Protest mot russiske myndigheters hindring av ytringsfrihet og fredelige demonstrasjoner

Prosecutor´s office of Nizhny Novgorod
Fax: + 7 831 2 61 85 03

Nizhegorodskiy district police office
Fax: +7 831 2 34 02 02

Governor of the region, Vasily Shantsev
+ 7 831 2 39 08 19
Mayor Bulavinov Vadim
+ 7 831 2 39 08 19
Alexander Konovalov, Special representative to the President
+ 7 831 2 31 47 14

Oslo, 23rd of March 2007

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Human Rights House Foundation, and Norwegian PEN are very concerned about the situation in Nizhny Novgorod prior to the planned “March of Dissent” on Saturday 24 March, 2007. The planned March to the City Hall has not been permitted by the authorities. The organizers, a group consisting of oppositional parties and NGOs appealed to court, but on 22 March the court upheld the ban.

According to the International Helsinki Federation, a special section of the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Ministry of Interior’s Department for Combating Organised Crime (UBOP), seized 60.000 copies of the second issue of a special edition of a newspaper registered by the United Civic Front and focused on the March of the Dissent, under pretext of checking the contents for signs of extremism. The confiscated issue included articles about the situation in Nizhny Novgorod with regard to the on-going destruction of the historical center of the city including the construction of a high-way, the unpopular housing and utilities reform and the lack of fail election guarantees. In conclusion, the newspaper appeals to “the free people” to join the March of Dissent at the central square of Nizhny Novgorod. The director of the printing house who printed the newspaper, a journalist and a member of the steering committee of the a member of the steering committee of the United Civic Front, were taken to the prosecutor’s office where they were questioned. The local editor and one journalist of the newspaper “Kommersant” were asked to the prosecutor´s office to provide “explanations” regarding an article about the planned March of Dissent.

On 21 March four policemen came to the office of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance, a recently founded local human rights NGO, demanding to search their office. Later the same day, Stanislav Dmitrievsky, former executive director of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, was ordered by two UBOP officers to come to the prosecutor’s office to be questioned about his involvement with the newspaper and the planned march. On 22 March at around 7 pm, Yury Staroverov, member of the steering committee of the United Civic Front, was detained in the office of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance. Today, on 23 March Ilya Shamazov, member of the national Bolshevik party Ilya Shamazov and Vyacheslav Lukin from the Yabloko Party have been detained and taken to the Nizhny Novgorod district police office.

We hereby protest these detentions, the confiscation of material, and the interrogation of the journalists in relation to the upcoming event. We fear that the police may also arrest staff members of Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance. We ask the authorities to respect the freedom of organization, assembly, and expression, guaranteed in the russian Constitution, by allowing the peaceful march, scheduled for Saturday, to go ahead as planned without police and Special Internal Troops interference.

Sincerely

Ane Bonde
Project Manager
Human Rights House Foundation

Bjørn Engesland
Secretary General
Norwegian Helsinki Committee

Carl Morten Iversen
Secretary General
Norwegian PEN