Today’s Russia: torture and slavery exposed

Torture of gay men in Chechnya and North Korean slave labour on FIFA 2018 arenas exposed by Russian investigative journalists.

NOAS, NHC and FRI wish to invite you to an open seminar in memory of Anna Politkovskaya, the investigative journalist of Novaya Gazeta, who would have been 59 years old on 30 August had she not been brutally murdered for her work in 2006. Her brave work to expose human rights abuse in Chechnya and North Caucasus has inspired many journalists in Russia, and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee commemorates her legacy every year with a relevant seminar.

Torture – This spring, the brave Russian journalist, Elena Milashina, of Novaya Gazeta published a series of shocking articles that put the widespread torture of gay men in Chechnya on the international agenda. Slavery – In a similar exposé, the Norwegian football magazine Josimar and Russian journalist, Artem Filatov exposed the extensive use of slave labour in the construction of the 2018 FIFA World Cup arenas in St. Petersburg, provoking international condemnation. In this seminar we will address a number of relevant and burning issues: How did the journalists manage to expose the violations and obtain such international resonance? Are these stories unique in their cruelty in Russia? How are they relevant for Norway and Norwegian asylum policies? And what are the consequences for asylum seekers returned to internal flight in their native Russia, or to Russia as a so-called safe third country?

We have invited journalists, activists and lawyers involved in these cases to Oslo to discuss them and their potential relevance for Norway and Norwegian policy. The session will be moderated by Stig Arild Pettersen of the podcast DuVerden!


17:00 What does the torture of the gay men in Chechnya say about the situation for LGBTI persons in Russia today?
• Elena Milashina, journalist from Novaya Gazeta
• Igor Kochetkov, Russian LGBT Network
Comments by lawyer Halvor Frihagen and Aage Borchgrevink of NHC.

17:30 What is the price of 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia?
• Artem Filatov, St. Petersburg journalist
• Svetlana Gannushkina, head of Civic Assistance Committee

18:00 Russia and Norway: Values vs Pragmatism?
Discussion on human rights violations in Russia and Norway’s asylum policies:
Asylum lawyer Brynjulf Risnes, Svetlana Gannushkina, Igor Kochetkov, Elena Milashina, Artem Filatov and Aage Borchgrevink.


Free entrance – Please register by writing to Astrid Lello Hald: [email protected] 

About the participants:
The brave journalist of Novaya Gazeta, Elena Milashina, is one of the most active journalists who has picked up the torch from Anna Politkovskaya, and continues to investigate and research abuse in North Caucasus despite harassment and threats. In the aftermath of the story exposing the abuse of gay men in Chechnya, she had to seek refuge abroad. Milashina has earned several awards, from the 2013 International Women of Courage Award to the 2016 Fritt Ord Free Media Award here in Oslo.

Igor Kochetkov, board member of the Russian LGBT network, has fronted a campaign to assist and evacuate the survivors from the torture camps in Chechnya, garnering support from activists and politicians over the entire world. For his work to protest the restrictive law that bans promotion of so-called non-traditional sexual relations to minors, the so-called gay propaganda law, he has been named one of the world’s 100 top thinkers by Foreign Policy in 2013, and nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize by Norwegian Labour parliamentarians.

Russian journalist Artem Filatov has previously worked with the independent radio station Echo of Moscow in St. Petersburg. Having reported a range of sensitive issues in St. Petersburg and North-West Russia, he joined the Norwegian football magazine Josimar to investigate the story about North Korean slave labour on the football arenas for the 2018 FIFA world cup in Russia. His report Migrants in Sweden was awarded The National Prize for independent radio journalism “Vmeste-Radio” (2012).

The dedicated human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina has defended migrants and victims of slavery in Russia for decades, and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her outstanding work. In 2015 she visited both sides of the Storskog border between Russia and Norway, and provided invaluable analysis and advise about how the asylum procedures function in practice in Russia, where even escaped North Korean slaves do not meet the criteria for protection but are returned to North Korea.

The Russian guests will discuss these cases with the Norwegian asylum lawyers Halvor Frihagen and Brynjulf Risnes, and human rights activist Aage Borchgrevink from NHC. How do these and other human rights violations in Russia influence or rather should influence Norwegian asylum policies?