Mr. Christophe de Kepper
Chief of Staff, President's office
International Olympic Committee
Château de Vidy
Subject: Update on human rights concerns related to Sochi Games
Dear Mr. De Kepper,
Human Rights Watch values our engagement with the IOC on the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and your openness to examine human rights concerns in the context of these Games. We especially appreciate the steps you described in your November 2009 letter to raise our concerns with the Sochi administration and organizers and to meet with communities affected by construction for the Games. The outcome of your efforts on at least one individual's case (described below) has deepened our conviction that the IOC, more than any other institution, can and should use its stature to ensure that the Olympic Games do not negatively affect the human environment in which they take place.
We would like to share with you information Human Rights Watch researched and documented in Sochi in March and September 2010, which indicates that many problems we described in previous correspondence remain unaddressed. These include the transparency and fairness of expropriation and compensation as well as peaceful enjoyment of property. We continue to document violations against migrant workers, including failure to provide written contracts and non-payment of wages.
We would also like to outline some steps we urge the IOC to take in its engagement with the Sochi administration and organizers to ensure that these problems are addressed, and we hope this letter can inform that engagement.
1. Expropriation/Compensation and Related Issues
a. Non-transparency of expropriation and compensation procedures
We are pleased to report that in summer 2010, Savelii Cholak, whose case we described in our October 2009 letter to you, was compensated for his property and is satisfied with the compensation received. We greatly appreciate any intervention that your office made on his behalf.
Human Rights Watch unfortunately does not have the capacity to bring forward all cases of concern; however, we believe the individual cases we document and bring to your attention are indicative of systemic issues that potentially affect hundreds of Sochi residents. We therefore encourage you to work together with the Russian authorities as well to address these broader issues.
Chief among these is that the procedures for notifying residents of expropriation, establishing compensation and resettlement, and allowing residents to challenge valuations remain inadequate, lack transparency, and in some cases appear arbitrary. In most cases, expropriation takes the form of a forced sale. Many of the residents we spoke to who are losing their homes will lose their livelihoods in the process-they either raised crops or ran bed-and-breakfast hotels. However, valuations and compensation packages did not take into account this loss of livelihood. In some cases, residents felt the authorities were pressing them to make major life decisions about compensation packages without providing them with key information, such as the amount of money that would be offered. Many residents we spoke with reported confusion and dismay as to why valuations of their property appear to have been performed at lower prices per 100 square meters than those they had seen in advertisements on television and in newspapers for comparable property, and lower than the values on which they pay taxes. They have received no explanation as to why successive valuations have resulted in even lower price estimates, although even in light of the recent global financial crisis it would be reasonable to anticipate that some values will rise because of the Games.
In several cases, home valuation prices did not reflect the value of additional structures residents had built -for example an additional floor or a bed-and-breakfast cottage-since they were able to procure documents confirming ownership of these structures only after the assessment took place. Homeowners have a responsibility to provide proper ownership documentation, but for many years the authorities appear to have tolerated lax adherence to documentation requirements. While the authorities have the right and duty to require proper documentation for the purposes of valuation, they also have the discretion to ensure homeowners have adequate time to obtain these documents.
In addition, many residents have lived in uncertainty over the fate of their property or their resettlement for several years, which has been psychologically difficult and prevented some residents from making improvements or changes to their homes. Property owners who have been offered alternative housing in one of the newly constructed settlements have also expressed concern that they are offered the substitute housing with no warranty or other guarantee made about the housing's quality or habitability.
Several examples described below illustrate these continuing problems.
Khadyzhenskaya Street-First Row:
Our May 2009 letter to you described Khadyzhenskaya Street-First Row, where many residents have extensive gardens that they use to feed their families or to generate income. Although officially there are only 17 expropriation orders on Khadyzhenskaya Street, residents have been told informally that all 119 properties will be subject to expropriation. According to local residents there is no formal order (rasporpozhenie) expropriating these properties and indicating for what Olympic project their land will be used, as required by law. Residents have learned informally that their properties will be expropriated as part of the construction of the M27 Dzubka-Pso road. As you may know, while the Dzubka-Pso road is not an Olympstroi project, it is an essential part of the transportation infrastructure for the Sochi Games.
Residents we spoke to have little or no information about the compensation that will be offered to them as part of the expropriation. Oksana Volokova told Human Rights Watch that an assessment was performed on her property in May 2010, but as of the end of September she still had not received the results. Nor did she receive the results of a property assessment performed in autumn 2009. Ms. Volkova has recently learned informally that the authorities have designated a newly-constructed house on Tavricheskaya Street for her family to purchase using the compensation money, and that all families on Khadyzhenskaya Street would be resettled to Tavricheskaya Street and other locations by December 2010. Although Ms. Volkova has a 700-square-meter garden plot, she is not being offered a similar-sized property on Tavricheskaya Street. It will be impossible for Mrs. Volkova to make a reasoned decision about the Tavrichevskaya Street property without information about the value of her Khadyzhenskaya Street property.
Ms. Volkova and others on Khadyzhenskaya Street remain very concerned that they will be obligated to accept a forced trade of their existing homes for new homes without sufficient information or time to appeal the decision. According to Ms. Volkova, the authorities have warned that if residents do not sign agreements accepting the new housing, the authorities will simply open bank accounts in their names and deposit the compensation money. They believe that the valuation process has lacked transparency and as a result the compensation offered to them may undervalue their property substantially.
Artizanskaya Street (or Khadyzhenskaya Street- Second Row):
All properties (approximately 10 homes) on Artizanskaya Street are subject to expropriation. They have extensive gardens and in many cases consist of multiple buildings that serve as small bed -and-breakfasts; many property owners' livelihoods depend on the income generated by these small businesses as well as their gardens. Four families living on Artizanskaya Street told us that their properties had undergone multiple assessments in recent years. They are concerned that the houses and property currently being offered to them for purchase are substantially smaller than their existing homes and properties and would not allow them to continue earning income as small hotel owners or through selling crops. Property owners are also concerned because they have been informed that they will be required to vacate their homes by December 2010, but have yet to receive compensation offers or information regarding the price of the new homes being offered to them.
For example, Ashot Ulreman has lived in Sochi with his wife and two children for 17 years and owns a 185 square meter home and a second 54 square meter structure on 550 square meters of land at 7 Artizanskaya Street. His property has been assessed three times between spring 2009 and summer 2010. The first appraisal, in spring 2009, valued Ulreman's property at 13,000,200 rubles; a second appraisal, done in the late summer 2009, valued his property at 5,000,600 rubles. The third, most recent appraisal, conducted in summer 2010, valued the property at 9,600,000 rubles.
None of the three appraisals included valuation of the second story of Mr. Ulreman's home, which he built as an addition to the home, because at the time of the first appraisal, Mr. Ulreman had not received the necessary certificates confirming ownership of the second story. Mr. Ulreman has since secured the necessary certificates and delivered them to the outreach office of the Krasnodar Krai administration department responsible for the Olympics, but the authorities have refused to conduct an appraisal on the full size of the home. Mr. Ulreman and his family are being presented with an offer to purchase a 127 square meter house on 700 square meters of land in the housing development on Tavricheskaya Street. Mr. Ulreman is not aware of the price of the new home being offered to him and therefore cannot make a reasoned decision about whether to buy it or look for an alternative property using the compensation money.
Andronik Tarasian owns a home (88 square meters) and small bed and breakfast (118 square meters) which he built himself on 550 square meters of land at 9 Artizanskaya Street. Mr. Tarasian and his wife have beautified the property with gardens and depend on the income of the bed and breakfast for their livelihood. Assessors have conducted three appraisals of his property, most recently in June 2010. However, because Mr. Tarasian did not initially have the necessary documentation confirming ownership of the hotel, the authorities refused to include the hotel in the appraisal of his property. When Mr. Tarasian visited the Olympstroi office and explained the situation, officials told him to secure the necessary documents so that they could revise the appraisal. Although he did this, when he received information about the most recent appraisal, the hotel had still not been assessed.
When Mr. Tarasian again approached the Olympstroi office, officials there stated that they could not find the documentation he had provided to them regarding his bed and breakfast. Mr. Tarasian is currently being offered a 127 square meter home on 700 square meters of land on Tavricheskaya Street. He will not receive any additional structure to use as a bed and breakfast, and, based on the compensation currently being offered to him for his existing property (9,100,000 rubles), he must pay an additional 2,400,000 rubles to purchase the new property.
Vladimir Demerchan, who has lived at 12 Artizanskaya Street for more than 10 years, also stated that part of his home had not been considered in the appraisal, due to the absence of certain certificates related to an addition to his 8-room house that he built himself in 2005. The home he is being offered for purchase on Tavricheskaya Street consists of only three rooms and is significantly smaller than his current home.
A fourth property owner, Tatiana Grigorievna, who lives at 8 Artizanskaya Street, also faces difficulties owing to a lack of proper documentation for more than 70 square meters of summer kitchens and summer rooms she had built on her property, which she uses in addition to her main home.[i] The house on Tavricheskaya Street she has been offered is on a significantly smaller plot of land (350 square meters, compared to the 550 square meters she currently owns).
Khadyzhenskaya Street-Third Row:
Several individuals who own property on Khadyzhenskaya Street- Third Row were pleased to have met with members of the IOC delegation visiting Sochi in September 2009 and in April 2010. Again, we welcome this initiative on your part to become familiar first-hand with the human impact of construction for the games. We would strongly encourage you to meet with property owners and tenants from other parts of Sochi who can convey to you a broad range of experiences they have had with expropriation.
As you may recall from our letter of May 2009, the Krasnodar Krai government had agreed to give Olympstroi land on Khadyzhenskaya Street-Third Row for development of the Olympic Park, the Temporary Olympic Training Center for Ice Sports, and a Temporary Olympic Training Center for Ice Hockey, without informing the property owners or providing them with compensation. In 2007 a fence was put up around the property, and the owners were prohibited from using their land. Earlier this year, an opening was made in the fence, and the owners have been able to access their property on foot. The property owners attribute this positive development to the interest the IOC has shown in their case.
However,at the same time, a road has already been built across several plots (37, 40 and 41), making them unusable for the landowners, some of whom used the land for growing fruits and vegetables.
The property owners have pursued a number of remedies through the courts to secure confirmation of their ownership rights to the land. As we wrote in May 2009, a September 2009 court decision confirmed the landowners' ownership rights. But as of this writing, an appeal launched by the Krasnodar Krai Property Department against this ruling is still pending in the court system, apparently preventing the regional government from undertaking any action to assess the property and present compensation offers to the owners. The property owners insist that they only want to receive recognition of their property rights and fair and adequate compensation for their land that was de facto seized more than three years ago for the construction of Olympic venues.
The names of those owning property on Khadyzhenskaya Street- Third Row include but are not limited to: Lyubov Stepanyatova, Rashida Nurmagomedova, Viktoria Snigur, Ovanes Teknedzhian, Vladimir Serzhantov, and Yurii Galevskii.
Nizhnaya Izmeritinskaya Street and Verkhnaya Izmeritinskaya Street:
At least 117 homes on Nizhnaya Izmeritinskaya Street, which abuts the Black Sea, are subject to expropriation. Marina and Oleg Sherbatskii and their two sons own 23,600 square meters of land and a 119 square meter home at 9 Nizhnaya Izmeritinskaya Street, as well as several outbuildings on the property. Since 1995 they have maintained a small farm which serves as the family's main income of 400,000 rubles per year. In September 2010, the family received a proposal for compensation, which included both monetary compensation based on a June 2010 appraisal of 40 million rubles (a significant decrease from the original appraisal of 71 million rubles done in September 2008), as well as the option to purchase two homes in Nekrasovskoe-- one on 770 square meters of land and one on 470 square meters.
As is permitted under law, the Sherbatskiis declined to sign the proposed offer, and instead responded with revisions to the offer that they believed reflected a fair price and a reasonable alternative land plot, where the family would be able to maintain a small farm and therefore their livelihood. The Krasnodar regional authorities could have proposed a counter offer or an invitation to negotiate to settle the matter, but they chose not to exercise this discretion. Instead, they filed a suit against Marina Sherbatskii in October 2010, thereby increasing the Sherbatskii's administrative burden. The suit proposes to pay the Sherbatskiis 40 million rubles for their land, but no longer includes the option to purchase new homes and land to which the family could relocate.
On nearby Verkhnaya Izmeritinskaya Street, Lyuba and Fyodor Fursa's property (3A Verkhnaya Izmeritinskaya Street) has undergone multiple valuations, and each time the property has been valued at a lower price. The Fursas initially lived on 2,200 square meters of land, and relied on farming the land as a source of food and income. The Fursas are concerned that the home and property offered to them in Nekrasovskoe will not allow them to pursue this livelihood. They are also concerned that although they have not agreed to a final compensation and resettlement package, the authorities have indicated the Fursas will be forced to leave their homes by December 2010.
Desperate at the lack of attention from the authorities to their concerns and the absence of a specific compensation offer for their properties, in May of this year Lyuba Fursa was one of 10 people who staged a 24-day hunger strike. Although officials from the Sochi Mayor's Office and the Krasnodar Krai administration ultimately met with the hunger strikers, who then agreed to end the strike, Ms. Fursa stated that there has been no further clarification of the valuation of her property and she remains concerned that the most recent appraisal is not consistent with market prices.
b. Forced Evictions and Destruction of Homes
In July, on the basis of a court order, federal marshals forcibly evicted residents from 10 homes in an area in the Imeritinskaya lowland that is now the site of construction of the Olympic stadium. Some of the evicted residents complained that they declined compensation packages because the measurements of their homes cited by appraisers were inaccurate. Some relocated to newly-constructed homes in the Nekraskovskoe settlement; others, citing concerns about the quality of the newly-constructed homes, accepted compensation and were resettled temporarily to a hostel.
Village of Akhshtyr
Destruction of wells
As we wrote to you in October 2009, Olympics-related construction has left all 102 residents of the village of Akhshtyr without water since mid-2008, when construction began on the combined rail line and road to Krasnaya Polyana (Officially known as the "Combined (automobile and rail) road Adler-mountain complex "Alpika-Service"). Expansion and paving of the existing dirt road in Akhshtyr to create a service road to the main construction site completely covered four of Akhshtyr's five wells. Pollution and runoff have rendered the fifth well unsafe to use. The wells were destroyed with no warning to residents and no compensation, leaving residents without an alternate source of water for several months. Only in mid-2009 were villagers able to get a truck to bring water to the isolated village once per week, but each resident is limited to 200 liters. Though the authorities have promised the villagers a replacement water-supply, the project stalled after initial surveys, performed by an unspecified organization in the beginning of summer 2010. Residents state that nothing concrete has been done to provide a permanent solution for the village's water supply.
Illegal garbage dump
According to media reports, on August 31, 2010 officials from the Russian agency for environmental oversight (Rosprirodnadzor) uncovered a massive, unsanctioned garbage dump above the village of Akhshtyr along the combined rail line and road to Krasnaya Polyana. OAO Adlersky Chai, a subcontractor of the state-owned OAO Russian Railroads (RZD), has been implicated in the illegal dumping of hazardous waste and rubble from the road construction project since early 2010. The dump has spread into the territory of Sochi National Park and poses a significant threat to groundwater and an important tributary of the Mzymty River. Rosprirodnadzor publicized their findings only on October 26, 2010. On November 11 the Adler District Court suspended the activity of OAO Adlersky Chai for 10 days.
Aleksandr Koropov has been living in his home on a 5,000 square meter plot of land based on an indefinite use permit granted to him in 1989. In late 2009 he discovered that ownership of the land had been transferred to Olimpstroi. Mr. Koropov was not notified about the transfer, and became aware of the new ownership only when he attempted to reregister the land as his private property. He was offered no compensation, but no one has interfered with his continuing to live on 3,600 square meters of the original tract. He continues, unsuccessfully, to try to privatize the property. In March 2010, he filed a complaint regarding the de facto expropriation of his land and was questioned by local prosecutors, but has received no further information about how his complaint is being handled.
In the meantime, contractors carrying out construction on the combined rail line and road have set up a truck wash adjacent to his land and the runoff runs onto his property. Construction of the road filled in his drainage canal, leading to flooding in his house when the Mzymta River flooded in March 2010. Noise, dust, and pollution continue to degrade the property and decrease Mr. Koropov's quality of life and interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of his property. In addition, local officials have demanded that he and the other villagers get rid of their livestock by the opening of the Olympic Games. Mr. Koropov owns 50 head of cattle.
Vera Galevskaya, owns a plot of land in Akhshtyr along the Mzymta River, where she maintains a garden that provides an essential food source for her family. The combined rail line and road project has been constructed abutting Ms. Galevskaya's property, despite the fact that under law, a 50 meter protected zone must be preserved along roads of this type. After filing a complaint with the prosecutor's office, in July 2010, Ms. Galevskaya received confirmation that the law indeed requires a 50-meter protected zone. When Ms. Galevskaya tried to submit a complaint to Olympstroi officials, they instructed her to take her complaint to court. It is not clear why Ms. Galevskaya- rather than the prosecutor's office or Olympstroi-must bear the burden of ensuring this breach of a regulation designed to protect the health and well being of residents is remedied.
c. Applicable human rights standards
In light of our findings above, and our concern that there are many others whose property is likewise affected, we believe it would be helpful to set out some of the human rights law applicable in this situation, so that you are aware of the legally binding standards on all Russian authorities and, in particular, their obligations with respect to compensation. Russia is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights and is bound by the Convention and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Anyone whose property is impacted by measures taken in connection with preparation for the Olympics would have a right, after trying any effective domestic remedies, to go to the European Court of Human Rights to seek a judgment that their rights were violated and obtain compensation. Judgments against Russia very likely given the patterns that we are witnessing, would also reflect adversely on the prestige that hosting the Olympics should bring to a country.
The European Convention explicitly protects against unlawful expropriation of property, which includes expropriation not carried out in a fair and appropriate manner. Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, paragraph 1, reads as follows:
"Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law."
The notion of "possessions" for this purpose covers a wide range of interests, including business or professional interests, proprietary interests and claims or legitimate expectations in relation to enjoyment of property. According to the Court, the above paragraph requires that any deprivation of such possessions, for example via expropriation or forced sale, must comply with the principle of lawfulness, be in the public interest, and pursue a legitimate aim in a proportionate manner.
Therefore, when a person is deprived of their property the Court has made clear on repeated occasions that the authorities must strike a ‘fair balance' between the demands of the public interest and the requirements of the protection of the individual's fundamental rights; the measure must not impose an excessive burden on the individuals and the state cannot derive unjust enrichment from the measure.
The Court has said that compensation terms are material to the assessment of whether an expropriation measure respects the requisite fair balance and whether it does not impose a disproportionate burden on the individual whose property has been expropriated. Whilst the notion of ‘public interest' is necessarily extensive, involving consideration of political, economic and social issues, and it follows that the margin of appreciation available to the government is a wide one, the Court has held that there is a direct link between the importance or compelling nature of the public interest pursued and the compensation that should be provided in order to guarantee compliance with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. It has been held that a sliding scale should be applied, balancing the scope and degree of importance of the public interest against the nature and amount of compensation provided to the persons concerned. Moreover the Court has held that failing to pay compensation of a sum reasonably related to the value of the property is an excessive interference with an individual's rights, and in many cases of lawful expropriation, only full compensation can be regarded as reasonably related to the value of the property.
In the context of land expropriation, or de facto expropriation occurring for the purposes of establishing an infrastructure suitable to host the Olympic Games, Human Rights Watch believes that the ‘fair balance' and applicable human rights standards are not being met.
Recommendations for Expropriation/Compensation and Related Issues
We reiterate several recommendations made to you in our May 2009 letter, including that the IOC should insist upon a transparent and fair process for property expropriation and compensation that complies with Russia's human rights obligations. People who will lose their land for the construction of Olympic venues should have clear information about the timing of the expropriation, their compensation and resettlement options, and the means of appealing decisions so they do not have to live in uncertainty. The compensation calculation should take into account not only the property's sale value but its use and its potential to generate income. For owners whose livelihoods depend on their property, other means of support or assistance should be included in the compensation package, which should be subject to a reasonable and affordable means of challenge.
We also encourage you to take the opportunity of your regular visits to Sochi to meet with communities affected by expropriation for Olympic venues and related infrastructure and other Olympic-related projects. By meeting with citizens' groups and people affected by Olympic construction during your upcoming visit, you can demonstrate a commitment to transparency that could serve as a model to local officials.
In addition, the IOC should urge the Sochi 2014 Olympic organizing committee (SOCOG), the Krasnodar Krai administration, and Sochi officials to hold regular, well-publicized public meetings where Olympic plans are discussed and to establish a mechanism for resolving grievances. Such a mechanism would ensure that those affected by the Olympics have the opportunity to register their grievances and that those grievances would be addressed in a clear and transparent manner.
2. Factories Producing Materials for Olympic Projects
When we wrote you in October 2009, we had just that learned residents were concerned about the health impact of emissions from three factories which had been built adjacent to residential areas in the Izmeritinskaya lowlands. Since writing to you, we have confirmed that the factories are producing materials for Olympic projects and were constructed by Olympstroi and Russian Railways. Each of the three factories, which are located on the territory of the migratory bird park, respectively manufacture asphalt, reinforced concrete, and mortar-concrete units - apparati designed for contractors to produce high-quality concrete at construction sites. According to media reports and a former employee at the mortar-concrete unit factory, the materials from all three factories are being used for the construction of tunnels on the combined rail line and road from Adler to Krasnaya Polyana. The factories operate 24 hours a day and are located as close to 40 meters from private homes.
Human Rights Watch visited two houses which abut the factories. Although a sound barrier constructed in February 2010 has improved the situation somewhat, dust and unknown emissions from the factories render the air quality in the surrounding area quite poor and interfere with local residents' peaceful enjoyment of their property. Residents reported that at times the air around their homes is thick with emissions resembling smoke and that each morning a large, foul-smelling, black cloud of emissions is released from the asphalt factory. On September 19 or 20, 2010 residents reported seeing a large gray cloud of emissions come from the factory, which gradually moved over the residential areas. They called the Ministry of Emergency Situations, which responded by informing residents only that running water in the area had been turned off; but residents received no further responses to their requests for information about the incident or potential health concerns.
Residents have filed numerous complaints to Russian governmental agencies and believe that Rospotrebnadzor or another Russian governmental monitoring agency has visited the factories. Media reports indicate that in November 2009 Rospotrebnadzor found that Olympstroi had built the asphalt factory within 125 meters of private homes without the required permission of Rospotrebnadzor, and insisted that Olympstroi take reasonable measures to address the problems. In November 2009, Rostekhnadzor confirmed that Russian Railways built the mortar-concrete factory within 40-45 meters of residential homes. Residents are not aware of any substantive measures taken to alleviate the factories' negative effects on the residential areas.
As with expropriation, in the area of environmental pollution and damage caused to private homes and communities by the activities of third parties, the European Court of Human Rights has set out clearly and repeatedly the obligations on state parties, such as Russia. The European Convention in Article 8 requires respect for private and family life and the Court has stated that this imposes positive obligations on governments to protect those rights from harm by private actors, including in cases of environmental damage. Breaches of the right to respect of the home include non-physical breaches such as noise, emissions, smells, or other forms of interference. The obligations under Article 8 apply whether the pollution is directly caused by the State or whether the State has failed to regulate private industry properly. The Court has found a government liable for the pollution caused by a waste treatment plant, which affected an individual's quality of life and well-being, even if their health was not seriously endangered, as well as liable for pollution from a chemical plant and for noise pollution from transport and businesses. In addition to the obligation to regulate industry in order to prevent unnecessary harm to private individuals, the Convention imposes an obligation to provide appropriate information about the environmental pollution and potential risks any activity poses. In seeking to strike a fair balance between the competing interests of the individual and of the benefit of any polluting activity to the society as a whole, the procedural safeguards available to the individual are especially material.
Recommendations for Factories Producing Materials for Olympic Projects
We strongly encourage you to insist that the Russian authorities take all measures to mitigate the negative effects of the factories on residential areas, including, for example, limiting the factories' working hours and prohibiting them from working at night; ensuring that the factories meet all necessary standards under Russian law regarding emissions; providing local residents with information about the factories' emissions; and working with residents to provide them with additional protections to limit their exposure to potentially harmful dust and other airborne pollutants. Such measures are required to meet the standards applicable under the European Convention on Human Rights.
We also encourage you to insist that the Russian authorities ensure that a process is in place for establishing compensation where appropriate as a result of the negative impacts of the factories, including for loss of peaceful enjoyment of their property, decreased value of their property, or for related health problems. The authorities should also provide residents with information about future plans for use of the factories after the completion of Olympics-related construction, so that owners can make an informed decision about whether to remain on their properties or not.
3. Abuses against Workers, including Migrant Workers on Olympic Venues and Related Sites
As described in our May 2009 letter to you, Russia relies heavily on migrant construction workers. Both foreign and domestic migrant workers are being recruited for construction of Olympic venues and related sites, such as infrastructure and hotels. Additional research in Sochi this year revealed that workers at various sites are not receiving full rights protection. Workers reported employers' failure to provide contracts, severe delays in wage payments, and non-payment of wages. They also reported overcrowded, employer-provided living conditions.
Workers who have tried to protest these abuses have in some cases received little or no assistance from the Russian authorities. In some cases, workers have faced repercussions for seeking redress, including expulsions from Russia.
In one case, starting in March 2010, numerous migrant workers from Uzbekistan working on the construction of hotels in Sochi filed several complaints to the Sochi labor inspectorate regarding owed or delayed wages and received no response. On October 5, 2010 a group of over 50 workers staged a peaceful protest in front of the Sochi mayor's office. Not long after that an unknown number of the workers who protested were detained and expelled from Russia for violations of migration legislation.
Human Rights Watch was able to intervene in one case concerning four workers being held in detention awaiting removal from Russia. In letters and calls to the Federal Migration Service, the Labor Inspectorate, and the prosecutor's office, we insisted that the authorities examine the workers' complaint regarding the non-payment of their wages and that no action be taken on the workers' potential removal from Russia until they received their owed wages. We later learned that while the workers who had irregular documentation were deported to Uzbekistan, their employer paid a portion of their back wages, prior to their removal.
Unfortunately, Human Rights Watch is not in a position to intervene on each case involving labor and other violations against workers. We believe it is imperative that the Russian authorities investigate fully all complaints of violations of labor and other laws made by workers as well as take proactive steps to monitor employers' compliance with all relevant legal standards. Migrant workers' claims should be investigated irrespective of their migration or contractual status, to ensure that their rights are fully protected and employers are not able to exploit their vulnerable status as foreigners by failing to pay all owed wages promptly and in full.
Recommendations for Abuses against Workers
We reiterate our calls made to you in our February 2009 submission to the Copenhagen Olympic Congress for the establishment of an independent commission to investigate and report on labor-related abuses relating to Olympics venues; and for full disclosure of all labor disputes, workplace injuries and deaths on construction sites for Olympic venues. We also feel that it would be helpful for the IOC to state publicly that the human dignity and rights of workers should be protected at all venues and sites built in relation to the Olympic Games in Sochi.
We thank you for your attention to these concerns and recommendations and hope that you will ensure that these issues receive full attention during your upcoming visits to Sochi. We look forward to your response on these issues and to our continued dialogue. We would be willing to meet in the new year to discuss these findings.
Minky Worden Rachel Denber
Director of Global Initiatives Acting Executive Director, Europe and Central Asia Division
Human Rights Watch Human Rights Watch
[i] As IOC delegations may have noted during their own trips to Sochi, many property owners there have "summer kitchens" and "summer rooms," which are separate from the main home, but constitute a significant part of the family's living space for much of the year. The house on Tavricheskaya Street that Tatiana Grigorievna has been offered has more square meters than her current home, but fewer rooms and no additional structures.