Director of the programme - Valentin Mikhailovich Gefter
This programme is not only concerned with prisoners of conscience, who should be granted unconditional freedom, but with the wider circle of people, including political or other opponents of the government, who may be guilty of breaking the law (in particular, by taking part in armed insurrections, by appeals for the violent overthrow of the constitutional regime etc). With reference to this last group, the right to a full legal defence must be asserted, as well as compliance with all procedural norms, and the provision of a just and open trial.
The programme includes giving help to people who have been arrested for political reasons in Georgia, Moldavia (in the Pridnestrovya region), Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. There has been some success in achieving the release or improvement in the conditions of political prisoners in these countries.
The tasks of the programme:
A. The monitoring of information concerning the violation of civil or political rights in the CIS. This includes the following activities:
a) The analysis of Russian, local and specialised human rights publications
b) The gathering of information from difficult to access sources in the CIS: the processing and use of materials, sent by human rights organisations of the CIS countries, as well as by institutions such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International League of Human Rights.
c) The compilation of a database containing information about politically motivated persecution in the ex-Soviet states of Central Asia, on the basis of information collected by group of coordinators examining human rights issues organised by us.
B. Offering help to people subjected to persecution for political reasons in the countries of the CIS, as well as those who have emigrated to Russia.
Legal aid with the aim of preventing the extradition by Russia of 'political' refugees from the countries of the CIS and the far abroad: a draft law has been elaborated which guarantees, in line with international norms, an objective, and in particular a legal procedure for the consideration of extradition issues.
The work of the programme also includes:
- if necessary, making expeditions to meet with the victims of persecution, their lawyers and relatives, and with the representatives of central and local authorities, to be present at trials etc;
- the analysis of materials collected by lawyers;
- attracting attention to concrete events through preparing articles, radio programmes, press conferences and the distribution of materials to international human rights organisations.
- direct contact with the Russian and CIS authorities, and with international and intergovernmental organisations.
Over the past years particular attention has been paid to the following situations:
BELORUSSIA. Repeated visits with the aim of collecting first-hand information, meeting victims and representatives of social and official structures. On return, the convening of press conferences and round table talks, interviews for the media, and the compilation of a Memorial report on human rights infringements in Belorussia.
CENTRAL ASIAN COUNTRIES. A visit to Kazakhstan with the aim of analysing the current human rights situation, particular of the Russian speaking population. Some success was had in alleviating the situation and attracting attention to the fate of individual victims. The monitoring of the situation, working jointly with the human rights organisations of those countries, attracting the attention of the media ('Izvestiya', 'Nezavisimaya Gazeta') to individual violations of human rights; the publication in the 'Central Asia' magazine of provisional lists of the political victims of the region. Special attention was paid to the situation in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and the problem of political emigres from those countries - making public facts pertaining to political repression by holding press conferences, demonstrations outside the respective embassies in Moscow, and the preparation of materials for Russian media.
Azerbaijan: meetings with political emigres, with the defendants and relatives of victims with a view to planning the defence of the accused and extending help to them; the preparation of declarations and inquiries in the name of the State Duma of the RF addressed to the officials of these countries. Particular attention was paid to the cases of Ragim Kaziev, extradited by Russia and sentenced to death, and of Suret Guseinov, also extradited; efforts were also made to defend Azerbaijan political emigres from illegal persecution by the security forces of their country on the territory of Russia.
Armenia: the conduct of protest actions against the events in Yerevan of 25/09/06, and the political trials of V. Oganesyan and others. The reaction of Russian public opinion and parliamentarians made possible a reduction of and then a stop to politically motivated persecution in this country.
Georgia: A substantial report on the situation of victims of political persecution in Georgia was compiled as a result of a visit headed by Sergei Kovalev, and meetings with practically all of the political prisoners in this country, as well as with the heads of all the law enforcement agencies. The basic aim of this report was to call on the Georgian government to grant an immediate and comprehensive political amnesty to those who had participated in internal armed conflict during the 90s, and who were called to criminal account in relation to these events.