26 February 2009

Threats to SOVA's Aleksandr Verkhovsky: HRW Demands Protection

Followers of this blog should know how indispensable is the human rights work of SOVA for monitoring the developments of xenophobia and racism in Russia.

They should also know that this work comes at a human price of threats of violence and harassment. Today Human Rights Watch has released a call for the Russian government to protect the organization and its workers, following a recent attempted attack on SOVA's director Aleksandr Verkhovsky (right) at his apartment:

At about 9:30 p.m. on February 21, 2009, a group of neo-Nazis made a threatening visit to the apartment of Alexander Verkhovsky, director of SOVA Center, an independent research center that monitors ultranationalism and extremism in Russia. At least two of the men fraudulently gained access to the building and stood at Verkhovsky's door, knocking and ringing and trying to lure him out. They dispersed before the police arrived. It was the second time in the past month that they had appeared at his door, and the latest in a series of threats by ultranationalists against the organization.


In early 2008, Verkhovsky's name, home address, and other personal details were part of a list of "enemies of the Russian people" that a neo-Nazi group posted on its website, along with direct appeals to kill the individuals. Others listed included prominent Russian human rights defenders and civic activists. Since then, Verkhovsky and his deputy, Galina Kojevnikova, have received numerous anonymous telephone and email threats.
HRW goes on to detail a series of threats to Verkhovsky's life in the past year, demanding that the Russian government take action in accordance both with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Grani.ru highlights the seriousness of this situation, reminding readers of the 2004 murder of human rights activist Nikolai Girenko in Petersburg.