For Immediate Release: August 16, 2007
Human Rights First today expressed serious concern about ongoing racist violence in the Russian Federation following the video-taped murders of two men said to be of Dagestani and Tajik origin.
Widely-circulated video footage of the execution-style killings showed the beheading of one and the shooting of the other, with a Nazi flag in the background. The video was posted on the Internet in the name of a previously unknown neo-Nazi group with a demand for the expulsion from the Russian Federation of all Asians and people from the Caucasus.
Human Rights First calls upon President Putin to publicly condemn the racist killings shown and to ensure a rapid and thorough investigation and prosecution of those responsible.
“Racist violence has long been a serious problem in the Russian Federation,” said Maureen Byrnes, the Executive Director of Human Rights First. “Yet if the horrific acts in these videos are authentic, they mark a disturbing new escalation.”
Racist violence and other forms of intolerance have surged in recent years, with any given week marred by serious assaults or racist murders targeting both Russian nationals and immigrants, including in particular people from the Caucasus and Central Asia, Roma, Jews, gays and lesbians and foreign students from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Victims have also increasingly included human rights defenders and antiracism campaigners.
The perpetrators of violent hate crimes have increasingly sought to publicize their crimes through the use of cell phone videos and the Internet, glorifying their own acts and encouraging imitation. The two video-taped murders are only the latest and most severe examples of this trend.
While there are no official hate crime statistics, a leading NGO monitor in the Russian Federation documented at least 31 racist murders in 2005 and hate-based attacks on 413 individuals. Those numbers rose significantly in 2006 to 541 cases of violent hate crimes, including 54 murders, sustaining a steady trend of rising violence over the past several years. Already in the first seven months of 2007, there have been 310 violent racist attacks, including 37 murders, a 22 percent increase over the same time period last year.
The response of the Russian authorities to this increasingly serious problem has been weak and ineffectual. Criminal justice officials have prosecuted the perpetrators of hate crimes in only a small minority of cases, often on charges of “hooliganism” rather than under hate crime provisions available under Russian criminal law.
“President Putin should publicly acknowledge that this is not an isolated incident, but rather the latest and most extreme example of a long-standing pattern of increasing racist violence. A comprehensive response is sorely needed,” added Byrnes.
Human Rights First is advocating for increased monitoring and prosecution of hate crimes in the Russian Federation and elsewhere. For more information on the problem of hate crimes in the Russian Federation, see the Human Rights First reports below: