While allegedly on the list of persons being hunted for, Zazvonov traveled abroad on several occasions and neither the border guards, nor the immigration and customs departments seemed to be aware of any such manhunt. Following interference by some human rights advocates, Zazvonov was released from custody, but the investigation is still going on and the work of his company is being seriously impaired as a result thereof. One of the main reasons for the authoritiesРў discontent with Zazvonov was his participation in the last elections as a rival of the current mayor, as well as his intention to run for mayor in the forthcoming elections.  Another contender for the mayorРўs office in the forthcoming elections is the current chief prosecutor of the town.  ZazvonovРўs example offers ample evidence of the fact that the authorities, rather than using criminal prosecution as a lever for enforcing law and order, easily resort to such methods as a means to persecute dissident businessmen while resolving disputes over ownership rights, or eliminate and intimidate potential adversaries in forthcoming election campaigns.




In our view, the democratic institutions, including one of the major gains of Russian democracy, i.e., free and independent elections of the representatives of the legislative and executive branches of government, are under the menace of complete liquidation.  This may result in the emergence in Russia of an authoritarian system denying its ideological and political opponents any chance to express their views.  The rigging of elections appears to be much easier now, considering that the automatic counting system known as РЈElectionsР¤ is currently under direct control of the Federal Security Service.  Meanwhile, the judicial system is being eroded, as it is growing increasingly corrupt and susceptible to manipulation, including when there occurs a conflict of interests between businessmen and big-time operators having extensive links with the powers that be.   Generally speaking, the logic of the evolution of the Russian legal system [shows that the latter] is obviously creating a framework whereby any socially active person may be exposed to the threat of being persecuted.

The representatives of Russian NGOs in 2003 reported on the problems associated with breaches of civil liberties in Russia to OSCE conferences and meetings of the UN Human Rights Committee.  The Russian human rights organizations delivered an alternative report on observance of the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights in the Russian Federation to the UN Human Rights Committee.  The Moscow-based Helsinki group coordinated the drafting of the report.  Based on this report, the Human Rights Committee drafted its Recommendations in respect of Russia.

At the OSCE conference for the prevention of tortures (held in Vienna on 6-7 November 2003), a representative of the delegation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the OSCE was advised of the facts evidencing that the inmates of Russian investigatory isolation wards were subjected to tortures.

The Russian delegation suggested that a special OSCE envoy should be sent to Moscow to monitor compliance with law by the Russian law enforcement agencies and courts while investigating and examining criminal cases in connection with the so-called YUKOS Affair, as well as criminal cases instituted against attorneys and human rights champions.  We also insist on a new OSCE mission to Chechnya.

We presume that the firm position of the international institutions, above all, of so highly reputed a body as the OSCE, in respect of the negative processes currently occurring in Russia must be made pubic immediately.                                                                      

We hereby request you to consider the question of the participation of the Russian delegation of non-governmental organizations in the OSCE Ministerial CouncilРўs meeting to be held in Maastricht on 1-2 December 2003.  Our delegation will deliver a report on the human rights situation in Russia.


Respectfully submitted by


Lev Ponomarev, All-Russia Public Movement for Human Rights


Andrei Babushkin, Public Charity Committee for Human Rights


25 November 2003


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