Russia: intimidation of Ms. Yana Tannagasheva at UN Human Rights Council (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to the Government of Russian Federation on 6 October 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. Regrettably, the Government did not reply within this time frame. If a reply is received it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication

BACKGROUND

Topic: intimidation of Ms. Yana Tannagasheva during the 15th session of Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMPRIP) of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ms. Yana Tannagasheva is an indigenous human rights defender, working on protecting and  promoting the rights of minorities and rights of the indigenous Shor people in the Russian Federation. She is a member of the International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia (ICIPR).

The case of Ms. Yana Tannagasheva was included in the 2018 and 2019 reports of the Secretary-General on cooperation with the UN, its representatives mechanisms in the field of human rights on allegations of harassment, surveillance, threats, and intimidation against her and her relatives, representatives of the Shor indigenous peoples and minorities groups from South West Siberia, as reprisals for her cooperation with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, see A/HRC/42/30 Annex II[1].

On 12 September 2018, the Government responded to the allegations by Special Procedures and noted a preliminary investigation into the harassment and a criminal case was refused on 28 April 2018 on the basis of “absence of a crime.” On 26 July 2018 this decision was overturned by the supervising procurator, and further investigations were ongoing. On 24 July 2019 the Government provided an update to OHCHR and noted that the investigation was ongoing.

ALLEGATIONS

On 4 July 2022, the first day of the EMRIP session, Ms. Tannagasheva took the floor to elaborate on the situation of the Shor people. In particular, she drew attention to the violations of the rights of indigenous peoples by the Russian authorities and mining companies. She elaborated on her village of origin, Kazas, located in the Kemerovo Oblast. The village was reportedly burned down by a coal mining company eight years ago because its residents refused to sell their lands to the company.

Ms. Tannagasheva further expressed her concern that the Russian authorities and mining companies such as Nornickel corrupt representatives of indigenous peoples, using their vulnerable position to promote the state policies and propaganda both on the national and the international level. She ended her speech by criticizing the lack of freedom of speech, the harassment, as well as the criminalization of indigenous activists in Russia and called on the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to pay special attention to their situation.

As she was about to finish her statement, Ms. Tannagasheva was approached by a diplomat from the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation in Geneva, who acted in an intimidating manner by asking her name, phone number and her business card in a reportedly aggressive manner. He allegedly demanded that Ms. Tannagasheva give him her business card, and asked whether she was based in the Dombass region. Those witnessing the incident in the conference room, including other NGO representatives and the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples, surrounded Ms. Tannagasheva protectively by this point, in an attempt to stop the intimidation. It is reported that the Russian diplomat later approached the Secretariat of the EMRIP session, asking for information about the list of speakers, including the speakers’ names and the organizations they represent.

Immediately after the incident the International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia (ICIPR), the organization Ms. Tannagasheva is part of, issued a statement condemning the assault on the website ‘Indigenous Russia’. Just after publishing the statement, the director of Indigenous Russia received an email from the hosting provider of the website, saying it had received a request from the Russian government to remove the page from the Internet within 24 hours. The website regularly publishes information about violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in Russia.

CONCERNS

In the communication we expressed our serious concerns regarding the reported incident of intimidation during the session of a mechanism of the Human Rights Council, which may have a significant chilling effect on the participation and freedom of expression of representatives of indigenous peoples in the EMRIP and the Human Rights Council, from the Russian Federation and beyond.


[1] 87. See also, A/HRC/39/41, para. 63, Annex I, paras. 90–91. In April 2018, as a consequence of the threats, they left Russia with their children. In May 2018, CERD raised their situation with the State party and, in June 2018, special procedures mandate holders raised concerns with the authorities (RUS 11/2018;151 OTH 34/2018; A/HRC/40/60/Add.1, paras. 512 and 677).

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