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Open statement by the RCFS on the decision taken by the Russian Supreme Court to liquidate it

On 23 January 2007 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation upheld the decision of the Regional Court of the Russian Federation to liquidate our organization, the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society.

We were originally ordered to close down in October last year on the basis of a new NGO and anti-extremism law that made it illegal for an NGO to be headed by a person convicted of "extremist" activities. The Russian authorities wanted us to denounce the acts of our chair Stanislaw Dmitirevskiy and to remove him from our board. Furthermore, they expected us to announce this big news about our act of repudiation from our friend and colleague in public. It would have been dishonorable for us.

The proceedings at the Supreme Court were observed by representatives of the European Commission Delegation as well as embassies of the USA, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Lithuania, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Representatives of the Amnesty International and Human Rights watch also attended the court session. There were also observers from Russian human rights organizations and journalists. All of them became witnesses of absolute disregard to the law.

Although we have expected this outcome, the undisguised farce of ³considering² the appeal at the Supreme Court that the Russian authorities didn¹t hesitate to organize in presence of international observers was absolutely shocking. We, the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, have been liquidated as a Russia-based organization. Thus, the Russian authorities have proved once again that they remain absolutely indifferent to all voices of protest.

We have been supported by more than hundred public figures from some twenty countries situated on all the continents. More than one hundred Russian human rights people and journalists have signed their Open Letter to President Putin in support of our organization.

It is evident that the so-called positive image of Russia is also of no concern for the present Kremlin authorities. They keep complaining about somebody¹s evil intention to discredit them in the eyes of their free world counterparts when murders of dissident politicians and journalists in the contemporary Russia are raised at the international fora from time to time. They have got used to avoiding answering unsuitable questions about Chechnya for so long that now they feel free to mockingly neglect them. There has been no other response from the Russian authorities to the claim of the international public figures to the murder of Politkovskaya but mere words about continuing investigation. The Russian authorities have responded to the concerns expressed about the ruling to liquidate the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society on absurd extremist charges with the final decision to crack down on us.

All the arguments of the defense side presented by our lawyer Anna Stavitskaya and Stanislaw Dmitrievskiy were ignored by the judges whereas the prosecutor¹s side didn¹t offer any grounded proofs of extremism in actions of Stanislaw Dmitrievskiy in his positions of the chief editor of the newspaper and the executive director of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society.

The liquidation ruling came into force immediately after the judge had read it out. At present, the inter-regional public association Russian-Chechen Friendship Society has stopped their activities as a Russian legal entity. However, it doesn¹t mean that we, members of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, have ceased our work. Due to the circumstances, we have moved the legal entity to Finland. The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society in Europe has been registered there with Stanislaw Dmitrievskiy, Oksana Chelysheva and Tatiana Banina being board members. We have Nizhny Novgorod Foundation for Promoting Tolerance established in Nizhny Novgorod and another regional Tolerance association was registered in Chechnya a few days ago. We are continuing our projects °© informational, humanitarian and the legal project on the tribunal - in spite of our innumerous problems.

We are definitely going to appeal to the European Court on Human Rights in the liquidation ruling as we deal with obvious violations of Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention.

Stanislaw Dmitrievskiy,
Executive director of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society

Oksana Chelysheva,
Editor of the Russian-Chechen Information Agency

People should address their protests only to President Putin and to the heads of their states with demands to impose pressure on their Russian colleague. It will be important to appeal to Angela Merkel as she is the chair of the EU and G8.

Sample letter:
I urge you and your government, to respect and support the work of human rights defenders in the Russian Federation, who peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression and carry out legitimate and valuable work.
In particular I am concerned about attempts to close the non-governmental organization Russian Chechen Friendship Society, which monitors the human rights situation in the North Caucasus and undertakes humanitarian initiatives for individuals affected by the armed conflict in Chechnya.
Therefore, I respectfully call on you and the government of the Russian Federation:
* to allow the Russian Chechen Friendship Society to freely conduct their legitimate and valuable work·
* to refrain from prosecuting members of the RCFS for their peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression·
* to review the implementation of the restrictive new NGO legislation·
* to make a public statement of support for human rights defenders and independent journalists.

President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
The Kremlin, Moscow, Russian Federation
Via facsimile: +7-495-910 07 38; +7-495-606 51 73

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