Council of Europe Holds Seminar on Civil Society Crackdown on Khodorkovsky’s Birthday

June 26, 2013

The increasingly repressive laws against Russian civil society organisations were highlighted during a lunchtime seminar today at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, on the day that Mikhail Khodorkovsky – a pioneer of Russian civil society – celebrated his 50th birthday.

The seminar, organised by the Assembly’s Liberal group of parliamentarians, heard about the intimidation and harassment being suffered by NGOs in Russia as a result of the government’s enforcement of new measures.

The event was chaired by Mailis Reps, PACE rapporteur on strengthening the protection and role of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member states.

The Council of Europe’s commissioner of human rights, Nils Muižnieks, was among the speakers. He will release an extensive report on the administration of justice in Russia in the autumn of 2013.

The seminar tackled the issue of how Europe’s parliamentarians can best support civil society organisations and defend them from measures to curtail their activities.

Natalia Taubina, from the Russian human rights organisation ‘Public Verdict’ (ОБЩЕСТВЕННЫЙ ВЕРДИКТ) was another of the main speakers at the seminar.

She recounted the judicial persecution facing her organisation and the absurdity of being obliged to register as a ‘foreign agent’ in order to continue activities.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were among the other organisations taking part in the seminar.

Chair of the ALDE group in PACE, Anne Brasseur (Luxembourg) inaugurating the seminar alongside Cyril Ritchie of the Expert Council on NGO Law and Council of Europe commissioner for human rights Nils Muižnieks. Ms Brasseur’s birthday message to Khodorkovsky is among those that can be viewed here
Council of Europe commissioner for human rights Nils Muižnieks with Estonian parliamentarian Mailis Reps and Natalia Taubina from the Russian NGO 'Public Verdict'