Saturday, 01 December 2012 17:52

RAIPON appeals to partners and friends

Photo from the 2009 RAIPON Congress Photo from the 2009 RAIPON Congress IWGIA

In a distress call sent out on Tuesday this week, Vice-President Dmitry Berezhkov of suspended Russian association of indigenous peoples RAIPON emphatically appeals to the organization’s partners and friends for support.

The Vice-President appeals to RAIPON’s partners to address Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, urging him to take immediate steps to encourage the Russian Ministry of Justice to reinstate RAIPON so that the organization may be able to bring its activities in line with federal regulations.

The Appeal document was circulated together with a background article meticulously explaining about the political and historical context of the shutdown of RAIPON. After having for most of its 22 years of existence enjoyed the approval of and harmonious relations with the Federal authorities, relations have deteriorated in later years.

According to the background paper, the worsening of relations is due to RAIPON’s insistent critique of the Russian Government’s failure to implement its own legislation on indigenous land use rights and protection from having land overtaken by resource extracting industry etc., and trying, instead, to reduce RAIPON and its member associations to organizers of exotic singing and dancing events.

 The organization’s current predicament seemingly began with an audit launched by the Ministry of Justice in early 2010. The audit resulted in two comments, demanding, firstly, that RAIPON’s logo be federally registered, secondly, that RAIPON includes in its charter a list of its 49 representative offices in different parts of Russia.

In an effort to comply with the two demands, and despite having just completed its regular Congress the previous year, RAIPON immediate set about organizing an extraordinary Congress of representatives from all of its regional representative offices.

To meet the official demands, the extraordinary Congress, that took place in Moscow in April 2011, formally decided to have RAIPON’s logo registered in the registry of the Ministry of Justice as well as to include in the organization’s charter a list of its regional representative offices.

The Ministry of Justice responded to these changes by, firstly, accepting to register the organization’s logo and, secondly, for some, to outsiders, not at all easily comprehensible reasons, refusing to accept that the list of regional representative offices had been properly included in the charter.

RAIPON, in its turn, decided to have the decision tried at court the result of which came on October 18 this year when the Moscow City Court ruled against RAIPON. RAIPON appealed the sentence to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, while, as a consequence of the City Court ruling, the Ministry of Justice suspended RAIPON’s activities until 20 April 2013.

Thereby, as the background article emphatically points out, the Russian authorities have effectively paralyzed the next regular RAIPON Congress scheduled for end March 2013 by suppressing all activities in its preparation.

The background article concludes that the suspension either aims at altogether preventing the Congress from taking place or else at shutting RAIPON down completely if decisions taken during the Congress are deemed unsatisfying by the Russian authorities: the Ministry of Justice deems incompliance with the law and, simultaneously, prevents RAIPON from correcting the ostensible incompliance.

The background article undersigned by Vice-President Berezhkov as well as the Appeal to RAIPON’s partners and friends distributed on plain paper, without any signs of official activity such as logo and letterhead, in many ways bear witness to the threats building up.

As some has pointed out, the Russian authorities cannot unilaterally deprive RAIPON of its international standing, i.e., its status as Permanent Participant in the Arctic Council, its consultative status within the UN, its membership of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, etc. However, by halting RAIPON’s work internally, the Russian Government effectively undermines the organization’s base for operating elsewhere.

That is what makes the situation extremely critical for RAIPON and its valuable contributions to promote human rights of indigenous peoples inside, but also outside of Russia. Evidently, it will also impact the international forums already mentioned as well as the Government of Russia itself.


Appeal to Russian and International Organizations

Background article RAIPON

Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat
Fram Centre, Postboks 6606 Langnes, NO-9296 Tromsø, Norway