21 Oct 2019 20:33

Reshuffles affect Russia's HRC strongly - rights defenders

MOSCOW. Oct 21 (Interfax) - The work of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council (HRC) will change following the dismissal of Mikhail Fedotov as its chair and excluding Yevgeny Bobrov, Yekaterina Shulman, Ilya Shablinsky, and Pavel Chikov from the HRC.

"Under the next chair, the council cannot remain the same, and given the dismissal of several people with the active human rights position, who dealt with the last summer's Moscow protests, the council's work cannot help being affected. Their expulsion is a repressive measure, and a punishment for excessive activity," Human Rights Watch Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia Tatyana Lokshina told Interfax on Monday.

Other HRC members and experts will have to decide whether to continue working in the HRC "under the leadership of Fadeyev, who is known for his loyalty to the Kremlin, or someone will probably step down," she added.

Moscow Helsinki Group co-chair Valery Borshchyov, in turn, said that he wanted to continue working as a HRC expert and described reshuffles in the HRC as "a crackdown" on it.

"HRC's and Fedotov's opponents have won. They decided to take revenge on them. The exclusion of those, whom you are talking about, as council members, dealt a strong blow to the human rights community. By all appearances, the HRC is ending in a state it has been before, as new times are coming," Borshchyov said.

The HRC "will not be the same," For Human Rights Movement leader Lev Ponomaryov added.

"No, the council will do something, as Kalyapin stays there and will effectively work and fight torture. The life will show, but it is clear that the council 'is being polished' precisely for them, its work will get worse and worse, there will be no honest reports to the president, this is for sure, as Fedotov did so. Fadeyev will supervise what each HRC member should say, this is totally clear," Ponomaryov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has earlier appointed Valery Fadeyev as chairman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. The relevant decree was published on the HRC website on Monday. The president also issued a decree dismissing Mikhail Fedotov from the post on the grounds of his reaching the age of 70.

Bobrov, Chikov, Shablinsky, and Shulman were excluded from the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council.

Newcomers are Rossiya Segodnya Executive Director Kirill Vyshinsky, Sverdlovsk region ombudsman Tatyana Merzlyakova, and Alexander Tochenov, President of the Center of Applied Studies and Programs, an autonomous nonprofit organization.

The council's secretary Irina Kirkora has been appointed deputy chairman (subject to agreement).