The Value of Political Freedom: Russia and Belarus

By Thomas Rozanov

I first skilled the worth of political freedom within the 2004 Orange Revolution protests in Kyiv, Ukraine. I used to be solely seven years previous then, but I shortly caught inspiration for the quickly evolving ‘PORA’ and ‘Tak!’ actions and the revolution. Next, fast-forward ten years, and I used to be pushed by the 2014 Euromaidan motion.

2014 Ukrainian Euromaidan protests
Reuters/Gleb Garanich

It is extraordinarily vital to have the fitting to assemble impressed individuals, to freely voice opinions, to try to attain justice and alter. My vitality was bursting at each durations, simply as thousands and thousands of different like-minded individuals. I can not think about how it could be to not be capable to launch this collective vitality, to dream, to unite, to talk out, to protest. These occasions let crucial lesson be revealed and re-emphasized—the worth of political freedom, which needs to be acknowledged and revered.

Today, we have to be reminded of the worth of political freedom and the fitting to protest when it’s repeatedly brutally offended by authorities authorities in Russia and Belarus.

Opposition supporters attend a rally in Moscow, Russia, on March 26, 2017
Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

In Russia, opposition chief Alexei Navalny was sentenced to 15 days in jail and 1000’s of peaceable protesters had been detained after mass anti-corruption demonstrations had been held throughout Russia in late-March. According to unbiased sources, over 1,000 individuals had been taken into custody in Moscow alone, with a whole lot extra individuals detained in cities throughout Russia for involvement within the protests.

Alexei Navalny escorted upon arrival for a listening to after being detained on the anti-corruption protest
Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

“By detaining hundreds of protesters, the Russian authorities have demonstrated their profound disdain for the right to freedom of expression and assembly,” stated Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International Russia.

Police detain a protester throughout the anti-corruption demonstration in Moscow on March 26, 2017
EPA/Maxim Shipenkov

Out of over 80 rally authorization requests submitted to native authorities throughout Russia, solely 21 approvals had been granted. Hence, protesters in Moscow and St. Petersburg gathered regardless of de facto bans in place.

Further repression was directed in direction of staff and volunteers of the Russian Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF) based by Alexei Navalny. The ACF offered a livestream of the protests from their Moscow workplace, as a substitute for state-run and managed media which ignored the numerous political occasion. According to the ACF, the stream gained over 170,000 stay views, and over 4.47 million recorded views. There had been two makes an attempt to interrupt the printed by regulation enforcement officers, first by looking the ACF workplace for explosives, and later by an alleged hearth alarm.

Police arrested 12 ACF employees and volunteers, and pushed administrative expenses and detention starting from 5 to seven days for “disobeying police officers’ legitimate orders”. Trials had been performed over two days, on March 27 and 28, solely at some point after the protest rallies.

Leonid Volkov, the ACF’s mission supervisor and head of Alexei Navalny’s presidential marketing campaign was sentenced to 10 days of administrative detention.

Leonid Volkov
Image from Open Russia

Amnesty International calls on Russian authorities to finish reprisals in opposition to peaceable protesters, political activists, and journalists. Amnesty urges to launch all detained members of the ACF, and different prisoners of conscience. Russian authorities ought to respect the rights to freedom of expression, affiliation and peaceable meeting, and abstain from any additional makes an attempt to stop ACF staff and volunteers from the authentic train of those rights.

Amnesty notes that the workplace searches, confiscation of computer systems and paperwork undermines ACF’s ongoing work, and uncovers particular person sources which are actually in peril of dealing with legal prosecution for exposing corruption.

More particulars on the ACF arrests could also be discovered within the Amnesty’s report ‘Russian Federation: Detained Members of Corruption Watchdog Are Prisoners of Conscience and Should Be Freed Immediately,’ launched on March 31, 2017.

In Belarus, a day previous to the March 26 protests throughout Russia dozens of peaceable protesters had been arrested with the usage of extreme pressure by police for collaborating within the yearly ‘Freedom Day’ held on March 25 commemorating the creation of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BPR) in 1918.

Riot police and protesters amid a rally in Minsk, Belarus on March 25
Radio Liberty

“Freedom Day proves this year more than ever, how little genuine freedom the people of Belarus have,” stated Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

This adopted the oppression of the outstanding human rights group ‘Vyasna,’ and the detention of over 48 protesters, together with civil society leaders and journalists throughout Belarus on March 10, 11, and 12, 2017. Many of these detained had been concerned within the mid-February anti-Presidential decree protests, in response to the Presidential decree “on Prevention of Social Dependency” which launched a particular tax for the unemployed and people who haven’t contributed taxes for over six months.

This decree triggered important political upheaval in Belarus. “With basic freedoms strangled in Belarus, it has been years since we saw protests of this scale,” stated John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.

For extra information and background on the previous Belarussian occasions please view the ‘Belarus: Biggest crackdown in years as dozens detained at peaceful protests’ information put up courting March 13, 2017.

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