Conditions for energizing human rights activities have been created in modern Russia. They emerged due to the combination of efforts of two developing (developing independently of each other for the most part) movements: the environmental movement and the human rights movement. There are about 100 active environmental organizations and groups in the Russian Federation. The number of human rights groups is almost the same. The environmentalists are usually more organized, have larger constituencies, and are less politicized (compared to human rights groups). They rely on the support of various political movements. After several years of slackening attention to environmental issues (since the early 90s), public interest has picked up. The initiative of environmental organizations to conduct a national referendum in Russia clearly testifies to such an increase in interest. In August/September of 2000, almost three million people, who signed the formal appeal for conducting such a referendum, supported environmentalists (the process came to a halt exclusively due to a political pressure from Kremlin).
A number of environmental organizations comprise hundreds of thousands of members: The All-Russian Wild Nature Protection Society, Socio-Environmental Union, Green Cross of Russia, Cedar Movement. They are complemented by strong professional non-profits, such as Ecojuris, Center of Environmental Policy of Russia, Wilderness Protection Center, Taiga, Ecoline, The Union for Chemical Security, Russian Environmental Academy, Baikal Wave, and many others.
However, at the same time some environmental organizations and individual activists are increasingly becoming targets of the secret service (cases of A. Nikitin, G. Pasko, N. Schur, V. Soifer, "Kasimovskoye resistance," etc.). Leaders of the secret service openly declare that environmental organizations are drawing their special attention. This explains why environmentalists are looking for contacts with the human rights movement. The very first attempt to create such an alliance encountered strong opposition of authorities. Since the early spring of 1998, the Moscow Department of Justice has been declining the formal registration application of the organization Ecology and Human Rights (co-chaired by S. Grigoriants and A. Yablokov, secretary - E. Cherny). According to the opinion of this department, which is supported by the Federal Department of Justice, as well as inter-municipal and municipal courts of Moscow, only government and professional attorneys are empowered to protect human rights in Russia. Everybody else can only assist them in providing such a protection.
Since 1995 the aura of secrecy has undergone rapid growth. Over the last few years, this trend was added to by militarizing government rules and policies. Five new military federal structures were formed in the Russian government in 1998-1999. The year 2000 witnessed a time and a half increase in military expenditures (compared to 1999). These trends are gaining strength: more and more generals and secret service agents are promoted to the highest state positions (six out of seven governor-generals are professional military officers, and the number of governors with military background is growing).
The judiciary system, which has just acquired its independence as a branch of the government, is quickly shedding elements of its independence: courts often make openly lawless decisions (e.g. in the cases of Pope and Pasko). Courts fulfill the political orders of the Administration.
The alliance of the human rights movement and the environmental movement opens up new promising prospects for the human rights movement. By the same token, such an alliance will serve as a new step in the creation of civil society in Russia. The first successful attempt of
such a union was made in St. Petersburg in year 2000 with the creation and registration of the inter-regional coalition "Environment and Human Rights," headed by three co-directors (A. Nikitin, L. Fedorov, G. Pasko, secretary general Y. Vdovin, and chair of the consultative committee A. Yablokov). The coalition is developing its branches in the regions (its Moscow office is chaired by E. 1. Chemy).
Among possible specific directions of action are the following:
the creation of a coordinating network for environmental human rights organizations;
attracting professional lawyers to work in environmental human rights organizations;
providing urgent legal assistance to persecuted environmental activists;
creation of environmental human rights organizations based on existing environmental and human rights groups in several regions of the country;
court trials against lawless actions of the government (e.g., in the cases when environmental human rights organizations are not allowed to register);
publishing a new magazine "Environment and Human Rights" (chief editor - G. Pasko);
publishing of environmental human rights literature;
training new lawyers specializing in environmental human rights protection.
All of the above will become possible only if the appropriate material support is provided by those foundations interested in the protection of human rights and creation of civil society in Russia
President of the Center Environmental Policy in Russia
Professor A. Yablokov
tel./fax 952-80-19, e-mail: email@example.com ;