Russia: Investigate attacks and protect environmental activists
Amsterdam, Netherlands/ Krasnodar, Russia, 16 January 2018: Russia must immediately investigate recent attacks on its environment activists and take all necessary steps to protect them, Friends of the Earth International said today.
Karin Nansen, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, said:
“Russian authorities must launch an immediate, thorough and transparent investigation into the attacks on environmental activists and bring those responsible to justice under international standards. They must also guarantee that all environmental and human rights defenders in Russia are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions.”
Fears over the safety of environmental activists in Russia have been heightened by a brutal attack on Andrey Rudomakha (pictured), head of Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus (EWNC), and other activists in Krasnodar, southwest Russia, after filming the illegal construction of a mansion on the Black Sea coast on 28 December 2017.
The assailants fled with backpacks and cameras with footage of the construction. Rudomakha was hospitalised with skull fractures, a broken nose, and concussion after he was beaten by three masked men that evening. A journalist and two other activists were also hurt in the attack.
Since then, no-one responsible for the attack was found, but Rudomakha and his deputy Dmitry Shevchenko have received anonymous threats from the address “firstname.lastname@example.org” (which translates as “Death to Rudomakha), saying they should both leave the country.
Local authorities opened an investigation into the attack under Article 161 of the Russian Criminal Code (“Robbery by a group by prior conspiracy with the use of violence, not dangerous to life or health, or with the threat of such violence”), but activists say this is not enough.
Andrey Rudomakha said:
“This is a way to present the attack as a domestic crime and avoid recognition of the problem – regular violations of environmental and human rights in the region, and the political and systemic character of the pressure on groups and activists exposing those violations.”
“We believe the attack is directly connected to the activists’ legitimate work in the protection of environmental rights, and that they are still in danger. For us, it’s very clear the investigation should consider this case under Article 277 (“An encroachment on the life of a public figure committed with a view to ending his activity or from retaliation for such activities”).”
Rudomakha returned home from hospital on 13 January. An EWNC lawyer requested Russian authorities to provide him with state protection.
“Nobody should face reprisals for legally investigating environmental abuses. If people are allowed to get away with these attacks, country risks becoming increasingly insecure for environmental rights defenders.”
Notes for editors
- More information and updates on the case of Andrey Rudomakha can be found on EWNC’s Facebook page (in English): https://www.facebook.com/ewnc.russia/
- A Change.org petition calling on the Russian authorities to investigate the attack on Rudomakha and his EWNC colleagues has gathered more than 112,000 signatures (as of 16 January 2018): www.change.org/rudomakh
Top image: Andrey Rudomakha, head of EWNC, who was attacked in Krasnodar, Russia on 28 December 2017. © Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus. Download more photos.
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About Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus (EWNC)
EWNC is a Russian-based non-profit organization that works to protect the environment of the Caucasus region since 1997. Its activities have included exposing illegal land grabs and destruction of landscapes in Sochi ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Activists in the group have been attacked in the past. In February 2014 a group of unknown masked men tried to break into the Krasnodar office of the organization, they also vandalized a car of the EWNC Council member Igor Kharchenko. In September 2016 in Kuban, unidentified men attacked EWNC and Greenpeace camps where they were working to extinguish wildfires. In both cases police investigation failed to identify the perpetrators.
In 2016, the group was declared a ‘foreign agent’ but the Russian Justice Ministry – a label revoked in December 2017 when the ministry found no trace of foreign income in the group’s activities. But the influence has its effect: the foreign agent law has legitimised hate attacks against environmental and human rights activists by stigmatising them as foreign spies. This law effectively silences civil society. Find more in our report: http://foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/other/2017/pressure_towards_russian_environnmental_ngos.pdf
EWNC is a member of Russian Social-Ecological Union / Friends of the Earth Russia, which in turn is a member of Friends of the Earth International. Find out more: https://www.facebook.com/ewnc.russia/