By Jasmine Heiss, Individuals and Communities at Risk Campaigner at Amnesty International USA
On the evening of February 20, 2013 I stood with a small, but colorful group of activists outside the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington, DC. Thousands of miles away in remote regions of the Russian Federation it was already February 21st and Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova and Maria “Masha” Alyokhina were hours from waking to serve another day of their two-year sentences.
But the 21st was not simply another day – it was the one-year anniversary of Nadya and Masha’s performance with feminist punk group Pussy Riot in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
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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An opposition activist holds a one man protest in front of the Russian Central Election Commission headquarters in Moscow, on March 1, 2012. The sign reads: "stop the dictatorship!" (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)
The Russian Federation has had an unenviable place in the news of late. With the outrage over the government’s disastrous and unconscionable opposition to meaningful UN Security Council action on Syria, to Amnesty’s recent findings that Russian weapons continue to supply the machine of misery unleashed on the people of Darfur and Sudan, it would be easy to be blinded to the risks to rights protection in Sunday’s Presidential election.
Last Saturday, thousands rallied in St. Petersburg in opposition to Vladimir Putin’s decision to run for a third presidential term, chanting “Russia without Putin.” On Sunday, over 30,000 people organized together to create a human chain spanning 15.6 kilometers in length throughout Moscow in solidarity over growing discontent over the election.
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Unmanned drones are only one tool states are using to commit assassinations and murder. © AFP/Getty Images
On a warm autumnal morning last month, three men lounging outside a mosque in Istanbul were chopped down with military precision by a burst of automatic fire.
The gunman took the time to make sure none of his targets had survived, firing a bullet at point blank range into the head of each victim as they lay sprawled on the ground.
The three dead men – Rustam Altemirov, Zaurbek Amriyev and Berg-Khakh Musayev – were all Chechens. A Russian arrest warrant had been issued for Amriyev in connection with the January 2011 bombing of Moscow airport, which claimed 35 lives. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST