Open Russia’s Human Rights initiative defends anti-corruption protesters

March 30, 2017

In the wake of Sunday’s anti-corruption protests, Open Russia’s Human Rights team has been striving to provide support to hundreds of detained citizens. This is their report from the last 3 days.

Open Russia’s Human Rights team would like to thank everybody for their support, both financial and moral, over the past few days.

The demonstrations against corruption on Sunday the 26th of March ended in Moscow alone with the arrest of over 1000 people, two times the amount that were detained during the Bolotnaya protests on the 6th of May 2012. Across Russia as a whole more than 1500 people have been taken in to custody.

Among these people are not only activists, but also underage children, eyewitnesses and journalists. They all require help.

Maria Baronova, Open Russia’s Human Rights coordinator has commented on the situation:

“As a person who has been involved in political court cases for many years, I know for a fact that administrative cases are the least promising of all. Usually people won’t be granted a lawyer, as a result we have to expend tons of additional resources, and then people often get a 15-day sentence anyway at the push of a button.

In criminal cases you can make a lot of noise and various results can be achieved. But administrative cases, after the demonstrations which have taken place over the last few years, led me to believe that, under these circumstances, we are powerless.

I have since learnt that I was wrong in my judgement.

On Sunday the 26th of March we began to search for lawyers to tackle the vast amount of administrative cases that had resulted from the demonstrations. We decided to start a fundraiser in order to raise the necessary resources to undertake such a huge project. Our plan was to put all our resources in to the first 10 lawyers and then open up the Human Rights purse to donations in order to provide help to everyone in Moscow and across the country.”

With your help, the Open Russia Human Rights team have managed to raise in total over 2,600,000 Rubles and 2304 dollars.

We have received over 1200 donations, at an average of 1444 rubles. This an example of the sacrifices average people are willing to make to support political prisoners.

With the funds we raised we managed to engage over 50 lawyers to help deal with the overwhelming number of legal issues that arose as a result of the arrests.

In three days we managed to help more than 500 people in Moscow. Among those detained, 19 have already been sentenced to 15 days in prison. The others have either been released with a fine or on bail where continuations will take place next week.

Thanks to generous donations we are able to pay the fines of people detained across the Russian regions where help is less accessible.

As we know from recent experience, the next two weeks will be the most problematic. For now there will be silence, but the authorities may start going after random people involved and we have to act now in order to be prepared for that outcome.

It’s important to remember that among the huge number of those arrested, there are people who came out on to the streets for the first time. It is vital that we provide psychological support to these people, as well as their parents. In such cases lawyers are desperately needed in order to reinforce the feeling these people are not alone and that they are being represented by qualified legal experts.

As people are brought to court it is important that they are not tricked in to testifying against themselves, instead, we will show the authorities that for every move they make, we will make another.

We will not abandon our people.