FIDH: Russian Pro-Democracy Protesters Undeterred by Repression
In a series of protests this summer, around 100,000 people took to the streets in Moscow to support independent candidates for elections to the Moscow City Council, which will take place on 8 September. The disproportionate reaction—brute force and prosecution—used by the Russian National Guard and the police to suppress this outpouring of civic mobilization belies the political establishment’s fear of dissent. A new report from FIDH provides a complete account of the protests—whose high level of youth participation suggests a trend of growing political engagement among the young generation—and the accompanying violations of human rights.
“The authorities consider that rights can only be invoked with permission from the administration – anyone who believes differently is perceived as an opponent and a threat,” said Yan Rachinsky, a board member of leading Russian human rights NGO Memorial Human Rights Center, an FIDH member organization, who attended the rallies.
Security forces responded to this perceived threat by beating up dozens of peaceful protesters with rubber batons and arbitrarily detaining thousands of individuals, including minors, journalists and even passers-by. Detained protesters were ill-treated in police vehicles and detention centers, with some subsequently prosecuted. To date, since the beginning of the movement on 14 July, the authorities have detained close to 3,000 peaceful protesters and opened dozens of administrative and several criminal cases, including the so-called “Moscow Case” charging 14 mostly young individuals with organizing “mass unrest”.
The tough response from authorities, which have resorted to repression of citizens, reveals a certain fragility of the regime. Yet many protesters, including students and other young people, are undeterred by the physical and legal affronts and have become more organized and politically engaged.
FIDH urges Russian authorities to release all peaceful protesters and drop all charges against them, to allow independent candidates to run in Sunday’s election for Moscow City Council, and to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the use of excessive force.
Beginning on 14 July 2019, after the local election commissions used fabricated grounds to arbitrarily ban opposition candidates from running in the 8 September election for the Moscow City Council, a wave of protests for free elections took place in Moscow. The brutal response from the Russian National Guard and the police egregiously violated Russian citizens’ right to peaceful assembly and other civil and political rights, effectively prohibiting them from participating meaningfully in the political process.
The report provides a timeline of the protest movement and a detailed account of the authorities’ forceful suppression of the protests. It explains why the reaction of the authorities amounts to egregious and wide-scale violations of the right to peaceful assembly guaranteed by Article 31 of Russia’s Constitution and international human rights law treaties ratified by Russia, as well as numerous other violations.