Russia and the European Human Rights System
Human Rights Watch: the human rights situation in Russia &# 171; unprecedented&# 187; bad
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation: &# 171; In Russia, the situation with human rights is not the worst&# 187;
The human rights organization Human Rights Watch, which published an annual report on human rights in the world, was extremely pessimistic about the situation in Russia..
In the Moscow press center of Interfax, Director of the Russian office of the organization Anna Sevortyan and Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia Rachel Danber spoke about the concerns of human rights defenders.
In her opening remarks, Sevortyan noted that HRW should not be accused of bias, as the organization notes that Russia is also taking steps to protect human rights. “Probably the most important thing for us is Medvedev’s farewell gift – the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” she explained. “This creates a platform for further action in relation to the group of people with disabilities.”.
However, according to Danber, the negative tendencies in Russian society so far many times “outweigh” the positive ones: “It is simply impossible to be silent about the situation in Russia today. I have been working on human rights in Russia for over twenty years, and now I have every reason to say that 2012 was the most difficult year in my memory “.
According to her, the beginning of the second presidential term of Vladimir Putin was characterized not only by the cancellation of “cautious steps towards liberalization taken during the Medvedev period,” but also by the development of authoritarianism. “Over these months, authoritarianism in Russia has reached a level unseen in the country’s recent history,” Danber explained..
The basis for this, according to HRW’s director for Europe and Central Asia, was a package of laws adopted by the Duma “in record time.” Among them, Danber named laws restricting freedom of assembly and Internet freedom, the return of criminal liability for defamation, canceled by Medvedev, as well as the law on “foreign agents” and “the law of Dima Yakovlev.”.
Separately, the researcher mentioned the expansion of the definition of the concept of “high treason”. “Now this definition can even be summed up in international activities to protect human rights in Russia,” said Danber. “In addition, now in Russia the activities of any organizations that receive funding from American sources are prohibited.”.
When asked by a reporter if HRW members were concerned about their own branches in Russia, Sevortyan and Danber replied that their organization was clean before the law and law enforcement agencies were not interested in them yet..
On democracy and opposition
Answering the question of the correspondent of the Russian service “Voice of America”, Rachel Danber said that she considers the attitude of the authorities to the opposition in Russia unacceptable: “The current offensive of the authorities on all fronts looks especially fierce. They are trying to intimidate civic activists with criminal and administrative prosecutions, threatening statements from officials, beatings, and exposing materials about the protest movement and critics of the authorities are pouring in. The authorities even threaten family members of the oppositionists “.
In past years, the researcher said, “persecution” of the opposition in Russia did not reach such proportions. “These are aggressive and cynical attempts to equate concerns about human rights and the rule of law in Russia with an attack on Russian sovereignty,” she said..
Danber drew attention to the anti-American sentiments in Russia, which, according to her, are cultivated by the authorities: “Anti-Western rhetoric has reached an unprecedented level. The authorities persistently try to tarnish the very ideas of democracy, openness and accountability. They offer to believe that the protest movements are inspired from abroad “.
In her opinion, the United States is also not “sinless” in matters of human rights protection. “For example, the Obama administration is refusing to prosecute officials involved in torture in the Bush administration while trying to preach the need to punish torture in the Middle East or Egypt, for example,” Danber said. “This gives rise to accusations of US hypocrisy.”.
However, the situation in Russia, according to the researcher, at the moment remains unprecedented and requires immediate action..
About the “law of Dima Yakovlev”
Anna Sevortyan, in an interview with the Voice of America correspondent, said that HRW has a negative attitude towards this law, as it is “absolutely disproportionate, illegal and immoral”.
She explained that Moscow’s reaction to the “Magnitsky law” hit “mainly Russian citizens, Russian children.”.
When asked about the position of the Russian Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, who is a consistent opponent of international adoption, Sevortyan replied: “We believe that the child’s right to a family is above political interests.” She added that Astakhov’s arguments are often based on not one-sided and inaccurate information..
When asked about the ban on the activities of US-sponsored NGOs, Rachel Danber replied that even if this law is not applied in practice, it “has already played its role”: “There has been a signal throughout the entire vertical of government that independent and critical voices can be squeezed. An atmosphere of fear, paranoia and hostility towards civil society has developed in the country. “.
On the rights of sexual minorities
In the Russian version of the annual report, HRW representatives noted negative trends in the attitude of the authorities towards LGBT minorities.
“By the end of 2012, a ban on ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ had been legislated in nine Russian regions,” the report says. “This could include, for example, displaying a rainbow flag or gay-friendly symbols.”.
The document also mentions the decision taken by the European Court regarding the lack of consensus in Russian society on the attitude towards “sexual minorities”. Then the international court rejected the appeals to this topic of the Russian authorities.
“Despite this ECHR ruling, the Moscow authorities banned the gay pride parade in 2011 and 2012,” the document says..
About Olympic construction and palliative medicine
During the press conference, HRW employees also noted less global, but extremely important problems that their organization is concerned about in Russia. One of them, said Anna Sevortyan, is the problem of the lack of painkillers and the difficulty of using them..
“There are several numbers that show the extent of this problem in Russia,” she said. “More than 80 percent of people who, by World Health Organization standards, absolutely need strong narcotic pain relief because they really cannot tolerate pain, do not receive up to 80 percent of the drugs they need.”.
According to her, the problem here lies in the Russian health care system itself: “We would really like to see progress in this area and hope to start working with the Ministry of Health.”.
Human rights violations during the construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi are another serious problem, according to Rachel Danber..
“We’re going to submit our report to the International Olympic Committee,” she said. “What is happening in Russia now runs counter to the ideas of Olympism.”.
According to her, HRW representatives are going to draw the attention of the IOC members to the violation of the rights of migrants during construction, as well as to “the lack of a fair system of compensation for the property seized for the construction of Olympic facilities.”.
Commenting on the HRW report, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said: “I think we will make a comment and show that Russia is not the worst situation with human rights. Those who say so, they are not perfect either. “.
He also recalled that the Russian Foreign Ministry began to publish its reports on the human rights situation in the United States and the European Union..
The UN declares that everyone, regardless of country of residence, nationality, gender, ethnicity, religion or any other characteristics, has inalienable rights.
In addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948, there are a significant number of international conventions to which the overwhelming majority of states in the world have acceded, pledging to comply with their provisions. These include, for example, the Convention on Equal Remuneration, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National, Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities etc..
International law imposes on individual states – regardless of their political, economic and cultural characteristics – the obligation to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The UN also recognizes that human rights are inalienable, they are interrelated and interdependent, problems with the observance of one right negatively affect the observance of other rights..
A number of international human rights organizations, based on these principles and criteria, regularly publish reports that summarize information on the human rights situation in different countries of the world. Some organizations focus on specific rights: for example, Reporters Without Borders assesses the situation with fundamental freedoms of speech and press.
The factual basis for such reports is the media reports; information collected by local human rights organizations, community activists, experts, etc..
State representatives criticized in such reports regularly accuse authors of bias and bias.
Arch Puddington, vice president of research at Freedom House, who has led the world’s freedom reports for many years, believes such claims are biased..
“Yes, many countries do not like our assessments,” he told the Voice of America Russian Service. – They accuse us of bias. Frankly, we do not take such accusations seriously, the only exceptions are cases when such claims are accompanied by specific indications of where we made a mistake. “.
However, it should be added that human rights defenders a priori have the right to make mistakes. As explained by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: “For a true human rights defender, it doesn’t matter if his arguments are correct. Whether or not a human rights defender defends a human right is decisive … In many countries, defenders are believed to be wrong because they support only one side of the dispute. This is not true. Human rights defenders should be named and accepted as such, depending on the rights they protect and in accordance with their right to do so ”.
These principles are also enshrined in the International Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted in 1998..