On October 4, 2020, Russian prosecutors ordered the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (the Academy) to provide data on students who have allegedly participated in protest activities, as well as on international projects occurring on campus, as part of an inspection of the Academy.
In a letter dated October 4, the local prosecutor’s office reportedly instructed the rector of the Academy to provide, among other things, information reflecting a “destructive” foreign influence on campus, including information relating to “pro-American groups of influence that can be used by international NGOs trying to achieve their destructive goals,” the “falsification of global and Russian history to achieve the geopolitical interests of ani-Russian forces,” and the “destruction of Russian traditional spiritual and moral values.” In addition, the prosecutor’s office demanded that the Academy provide information on all international or foreign-funded projects on campus, as well as pro-democracy activities such as programs training election observers, and “ideological propaganda” such as information promoting “American and European democratic and liberal values” on campus. The prosecutor’s office further demanded that the Academy provide identifying information about student protesters and protest organizers, and whether they had ever participated in international exchange programs. Finally, the prosecutor’s office demanded information about campus events that build “civil protest skills” such as organizing mass public gatherings or legal defenses for detained protesters. In response, the rector of the Academy instructed university officials to gather the information demanded by the prosecutor.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about efforts by state authorities to gather information about members of the higher education community, solely based on their participation in gatherings on campus, their political ideology, or their involvement in foreign-funded academic activities. Such demands target and undermine the exercise of human rights including the right to academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Russia is a party. State and university authorities have an obligation to refrain from interfering in the exercise of such rights, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly.