Human rights defender
Valentina is a Human Rights Defender from Russia. She works as the Chair-Coordinator for the Union ‘Women of the Don Region’ which was created in 1993. The strategic objectives of the Union are the formation of human rights infrastructure in the region, protection of human rights and peace making. The organization focuses on capacity building of HRDs in the Russian Federation and Ukraine, through methods of dialogue facilitation and mediation. Also, the Union tries to create ‘success situations’, by preventing violations and promoting the protection of children who come from families from socially dangerous environments. Furthermore, Women of the Don Region offers legal and psychological help and organizes education activities, focused on the spread of knowledge of human rights.
Human rights violations in Russia
The ‘foreign agent law’ was implemented in Russia on the 21st of November 2012. Under this law, groups must register with the Ministry of Justice as “foreign-agent”, if they engage in political activity and receive even a minimal amount of funding from any foreign sources. In Russia, the term ‘foreign agent’ can only be interpreted as ‘spy’ or ‘traitor’. The law was designed to stigmatize and silence critical NGOs. It has led to a shrinking space for HRDs, since many HR organizations have been fined, shackled or shut down.
Threats and harassment
The Women of the Don Union was among the first organizations to be inspected by the prosecutor’s office and the Ministry of Justice in 2013. The organization was listed as a ‘foreign agent’ in spring 2014, which imposed limitations on the organization’s activities. In 2016, a criminal investigation under ‘foreign agents’ law was launched against Valentina. She became the first HRD in Russia to be prosecuted under this law. Only after a year, in July 2017, the criminal case was terminated.