NOTE: This blog post has been updated in several places for clarity.
The Olympics are right around the corner. But while Shaun White practices his Double McTwist 1260 and Ashley Wagner works on nailing a pearl spin, President Vladimir Putin is perfecting the art of repression.
Since he was inaugurated as President of the Russian Federation, Putin has orchestrated a number of changes in Russian law effectively criminalizing any criticism of him and Russian security forces. The new Draconian laws are having a terrible impact.
With Sochi fast approaching, here are 6 of Putin’s most oppressive laws. But unlike White and Wagner’s routines, we’re not looking forward to seeing these at the Olympics:
By Natalie Butz, Communications Specialist at Amnesty International USA
It’s rare Amnesty activists get a moment to stop and take a breath. But with the start of a new year comes the opportunity to take stock of the progress we’ve made and the successes we helped accomplish in 2013. There’s still much to be done, but we hope the list below will help inspire all of us in the year to come:
Yorm Bopha was 29 when she was arrested on September 4, 2012 on spurious charges. She is a prominent activist from the Boeung Kak Lake community who is facing up to five years’ imprisonment if found guilty at her trial. She is a prisoner of conscience (Photo Credit: Jenny Holligan).
1. In 52 years, Amnesty International activists have helped free tens of thousands of Prisoners of Conscience around the world. In 2013, we continued that trend. Human rights activists freed this year included Yorm Bopha in Cambodia, Kartam Joga in India, Filipino poet Ericson Acosta, Yemeni journalist Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ and Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh.
From the early days following the arrests of three Pussy Riot members (Nadya, Masha and a third member, Ekaterina “Katya” Samutsevich) for performing a protest song at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, Amnesty International has been involved in the effort to unconditionally free the punk rockers!
Mikhail Khodorkovsky was charged with embezzlement and tax evasion. He spent 10 years in prison until his unexpected pardon by Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo Credit by Sean Gallup/Getty Images).
By Ludmila Gordon, Amnesty USA Russia Country Specialist, Eurasia Cogroup Co-Chair
Amnesty International is happy to share the great news of the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s most prominent political prisoner who spent over 10 years behind bars.
On December 19, 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly announced at the annual news conference that he decided to pardon Mikhail Khodorkovsky after he received a petition from Khodorkovsky asking to be pardoned due to family reasons. Shortly after, Khodorkovsky was released from a prison colony in the Karelia region of northwestern Russia and immediately flown to Germany.
A man lights a candle during a vigil in memory of over 30 journalists killed in Honduras in the last three years (Photo Credit: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images).
“This killing is not just a crime against a an individual but also against the society as a whole. Every country should enjoy a free press in which journalists and media owners are allowed to exercise independence in collecting and reporting news without fearing for violent reprisals.”
- Irina Bokova, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
Mikhail Kosenko was there last year when tens of thousands gathered in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square in protest of Vladimir Putin’s re-election. Video evidence indicates that he was protesting peacefully, yet he was arrested days later by the Russian authorities and charged with taking part in a riot and using violence against police officers.
Although many are being prosecuted for their involvement that day, Kosenko has been sent by the courts to a psychiatric hospital, where treatment is being forced upon him. The prosecution asserts that he is a threat to himself and others, yet there is no evidence of this.
Angolan riot policemen stand in front of hundreds of demonstrators protesting against the killings of two young opposition activists in Luanda (Photo Credit: Estelle Maussion/AFP/Getty Images).
The rights to freedom of assembly and expression are guaranteed in the Angolan Constitution. Nevertheless, the Angolan government has become increasingly oppressive against peaceful protesters, journalists, and opposition politicians.
Supporters of Honduran presidential candidate for the LIBRE party, Xiomara Castro hold flags and a sign reading “We demand justice. Nobody stops the people” (Photo Credit: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images).
By Stacy Suh, Member Women’s Rights Coordination Group
As I write, the outcome of the November 24 presidential elections in Honduras is still being contested. There were eight candidates to the presidency, out of which two have been expressing concerns on the official results provided by the Electoral Tribunal and respective complains have been filed. Regardless of the eventual outcome of these legal challenges, Amnesty International is still calling upon the next president to commit to protecting human rights, as outlined in an open letter to all candidates.