Home > Centre for the Study of Human Rights > Events > 2015 > Defending Human Rights in Russia

Defending Human Rights in Russia

  • Wednesday 21 January 2015
  • Speakers: Dmitri Makarov, Dr Mary McAuley, Roman Udot
  • Chair: Margo Picken
  • Twitter hashtag: #LSERussia

An unprecedented number of laws have been adopted in Russia over the past two years which dramatically restrict the activities of all independent non-governmental organisations, and particularly those working for civil and political rights. The new laws, such as the "foreign agents" law, threaten not only the organisations but also endanger their staff, members and supporters. The law on treason can lead to ten or more years of imprisonment for the vaguest of reasons, such as simply sharing information with non-Russian organisations and outsiders.

Our panel of human rights advocates and experts provided a first-hand insight into the difficulties of working under such conditions, and discussed what can be done to stop the further erosion of human rights in Russia.


Dmitri Makarov joined the International Youth Human Rights Movement in 2004, and is now co-chair of its Coordinating Council. His areas of focus include freedoms of assembly and association and the protection of human rights defenders in the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. He works to bring together civic and human rights groups across borders to exchange experience, organize campaigns and advocate for changes in law and policy. He also focuses on strengthening civil society’s contribution to the work of inter-governmental organizations, and was a founding member of the International Civic Initiative for OSCE. He has participated in the non-governmental Committee on International Control over the human rights situation in Belarus and its Observation Mission, established in 2010, and more recently in the Crimean Human Rights Field Mission, established in March 2014 to monitor the human rights situation in Crimea.

Mary McAuley has been engaged with the Russian human rights community for the past twenty years as a grant maker, consultant, and analyst. Author of well-known books on Russian politics, including Russia’s Politics of Uncertainty and Soviet Politics 1917-1991, and, more recently, of Children in Custody: Anglo-Russian Perspectives. She taught politics at Essex and Oxford universities, before heading, in 1995, the Ford Foundation’s office in Moscow, with particular responsibility for human rights and legal reform.  Her latest book Human Rights in Russia: Citizens and the State from Perestroika to Putin, will be published by I B Tauris in April 2015.

Roman Udot co-chairs the Golos Movement, established when the GOLOS Association was suspended in 2013, and continuing the long-standing work of GOLOS in the field of election observation. Udot’s experience of election observation is broad and diverse. He has worked on data collection and analysis, crowd sourcing, and on reorganizing data collection and processing based on modern IT technologies. As coordinator of the Association’s electoral observation projects, he has organized nation-wide observation and streamlined and interconnected information flows from observers and voters first to GOLOS and then to the social and mass media. In 2012 he was appointed the Executive director of Regional GOLOS, the central branch of the Association, charged with mitigating the damage caused by the “Foreign agents” law and reforming the organization into an activists’ movement. His experience has ranged from ordinary observer to heading a large-scale international mission to observe the Presidential elections in Ukraine in 2014, and initiating and organizing independent observation of the elections for the Moscow City Council, the largest Russian elections of 2014.

Udot also lectures and gives seminars on election observation. He is an investigative blogger, and has a personal blog on the website of “Echo of Moscow”. He has been the script-writer for several documentaries, exposing fraud and violations of human rights during elections.  

Margo Picken (chair) is Visiting Senior Fellow in the Centre for the Study of Human Rights, LSE.  

Event recording, presentation & videos

GOLOS videos (clips of which were used during the event): 

GOLOS documentaries with English subtitles: