The All-Russia public movement ‘For Human Rights’
It was already clear during the second half of the 1990s that the Russian authorities were not able or willing to ensure the protection and fulfilment of human rights in Russia. Violations of human rights and freedoms, both locally and on a federal level, became more and more systematic. This in turn spurred the increase in the number of human rights organizations, who cooperated with each other in efforts to improve the situation.
On 20 November 1997, the All-Russia public movement ‘For Human Rights’ (in Russian, Obshcherossiskoe Obshchestvennoe Dvizhenie Za Prava Cheloveka) was founded. Currently over 100 regional and local human rights organizations are members of the movement.
The movement is headed by a board of 8 members. The board members are drawn from member organizations in key regions across the country, corresponding to the federal okrug system established in 2000. Lev Ponomarev, the Executive Director, is a well-known human rights activist who was closely associated with the late Andrey Sakharov.
The movement ‘For Human Rights’ brings together both human rights organizations and other civil society organizations and groups, including those trade unions that are genuinely free and independent, as well as individuals.
The aim of the movement is to support the development of the rule of law and civil society in Russia. The movement’s strength and uniqueness is the diversity of its member organizations, covering the breadth of human rights activity in Russia.
Who turns to the movement for help
The central office of the movement works to address human rights violations, acting on information received from three main types of sources:
- appeals of individuals who approach the central office of the movement in Moscow or Moscow branches of the movement
- regional offices of the movement and other human rights organizations
- media reports
People who approach the movement for help come from all walks of life. They include pensioners, the disabled, people with no home, detainees, doctors, teachers, artists, engineers, carers and business people who have been victims of fabricated criminal charges brought by corrupt law enforcement officials planting drugs, weapons and other false evidence during the investigation.
Who violates the rights and freedoms of individuals
The movement researches allegations of illegal actions by federal and local level state officials, by the ‘power’ bodies and judicial organs, and by the procuracy. Appeals can be categorised under the following headings:
Police, the judiciary and the procuracy
Pensions and benefits
Registration and visas
Ecology and health issues
How the movement works with individuals on their cases
The movement unites a diverse group of human rights organizations, whose activities are not restricted to monitoring passively instances of violations of legislation. Actively intervening in situations on behalf of individuals makes up the bulk of the work. The experience of the movement shows that instances of illegal actions by state organs are usually complex situations, in which for example an illegal action by the police is accompanied by a lack of due concern by the procuracy, or even, as is often the case, is actively covered up by the procuracy. In addition to this, the courts – the most effective form of defence of the rights and interests of individuals in civilised countries – frequently fail to provide a fair process independent from the wishes of regional and local executive organs, and thus pass sentences that contravene Russian legislation. Different member organizations of the movement specialise in different areas of human rights, which inform their methods of work. Through this rich pool of varied experience, the following techniques have been developed to respond to individual appeals:
- Appeals from the individual, together with an accompanying letter from the movement, are sent to courts, heads of local administrations and the procuracy, to urge they take action to defend the rights of the victim
- In urgent cases: a movement representative telephones the relevant office of the procuracy and the department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs responsible for individual safety, or visits the individual in question in person
- In especially significant cases: the movement assigns a public defender or a lawyer from the Movement to provide legal representation for the individual
- In situations of particularly serious human rights violations: the movement conducts a publicity campaign, including press conferences, sending press releases to media, publishing articles on the case, and other information activities
In addition, the movement distributes human rights literature, and trains activists in techniques to respond to instances of human rights violations.
Over the past five years, the movement has provided tens of thousands of free legal consultations, made around six thousand interventions in cases to state authorities, mostly to law enforcement bodies and the judiciary, and has submitted several dozen law suits to the courts, including relating to significant issues such as calling for the annulment of discriminatory legislation by the Moscow authorities.
The organization pays great attention to public relations work. The movement ‘For Human Rights’ always takes a stand on social and political events in Russia and makes its position clear, encouraging grass-roots activism on important issues by holding conferences, press conferences, open door days, public demonstrations and pickets, participating in events for non-governmental organizations and making position statements relating to current events in the country.
The movement is one the founding organizations of the human rights initiative group ‘Common Action’ (in Russian, Obshchee Deystvie), which brings together dozens of Russian national and local level human rights groups and well-known human rights activists. The movement played a leading role in organizing the high-profile All-Russia Emergency Congress for the Defence of Human Rights, held in Moscow on 20-21 January 2001. More recently the movement organized the All-Russia Conference of Civil Society Organizations, held in Moscow on 27-28 October 2003.
Recently, the movement has supported the establishment of a new public organization campaigning for justice for victims from the events surrounding the Nord-Ost terrorist crisis.
Defending the rights of men and women in business
The movement works closely with businesses, assisting men and women to protect their rights and fight against extortion attempts by state officials and law enforcement agencies. The movement is the only human rights organization working to defend the rights of business people in this way. Our experience shows that it is the independent entrepreneurs that more often than not are singled out for such persecution. Using those levers of power available (often with the assistance of the special services and the tax inspectorate), as well as illegal method s, so-called competitors destroy and/or take over a successful business. The movement’s interventions have succeeded in getting closed a large number of groundless criminal cases that had been brought against businesses, and in getting individuals released from pre-trial detention.
Information agency ‘For Human Rights’
Information is published on a regular basis concerning the human rights situation in Russia’s regions and in Moscow. The information is put together in the light of the movement’s practical work, and that of other human rights organizations. It is distributed through email lists and published in the movement’s newspaper ‘For Human Rights: the newspaper of regional human rights organizations’.
Defending the rights of detainees
As the Russian saying goes: ‘You can’t say no to money or to prison!’. Anyone can find themselves in a place of detention, regardless of whether it is deserved… And prisoners, both before trial and following conviction are to all intents and purposes a defenceless and vulnerable – even if rather numerous – part of the population. Defending prisoners from arbitrary and illegal actions has become an important part of our work. The movement has received over 3000 letters from prisoners asking for help! The movement works to improve the situation of female prisoners, by corresponding with individual prisoners and visiting prison colonies. The main problems are to do with not losing the right to housing while serving a custodial sentence, arrangements for any dependent children and successfully applying for conditional early release. The Moscow oblast procuracy responds constructively to our organization’s appeals, agreeing to make joint applications to the head of the oblast administration regarding reinstitution of the right to housing of convicted individuals.
The court is the single place where an individual has a real chance of defending his or her rights. However, even the work of courts is not free from misuse and violations of the law. We strive to ensure the rule of law in all areas of society and the belief of people in the legal system. In order to achieve this, we are implementing a strategy including the following elements:
- Monitoring the activity of court chancelleries in civil and criminal cases
- Regular visits to court hearings in district courts
- Sending trial observers to significant hearings
- Researching and drafting of a first edition of ‘The Black Book of Russian Justice’
- Submitting civil suits against judges who have caused damage through their illegal actions
Legal clinic work and the ‘Hot Line’
Many regional branches of the movement run legal clinics in which free legal advice is given to individuals whose rights have been violated through the actions of state bodies.
In Moscow, this legal clinic work is undertaken by the ‘Hot Line’ (in Russian, Goryachaya Liniya), set up in September 1997 as the ‘Regional Public Organization for the Respect of Human Rights’ (in Russian, Regionalnaya Obshchestvennaya Organizatsiya Sodeystviya Sobliudeniyu Prav Cheloveka). In November 1997 the ‘Hot Line’ was registered as a Moscow regional branch of the All-Russia public movement ‘For Human Rights’.
Unlike state-run legal clinics, the ‘Hot Line’ not only provides free legal consultation, but also provides follow up support in cases in order to achieve a positive result. The legal clinic is staffed by experienced legal consultants as well as student volunteers. The duty lawyer receives telephone calls and gives consul tations to visitors needing urgent assistance. The lawyers also provide help in drafting legal documents.
Hot Line telephone: +7 095 291 6233
Executive Director of the movement, Lev Aleksandrovich Ponomarev
Lev Ponomarev was born on 2 September 1941 in Tomsk. He received a Ph.D. from the Moscow Physics and Technology Institute in 1965. In 1988 he was the initiator and one of the founders of ‘Memorial’, the All-Russia society for the perpetuation of the memory of victims of political repression. In 1989, Lev Ponomarev was a trusted aide to Andrey Sakharov during the elections for People’s Deputies of the USSR. In 1989-1990, he actively participated in pre-election addresses and large scale peaceful democratic demonstrations. He is a joint founder of the All-Russia political movement ‘Democratic Russia’. Between 1990-1995 he served as a State Duma Deputy. In 1997 he was a key founded of the ‘Hot Line’ and the Movement ‘For Human Rights’.
Lev Ponomarev is the initiator and one of the most active members of the ‘Common Action’ initiative group, which unites high-profile representatives of the Russian human rights community. He was one of the main organizers of the All-Russia Emergency Congress for the Defence of Human Rights, in January 2001. He is one of the founders of the Russian National Committee ‘For an end to the war and establishing peace in the Chechen Republic’.
Address of the Movement ‘For Human Rights’
Maly Kislovskii pereulok 7, building 1, office 21
Tel/Fax: +7 095 291 6233, +7 095 202 2224
Пожертвования на оплату юридической помощи Ильдару Дадину и другим пострадавшим от пыток в ИК-7 в Карелии (пометка «для Ильдара Дадина»), а также на уставную деятельность можно перевести на карту «Сбербанка»:
Номер карты: 4276 3800 9459 0358
ФИО получателя: Пономарёв Лев Александрович