Introduction 2

Freedom of association and the law on non-governmental organizations 7

Implementation of the NGO law 8

Burdensome re-registration 8

Intrusive reviews 9

Citizens’ Watch 10

Voice (Golos) 10

Reporting 13

Youth Human Rights Movement 15

Reform of the law delayed 15

Use of “extremism”-related laws to curb freedom of expression 17

The 2002 Law on Combating Extremist Activity 17

Denial of registration for “Rainbow House”, an NGO of LGBT activists 19

Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code 20

Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS) 22

Andrei Sakharov museum and public centre 24

Amendments to the law on combating extremist activities 25

Other forms of harassment and intimidation 27

International Protection Centre (IPC) 27

Educated Media Foundation (Internews) 28

Journalists under attack 29

The investigation into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya 29

The death of journalist Ivan Safronov 30

Restrictions on freedom of expression of the media 30

Freedom of assembly 32

The law on the right to freedom of assembly 32

Curtailing the right to freedom of assembly 35

Gay Pride parade 35

Marches of Dissenters 37

Restrictions on monitoring public meetings 40

Detention and ill-treatment of journalists 40

The right to hold individual pickets 42

Use of the law to attempt to impede private meetings 43

Recommendations: 44


Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 19 Universal Declaration on Human Rights

Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Article 20 Universal Declaration on Human Rights

On the eve of the Russian presidential elections on 2 March, Amnesty International is publishing its concerns relating to the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly in the Russian Federation. The organization concludes that all three fundamental rights have been curtailed in recent years. Human rights defenders, independent civil society organizations, political opponents, and ordinary citizens have all been victims of this roll-back on civil and political rights.

The right to freedom of expression, as well as the rights to freedom of assembly and association, which are ultimately specific forms of exercising the right to freedom of expression, are guaranteed in the Russian Constitution and are enshrined in international human rights law. The Russian Federation, as a party to human rights treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), is obliged to promote and protect these rights, to ensure that people can fully enjoy these rights.

However, there appear to be more and more limitations on these rights. Laws have been introduced whose overly broad provisions allow for arbitrary interpretation to the detriment of these rights, or which in other ways restrict these fundamental rights. The very existence of these laws has had a chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression. Moreover, Russian authorities have used laws to clamp down on dissent by human rights defenders and others expressing alternative viewpoints. The findings of this report give cause for concern that the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly in Russia are not guaranteed for all. Failure to protect these rights has serious implications for the whole civil society in the Russian Federation. The right to freedom of expression is a cornerstone for a functioning civil society and in itself a safeguard for the protection of other basic human rights.

Freedom of expression

The space for dissenting views, independent media and independent organizations to operate is shrinking in the Russian Federation. Expressing dissenting views can lead to harassment and may put people at risk of being subjected to human rights violations. Amnesty International believes that human rights defenders and human rights organizations, which are funded from abroad, are particularly targeted for harassment and intimidation, in a context in which they have been accused by government representatives and media as “unpatriotic”.

The right to freedom of expression of human rights defenders and civil society activists has also been violated in the bringing of criminal prosecutions for the “extremist” offence of “incitement of racial hatred or enmity”. In at least two cases known to Amnesty International, the organization does not consider the individuals to have incited hatred or enmity towards any group and is concerned that the prosecutions were brought in order to silence dissent and alternative views.

Amnesty International is also deeply concerned that the investigation into the murder of human rights journalist Anna Politkovskaya appears to be making no progress in determining who ordered the killing. The authorities must not obstruct the work of journalists, and investigate thoroughly all harassment and attacks against them.

Freedom of assembly

Freedom of assembly is the right to organize and participate in private and public meetings and demonstrations, including marches and pickets. While Amnesty International recognizes the state’s responsibility to uphold public order, the organization is concerned that law enforcement bodies have responded with excessive force to some demonstrations and public meetings and have impeded the right of many to freedom of assembly by banning or preventing demonstrations on purported grounds of security considerations or protection of the public interest. The authorities violently dispersed demonstrations in the first half of 2007, while pro-government demonstrations appeared to go ahead without interference. The authorities also prevented scores of people from expressing their views during demonstrations of opposition movements by detaining them, taking them off trains or preventing them from boarding airplanes. Law enforcement bodies interfered with the work of human rights defenders and journalists who monitored demonstrations and public meetings.

Freedom of association

The right to freedom of association concerns the right of individuals to group together and operate collectively, and includes the right to form civil society organizations. Amendments to Russian laws governing the work of non-governmental organizations were introduced in 2006, which have seriously impacted on the right to freedom of association. The laws came into full effect in early 2007, when Russian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the first time had to submit reports about their activities under the new regulations. Amnesty International is concerned that the amendments are unduly burdensome and open to arbitrary interpretation by the authorities. Therefore they can be and have been used to target some NGOs, including human rights organizations, because they are seen as a threat to state authority. Some NGOs, including human rights organizations, have had to suspend their activities due to the requirements of the law and in some cases are reported to be facing possible closure for alleged violations of the law.

These amendments are not the only legal instruments used to restrict the work of civil society organizations. Other laws have also been used to prevent the registration of an organization, or harass those who are perceived by the authorities to pose a threat to state authority. In some cases what appears to amount to a campaign of administrative harassment is targeted at an organization.

NGOs, including human rights NGOs, fulfil an important role in civil society, including in the Russian Federation and should be given space to exist and be able to contribute in a meaningful way to addressing issues relevant to the whole society. Guiding principles for the rights of NGOs and individuals active in promoting and defending human rights are set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Human Rights Defender Declaration), adopted in 1999, which also addresses the responsibilities of activists towards the state.

To address the situation and to prevent further deterioration, laws need to be amended and instructions put in place which clearly define the role of law enforcement bodies and government officials in safeguarding public order and ensuring the protection of human rights of all people in the Russian Federation, be they in favour or critical of those in power.

At the end of this report, Amnesty International makes recommendations to the Russian government regarding steps which should be taken to uphold the respect of human rights. Amnesty International urges the Russian authorities to uphold the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association. In order to meet its obligations under international human rights law, Amnesty International calls on the Russian authorities to: address the deficiencies inthe NGO law and its implementing regulations; refrain from using laws such as the law to combat extremist activities to clamp down on independent media and civil society organizations; instruct law enforcement bodies on policing public meetings in line with the right to freedom of assembly; ensure journalists can conduct their lawful work without arbitrary interference from law enforcement officials; investigate fully, promptly and impartially any reported human rights abuses against civil society activists, journalists and members of the political opposition and bring to justice anyone suspected of involvement in such violations in trials which meet international standards of fair trial.

Methodology and scope of report

Amnesty International has researched a number of cases of violations of the rights to freedom expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association. Amnesty International spoke to victims, lawyers, non-governmental organizations in a number of towns and cities in Russia as well as government representatives. This report highlights a few of these cases which are illustrative of the restrictions affecting human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists as well as potentially any other person in the Russian Federation.

The scope of this report does not include the protection of the right to freedom of expression in the North Caucasus. Amnesty International’s concerns in this region were addressed in a November 2007 report entitled Russian Federation: Human rights defenders at risk in the North Caucasus (AI Index: EUR 46/053/2007).


In January 2006 President Putin introduced controversial amendments to the laws governing civil society organizations in Russia (known as the NGO law), which came into force on 17 April 2006.1The amendments, which affect three federal laws – on closed administrative-territorial entities, on public organizations, and on non-commercial organizations – have placed a number of restrictions on civil society groups. 2

Amnesty International is concerned that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across the board and their rights to freedom of expression and association have been substantially affected by the changes in regulations. The new law has led to, among other things, onerous reporting requirements, and is open to abuse through arbitrary interpretation.3Amnesty International is concerned that some NGOs have been subjected to harassment, inspections amounting to administrative harassment, and threats of closure.

President Vladimir Putin repeatedly gave two reasons for introducing these amendments. One was that it was an attempt to reduce Western influence on Russian civil society4 and to prevent outbreaks similar to “colour revolutions” in other parts of the former Soviet Union.5The other was to bring order to the activities of NGOs.

Russian government officials, including President Vladimir Putin6, have on several occasions stated that the interpretation of the law should not lead to harassment of NGOs which fulfill their legal obligations. In January 2006, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergei Lavrov, answered criticism of the law by stating that much depended on its implementation, and suggesting that implementing regulations should set out a framework for the activities of the relevant executive agencies.

Since the amendments have come into force, though, it has become clear that the legal changes and the implementing regulations have in fact undermined the work of NGOs. The authorities have gained increased powers to scrutinize the funding and activities of Russian and foreign NGOs, while the reporting requirements under the implementing regulations are unduly burdensome, diverting resources from substantive programmes.7The regulations have failed to clarify the new powers afforded to officials. This has serious implications where NGOs may be closed down for alleged failures to comply with the regulations.

The law on NGOs is not the only legal instrument which has been used to restrict the work of some civil society organizations. Other laws have also been used to harass those who are perceived by the authorities (local, regional or federal) to pose a threat to state authority. These include “extremism”-related legal provisions, the tax law and the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.


Burdensome re-registration

Foreign and international NGOs were required to re-register their Russian branches or representative offices with the Federal Registration Service (FRS) by 18 October 2006. However, the re-registration procedure was unclear and burdensome. During much of the six-month period allowed for re-registering, communication from the FRS was unclear, and the department did not have sufficient staff to advise NGOs on the complex process. According to Amnesty International’s information, the office had fewer than 10 staff members. As a result, some organizations failed to meet the 18 October deadline and their activities were suspended pending approval of their registration. Other organizations were refused registration partly for minor oversights in their documents but were invited to resubmit their paperwork.

By 29 December 2006, 196 foreign and international8 NGOs had been re-registered. Russian NGOs were not automatically required to re-register but Amnesty International is aware of some that did have to re-register in order to bring the wording of their official documents into line with the new law.

Intrusive reviews

Under the new law, the FRS has the authority to conduct reviews of the work of NGOs once a year. The aim of these reviews is to check that their activities and expenses conform to the NGOs’ stated aims. Several experts have criticized this aspect of the law on the grounds that it gives too much power to the FRS, which has no set framework of what it may check and what falls within the remit of other state bodies, such as tax inspection. The FRS has published a list on the internet of national organizations registered with the central office of the FRS which will undergo reviews of their work over the course of a year.

There is no publicly available single list of locally or regionally registered NGOs9 which have to undergo such a review and, as a result, there is no overall list available of the total number of NGOs affected in the course of a year. Amnesty International was informed that regionally or locally registered NGOs were given less time to prepare for a review in comparison to national organizations and therefore were unable to ensure that their regular work was not hampered by the process of review. Amnesty International’s representative spoketo several regionally registered NGOs which had to halt their planned activities for at least a week or two in order to fulfill the FRS demands.


The St Petersburg organization Citizens’ Watch (Grazhdanskii Kontrol) was ordered on 23 July 2007 to provide copies of all outgoing correspondence during the period 4 July 2004 to 4 July 2007.Although the organization did provide this information, it also filed a complaint that this demand from the FRS was unjustified and a violation of the right of individuals with whom they were in contact to engage in private correspondence.

At the same timethe organization was suspected of undertaking activities which were not in line with its stated aims and of failing to pay taxes. Citizens’ Watch, which is registered as a regional NGO operating in St Petersburg and Leningrad Region, had invited judges from the region on study trips to Sweden and Strasbourg. The warning by the FRS stated that it was not legitimate for a regional NGO to organize meetings outside St Petersburg. Another claim concerned the mention of foreign donors in the organization’s publications. The authorities considered this to be advertising for the donors, for which the NGO is liable to pay tax. Boris Pustyntsev, head of Citizens’ Watch, told Amnesty International that one FRS representative had said to the organization’s lawyer: “We will find something. Citizens’ Watch will not get away without a warning.” In late 2007, the warning had been withdrawn but Boris Pustyntsev was still awaiting a decision about the FRS’s right to demand access to the organization’s correspondence. Amnesty International is concerned that Citizens’ Watch is being targeted because of its human rights work.


Voice (Golos) is an organization which focuses on observing elections, informing society about election procedures and the protection of the active voting right as well as the right to be eligible. Voice has its main office in Moscow, with branches in several other regions of the Russian Federation, including in Samara, where it is registered as a regional NGO for Samara Region as well as an inter-regional NGO for the Volga Federal District.10The head of both branches, Ludmila Kuzmina, has been active in civil society organizations since the end of the Soviet Union. During recent years she has trained independent election observers as well as observers from different political parties, including the ruling parties. She also provided advice on civil society activities to NGOs and public action. She told Amnesty International that prior to a March of Dissenters , a demonstration organized by the political opposition around the EU- Russia summit, held in Samara Region on 18 May 2007, she had spoken to the media on 9 May about violations of the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression of the organizers of the march. On 10 May police searched her office and confiscated computers, alleging that the software used on the computers was unlicensed.11She was subsequently charged under Article 146 of the Russian Criminal Code (violation of intellectual property rights). On 11 May, fire inspectors closed the building in which the office of Voice was located, citing fire safety reasons.

Amnesty International was told that the building was closed from May to September, when it was opened again because the period for which the closure had been ordered had expired. No improvements to the building had been undertaken during this period.12During these months Ludmila Kuzmina was unable to enter her office, access her files and documents.

On 14 September she was informed that the FRS would conduct a review of the regional and inter-regional NGOs and their activities covering the time from 20 September 2004 to 20 September 2007. Among others Voice was asked to provide information about all events organized by the NGOs (the inter-regional branch of Voice was only registered in 2007), financial plans as well as information about all financial expenses and income. In its reports about the review, sent on 19 and 22 October, the FRS noted a number of “gross violations” of the laws of the Russian Federation and on this basis requested a court to order the closure of the regional NGO and a six-month suspension of the activities of the inter-regional NGO.

Among the violations found by the FRS were:

  • The regional NGO has to hold regular meetings of its board members, about which the FRS was informed. However, as there had been no notes submitted from the meetings, the FRS stated there had been no confirmation that the meetings had taken place.

  • According to the statutes of the regional NGO it is open for new members. The FRS considered it to be a violation of the statutes that no new members had joined the NGO.

  • One of the aims of the organization, listed in the statutes, is to submit candidates for electoral commissions. This has not happened.

  • The full name of the organization – “Public organization of Samara Region ‘for the defence of the rights of voters’ Golos” – did not appear on the seal of the organization.

  • Not all receipts had been provided as originals.

  • The inter-regional NGO does not have branches in regions other than in Samara but has conducted training and meetings in other regions.13

When Ludmila Kuzmina protested against the findings of the FRS, she was reportedly presented with a list of seven citizens who, it was stated, had approached the regional branch of Voice in September that year in order to become members but had not received an answer. Ludmila Kuzmina told Amnesty International she seriously doubts that these complaints were genuine as the text of the complaints was nearly identical14and none of those allegedly interested in joining the NGO had ever tried to get in contact with Voice beforehand.

She also learned that those people who had gone through training sessions as election observers organized by Golos had been excluded as observers during the December 2007 elections to the State Parliament, the Duma.

On 19 November a hearing regarding the closure of the regional NGO started at the Samara Regional Court, and concluded on 21 December. The court rejected the request for the closure of Voice. On 17 January 2008, Ludmila Kuzmina learned that the FRS had filed a protest against the decision of the regional court. The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation is scheduled to hear the complaint on 4 March 2008.

Regarding the inter-regional NGO Voice, Ludmila Kuzmina received a report about the findings of the FRS, sent on 19 October, a Friday, but delivered on 27 October, giving the NGO until 6pm on Monday 22 October to address the violations of the law found during the review. On 22 October, the FRS ordered the suspension of the work of the inter-regional NGO for six months for failure to address violations. Golos filed a complaint against this decision, pointing out that the NGO should have been given a reasonable timeframe in line with the law to address any violations. According to the lawyer, on 4 February 2008 the district court in Samara declined to examine the content of the complaint. In addition, the FRS on 6 November 2007 sent another letter to Ludmila Kuzmina, raising further concerns about the violations of the law by Voice and giving a month to deal with these. Ludmila Kuzmina rejected these findings and pointed out in a letter to the FRS that all violations of the law identified during the review should be listed in one document. The FRS reportedly has not replied to this.

Ludmila Kuzmina also told Amnesty International that in late 2007 police had come to the apartment building she is living in on several occasions since May 2007 and had asked her neighbours if they had any knowledge of Ludmila Kuzmina coming home late or being drunk. Additionally, her neighbours were allegedly told that she had links to “extremists”; such allegations also reportedly appeared in the local media against her and other activists. At the same time, criminal proceedings against Ludmila Kuzmina are continuing. She had to pledge in writing that she would not leave the town. She does not deny having had unlicensed computer software in the organization’s office but claims that she should not have been charged under criminal provisions for this.


Under the law on NGOs, all Russian organizations to which the law applies have to submit annual reports detailing their activities, plans, and finances. Failure to submit these new style reports result in the FRS warning organizations that they will be taken off the register of NGOs. This does not automatically mean the organizations have to cease their work, but it does impact severely on their activities because being registered in line with the law allows them to exist as legal entities, receive funds, hire staff, and represent the interests of a particular group of people. Furthermore, the law states that a repeated failure to submit such reports allows the FRS to ask a court to order the closure of the NGO15.

Since April 2007, the deadline for Russian NGOs to submit these new style reports for the first time, a number of NGOs have been warned that they are being taken off the FRS’s register of NGOs for failing to submit reports as required by the law. The Youth Human Rights Movement, together with other Russian NGOs, monitored how many NGOs were threatened with closure as a result of the amendments to the law. According to their survey, about 600 regional and localgroups in eight of the Russian regions they monitored were crossed off the register by late August 2007, and the media reported that in the first half of 2007 the FRS issued 18,022 warnings to Russian NGOs and 34 to foreign organizations for failure to submit documents.16

The NGO AGORA, which provides legal advice to many NGOs regarding the implementation of the law and monitors the overall situation, expects that after April 2008 the FRS may call for the closure of a large number of NGOs, which have failed twice to submit a report.

Amnesty International urges the FRS to interpret its role as providing assistance to NGOs so that they can comply with the requirements of the law. Such an interpretation would be in line with Russia’s obligation to guarantee the right to freedom of association as set out in Article 30 of the Russian Constitution, which states:

“1. Everyone shall have the right of association, including the right to establish trade unions for the protection of his (her) interests. The freedom of activity of public associations shall be guaranteed.”


Members of the international NGO Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM, Molodezhnoe Pravozashchitnoe Dvizhenie) learned in August 2007 that two months earlier a district court in the city of Nizhnii Novgorod had ordered that it be taken off the FRS register of NGOs. The reason, they were told, was because they had failed to provide reports about the activities of the NGO to the regional department of the FRS. According to YHRM members, the regional FRS branch therefore claimed that the organization was inactive and should be removed from the register. Information about legal procedures against the NGO was sent to an address which was three years out of date, so its representatives were unaware of the threat to remove it from the register. During this period the NGO, which had been an inter-regional organization, had been re-registered as an international organization and was therefore required to submit documents to the federal office of the FRS. As the order to close the international NGO was issued in absentia, the organization asked the court to extend the appeal period, since it had complied with the law in providing all the required documents about its many activities to the FRS federal office in Moscow. After a worldwide solidarity campaign organized by the YHRM, the FRS of Nizhnii Novgorod Region in September 2007 wrote to tell members that there had never been any objections to the international NGO and that they had only initiated closure proceedings of the inter-regional NGO. The YHRM believes that there was confusion by the FRS itself as to which NGO it was attempting to close down. According to the YHRM, in November the FRS revoked its proceedings to close the organization down.17

Reform of the law delayed

In July 2006 Amnesty International urged President Putin to amend the NGO law as soon as possible rather than waiting for confirmation of what had been clear from the start: that the wording is vague, which leaves the law open to arbitrary interpretation, and that it has a stultifying effect on Russian civil society.18

The Presidential Council for the development of civil society and human rights, under its chair, Ella Pamfilova, conducted monitoring and consultations throughout the Russian Federation in order to establish how the law affected civil society and NGOs. Research institutes, such as the Moscow Higher School of Economics, and several NGOs published reports, highlighting the flaws in the law and the resulting problems. In April 2007 at a meeting at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Ella Pamfilova highlighted three areas for action: the need to change the registration regime for NGOs, so that NGOs are treated in the same way as other legal entities; much greater clarity as to NGOs’ reporting obligations; and the need to ensure that monitoring of NGOs’ compliance with the law did not amount to undue pressure.

Reportedly, the Presidential Council presented in May 2007 a number of suggestions to the Russian government for amendments to the law and to the implementing regulations to address the problems. In subsequent months, these suggestions were developed into draft amendments to be presented to the Duma. Ella Pamfilova as well as Russian NGOs and civil society representatives have repeatedly urged the authorities to address the issue and either to consider substantial amendments of the law or to draft a new one, as the current version does not serve its stated purpose.

However, it appears that the process of discussing and possibly amending the law has been halted due to the Duma elections in December 2007 and may be further delayed until after the presidential elections in March 2008.


Some human rights defenders and NGOs have been targeted under extremism-related laws, which has seriously hampered their ability to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association.


The Russian federal law “On Combating Extremist Activity”19 was signed into law on 25 July 2002. The law defined extremist activity, extremist organizations and extremist materials.

Extremist activity was defined as, among other things, the activity of public and religious associations or other organizations, mass media, or individuals in planning, organizing, preparing and carrying out activity directed at: forcible change of the foundations of the constitutional structure and violation of the integrity of the Russian Federation; undermining the security of the Russian Federation; seizure or usurpation of authority; creation of illegal armed units; carrying out terrorist activity; the humiliation of national dignity; inciting racial, ethnic or religious discord, as well as social discord, connected with violence or appeals to violence; carrying out mass riots, acts of hooliganism and vandalism on the grounds of ideological, political, racial, ethnic or religious hatred or hostility in relation to any social group; and advocacy/propaganda of exclusiveness, superiority or inferiority of citizens based on their religious, social, racial, ethnic or linguistic affiliation (Article 1).

The law also defined “extremist materials” as including printed documents which call for, justify or substantiate the necessity of carrying out extremist activity (Article 1), and an “extremist organization” as being an organization in relation to which a court has ordered their closure, on the basis that it has carried out extremist activity.

A number of laws were amended in the light of the law on combating extremist activities, including:

  • the federal law on mass media (amendment to article 16, so that a mass media outlet can now be closed on the grounds set out in the law on combating extremist activities);

  • the federal law on public associations (a number of articles were amended including article 42, that a public association can be closed down for carrying out extremist activities in line with and on the grounds set out in the law on combating extremist activities);

  • the federal law on trade unions, their rights and guarantees for activity (article 4 amended so that they can be closed down in line with and on the grounds set out in the law on combating extremist activities);

  • Article 280 of the Russian Criminal Code, which was previously about “public calls for the violent overthrow of the constitutional order” and was replaced with “public calls to carry out extremist activity”;

  • The Russian Criminal Code was also amended by the addition of two new articles, Article 2821 and 2822, on organizing an extremist society and its activities;

  • the federal law on freedom of conscience and on religious organizations;

  • the federal law on political parties.

The 2006 NGO law also includes “extremism”-related provisions. Firstly, a public association cannot be registered if it is “extremist”, according to the definition contained in the law on combating extremist activities. Moreover, anyone convicted for an “extremist” criminal offence is not permitted to be a head or a member of an NGO, according to the NGO law (the law on public associations).

At the time that the law was passed, human rights groups strongly criticized it, stating that its overly broad and subjective terms of what constitutes “extremism” could be used to restrict, intimidate and punish the legitimate activities of human rights and other public organizations. The UN Human Rights Committee also concluded, in November 2003, that the law “is too vague to protect individuals and associations against arbitrariness in its application”.20

The law was amended in 2006, making the definition of “extremism” even broader, but was amended again in 2007, removing some of the very problematic provisions, but still remaining unacceptably broad (see below). Amnesty International is concerned that the overly broad definition of extremism in the law has restricted the rights to freedoms of expression and association.

Amnesty International is concerned that in at least one case an organization has been wrongfully refused registration, possibly in connection with the law on combating extremist activity.


Amnesty International is concerned that the NGO law, possibly together with the law on combating extremist activities, has been used to prevent the registration of the NGO Rainbow House (Raduzhnii Dom), an organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activists from Tiumen, Siberia. Their registration as an NGO has been repeatedly denied by the FRS. Without registration, the organization’s activities, including cooperation and dialogue with other NGOs and state bodies, are severely hampered. It also prevents the organization opening a bank account.

The regional department of the FRS in Tiumen found in December 2006 that the charter of the organization listed activities which amounted to propaganda for a non-traditional sexual orientation, which could constitute “extremist activities”, and therefore was one reason not to register the organization. The FRS also allegedly argued that the aims of the organization were in conflict with the spiritual values of Russian society, were directed towards reducing the population and were therefore considered to be a threat to state security.21

Rainbow House made a complaint to the federal office of the FRS in Moscow, about the first decision of the Tiumen office, in particular, the reference to extremist activities. The FRS in Moscow said that it was within the remit of the Tiumen office to make such decisions, but did not address the complaint about the reference to extremist activities. Rainbow House filed complaints against the FRS in Moscow as well as in Tiumen, questioning the authority of the FRS to claim that an NGO was attempting to undertake “extremist” activities, without any judicial process or explanation for its decision. .

According to information received from the legal representatives of Rainbow House, the NGO was again denied registration in April 2007 following a renewed application for registration by the activists to the Tiumen office. The second denial was based on the FRS’ statement that the charter of the organization was not in line with the legal requirements, and that there were some irregularities in the paperwork. In November 2007, the court in Tiumen refused to consider the complaint, as the second refusal of the FRS in Tiumen to register the NGO no longer contained the allegation that the NGO was planning “extremist activities”. The court also found that the denial to register the organization did not violate the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of association, because the founders of Rainbow House were still able to engage in activities, although not registered as a legal entity.

According to the charter supplied to Amnesty International by Rainbow House, the organization’s aims are:

“1) Defending universal human rights and freedoms of the citizen, irrespective of their sexual orientation, based on the principles contained in the provisions of legislation of the Russian Federation;

2) Fighting discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation, in accordance with legislation of the Russian Federation in force;

3) Promotion of the development of self-awareness of citizens, irrespective of their sexual orientation, as fully accepted members of society enjoying equal rights, based on the principles contained in the provisions of legislation of the Russian Federation.”

In Amnesty International’s view, nothing in the organization’s charter indicates “extremist” views or could be said to be a threat to state security.


Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code creates the following offence:

“Incitement of Hatred or Enmity, as Well as Abasement of Human Dignity

1. Actions aimed at the incitement of hatred or enmity, as well as abasement of dignity of a person or a group of persons on the basis of sex, race, nationality, language, origin, attitude to religion, as well as affiliation to any social group, if these acts have been committed in public or with the use of mass media,

shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of 100,000 to 300,000 roubles, or in the amount of the wage or salary, or any other income of the convicted person for a period of one to two years, or by deprivation of the right to hold specified offices or to engage in specified activities for a term of up to three years, or by compulsory community service for a term of up to 180 hours, or by corrective community service for a term of up to one year, or by deprivation of liberty for a term of up to two years.

2. The same deeds committed:

a) with the use of violence or with the threat of its use;

b) by a person through his official position;

c) by an organized group,

shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of 100,000 to 500,000 roubles or in the amount of the wage or salary, or any other income of the convicted person for a period of one to three years, or by deprivation of the right to hold specified offices or to engage in specified activities for a term of up to five years, or by compulsory community service for a term of 120 to 240 hours, or by corrective community service for a term of one to two years, or by deprivation of liberty for a term of up to five years.”22

The 2007 amendments (see below) spelled out that the offence set out in this article is to be considered as “extremist”. In fact, prior to the 2007 amendments it appears already to have been considered by the authorities to be “extremist”. Article 282 is one of the articles listed in Article 2821 as being “extremist”, is included in the chapter of the Russian Criminal Code concerning crimes against the basis of the constitutional order, and state security, and moreover the definition of incitement contained in the article is almost identical to that in the law to combat extremist activity.

Amnesty International is concerned that prosecutions under Article 282 have been used to stifle the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression.23


Amnesty International has been concerned about the clampdown on the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (Obshchestvo Rossisko-Chechenskoi Druzhby), an organization which collects and distributes information about the human rights situation in Chechnya and other parts of the Russian Federation. The RCFS was closed down in October 2006 after a court had found the then head of the organization, Stanislav Dmitrievskii, guilty of inciting racial and ethnic enmity (under part 2 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code).24

On 3 February 2006 Stanislav Dmitrievskii had been convicted for publishing articles by Chechen separatist leaders in the newspaper Pravozashchita25. A district court in Nizhnii Novgorod imposed a two-year suspended sentence and a four-year probationary period on Stanislav Dmitrievskii. During this four-year period, he has to inform the authorities of any change of residence or travel plans, and must report regularly to the local authorities. Any violation of these conditions or further criminal conviction could result in him being imprisoned for two years. In addition, following a sentence for violating the Administrative Code in relation to his participation in a demonstration in Moscow in April 2007, the Federal Service for the Implementation of Punishment appealed to a court in Nizhnii Novgorod to change the conditions of Stanislav Dmitrievskii’s probationary period. As a consequence, any violation of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation couldhave led to a decision to imprison him. As of February 2008, the appeal by the Federal Service for the Implementation of Punishment has not been successful.

The decision to close down the RCFS was confirmed by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in January 2007. Following the hearing at the Supreme Court, Stanislav Dmitrievskii told Amnesty International that the RCFS would seek justice at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Amnesty International, along with many Russian and international human rights organizations and experts, considered that the allegations that the texts published in Pravozashchitaincited racial hatred or enmity were unfounded. Amnesty International considers that Stanislav Dmitrievskii would be a prisoner of conscience, should he be imprisoned on these charges. The organization believes he waswrongfully convicted, solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.26Accordingly, it believes that the RCFS should not have been closed down.

To save the NGO from closure, Stanislav Dmitrievskii’s colleagues would have had to remove him from his post, and publicly condemn his opinion, which they refused to do. Several members of the NGO set up new organizations: the Nizhnii Novgorod Foundation forthe Support of Tolerance and the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society in Finland.

Prior to its closure, the RCFS had been subjected to numerous checks by different authorities in a way which amounted to administrativeharassment. Twice in 2005the organization faced a tax inspection; the tax inspectors ordered its accounts to be closed at the same time as the prosecutor’s office conducted its investigation against Stanislav Dmitrievskii. In 2005 threatening leaflets were distributed in the respective neighbourhoods of Stanislav Dmitrievskii and Oksana Chelysheva.27


In March 2007 the Andrei Sakharov museum and public centre in Moscow held an exhibition called Forbidden Art 2006, showing items which had been rejected by other museums and galleries the previous year. Some of the art objects depicted religious paintings combined with cartoon figures. Several organizations and individuals, including members of the Duma, protested against the exhibition and called for the organizers to be punished, referring to the museum as a “sewage pit”. In May 2007 a Moscow district prosecutor started criminal investigations against the organizers of the exhibition for inciting hatred or enmity against a religious or ethnic group (under part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code). In late November 2007 the district prosecutor questioned the curator of the exhibition, Andrei Yerofeev; in December the director of the museum, Yuri Samodurov, received a letter from the district prosecutor, requesting information about Andrei Yerofeev, his work contract and the planning process of the exhibition. On 18 January 2008, police conducted a search in the museum and confiscated documents relating to the exhibition.

As of February 2008, no further steps have been taken against the organizers of theexhibition, but Amnesty International is concerned that the museum, the public centre and its director may be targeted not only because of organizing an exhibition and thereby exercising their right to freedom of expression but also because the museum offers a space for discussions on various themes, including on human rights. Already in 2005 Yuri Samodurov and curator Ludmila Vasilovskaia had beenfound guilty of violations under part 2 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to pay a fine of 100,000 roubles each.28The charges – “carrying out action aimed at inciting enmity and humiliating the dignity of a group of people due to their nationality or religious affiliation, carried out in public,” concerned an exhibition, held in the museum in 2003 under the title “Caution! Religion!”. Amnesty International did not consider the art objects exhibited as inciting enmity and would have considered Yuri Samodurov and Ludmila Vasilevskaia as prisoners of conscience had they received prison sentences.29


In 2006, amendments to the law on combating extremist activities broadened the definition of “extremism” yet further30. While the sponsors of the amendments presented them as aiming to tackle “extremism” and xenophobia, in fact the amendments, in the eyes of a number of analysts, blurred the difference between political debate, expressing dissent and expressing extremist views. The new amendments, signed into law on 27 July 2006, included in the definition of extremism:

  • activity undertaken by individuals, civil society organizations, religious organizations or other organizations or the media which is aimed at publicly defaming state officials in the carrying out of their duties, when the defamation includes an accusation that the official has him/herself committed an extremist act and when the defamation has been established by a court;

  • activity aimed at use of violence or threat of use of violence against a state official during the carrying out of his/her duties;

  • public calls to carry out extremist activity and distribution of materials containing such calls, or containing justifications for extremist activity.

In July 2007, there were further amendments introduced to laws relating to “extremism”, including to the 2002 federal law “On combating extremist activity”31.

The 2007 amendments changed yet again the definitionof “extremism”. It extended the definition by characterizing “ideological, political, racial, ethnic or religious hatred or enmity” or “hatred or enmity against any social group” as “extremist” motivation. This definition was also applied to the Criminal Code in relation to hate crime.32The 2007 amendments narrowed the definition in other respects, including by removing some of the overly broad elements of the definition that had been included in 2006, such as the element of justification of “extremism”.

To hold extremist views is not punishable as such. For example, in some cases the publisher of a text has been found guilty of incitinghatred or enmity while the author of the publication has not been targeted. The mass distribution of publications which are considered to be of “extremist” content is now prohibited under the Administrative Code, but this does not necessarily involve criminal responsibility for those who wrote or published the text. The sanctions for such distribution vary depending on the distributor: individual citizens can be fined between 1,000 and 3,000 roubles or given up to 15 days’ administrative detention, officials can be fined between 2,000 and 5,000 roubles, and legal entities can be fined or their activities be suspended for up to 90 days. In all cases the “extremist” materials can be confiscated.

Amnesty International remains concerned that the broad terms of the law, as it stands in 2007, could be applied arbitrarily and that the fact of the existence of the law is having a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Russia.



The International Protection Centre (Tsentr sodeistvia mezhdunarodnoi zashchite), a human rights organization which provides legal advice and support for applicants to the European Court of Human Rights, is run by lawyer Karinna Moskalenko. She is also a member of the legal team for former head of the Yukos oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovskii. Since 2004 – even before the legal amendments to the law on NGOs came into force – the IPC had numerous visits from tax inspectors, the FRS and the prosecutor’s office. Karinna Moskalenko told Amnesty International that a substantial part of her and her colleagues’ time is spent submitting documentation to the different authorities that are conducting investigations into or reviews of the work of the NGO. Amnesty International believes that the targeting of the IPC for repeated inspections may be the result of Karinna Moskalenko’s role in the defence team of Mikhail Khodorkovskii.

When Karinna Moskalenko and several of her colleagues from the legal team of Mikhail Khodorkovskii travelled to Chita in Eastern Siberia in February 2007 to meet with their client, they were ordered to meet with representatives of the office of the Russian Prosecutor General in the office of the head of the administration of the pre-trial detention centres (SIZO). Report

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