Speech at the session of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament

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Honorable members of the Committee,

On behalf of the Charitable Foundation Sphere, I thank you for the opportunity to raise serious concerns regarding the rights of conscientious objectors in Russia.

1. Current situation and concentration camps

Since the beginning of the war, the Movement of conscientious objectors has recorded hundreds of people who either want to stop their participation in the crime of aggression, or who make every effort not to go to the army.

Before the beginning of mobilisation, it was possible to demand the termination of the soldiers’ contracts with the Ministry of Defense. And hundreds of people used this right to conscientious objection. After the start of mobilisation, it became impossible to break the contract.

We are now facing thousands of people at the front who are either insisting on their right to alternative civilian service or demanding demobilisation on medical reasons.

The reaction of the military commanders to such a big number of conscientious objectors was the creation of illegal prisons, the so-called cellars. In these prisons, with the help of torture, conscientious objectors who refused to go to the front line are illegally detained.

The most notable for the last year were the cases of Bryanka in July and Zaitsevo in November. About 300 people were illegally detained in each of these camps. In total, more than 13 such camps are known at the moment.

Officially, the authorities of the Russian Federation call these prisons Psychological Rehabilitation Centers.

Conscription of people for military service now goes in three main ways: enforcement to sign contracts, mobilisation and ordinary conscription.

2. Mobilisation

Regarding mobilisation. According to the law, the call for mobilisation must be organised by the independent Mobilization Commissions, which are civilian bodies. However, virtually (ˈvərCH(o͞o)əlē) all decisions on mobilisation are made by the Military Commissar.

In most regions, civil society does not even know who are the members of the Mobilization Commissions.

After the announcement of mobilisation, human rights defenders faced mass kidnappings of people. Raids were taking place in hostels, subways, shelters for the homeless and entrances of residential buildings. Summons were issued to all caught citizens without respecting the territorial principle. This means that medical and any other documents that are in the military commissariat at the place of registration of a citizen are simply not reviewed by the military commissariat, where a person is taken after a raid.

Caught people were threatened with criminal prosecution if they refused to go to the military unit. However, the maximum punishment that is currently adopted for evading mobilisation is a fine of 10 to 50 euros. Nevertheless, being in a frightened state, people agree to mobilisation.

According to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, citizens have the right to ask to replace military service with an alternative civilian one. This right continues to operate during the period of mobilisation. However, Russia has not adopted a law on how the alternative civilian service is arranged during mobilisation.

Citizens subject to conscription en masse submit applications for alternative civilian service. However, in the absence of law, authorities cannot make decisions.

3. Ordinary conscription

With regard to the ordinary conscription, draftees are more protected by law than the mobilised people because this is the ordinary procedure which was operated for the last 30 years without major changes.

However, human rights violations persist in this system as well.

Here we are faced with the same problem of the absence of an independent civil decision-making body. By law, such a body should be the Draft Commission, in practice all decisions are made by the Military Commissar.

Also alternative civilian service in Russia remains punitive and discriminatory in terms of duration and conditions.

4. Minorities

A report about conscientious objection to military service today is impossible without references to the rights of minorities, such as indigenous people, Jehovah’s Witnesses and LGBT+ people.

The current persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses affects their right to conscientious objection to military service. Jehovah’s Witnesses are afraid to say anything about their belifth in the process of applying for alternative civil service because they are afraid of being accused of extremism.

Putin mobilises mainly representatives of indigens people for the war. Most of the able-bodied male population from Tuva, Yakutia, Buryatia, Bashkiria and other republics was called up for the war. This is a genocide, after which some national minorities are in danger of disappearing from the face of the earth.

In order to continue the war, an ideology is needed. For Putin, hatred, in particular, of LGBT+ people became such an ideology. It is no coincidence that the end of last year was marked by the adoption of a law on a complete ban on LGBT+ propaganda.

The regime needs an internal enemy, a social group that can be blamed for all the internal problems that the war has led to.

The Russian army has always been homophobic and transphobic. To my personal appeal about what anti-discrimination policies are in the Russian army, the Ministry of Defense replied that there is no discrimination in the army, so policies are not needed.

Therefore, it is not surprising that representatives of the LGBT+ community in Russia still resist and refuse to participate in the war.

Queer-conscious objectors were among the first to leave Russia after the beginning of mobilisation. Great efforts to help them have been made by the organisations Qartera and QueerSvit.

Transgender weman people began to massively change gender markers in their passports. Since the beginning of the mobilisation, the number of such statements has more than doubled, according to data from the Ministry of internal affairs.

We think that Europe must respond to this outrageous use of LGBT+ hate and anti-gender movement for military purposes and show that Europe is united in support of the LGBT+ community. Please pay attention to the example of Ukraine, which during the war held pride in Kharkov.

5. Demands

At the end I would like to emphasise the needs of the Russian antiwar community that will help us to speed up the victory of Ukraine and the end of the Putin regime.

1. Less men — less soldiers. I would like to join the demands of ObjectWarCompaing and ask the European Parliament to issue a resolution confirming the right for an asylum to deserters and conscientious objectors from Belarus and the Russian Federation.

2. Step up the support for the Russian anti-war community. Distribute the best practices of Lithuania and Germany which are issuing humanitarian visas and residence permits to human rights activists and dissidents from Russia. That helps people to continue their work without a 6 month gap to wait for the decision about asylum.

3. Leave no one behind. Minorities are in the front of the fight with Putin inside Russia. Increase the support for indigenous people and LGBT+ people in Russia. We need a resolution condemning the draft of predominantly indigenous people and demanding the abolition of the law on propaganda of LGBT +.

Thank you for the attention.

Слава Украине!

Россия будет свободной!

Вы дочитали до конца, спасибо!

Ежедневно мы оказываем помощь ЛГБТ+ людям, сталкивающимся с нарушением их прав или оказавшимся в сложной жизненной ситуации.

Мы можем делать это благодаря пожертвованиям. Поэтому поддержите нас, пожалуйста, и оформите пожертвование. Любая сумма, особенно в регулярной форме, позволяет нам не только продолжать нашу работу, но и лучше планировать её. Пожалуйста, подпишитесь на ежемесячное пожертвование в нашу пользу. Спасибо.