Mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment; the Special Rapporteur on minority issues and the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes.
Ref.: AL RUS 15/2022
6 October 2022
We have the honour to address you in our capacities as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment; Special Rapporteur on minority issues and Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 43/16, 46/7, 43/8 and 45/17.
In this connection, we would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s Government information we have received concerning the 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.
According to the information received:
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.
Without wishing to prejudge the accuracy of the above-mentioned allegations, we wish to express 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.
In connection with these serious concerns, we would like to refer your Excellency’s Government to relevant international human rights instruments and standards, cited in the Annex on Reference to international human rights law attached to this letter.
As it is our responsibility, under the mandate provided to us by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to our attention, we would be grateful for your observations on the following matters:
- Please provide any additional information and comments you may have on the allegations mentioned above.
- Please provide information on steps taken by your Excellency’s Government to ensure that human rights defenders are able to exercise their right to freedom of expression and carry out their legitimate work freely and in a safe and enabling environment without acts of intimidation and harassment against them, their family members and loved ones.
- Please provide information about steps taken by your Excellency’s government to ensure that its diplomats do not conduct themselves in UN events and fora in a manner that may be contrary to the UN Code of Conduct to prevent harassment at UN events, which could be perceived as intimidating, and consequently may amount to reprisals or intimidation for cooperation with the UN in the field of human right.
This communication and any response received from your Excellency’s Government will be made public via the communications reporting website within 60 days. They will also subsequently be made available in the usual report to be presented to the Human Rights Council.
While awaiting a reply, we urge that all necessary interim measures be taken to halt the alleged violations and prevent their re-occurrence and in the event that the investigations support or suggest the allegations to be correct, to ensure the accountability of any person(s) responsible for the alleged violations.
We may publicly express our concerns in the near future as, in our view, the information upon which the press release will be based is sufficiently reliable to indicate a matter warranting immediate attention. We also believe that the wider public should be alerted to the potential implications of the above-mentioned allegations. The press release will indicate that we have been in contact with your Excellency’s Government’s to clarify the issue/s in question.
In light of the allegations of intimidation for cooperation with the United Nations in the field of human rights, we reserve the right to share this communication – and any response received from your Excellency’s Government – with other UN bodies or representatives addressing intimidation and reprisals for cooperation with the UN in the field of human rights, in particular the senior United Nations official designated by the Secretary General to lead the efforts within the United Nations system to address this issue.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration.
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
David R. Boyd
Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment
Fernand de Varennes
Special Rapporteur on minority issues
Marcos A. Orellana
Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes