Human Rights First Condemns Attempts to Silence Russian Human Rights Organization
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"Russian officials appear to be singling out the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society for harassment because the organization criticizes government policies in Chechnya," said Archana Pyati, Senior Associate at Human Rights First. "Legitimate organizations like the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society are entitled to monitor human rights violations and publish their findings and opinions without retribution."
Stanislav Dmitrievsky, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Pravozaschita ("Human Rights Defense") and managing director of the RCFS, has been threatened with prosecution for the second time this year. After the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) dropped its investigation into allegedly extremist articles published in Pravozaschita, the Nizhny Novgorod prosecutor interrogated Mr. Dmitrievsky again on August 11. Mr. Dmitrievsky is currently suspected of inciting hatred or hostility between national groups.
An even greater threat looms over the organization's future. Authorities are demanding over one million rubles (about $35,000) for unpaid tax and fines on grants from the National Endowment for Democracy and the European Union. According to RCFS, the tax claim is an unlawful attempt to exploit contradictions between the Russian Tax Code and the Law on Charity Donations. The group is currently preparing a response to the tax authorities' demands.
The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS) is a registered non-governmental organization that monitors human rights in Chechnya. The Federal Security Service interrogated Mr. Dmitrievsky, raided the RCFS office, and commenced a criminal investigation into the organization's activities in January 2005, though no charges were filed. The tax authorities audited RCFS in February as the Ministry of Justice began a simultaneous investigation. The organization was threatened with closure because necessary documents for the Ministry of Justice inquiry were with the tax authorities. In March, Oksana Chelysheva, deputy director of RCFS and the co-editor of Pravozaschita, was the target of a defamatory and threatening leafleting campaign.