Pussy Riot sentence: Norwegian singer cancelles concert in Russian embassy

Norwegian singer Per Vollestad, known from several musical projects, will not sing for the Russian embassy in Oslo. He cancels a previous engagement in protest against the sentence received by the girls in the Russian punk band Pussy Riot –  two years in prison for having sung songs where they are critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and because the concert was held in a church.

«I was supposed to sing Edvard Grieg in the embassy. Grieg was a man who was very concerned about freedom of speech and it would be completely wrong for me to perform his songs in such a setting. Then I had to either protest against the concert, and I think that would be wrong, or I had to cancel the concert, which I did», he said.

Vollestad emphasizes that one may disagree with the form Pussy Riot used by, among other things, playing such a concert in a church, but that the fact that they get two years in prison and that freedom of expression is being silenced, can not be tolerated.

«Musicians should also engage more in what goes on in the international community», he said.

Vollestad also says that it was a difficult decision to make, since he has been several times in Russia and will later go back in order to give concerts in our great neighbor country in the east.

2012: Russia: Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samusevich

President Dmitry Medvedev
President of the Russian Federation
23, Ilyinka Street
Moscow, 103132

18th May 2012

Your excellency,

The non-political association of writers, PEN International, is protesting the detention of Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samusevich, pointing out that they are being treated particularly harshly because of the contents of the song lyrics.

PEN International is referring to Russia’s obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Russia, and which protects the right to freedom of expression; and we are further referring to the fact that the women will be held for more than three months without trial, this time breaching Article 9 of the ICCPR that guarantees the right not to be held in pre-trial detention for lengthy periods of time.

Thanking you in advance.

Yours sincerely,

Fredrik Giertsen
member Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN
Wergelandsveien 29
0167 Oslo

Copy to:
Den Russiske Føderasjons ambassade
Drammensveien 74
0244 Oslo

2009: Russia: Natasha Estemirova 2

Mr Dmitry Medvedev
President of the Russian Federation
Fax: +7 495 206 5173 / 206 6277
Email: president@gov.ru

Mr Chaika Yuri Yakovlevich
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Ishaya Dmitrovka 1 a GSP e
Moscow 12599 3
Fax+7 495 292 88 48

Your Excellency,

As a member of Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian PEN, I am deeply shocked and outraged by the murder of Natasha Estemirova 16 July 2009 clearly in retaliation for her investigations into human rights abuses in Chechnya.

In 2007 the first annual Anna Politkovskaya Award was given to Natasha Estemirova for her courage in seeking and telling the truth about the torture, disappearances and murders of civilians in the war in Chechnya.

I welcome President Medvedev´s promise that there will be an immediate investigation into her murder, and that this will be carried out fully and impartially, and that those responsible be brought to justice. And I call on the Russian Government to bring to justice the killers of Anna Politkovskaya, for whose murder, three years on, justice has not been done.

Confident that you, Your Excellency, will take action accordingly, I remain,

Yours sincerely,

Trine Kleven
Leader of Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian PEN

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo

Russian Embassy
Drammensveien 74, 0244 Oslo
Tel., Fax: tel.: (+47) 22 55 32 78; 22 44 06 08
fax: (+47) 22 55 00 70

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2009: Russia: Natalia Estemirova

July 17th 2009

Mr Dmitry Medvedev

Dear Sir,

We – members of International PEN , the non-political association of writers and publishers – are deeply shocked and dismayed by the news of the murder of Natalia Estemirova.
We trust that you will exercise the utmost of your influence to have the murder investigated and the criminals brought to court.

We appreciate your promise that there will be an immediate investigation and it is our sincere hope that similar politically based assassinations will be brought to an end, so that people like Natalia Estemirova and Anna Politkovskaya may freely survey conditions that may seem to curb citizens’ right to free expression, as laid down in international laws and charters.

It is a sad fact that as may as 17 journalists have been murdered in their attempt to uncover the high levels of criminality and abuses in Russia. Specifically in Chechnya and Ingushetia. None of these cases have been properly resolved and the murderers act with impunity, which is totally unacceptable. We trust that Russian authorities from now on will investigate all of these cases and make sure that criminals are prosecuted.

Yours sincerely

Aase Gjerdrum
Norwegian PEN Centre

By e-mail: infor@memo.ru
Copy to the Russian Embassy in Oslo

2007: Russia: Vladimir Chugunov

Oslo, 10. April 2007

Mr Vladimir Vladmirovich Putin
President of the Russian Federation
Fax: +7 095 206 5173 / 230 2408
Email: president@gov.ru

Mr Vladimir Ustinov
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Rossiyskaya Federatsiya  103793
Moskva K-31, Ul. B. Dimitrovka, d 15a
Prokuratura Rossiyskoy Federatsii
Generalnomu prokuroru Ustinovu V
Russian Federation
Fax: +7 095 292 88 48

Your Excellency,

I, as Chair of Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian PEN, a non-political association of writers, have been informed of the fact that journalist Vladimir Chugunov, is being held in isolation in psychiatric detention.

I am gravely concerned about the fate of Vladimr Chugunov, founder and editor of the independent weekly Chugunka, who has been imprisoned since January 21, according to his family and the independent Moscow daily Novaya Gazeta.

Reports tell of brutal treatment, incarceration in psychiatric hospital, threats of psychiatric “treatment”, isolation, and last but not least – there is international concern that Vladimir Chugunov is being held in violation of his right to freedom of expression, following the publication of articles expressing criticism of current political affairs.

I, as Chair of Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian PEN, call for the immediate release from detention of Vladimir Chugunov, and an immediate end to threats and brutal treatment, including unjustified treatment for alleged “psychiatric” illness.

Confident that you, Your Excellency, will take action accordingly, I remain,

Yours sincerely,

Elisabet W. Middelthon/sign.
Chair Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian PEN

Carl Morten Iversen
Secretary general

Copies to:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo
Norwegian Embassy, Moscow
Russian Embassy, Oslov

Norwegian NGOs ask Russian parliament to appoint a commission after the murder on Anna Politkovskaya

Norwegian organizations for journalists, publishers,  freedom of expression and human rights are shocked by the news of the murder of renowned writer and journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow last Saturday.  The organizations strongly condemn the murder.

The murder reflects the state of lawlessness that is threatening the Russian press.  Russian prosecuting authorities must carry out a real investigation in order to establish who is behind this murder.  Norwegian NGOs also ask the Russian duma (parliament) to appoint a commission, as they did after the Beslan-tradegy two years ago, in order to look into the persecution of human rights activists in Russia.

The organizations behind this statement  trust that Norwegian authorities will closely monitor the Russian authorities´ further investigation, as minister of foreign affairs Jonas Gahr Støre has clearly expressed.

Anna Politkovskaya worked for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta and established her reputation through controversial reports about human rights abuses carried out by Russian troops in Chechnya.  She showed remarkable courage in being able to produce challenging journalism from a lawless region where she had to face threats from Chechen bandits and Russian or Chechen government death squads.

Through books and articles, Politkovskaya gave her readers insight and knowledge about a war we otherwise would know little about.  In spite of threaths and persecution, she continued her information campaign.  For this work she was awarded a number of international prizes, among them the Freedom of Expression Prize from the Norwegian Writers´ Union (2003).  Several of her books are available in Norwegian.

The organizations signing this statement hereby express their grief and compassion to Anna Politkovskayas children, family, friends and colleagues.

Oslo, 10. October 2006

Norwegian PEN
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Norwegian Union of Journalists
Human Rights House Foundation
Norwegian Writers´ Union
Norwegian Publishers´ Association
Norwegian Non-Fiction Writers´ and Translators´ Association
International Press Institute, Norway
Norwegian Editors´ Association
Amnesty International Norway

A Russian version of this statement is available upon request.