The number of violent hate crimes against individuals in Russia continues to grow steadily, with 2008 on track to be another record-setting year. According to the leading nongovernmental monitor, in 2007 there were at least 667 victims of racially motivated violence, including 86 murders. The beginning of 2008 has shown an increase in the most violent hate crimes. Already in the first eight months of 2008, 65 people were killed as a result of racial and other bias-motivated assaults.
NGO monitors remain the most reliable source of information for tracking individual cases and detecting year-on-year trends. In the Russian Interior Ministry’s annual figures on crimes, there is no separate reporting on crimes carried out with a bias motivation. There is no official data that tracks the response of police to crimes with a suspected bias motivation or the disposition of hate crime cases prosecuted in the courts. Nor is there much data on this from NGO monitors. Furthermore, widespread underreporting by hate crime victims calls into question the extent to which official monitoring could capture the true extent of the problem.
Bias-motivated violence is directed against all non-Slavic members of Russian society—citizens and non-citizens alike—as well as defenders of hate crime victims. In recent years there has been a sharp increase in violence against migrants from the countries of the former Soviet Union. Migrant workers from Central Asian countries are extremely vulnerable to attacks; since many of them arrive in Russia without proper documents, they risk deportation if they report crimes commited against them to the police. Immigrants and visitors from Africa and Asia have likewise been common targets of neo-Nazi violence. Jews, Muslims, Roma, as well as human rights and gay rights activists have also been victims of brutal bias-motivated assaults.
Though political leaders have begun to recognize the problem posed by neo-Nazi violence, their calls for action have only slowly trickled down through law enforcement structures. Although there had been a steady increase between 2004—2006 in the extent to which hate crimes had been recognized and prosecuted as such, 2007 marked a step back in that respect. In general, the number of prosecutions pale in comparison to the increasing frequency with which the crimes are being committed. Anti-extremist legislation, of which penalty enhancement provisions in cases of hate cimes are a subset, has also been misused to target human rights activists and others who are critical of the government.
In 2007, several defendants suspected of racially-motivated violence stood trial. While there have been convictions in some of these cases, observers reported that the racist and other bias motives of violent hate crimes are often not pursued by prosecutors or are disregarded by the courts, especially in less serious attacks. More frequently, charges under provisions on hooliganism or other common offenses are brought, even in cases where there appears to be evidence of a racist motive.
The year 2007 also saw several parallel legislative initiatives that resulted in the adoption of new and amended provisions to deal with violent hate crimes. In May and August 2007, a number of articles of the criminal code were amended to allow for enhanced penalties when the crime was motivated by “ideological” or “political” biases as well as because of a victim’s social group. Russian law had previously addressed bias motivations based only on “national, racial and religious hatred.” Observers fear that the amendments may be used to squelch legitimate political dissent.
HRF Calls on President and Congress to Promote Human Rights in Russia
Drop Charges against Russian Art Curators
In Moscow, Yury Samodurov, a human rights activist, and Andrey Erofeev, a museum curator, are facing criminal prosecution for organizing an exhibition entitled “Forbidden Art 2006″ at the Andrei Sakharov Museum. The two men could be sentenced to up to five years imprisonment. The Tagansky District Court in Moscow is scheduled to resume hearing the case behind closed doors on June 5, 2009.
Russian Human Rights Defenders at Risk
In the Russian Federation a disturbing pattern of threats and assaults against human rights activists, including those monitoring hate crime, has emerged over the past few years. No perpetrators have been brought to justice as threats against nonviolent government critics of all kinds have escalated.
Court Decision a Further Blow to Russia’s Embattled Human Rights Community
On February 24, 2009, the Saint Petersburg City Court issued a ruling against a Russian human rights organization Memorial. The decision allows the authorities to remain in possession of all materials confiscated from Memorial’s St. Petersburg offices during a police raid in December 2008. Human Rights First is deeply concerned by the ruling and calls on the authorities to return the confiscated materials.
Hate Crimes a Prominent Issue during the Review of Russia
A high number of country delegations raised the need to strengthen initiatives to combat extremism and hate crimes in Russia during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Russian Federation at the United Nations Office at Geneva. The rise of violent hate crimes in Russia has been at the focus of the Fighting Discrimination Program, which urged UN Member States to address this important issue at the Human Rights Council.
HRF’s Stakeholder Submission on Russia to the UN Human Rights Council
HRF’s Report on Hate Crimes in Russia
Highlights: Review of the Russian Federation (UN)
HRF Urges Secretary of State Clinton to Take Up the Promotion of Human Rights in Russia
In a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State and other high-ranking Department of State officials, Human Rights First argued that the latest brazen shootings of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova have underlined the urgency of promoting human rights in the Russian Federation. HRF identified two areas that are crucial to enabling Russians to secure human rights and promote rule of law and provided key recommendations aimed at protecting human rights defenders and combating racism, xenophobia, and violent hate crimes.
Read the Letter to Secretary Clinton
Blueprint on Promotion of Human Rights in Russia
Press Release on the Double Murder in Downtown Moscow
Letter to the Washington Times
Murder of Prominent Russian Human Rights Defender Must be Investigated
A brutal double murder in downtown Moscow claimed the lives of Stanislav Markelov, a prominent lawyer and human rights defender, and Anastasia Baburova, a freelance opposition journalist. Both Stanislav and Anastasia have worked on issues relating to hate crimes and the growing neo-Nazi movement in the Russian Federation. The Fighting Discrimination Team mourns the untimely deaths and condemns the murders of our colleagues. Take action below to join us in calling for an immediate investigation.
Read Press Release
Hate Crimes in Russia
Promotion of Human Rights in Russia
Blueprint for Obama Administration Provides Recommendations for Promotion of Human Rights in Russia
Consistent promotion of human rights must be an integral part of the United States bilateral relationship with Russia, asserts Human Rights First in a new Blueprint on promoting human rights in Russia, issued today. The Blueprint calls on the new administration to demonstrate support for independent human rights organizations and sets out practical steps the new administration should take to enhance cooperation with the Russian authorities in combating the surge in violent hate crimes.
Read the press release
HRF Co-Hosts a Panel Discussion “Intolerance and Discrimination in Today’s Russia.”
Tad Stahnke took part in the discussion event, co-hosted by CSIS and moderated by Sarah Mendelson in Washington, DC. Mr. Stahnke presented the findings of our 2008 Hate Crime Survey, focusing on recommendations to U.S. government officials and foreign policy-makers.
The event’s main presenter was Alexander Verkhovsky of the Moscow-based SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, who provided the latest updates on the situation in Russia, outlining new trends and discussing the problem of the misuse of legislation countering extremism. Cathy Cosman, senior policy analyst at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, addressed official Russian policies toward freedom of religion or belief within that country’s human rights climate.
Event Info, Audio Podcast, and Transcripts
HRF Makes a Written Stakeholder Submission on Hate Crimes in Russia
Fighting Discrimination Team has submitted a report on “Violent Hate Crime in the Russian Federation” to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The submission was made in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. UPR is a new mechanism of the United Nations which consists of the review of the human rights practices all States in the world, once every four years. The Russian Federation’s appearance before the fourth Universal Periodic Review session is scheduled to take place in February 2009. Fighting Discrimination Program hopes to influence the outcome documents that will result from the Russian Federation’s upcoming review.
The report provides an overview of the rise of hate crimes in Russia, analyzes the State’s failure to adequately address the problem, and provides concrete recommendations to the relevant government bodies and agencies in Russia, including President Medvedev, Prime Minister Putin, the Interior Ministry, and criminal justice and law enforcement officials. Human Rights First’s forthcoming Hate Crime Survey, to be released on September 24, 2008, will include a substantial report on the situation in Russia and a full list of recommendations to the Russian authorities.
Russia Profile Article Cites Paul LeGendre on Hate Crimes in Russian Federation
HRF Discusses Hate Crimes in Russia
Click here to listen to Leonard Lopate’s show with Paul LeGendre on “Hate Crimes and Racism in Russia”
Russian Authorities Must Act Decisively to Stop Hate Violence
Hate Crimes in St. Petersburg
With racist violence a growing problem throughout Russia, St. Petersburg stands out as the place where neo-Nazi groups are thought to be best organized, where assaults against foreigners have been boldly committed in broad daylight on downtown city streets, and where, at least until recently, prosecutions have been particularly rare and sentences lenient.
Read HRF’s paper on “Minorities Under Siege: The Case of St. Petersburg
Russian (PDF -391KB)07/17/06
Russian Minorities Under Siege
Racist violence is on the rise in Russia, and the government response has been ineffectual at best. In the past year alone, nongovernmental organizations have documented hundreds of cases of violent assaults — including murder — against immigrants and minorities. Despite this alarming trend, Russia’s political leaders have downplayed the problem, and criminal justice authorities generally treat these assaults as “hooliganism,” rather than as hate crimes.
Read “Beyond Anna Politkovskaya: Tackling Russia’s Inner Hatred” from The Globalist (external link)
Read HRF’s letter to President Putin (PDF -85KB)
Read HRF’s letter to President Bush (PDF -84KB)06/30/06