Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation
Aleksandr Vladimirovich Konovalov
Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation
ul. Zhitnaya, d.14
119991 Moscow GSP-1
I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human rights defender and Freelance journalist.
On 14 February 2016, two representatives of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) appeared at the apartment of human rights defender Ms Maria Razumovskaya in Saint Petersburg, questioning her about the non-governmental organisation Citizens Watch and trying to take her for further questioning without an official summons.
Maria Razumovskaya is a deputy chairperson of human rights organisation Citizens Watch, established in 1992 in Saint Petersburg with the goal to assist in instituting parliamentary and civic control over the police, the security service, and armed forces, and to help prevent violations of the constitutional rights of people living in Russia by these governmental agencies. On 30 December 2014, Citizens Watch was registered as a “foreign agent” by decision of the Ministry of Justice. According to the widely criticised Federal Law №121-FZ “On Introducing Changes to Certain Pieces of Legislation of the Russian Federation as Regards Regulation of Activities of Non-Commercial Organisations Performing the Functions of Foreign Agents”, otherwise known as “Foreign Agents law”, any NGO that receives funds from abroad must register as a “foreign agent” if it engages in any kind of vaguely defined political activity, including advocacy and human rights work. Since its enlistment as a “foreign agent”, the organisation has been trying to appeal this decision. In November 2015, Citizens Watch lodged a complaint with the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.
On 14 February 2016, a district police officer who called Maria Razumovskaya several days earlier appeared at her apartment saying the complaint he had previously contacted her about, concerned another person. He was accompanied by two representatives of FSB in plain clothes, who presented their identity cards and explained to the human rights defender that they accompanied the police officer to have had a valid excuse to come. They asked Maria Razumovskaya to follow them for questioning. The human rights defender refused, as they failed to provide an official summons. The officers then started asking Maria Razumovskaya questions about Citizens Watch, in particular whether the organisation was a foreign agent, but she refused to respond. When the human rights defender called her lawyer, the FSB officers told her that soon she would be officially requested to come for questioning, and left.
On 10 February 2016, Maria Razumovskaya received a phone call from a district police officer who informed her that he had received a complaint from neighbours about noise in her apartment. The police officer asked Maria Razumovskaya to report to the police station, but she refused to do so, and suggested he come to her apartment instead to make sure it was a mistake.
I believe that the intimidation of human rights defender Maria Razumovskaya is directly linked to her peaceful and legitimate work in defence of civil and political rights in Russia. Front Line Defenders reiterates its concern for the enactment of the “Foreign Agents law” and the significant negative impact that this law has on the work of human rights defenders in Russia.
I urge the authorities in Russia to:
1. Immediately cease all further harassment of human rights defender Maria Razumovskaya, as Front Line believes that she has been targeted solely as a result of her legitimate work in defence of human rights in Russia;
2. Repeal the Federal Law №121-FZ, “On Introducing Changes to Certain Pieces of Legislation of the Russian Federation as Regards Regulation of Activities of Non-Commercial Organisations Performing the Functions of Foreign Agents”;
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Russia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
William Nicholas Gomes
Human Rights Defender & Freelance Journalist