Russian President Vladimir Putin tours Olympic venues in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7, 2013. SERGEI KARPUKHIN/AFP/Getty Images
With only a year left before the start of the XXII Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia has little time to reverse its increasing crackdown on freedom of expression.
In the last fifteen months, there has been a continuing assault on basic rights, including increasing restrictions on freedom of expression, a rise in forced evictions, human rights violations during security operations in the North Caucasus and the passage of several bills which negatively impact NGOs within Russia.
While hosting the Olympics is an incredible honor and an opportunity for the world to come together peacefully in the mutual enjoyment of universal sport, it’s also the perfect opportunity for the Russian government to do some serious soul-searching and correct its human rights record.
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Amnesty activists protest in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC on July 27, 2012. Photo by Michael Fairchild.
Yesterday, the trial of three members of the Russian feminist rock group “Pussy Riot” began in Moscow. Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were arrested in March, accused of “hooliganism on the grounds of religious hate” for performing a protest song entitled ‘Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin’ in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.
The young women face charges that could result in up to seven years imprisonment.
Yet in the words of John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia Program Director, “this trial should never have taken place” and it is “clearly politically motivated.” The women “dared to attack the two pillars of modern Russian establishment – the Kremlin and the Orthodox Church. While many may have found their act offensive, the sentence of up to seven years in prison they may expect on the charges of hooliganism is wildly out of all proportion.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST