Joint statement with Arctic Consult on the decision of the Russian Government to shut down the Centre for the Support of Indigenous Peoples

6 November 2019 Moscow regional court sustained a claim of the Russian Ministry of Justice and made a decision on forced liquidation of the Russian non-governmental organization the Centre for the Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North, which was led by prominent human rights defender and civic leader, a member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples Rodion Sulyandziga.

That decision of the Russian government fits well with the general repression policy of the Russian authorities, security and law enforcement agencies (siloviki) towards the civil society in Russia. As we know just several days before the decision about closure of the Center for the Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North Russian authorities made a similar decision on forced liquidation of one of the oldest human rights organization in Russia «For the human rights» which was led by well known Russian scientist and human rights defender Lev Ponomarev. And before that because of the pressure from the Russian authorities, a lot of other independent human rights or environmental non-governmental organizations were liquidated in Russia, announced «foreign agents» or closed because their leaders had their own public opinion which is not complying with the official agenda of the Russian authorities. A lot of indigenous non-governmental organizations had suffered also because of such policy of the Russian government including Nenets information center «Yasavey-Manzara», Kamchatka information center «Lach»; Russian foundation for the development of indigenous peoples «Batani», Evenk community «Dylacha»; Shor local organization «Kasaz and Shor people revival» and many others. Many indigenous leaders and activists in Russia who fought for the rights of their communities on lands, resources, and self-determination were subjected to repression and harassment by Russian officials and enforcement bodies’ representatives including public bullying, smear companies in media, criminal prosecution, illegal interrogations, and searches, jailing etc. These facts are well known and we don’t want to specify them all in this short statement. We want to draw attention to another prominent fact.

As we all remember 1 November 2012 Russian Ministry of justice on the ground of «technical mistakes» of the organizational statute and its «non-correspondence with the federal legislation» had stopped the functioning of the Russian Association of the indigenous peoples of the North (RAIPON). Those days Russian bureaucrats founded «mistakes» in a statute of the organization, which had been successfully working for 22 years since 1990. And we remember well as Rodion Sulyandziga who was one of the leaders of RAIPON those days organized an international campaign with the aim to protect RAIPON and not allow the Russian government to close this organization. Rodion Sulyandziga was a person who organized the RAIPON’s extraordinary congress to changed the statute of RAIPON according to the requirements of the Russian authorities, arranged all litigation proceedings with the Ministry of justice and paid all efforts to not allow to close nationwide organization of indigenous peoples of the Russian North, Siberia and the Far East.

And how do representatives of RAIPON behave today when Rodion himself needed help and Russian bureaucratic machine is liquidating his own organization?:

  • Grigory Ledkov (President of RAIPON): «We are living in a rule-of-law state and we have to follow the orders of the law, including the orders of the Ministry of justice and their requirements to the organizations’ statutes. The work with federal and regional laws, organizing a give and take dialog with authorities and work with indigenous communities on the ground is all the way more difficult thing than hyping in the Internet and social networks.»
  • Alexander Novyukhov (RAIPON vice-president in Ural federal district): «There is no political motivation in the liquidation of this organization. We are regularly meeting with activities of such «human rights organizations» and other fake experts. Their main activity aims to destroy the work of generally accepted and officially legitimized indigenous leaders and to undermine the authoritative information.»
  • Vladimir Klimov (vice-president of RAIPON on interregional cooperation): «Somebody says that one of the leading indigenous rights organizations was closed — that’s an overstatement. We don’t need to search for some enemies acting through government or the Ministry of Justice — I think this is just bad management (from Rodion side). He has to keep a strict watch over his own documents.»

Dozens of media in Russia and around the world including leading information agencies have written about the liquidation of the Center for the Support of Indigenous Peoples of the Russian North. And only RAIPON’s representatives and several other pseudo-indigenous rights organizations from Russia commented this act of injustice as a «bad management» and a wave of a rush of indignation in civic society because of this action of the Russian government as a «hyping in social networks».

Considering this we declare that at present, RAIPON, which is completely controlled by the Russian authorities, has finally discredited itself and has no right to represent indigenous peoples of Russia and to make statements on their behalf. We strongly urge representatives of all organizations that have any relations with RAIPON at any level, including representatives of States, international organizations and indigenous organizations working at the UN and at the Arctic Council, to take this consideration into account in their future activity.

Pavel Sulyandziga (Batani foundation), Dmitry Berezhkov (Arctic Consult)