Human rights in Russia: OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism expert report, joint statement

I am making this statement on behalf of the following 38 participating States that mobilized the Moscow Mechanism (Human Dimension) on July 28: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark , Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland , Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Professor Nußberger, on behalf of the calling states, I would like to thank you for your work as rapporteur within the framework of the OSCE Moscow Mechanism. We are very grateful for your professional and diligent approach to your mandate, for the meticulous methodology you employed and for the substantive report you produced. Your integrity and commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms are evident in your report. We hope that all 57 participating States of the OSCE will do justice to your report by carefully considering your findings and recommendations, which are addressed not only to the Russian Federation, but also to the OSCE participating States and the wider international community.

Mr. Chairperson, we invoked the Moscow Mechanism because we identified the situation in the Russian Federation as a particularly serious threat to the fulfillment of the OSCE human dimension provisions set out in various documents. The mandate given was extensive and reflected the scale and seriousness of the alleged human rights violations and abuses.

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The report shows that we were right to be concerned. The report is based on an in-depth analysis of the legislation of the Russian Federation, extensive documentation, including decisions by the European Court of Human Rights, opinions of the Venice Commission, statements by the autonomous institutions of the OSCE and other international organizations, and reports and testimonies by civil society. Regarding the legislative changes in the areas of freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, the report concludes: “Russian legislation is obsessed with restricting these rights more and more. […] Russian legislation in this area is clearly incompatible with the rule of law. On the contrary, the multitude of detailed regulations gives the authorities a wide margin of discretion and thus creates the basis for arbitrariness.” The report further examines the connection between peaceful protest and repressive legislation: “Whenever there have been mass protests […]new restrictive laws followed.”

The report gives us some answers as to why the Russian Federation is cracking down on human rights and fundamental freedoms. “Ultimately, it’s about integrating civil society into the vertical of power.”

Silencing civil society puts the Russian authorities in a position where they feel free to respond to citizens. Furthermore, the Russian Federation’s crackdown on human rights and fundamental freedoms has helped prepare the ground for its war of aggression against Ukraine. The report outlines the thinking of the Russian government: “Restrictive measures are considered necessary in order not to be disturbed during the war preparations or after the war has started. This explains the wave of repressive measures in Russia immediately before, but especially after February 24, 2022.”

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Mr. Chairman, the Russian government and administration not only unduly restrict human rights and fundamental freedoms, but actively work to their detriment to promote war. In this context, the report analyzes speeches by President Putin that describe civil society as a “fifth column” and dehumanize those perceived as enemies, thereby revealing “an attitude of deep-seated hatred”.

The report also cites some striking examples of opinion-forming pressures, such as on students and artists, and excessive violence against critical civil society activists, journalists and other media figures, such as the case of political scientist and sociologist Grigory Yudin. “On February 24, 2022, he was arrested during an anti-war protest in Moscow and severely beaten in a police car until he lost consciousness. Many other cases have been documented by human rights organizations, who claim that the level of violence has increased significantly – many interviewees drew a parallel with the violent repression of protests in Belarus.”

Not all violence is committed by state officials, the report points out, but it continues: “[t]The Russian state implicitly supports this development through its lack of protection and ineffectiveness in free speech-related cases.”

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Freedom of expression has also been particularly affected by the war. “Especially the expansion of espionage […] and thus of “high treason” […] under […] the penal code […] makes journalistic work impossible during the ongoing war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.”

Importantly, the report highlights the specific impact on women and members of the LGBTQI+ community. For example, the report describes gender-based violence against women protesters. Women “are in a particularly vulnerable position, especially when incarcerated alone. Sexualized violence is a relatively new phenomenon that has become more prominent since February 2022.”

Mr. Chairperson, dear colleagues, “Repression at home and war at home are connected as in a communicating tube.” May this conclusion of the report be a lesson and a warning to all of us. It is a timely reminder of one of the cornerstones of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act on the universal importance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for which is essential to peace, justice and well-being. At stake is nothing less than the OSCE’s concept of comprehensive security. It is our collective duty to adequately defend the values ​​and principles of this organization.

At this point I would like to thank Professor Nußberger once again.

Many Thanks.

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