Human rights defenders (HRDs) in the Russian Federation have been subjected to acts of harassment, surveillance, violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, violent attacks, raids and searches on their offices and homes, slander and smear campaigns, judicial harassment, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment.
Among the HRDs who are particularly at risk are those involved on issues such as election monitoring, the situation in the North Caucasus (particularly Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan), xenophobia and nationalism, and LGBTI rights. Environmental rights defenders have been particularly exposed to physical and verbal attacks in recent years. Those expressing criticism of the authorities or attempting to organise protests are also routinely targeted.
The entry into force of the so-called 'Foreign Agent' law, in December 2012, marked the start of the most severe crackdown against HRDs since the end of Soviet era. The law required organisations receiving foreign funding and carrying out “political activities” to register as foreign agents. However, the definition of “political activities” is extremely broad and has been interpreted as encompassing groups carrying out human rights advocacy or defending of voters' rights.
In April 2013, Parliament adopted a federal law prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” (so-called “propaganda of homosexuality” law) which directly discriminated against Russia's LGBTI community and prohibited any form of advocacy on LGBTI issues. The adoption of this law contributed to promoting violence and intolerance against LGBT people. Dozens of LGBTI rights defenders were intimidated and attacked by nationalistic and pro-Kremlin groups, especially during public rallies, and were violently detained and fined by authorities.