Russia: It might sound dodgy now, but it sounds great when you’re dead . . .
The tens of thousands of migrant workers toiling at the Olympic venues and other sites have less to celebrate, according to a 67-page report published today by Human Rights Watch. It documents multiple cases of workplace abuse and exploitation: non-payment of promised wages, 12-hour shifts with few or no days off, confiscation of travel and identity documents, and breach or withholding of employment contracts.
Other controversies surrounding the Sochi games include cases of forced eviction from future Olympic sites with little or no compensation for those moved. The World Wildlife Fund has expressed concern about construction in protected natural habitats, suggesting that the “losses to the environment are already significant.”
A report by the opposition activists Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov in 2009 found that a big road project linking Sochi with surrounding areas cost an average of 4.8 billion rubles, or $160m, per km; world practice suggests that road construction, even in the mountains, should not cost more than $70m, they say.
Our Man In The Paddy Wagon: Political Arrests in Moscow
OVD-Info Annual Report 2012
The report covers arrests in Moscow and several nearby cities between 4 December 2011, and 31 December 2012. It presents information on 5169 politically motivated arrests during 228 events, including 1312 arrests in December 2011, and 3857 in 2012.
All events monitored by OVD-Info were entirely peaceful, except for the (authorised) March of the Millions on 6 May 2012 (which ended in violent clashes with the police).
1079 people were detained at 20 events were authorised by local government. During 208 events that were either not authorised, or required no clearance, 4090 people were detained. The picket is the most common type of street activity; during 65 pickets we have registered 682 arrests. Rallies produced the greatest numbers of detainees. At 23 rallies, 1983 people were detained. The most frequent protest topic was solidarity with political prisoners (49 events resulting in 305 arrests). The most arrests were associated with general protest themes. During 44 events with anti-Putin slogans 1773 persons were detained. During 35 events against election fraud, the number of arrestees was 1750.
According to OVD-Info’s data, the driving force behind protest is citizens and civic activists rather than particular organisations. Spontaneous events, as well as events organized by various groups of activists, form the majority of events registered by OVD-Info both in terms of their number and the number of arrestees: 137 events (60% of the total) either lack organizers, or are organized by independent activist groups; such events resulted in 2300 of detentions, or 44%.
Based on witness testimony by arrestees, we draw the following conclusions on rights violations during arrest.
- Most arrests take place without prior warning from authorities that the detainee is in violation of the law;
- Arresting officers fail to identify themselves or name the reason for arrest;
- The police widely practice unreasonable and unpunished violence during detention and subsequently in police precincts;
- Journalists present at the scene on assignment are frequently detained;
- Authorities at police stations routinely violate both the detainees’ procedural rights, as well as substantive rights, such as the right to an attorney and to timely medical care.
Using concrete examples we show how opposition rallies are forcibly dispersed (5 March 2012, and 6 May 2012).
Russian police detain over 270 in security sweep
ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) – Russian police have detained 271 people, most of them from the North Caucasus and central Asia, in an investigation into involvement in “terrorist activities”, authorities in St Petersburg said on Saturday.
Russia is concerned that Islamist militants could become a greater threat outside the heavily Muslim North Caucasus region, plagued by an insurgency rooted in two post-Soviet separatist wars in the republic of Chechnya.
In a statement, the regional investigative committee in St Petersburg said that most detainees were from the North Caucasus and the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan. An Egyptian and an Afghan were also detained.
The committee said they were detained “in order to check if they had legal grounds for being in St Petersburg and their possible involvement in terrorist activities.”
They were detained during an overnight raid on St Petersburg’s oldest market.
Authorities said security forces had been searching for extremist literature, weapons, drugs and documents related to a recently-launched criminal case in connection with “public justification of terrorism and incitement of hatred”.
The authorities did not say whether any of those detained were suspected of involvement in plotting or carrying out attacks.
Many market traders in Russian cities are from the North Caucasus or central Asia.
Local media said police had initially detained 700 people.