Amnesty International has condemned the Moscow authorities’ decision to block their planned protest against the lack of freedom of expression in Russia. Theprotest was to have taken place in Sochi, where the Winter Olympics are to be held
The authorities have blocked the event which was due due to be held today (6 October), claiming the 15-strong picket would be “unsuitable for a public event” as “it would be impossible … to provide safety” for it.
The event was to have taken place in Moscow’s Pushkin Square. Amnesty says it notified the Russian authorities of the plans, as required by Russian law, and provided three alternative locations.
The Russian authorities gave no reason for being unable to ensure thy the safety of 15 people and suggested that the action be held in a remote and quiet park in Khamovniki district.
Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director, John Dalhuisen, said: “Why have the authorities failed even to consider our proposed alternative sites? Presumably, the answer to this question lies in the actual aims of the picket which was intended to highlight the authorities’ intolerance of dissent
“It is true that the Moscow authorities have complied with the law but their suggestion that the picket should be held in one of Moscow’s least frequented parks reflects the state of freedom of expression and assembly in Russia today.
“We are disappointed by the authorities’ response, and we do not accept their explanation for the refusal. Our activists plan to appeal this decision.”
The Winter Olympics take place in Sochi in 2014 and Russia has come under criticism following legislation passed in June whch forbids "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors".
Although the Kremlin says the law is aimed at protecting children and does not infringe on the rights of homosexuals, gay athletes and visitors to the games are concerned that the laws may be used against them.