Cultural Survival denounces the recent a Moscow court decision made on November 6, 2019, to close the Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North (CSIPN), an independent organization of Indigenous Peoples, which has been defending the rights of Indigenous Peoples of Russia for almost 20 years by providing informational, educational, expert and legal support to Indigenous representatives at all levels. The decision is another case of rights violations and pressure by the Russian government on Indigenous Peoples.
On Nov 6, 2019, the Moscow city court held a third court hearing and upheld the demand of the Russian Ministry of Justice to close the Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North. The Ministry of Justice alleged non-compliance of the organization’s by-laws with the current revised legislation and the allegation that CSIPN conducted educational courses.
“We publicly declare that this is a continuation of the pressure campaign against the organization and its leadership in retaliation for its sustained efforts to uphold the human rights of the Indigenous Peoples of Russia’s North, Siberia and the Russian Far East, which began in 2014 and continues to this day,” stated Rodion Sulyandziga, chairman of the CSIPN Board, and a member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in a press statement.
The Russian government for years have been targeting Indigenous leaders and limiting their travel to international fora on human rights. In September 2014, the border control service of the FSB, the Russian intelligence service, at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport seized Rodion Sulyandziga’s passport and later returned it with one page cut out, in order to prevent him from travelling to attend the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in New York.
This decision is the latest in a series of NGO shutdowns seen as retaliation for their activities. CSIPN was listed as a “foreign agent” in 2015, only after the NGO renounced its foreign funding and was it taken off the foreign agent list in 2018. Many demands of Indigenous communities to protect the environment are seen as obstacles to companies’ plans for resource extraction. Those that have been vocal in opposition have been criminalized.
Over close to 20 years, CSIPN has developed more than 20 capacity building programmes, conducted hundreds of seminars, internships and conferences on many issues related to Indigenous peoples and their livelihoods. The Center’s partners are leading scientists, experts and universities throughout the country. CSIPN is the only Indigenous organization from Russia that has special status and accreditation with UN agencies such as UNESCO, UNEA, FAO, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and others. CSIPN is a member of the educational network of the University of the Arctic. Members and experts of CSIPN actively participate in various regional, national and international meetings and programs.
“We will continue our work to protect the most invisible and vulnerable segments of our society such as the Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East, who are the last barrier to the all-out exploitation of the resources of the Arctic by corporations, and the last custodians of Russia's natural heritage. The court’s decision has not yet entered into force and will be appealed,” stated Sulyandziga.
Cultural Survival expresses our full solidarity with the Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North and demands that the Russian government cease harassment of the organization and its members. We urge Russia to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of Indigenous Peoples as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and protect the fundamental right to freedom of association enshrined in the Russian constitution and part of the Russian Federation's international obligations.
Photo courtesy of CSIPN/UArctic.