal harassment against the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS) continues. While the efforts of the Registration Department of the Justice Ministry to deregister the RCFS were turned down by the court in Nizhny Novgorod, the criminal proceedings against Stas Dimitrievsky, the head of the RCFS, are proceeding, as well as the procedure at the arbitration court regarding the decision of the tax inspection that the RCFS has violated the Tax Code and has to pay profit tax and a fine totaling 1.001.561 Rubles (around 28.200 Euro).

The next hearing in the criminal case is scheduled for 7 December 2005. The next hearing of the Arbitration Court is tomorrow, 30 November 2005, 14:30.

1. Judicial case against the Pravo-zashchita newspaper. Justice Ministry / Prosecutors Office use Criminal Persecution under Article 282 of the Criminal Code (“Inciting ethnic hatred”)

On 3 November, the hearing on the criminal case against Stas Dimitrievsky (as being responsible for Pravo-zashchita newspaper), ended with the decision to reject two appeals of the RCFS. The case was postponed to the 16 November, which is the same day, when there is the hearing at the arbitration court regarding their tax issue.

On 15 November, the British human rights lawyer Bill Bowring, en route to observe the trial proceedings in Nizhny Novgorod was denied entry to the Russian Federation. Despite being in possession of a valid multiple-entry visa and letters of accreditation as a trial observer from the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and from the NGO Frontline Defenders, he was held without explanation by border officials for six hours at Moscow's Sheremetyevo-2 airport before being put on an airplane back to the UK. Professor Bowring had visited Nizhny Novgorod already on 16-18 June 2005, when he monitored the situation of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, and made a detailed report on his observations of the situation.

On 16 November, the first main hearing in the criminal case against Stas Dimitrievsky took place in the Nizhny Novgorod Sovetsky district court. Two lawyers are defending Dimitrievsky in court, Yury Sidorov (Nizhny Novgorod), and Leyla Khamzaeva (Moscow). Several members and staffers of the RCFS and the Nizhny Novgorod Society for Human Rights were interrogated as witnesses for the prosecution. They stated to the court that they are absolutely sure that the publications used to
incriminate Stas Dimitrievsky are aimed at establishing peace in the Chechen Republic as they contain calls to political reconciliation of the armed conflict there. Then, the next hearing was fixed for 25 November 2005, but was later postponed for the 28th November.

In the hearing of 28 November, Sergey Kovalev, former Russian human rights ombudsman and former State Duma deputy, Lydia Jusupova, a member of chamber of lawyers of the Chechen Republic and staff member of the “Memorial” Human Rights Center, and Laila Amirkhadshieva, inhabitant of Chechen village Katyr-Jurt, were questioned as witnesses of the defense. They were invited by the defense to acknowledge the actual circumstances in Chechnya, to which the appeal from Aslan Maskhadov to the European Parliament referred, which is one of the two bases of the indictment.

Additionally, the author of the linguist expert opinion, Larisa Teslenko – expert of the Privolzhsky Regional Center of Legal Expertise at the Ministry of Justice, ordered by the chief investigator of the Nizhny Novgorod regional branch of the FSB, on which the indictment is based - was questioned. While firmly insisting that the incriminated materials raise racial, national and social enmity “between Russian and Chechens”, Teslenko refused to give an answer to most of the fifty questions, explaining that they were beyond her competence. She refused, for example to define the terms “race”, “nationality” and “social group”, declaring that on these questions the sociologist, instead of the linguist should answer.

During the trial, about thirty members of the patriotic youth movement “Nashi” (“Ours”) held a picket outside the court building with a poster “A terrorist cannot be a human rights defender".

The next hearing of the case was scheduled for 7 December 2005.


2. The fiscal harassment of the RCFS, threatening the continuation of its activities.

On 16 November 2005, the Arbitration court of Nizhny Novgorod region, to which the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society lodged their complaint about the actions undertaken by the tax inspection of Nizhny Novgorod, decided to postpone the main hearing of the case to Wednesday, November 30, 2005.

Judge Evgenia Belyanina took this decision to postpone the hearing as a result of the alleged illness of two of the staff members of the tax inspection, despite the fact that for a juridical person illness of any of its staff members can't be an obstacle to present the position of the organization in court, creating the impression that the tax inspection was deliberately trying to retard the consideration of the complaint.

A young staff member of the tax inspection appeared in court by proxy. He appealed to the judge to postpone the hearing in connection with the illness of one of the two staff member who had dealt with the case before. Asked about the other one, he answered that she was likely to have fallen ill too. Asked why he was not able to represent the interests of the tax inspection himself, he explained that he was unaware of the details.

On 15 August 2005 the tax inspection of Nizhegorodski district had made Resolution #25 claiming that the RCFS had violated the Tax Code, and that they have to pay profit tax for grants to implement specific human rights projects in the period from 2002 to 2004 from three foreign donors. Additionally the tax inspection ordered them to pay a fine. The total amount of the claims is 1.001.561 Rubles (around 28.200 Euro).

3. Efforts by the Justice Ministry Registration Department to Deregister the RCFS

After having decided on 1 November to postpone consideration of the de-registration-case against the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS) for an indefinite period of time, judge Samartseva unexpectedly changed her mind and scheduled the main hearing for 14 November 2005. This hearing turned out to be the final one. Judge Samartseva made a ruling, in which she refused the Nizhny Novgorod Main Registration Department at the Ministry of Justice in its civil action to liquidate the RCFS, after considering the documents and debates between the sides. As this decision was not appealed by the Justice Ministry within the 10 days period, in which this would have been possible, the judgment is final.

Unknown Persons Broke into the Flat of Dimitrievsky on 28 November

On 28 November, unknown persons broke into the flat of the family of Stas Dimitrievsky in Nizhny Novgorod. When his wife came home at 17:30 she found things scattered on a floor and boxes opened. There were no broken doors, and it seems that nothing was stolen.

See also:
IHF statement, “British Lawyer Barred From Entering Russia to monitor trial of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society in Nizhny Novgorod, 15 November 2005
IHF statement, “The ‘Russian-Chechen Friendship Society’s Under Severe Risk of being Destroyed by Russian Authorities. Its Director Stas Dimitrievsky Faces a Prison Term, 2 November 2005
IHF statement, "Russian Federation: Nizhny Novgorod Authorities Launch Final Crackdown on Russian-Chechen Friendship Society. Today’s Protest Picket Dissolved after Five Minutes – Participants Detained", 2 September 2005.
IHF statement, “Continuing Persecution of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society. Its Partner Organisation Nizhny Novgorod Human Rights Society Closed Down by Authorities”, 10 June 2005
IHF statement, “”We Fear for the Safety of our Colleagues in the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society… Russian Human Rights Organization Threatened”, 19 March 2005
IHF statement, “FSB Raids the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society”, 20 January 2005
IHF/NHC Report, The Silencing of Human Rights Defenders in Chechnya and Ingushetia, Sept. 2004
For further information:
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
In Vienna: Aaron Rhodes, IHF Executive Director, +43-1-408 88 22 or +43 -676-635 66 12; Henriette Schroeder, IHF Press Officer, +43-676-725 48 29
In Moscow: Tanya Lokshina, +7 -916-624 19 06
Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, Stas Dmitrievsky, Oksana Chelysheva, +7-8312-171 666 or +7-920 015 9218 (mobile)

 

Fingers pointed in kidnapping of Georgian boy

Geno Petriashvili, the eleven-year-old boy kidnapped in South Ossetia three months ago, was freed unhurt on 25 November. Since then, the government of the breakaway republic and officials in Tbilisi have been trading accusations about his abduction.

From The Messenger:

Separatist authorities in South Ossetia claim their law enforcers succeeded in freeing the boy, Genadi Petriashvili, and returning him to his family.

In Tbilisi the Georgian Minister of Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili countered that the release was simply staged by official Tskhinvali.

Shortly after the release, the ministry went on to condemn the separatist government as a criminal empire and published a flowchart implicating its leadership as well as the head of Russian peacekeepers in the region in criminal activity.

The South Ossetian and Georgian authorities differ on many aspects of the case, including where the boy was held hostage. The Head of the de facto South Ossetian Press and Information Committee Irina Gagloeva said that the boy was being held in a Georgian village in the conflict zone. Minister Merabishvili as well as the boy himself say he was held captive in the Java region of South Ossetia.

Gagloeva reported the leader of de facto republic of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoiti led the rescue operation himself. She added the boy has already testified to South Ossetian law enforcers.

Georgian authorities, however, claim that a criminal group with links to South Ossetian authorities as well as to Russian peacekeeping forces abducted Petriashvili.

"Kokoiti [Eduard Kokoiti, the self-proclaimed president of South Ossetia] perfectly knew from the first day who kidnapped Petriashvili," Merabishvili said on Friday. He claimed that the kidnappers had negotiations with Ossetian authorities and then together staged the release operation.

Kidnapping has long been a problem in the South Ossetian conflict zone. Eleven-year old Petriashvili told journalists he was kept in a pit for some of the time with his arms bound. The boy could not identify the names or origin of his kidnappers, but said that his capturers spoke Georgian and Russian.


Prime News reports that the South Ossetian government has issued a response:


In return, the de facto Foreign Affaires Ministry stated that the “slanderous tricks by the Interiors Ministry of Georgia are related to the brilliant operations by the South Ossetian law enforcers at the Georgian territories. Owing to those operations Geno Petriashvili, 11, kidnapped by the crime group in the Georgian –South Ossetian conflict zone three months ago, was released and returned to his parents”.

According to the statement, Vano Merabishvili, Georgian Interiors Ministry switched to direct menace against the South Ossetian top officials when “personally guaranteed to make them bear responsibility or die”.

“It was clear that the Georgian party seriously discusses ways of murder of the South Ossetian top officials instead of its widely advertised Peace Plan”, the statement goes.


Geno Petriashvili is the son of a prominent businessman who had dealings with both Georgians and Ossetians.

Friday, November 18, 2005

 

Update

As some of you might have guessed, we have been reconsidering the future of this blog. However, we think we've decided that we're going to continue. We're hoping that regular updates will resume at the end of November.

Thanks for your support!

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