Five Amnesty International activists were detained by police yesterday before U2’s first ever Russian show in Moscow.
The detained activists had been holding placards inside the concert venue and collecting signatures for the ‘Demand Dignity’ campaign, which aims to end the human rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty. They were trying to raise awareness about human rights and collecting signatures to a petition. The Amnesty International official concert stall was also shut down.
And while Amnesty International’s activists were invited by U2 to join their European leg of their 360° tour, police officers ignored the activists’ protestations that they were there invited and forced them to close their stalls.
Although no-one resisted the police’s demands to close down the Amnesty International stall, Amnesty’s Moscow office staff member and four volunteers were taken to a local police station. They were ordered to provide a written explanation for their actions, issued with an official warning for organizing a public action for which no prior official permission had been obtained, and released over an hour later.
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident; rather, it reflects the continuing difficult climate in Russia today for people seeking to express views that the authorities regard as difficult, dissenting or sensitive. Amnesty International is concerned that the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are restricted in Russia for members of the political opposition and human rights activists; we are also concerned that Russian authorities such disallow such activities unless they take place with their explicit sanction, and crack down hard on those whom they regard as violators.