Hautala in St. Petersburg: “It is by the Fruits that a Tree is Known”



PRESS RELEASE – Brussels, 31 May 2010[:]

DROI chair greetings to Action “31” in St. Petersburg

Heidi Hautala, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights in the European Parliament, participates today in the events in St. Petersburg in support of the peaceful demonstration in defence of Article 31 on the Freedom of Assembly of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. She greets the participants of the Action “31” with the following words:

“Freedom of assembly is a basic civil freedom which belongs to all persons on the grounds of several international treaties. Also the Russian Federation has agreed with them. When preventing peaceful gatherings of people who only call for their constitutional right of assembly, the Russian authorities hide behind intimidation, harassment and administrative sanctions.

It is becoming clearer that their real motivation is fear of a truly open civil society where everyone can speak and write, associate and assemble freely. Their fear is to be challenged for their deeds which do not match with their words. President Medvedev can talk of the need of rule of law and Prime Minister Putin can say that he does not want to stop the opposition, but it is by its fruits that a tree is known.

The European Parliament has frequently voiced its strong support to the participants of Action 31 in Russia and condemned the suppression of these peaceful demonstrations by brutal police force. This time, human rights defenders have called upon the European Parliament to join your peaceful demonstrations.

That is why I am with you today in St. Petersburg, and that is why I will join the gathering at the Palace Square. I greet the participants of the “31” demonstrations in Moscow and all over Russia. Our friends in Brussels are showing their solidarity to you in front of the Russian Embassy, and so are people in Helsinki, Prague and elsewhere.

To efficiently defend civil liberties and human rights in Russia, more common efforts are needed. That is why I have proposed to establish an EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. Together we need to make sure that the “human rights consultations” between Russia and EU are transformed into something meaningful which helps you in your courageous and respectable fight for the rights which belong to each and everyone of us. Indeed, it is by the fruits that the tree is known, and at the moment, the fruits are bitter.

Today, EU and Russia meet at the highest political level in Rostov-on-Don. Again, we have observed how the Russian authorities use their pre-emptive techniques to prevent people from expressing their views, harassing members of the democratic opposition and using administrative sanctions against them.  I especially strongly condemn the violent oppression of peaceful demonstrations in Russia. The European leaders in their summit with Russia must not leave these obstructions of democratic freedoms unaddressed.

I also expect EU representatives to mention names of real persons whose rights have been violated. We want all political prisoners to be released. I personally looked into two cases, those of Alexey Sokolov and Alexey Nikiforov, and it appears that both have been convicted on the grounds of their dissenting opinions. We demand a real investigation of the case of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who most obviously had to die in prison because of his fight against corruption.

How can one speak of any kind of a strategic partnership when at the same time such gross violations occur?”



St. Petersburg, 31 May, 2010


Heidi Hautala
Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, European Parliament