Russia: Open Russia movement forced to dissolve while its members face severe reprisals

Reacting to the news that Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia) has taken the decision to completely cease its activities and dissolve, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said:

“The end of Open Russia means less pluralism across Russia’s civic space, and the loss of another valuable member of the human rights community. Open Russia has shown its dedication and effectiveness against crushing state pressure to silence dissent. It is tragic that the group was forced to close to protect its members, due to an unjust law designed to crush critical voices.

Open Russia has shown its dedication and effectiveness against crushing state pressure to silence dissent. It is tragic that the group was forced to close to protect its members, due to an unjust law designed to crush critical voices
Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director

“Open Russia may be gone, but those associated or alleged to be associated with it are still facing heavy reprisals. Mikhail Iosilevich, an activist prosecuted and deprived of his liberty solely on suspicion of collaborating with the movement, remains in pre-trial detention while his health deteriorates. We insist on his immediate release and an end to all politically motivated prosecutions under the “undesirable organizations” law.”

Background

According to Open Russia executive director Andrei Pivovarov, the decision to dissolve the movement was made to protect supporters from criminal prosecution given further tightening of the “undesirable organizations” legislation, which is being considered by the State Duma.

On 26 May, Yuri Sidorov, the former coordinator of Open Russia in the Republic of Chuvashia (Central Russia) was put on a wanted list on charges of “participating in the activities of an “undesirable organization”. The Russian authorities banned the UK-based organization Open Russia in April 2017, which led to widespread reprisals against the Russian group of the same name.

Also on 26 May, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office added three German NGOs, Forum Russischsprachiger Europaer (Forum of Russian-Speaking Europeans), Zentrum für die Liberale Moderne (Center for Liberal Modernity) and Deutsch-Russischer Austausch (German-Russian Exchange) to the list of banned “undesirable organizations”, bringing their total to 34.

The suspension and involuntary dissolution of an association are among the severest restrictions on the right to freedom of association, protected under article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The impact of insurmountable restrictions and the threat of criminal prosecution may amount to de facto dissolution of an association, in contravention of international human rights law and standards.