03 January 2022, 17:56

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 27, 2021-January 2, 2022

New Year celebrations; courts’ decisions in the liquidation of the “Memorials”* NGOs, adoption of a notorious law on the media in Azerbaijan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of December 27, 2021-January 2, 2022, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

New Year celebrations

For the second time, the New Year celebration took place during the coronavirus pandemic. However, the restrictions did not prevent residents of Southern Russia from going out to attend mass festivities. In Volgograd, in places of gatherings, people often ignored the mask regime and social distancing requirements. On New Year’s Eve in Makhachkala, more than 5000 people came to the main New Year tree in Dagestan, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) reported. Instagram users noted that people failed to comply with the mask regime during the holiday. In Sochi, celebration of the New Year holiday took place without strict restrictions. According to the press service for the Sochi Mayoralty, 83,000 tourists celebrated the New Year holiday at the resort.

Courts’ decisions on liquidation of “Memorials”* NGOs

On December 28, the Supreme Court (SC) of Russia pronounced a decision to liquidate the “International Memorial”* (the International Historical, Educational, Charity and Human Rights Society “Memorial”), and on December 29, the Moscow City Court ruled to liquidate the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Memorial”*. Violations of the law on foreign agents became the reason for the lawsuit to liquidate the “International Memorial”*. A public prosecutor accused the HRC of supporting the protests and criticizing the judicial system. Yan Rachinsky, the chair of the board of the “International Memorial”*, announced that the organizations would continue their activities in one form or another. Furthermore, representatives of both NGOs announced the intention to file appeals against the courts’ decisions on liquidation. Western countries do not approve the decisions to liquidate the “Memorials”* NGOs. Human rights defenders from the EU, the United States, Australia, Canada, and the UK perceive the courts’ decisions to liquidate the “Memorials”* as an attempt to silence human rights defenders who exposed crimes, including in Northern Caucasus and note that it followed months of deepening repression in Russia. On December 29, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) declared that the execution of the above-mentioned courts’ decisions should be postponed until the ECtHR’s ruling on the complaint filed by Russian NGOs against the law on foreign agents. Earlier, human rights defenders, advocates, and journalists noted that the closure of the “Memorials”* NGOs would seriously damage the protection of human rights in Northern Caucasus.

Adoption of notorious law on media in Azerbaijan

On December 30, the Parliament of Azerbaijan adopted the Law “On Media”, which drew criticism from journalists and experts. Journalists state that their requests were not taken into account during the consideration of the law and that now both their rights and the rights of social media users are sharply limited, and almost any post, video, or opinion expressed can be interpreted now as a violation of the Law “On Media”. Earlier, the Azerbaijan’s parliament hastily considered the draft law, its text was kept as strictly confidential information until its adoption. On December 28, in Baku, journalists held a rally against the Law “On Media”. According to the journalists, the law will aggravate repressions against freedom of speech in Azerbaijan.

Critics of the Law “On Media” note that it contradicts the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, which Azerbaijan joined. According to activists, professional ethics of journalists, their unbiased attitude, and independence will be the subject of officials’ biased assessment. The Law “On Media” severely restricts the activities of the media and media platforms and will close access to information for free journalists.

Memory Day of Victims of Deportation and Zul Holiday in Kalmykia

On December 28, in Kalmykia, residents of the republic paid tribute to victims of the Stalinist deportation of the Kalmyk people in 1943. In Elista, the memorial rally gathered more than 500 people. The other day was announced to be a day off on the occasion of the Day of Zul, the Kalmyk New Year holiday. According to local residents, the coronavirus pandemic and power outages did not prevent them from traditionally celebrating the holiday of Zul with their families.

Pardoning of prisoners in Georgia

On December 31, President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili issued an act of pardon for 14 convicts. Earlier, the President of Georgia repeatedly timed decisions on pardoning convicts for the holidays. So, on May 7, 2021, on the occasion of St. George’s Day, eight convicts were pardoned. On April 7, 2020, nine women with minor children were pardoned on the occasion of the Annunciation holiday. On January 6 of the same year, Salome Zurabishvili pardoned five convicts on the occasion of Christmas.

*The organization has been put on the register of foreign agents by the Russian Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on January 3, 2022 at 09:34 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

Source: CK correspondent

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