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Human Rights Programme in the Commonwealth of Independent States

For the last two years the situation in regard to respect for human rights in the CIS region has deteriorated dramatically. This shift is, in part, related to and led by a government backlash – with an unprecedented number of new restrictive laws - against mass protests in Russia and a crackdown on the independent media, and on human rights defenders and political opposition in Ukraine. These developments are closely watched and - in many cases – followed by the governments of other CIS countries leading to a number of cases of pressure on and persecution of human rights defenders. This situation affects all independent non-governmental organisations in the region, but particularly those dealing with civil and political rights and especially those that are more active and successful (as they become a bigger irritant for the authorities). The increasing gravity and persistence of the human rights violations are dangerous per se and they also act as a dangerous precedent in the CIS region and in other parts of the world.

For years, human rights defenders in the CIS region – apart from those in the most repressive countries, like Belarus or Uzbekistan – have mostly concentrated their efforts on developing systems of human rights protection for their target groups. Their relationships with their governments were never very close but were, in general, characterised by a sort of cautious neutrality. Most human rights defenders in the region were taken by surprise by recent developments and by the purposeful attack on human rights defenders themselves, and on the way that they operate, and by the unprecedented level of this attack, which has included a number of far-reaching legislative changes.

The new laws (such as the “foreign agents” law adopted in Russia and now discussed in a number of other CIS countries) are not only very restrictive for civil society organisations but also potentially very dangerous to individual human rights defenders. The law on treason may lead to 10 or more years of imprisonment for vaguely described reasons which may include simply sharing information with foreign organizations.

Defending the Defenders

This is a three-year project to support a consortium of Russian non-governmental human rights organisations which enables them to work together in order to assist and protect organisations and activists defending human rights in Russia when they themselves come under threat. 

The present members of the consortium are the Moscow Helsinki Group; the Youth Human Rights Movement; Memorial; the Independent Council of Legal Expertise; the Human Rights Association "Agora"; and the Russian Human Rights Network. 

The project has established a Centre of Emergency Response in order to provide legal and other forms of assistance to organisations and individuals to help them deal with administrative pressure and other forms of intimidation, protect their personal security, and to strengthen the security of their information. The project is also developing a database to provide a reliable basis for advocacy, reporting and campaigning. It helps those human rights defenders who have to go to court. The project also facilitates cooperation with different international human rights mechanisms within the Council of Europe, OSCE and the UN.

CIS Human Rights Network for Conscripts

This is a three-year project to support a consortium of civil society organisations (CSOs) in the CIS to build their capacity to empower conscripts and their families to claim their rights and to enhance the impact of civil society organisations on decision-making processes related to the representation and protection of the human rights of military conscripts. 

The present members of the consortium are Soldiers' Mothers of Armenia; Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan; Belarus Foundation for Legal Technologies Development; "Promo-LEX" Association of Moldova; Khabarovsk Committee of Soldiers' Mothers; Youth Human Rights Movement; Moscow Helsinki Group; Humanitarian Centre "Compassion"; Young Lawyers Association of Tajikistan, "Amparo"; Ukrainian Centre for Civil Liberties.

The capacity-building programme is aimed at assisting CSOs to cooperate with their own governments and mass-media as well as with international human rights bodies, as well as helping them to organise awareness-raising seminars, roundtable discussions and other advocacy activities with public authorities and other key stakeholders at local and national levels and other key stakeholders. 

Project Team

Professor Margot Light, Programme Director. Biography on LSE Experts page

Andrey Kuvshinov, Programme Coordinator A.Kuvshinov@lse.ac.uk

Andrey has Masters Degrees in Physics and Social Psychology from Novosibirsk State University, Russia. He was the Chairman of the Siberian Human Rights Network until 2006 when he joined LSE. His interests include human rights, civil society, security, population and development, migration.   

Dmitry Lyulev, Research Assistant D.V.Lyulev@lse.ac.uk

Selected publications

Defending the Defenders

A report on human rights defenders in Russia in 2011
PDF Report in Russian

A report on the observance of the right to the freedom of associations in Russia in 2011
Word doc report in Russian

A report on the observance of the right to the freedom of assembly in Russia in 2011
PDF Report in Russian

Guidelines on the monitoring of the freedom of peaceful assembly
Webpage in English I Webpage in Russian

Legal protection of activists at public events
Webpage in Russian

Methodology of organising public events
PDF report in Russian

Online guide to freedom of association for government agencies and civil society
Webpage in English I Webpage in Russian

CIS Human Rights Network for Conscripts

Annual Report on Human Rights in Russia 2011
PDF Report in Russian

Annual Report on Human Rights in Russia 2010
PDF Report in Russian

The book "Alternative call" (on the right to conscientious objection)
PDF in Russian

"Black Book" which describes most serious violations of rights of young people in the military
PDF in Russian

Monitoring report on military recruitment for 2011 in Tajikistan
Word doc in Russian

Report on Human Rights in Moldova 2009-2010
PDF Report in English I PDF Report in Russian  

Alternative military service. Standards and approaches to reforms
Report in Russian