On Saturday October 29th, the Russian drama company Teatr Doc will show a special play made exclusively for the conference. The play called «The Last Party. Play about Human Rights Defenders in Russia», is based on interviews with human rights activists, reflecting the unvarnished reality of everyday life in Russia.
The background for this seminar is Russian authorities’ resistance to political cooperation across national borders, which is becoming a threat to Russian civil society organizations (NGO’s). New Russian legislation is a direct attack on the Russian human rights movement and leads to curtailing of the Russian civil society. People who have previously been able to raise their voices and speak freely, are now being silenced by Russian legislation.
The string of new legislations seen since 2012, is in conflict with international human rights and the Russian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of association. These are new laws with a broad scope and unspecific definitions. This means that the government can use these laws when it suits them, against almost anyone. Activists are living in constant uncertainty about if the laws will affect them, and if so, when.
In addition to the play by Teatr Doc, Nature and Youth and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee have also invited Russian lawyer Aleksander Popkov and Anna Dobrovolskaya from The Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM) to talk about how activists work under such conditions and how they are continuously seeking new forms of cooperation and new forms of activism. The conversation will be moderated by Julie Wilhelmsen from Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).
Aleksander Popkov has been working with activists from a legal perspective, protecting those who are suffering from human rights violations. Popkovs clients include Hennadiy Afanasyev, a Crimean activist convicted and sentenced to jail on the charges of plotting a terrorist act, and Yevgeny Vitishko, an environmentalist who was jailed because he spoke up about the ecological disaster in the wake of the Sochi Olympics. Popkov also represented two of the members of Pussy Riot, Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova.
Since 2007, Anna Dobrovolskaya has been working with creating awareness about human rights in Russia. She has been working with human rights schools educating young and old about their rights and creating a place where they can feel safe to speak freely. She has been training people to go to court, to observe the police working, and to help with research, so that they will be prepared to act in a situation when their or others’ rights are violated. The YHRM focuses on offering solidarity, collaboration and the understanding of our common challenges.
With this seminar we would like to elucidate how activism in Russia is being challenged and how some people refuse to give up and keep on fighting for what they believe is right.
We would like to encourage anyone who can to come, and show solidarity with people in an extremely pressing, but not hopeless, situation!