Russia: Evenk indigenous community leader sentenced to 4 years in jail for allegedly opposing "Petropavlovsk" gold mining firm - company & shareholders respond

 

Sergei Nikiforov, an Evenki indigenous people’s leader and environmental rights defender, has been imprisoned allegedly for opposing UK-based Petropavlovsk gold mining project in the Amur region of Russia.

In December 2015 we invited Petropavlovsk PLC to respond, but it did not. In April 2016 we invited firm's reported shareholders to respond. Prudential plc & UBS Switzerland AG responded. Sothic Capital European Opportunities Master Fund Limited, Cape View Capital LLP, and D.E. Shaw & Co did not respond. 

On 26 May 2016 the office of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. Michel Forst, and other UN mandate holders sent a letter to the Russian Government asking it to investigate and address the alleged abuses against Sergey Nikiforov and to inform him of the resulting actions. We again invited Petropavlovsk PLC and its reported shareholders to respond. Petropavlovsk PLC did not respond. UBS Switzerland AG responded. Prudential plc, Sothic Capital European Opportunities Master Fund Limited, Cape View Capital LLP, and D.E. Shaw & Co did not respond.

However, Petropavlovsk sent a response about these allegations in May 2017, available below. Materials with full information and the companies' responses & non-responses are below.

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Company response
24 May 2017

Response by Petropavlovsk PLC

Author: Petropavlovsk PLC

We write in response to accusations published on your website regarding Mr Sergey Savelievich Nikiforov, former head of the Evenki village, Ivanovskoye (Amur region), in particular the accusation that he was sentenced to 4 years in prison in connection with a protest movement he led against Petropavlovsk PLC and its developments. Petropavlovsk has no connection with the criminal prosecution of Mr Nikiforov; the aforementioned accusations are groundless and do not reflect the truth. Petropavlovsk established its presence in the north-east of the Seledzhinsky district in 2010 and developed a strong relationship with the village administration, as represented by Mr Nikiforov...In 2013...following a court decision, Mr Nikiforov was dismissed from his office for a period of investigation and judicial proceedings, after being charged with taking a bribe from a company “DalTeploEnergo”. This company is not at all affiliated with the Petropavlovsk Group of Companies.

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Company response
8 November 2016

UBS Switzerland AG's response (Nov 2016)

Author: UBS Switzerland AG

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Company non-response
7 November 2016

Cape View Capital LLP did not respond (Nov 2016)

Company non-response
7 November 2016

D.E. Shaw & Co did not respond (Nov 2016)

Company non-response
7 November 2016

Prudential plc did not respond (Nov 2016)

Company non-response
7 November 2016

Sothic Capital European Opportunities Master Fund Limited did not respond (Nov 2016)

Article
25 October 2016

New Blog: Breaking silence: Getting companies, govts. and the UN to speak out to protect defenders

Author: Ella Skybenko & Ana Zbona, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Photo: Sergey Nikiforov is still serving a prison term in strict regime correctional colony

Environmental human rights defenders and other activists that are confronting corporations got a rare moment in the spotlight last week when the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders presented his report on environmental defenders to the UN General Assembly. With the number of attacks and murders of environmental defenders continuing to grow, this attention is welcome, but the silence around the attacks is still all too common....Sergey Nikiforov, an Evenk indigenous people’s leader and environmental rights defender, is serving a prison term in strict regime correctional colony...According to the...villagers...the true reason for his imprisonment was...that he had led...protests against Petropavlovsk’s operations. We invited DalTeploEnergo and Petropavlovsk to respond to the allegations raised... The companies did not respond. We need progressive businesses to stand up to restrictions on civic freedoms and attacks on defenders....We need states to adopt zero-tolerance approach to killing and violence against defenders...answer to Special Rapporteur’s inquiries, and hold perpetrators to account....and put enough resources...into international mechanisms for them to be able to reach wherever...those that stand up to corporate abuse come under threat. 

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Article
25 October 2016

UN Special Rapporteur urges Russian Govt. to investigate & take action on imprisoned indigenous rights defender's case

Author: The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

[UN Special Rapporteur's letter to Russian Govt. regarding Sergey Nikiforov's case]

...Concern is expressed at the alleged unwarranted charges and sentencing of Mr. Nikiforov, which appear to be directly related to his activities in defence of human rights, including land and environmental rights. We express further concern at the allegations that the sentencing of Mr. Nikiforov is related to his and the Ivanovkoye village’s public opposition and legitimate voicing of concern about the environmental and human rights impacts of the mining project of Petropavlovsk mining company...We also express our concern about the alleged irregularities of Mr. Nikiforov’s trial...Please provide information on the legal grounds for the charges and the sentencing of Mr. Sergey Nikiforov...Has the affected population living in Evenki ancestral territories been provided with adequate information about the project, including its impact on their environment and human rights?...Please provide information on the measures put in place to ensure that the human rights defenders, including environmental activists, in the Russian Federation are able to carry out their legitimate work in a safe and enabling environment, without fear of threats or acts of intimidation and persecution of any sort...Please indicate if the Government has provided any guidance to business enterprises in the Russian Federation on their expected human rights due diligence process...[W]e urge that all necessary interim measures be taken to halt the alleged violations and prevent their re-occurrence and in the event that the investigations support or suggest the allegations to be correct, to ensure the accountability of any person(s) responsible for the alleged violations.

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Company response
15 May 2016

Prudential plc's response (May 2016)

Author: Prudential plc

...As long-term investors our fund managers take an active and engaged approach to their holdings in investee companies. They believe that good governance is closely linked to the long-term success of companies and as a result take ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues into consideration as an important part of the investment process...We take matters such as these seriously and will be following up with the company in order to gain a better understanding of the issues referred to in the report .

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Company response
15 May 2016

UBS Switzerland AG's response (May 2016)

Author: UBS Switzerland AG

...Please note that UBS has reportable positions in a large number of companies worldwide in which it does not have any strategic interest. Often UBS holds these positions on behalf of clients. The diverse positions in a particular company are collated across business units and reported to the company once the total position has crossed (or fallen below) the applicable notification threshold. UBS does...not comment on specific or potential client relations or transactions or its investments in any particular company.

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