Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Hammarberg: Russia Facing Human Rights Test

A "test for the effectiveness in practice of the right to peaceful assembly" is looming in Russia according to the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg.

In an article enitled 'Freedom to demonstrate is a human right – even when the message is critical,' he points to the importance of a rally planned for Sunday 31 October.

"For more than a year “Strategy 31” rallies have been held in Moscow, St Petersburg and some other Russian cities on months with that date," Hammarberg declares today.

"The plight of these rallies so far has illustrated the limitations to the right to assembly in practice. This problem is not unique to Russia.

"In Moscow the “Strategy 31” meetings have regularly ended with crackdowns by riot police, and a number of persons have been detained and participants beaten. On 31 August 2010 media reported that 400 persons demonstrated and 70 of them were apprehended by the police, among them opposition politicians, journalists and activists.

During one of the “Strategy 31” rallies (31 December 2009), Lyudmila Alexeyeva - the 83 year old dissident of the Soviet era, veteran of human rights activism and current chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group - was detained.

"The right to peaceful freedom of assembly is a fundamental right in a democratic society. This right belongs to all people, not just to the majority or to those advocating views pleasing to those in power."

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