Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Kremlin Shifts from Targeted to ‘Systemic’ Violations of Human Rights, Moscow Helsinki Group Says

Paul Goble
            Staunton, August 26 – The human rights situation in Russia has deteriorated sharply and fundamentally over the past year, the Moscow Helsinki Group says in its annual report, as the Kremlin has shifted from “targeted” attacks against specific people to the “systematic” violation of the rights of entire categories of people.

            Yesterday, on the 47th anniversary of the protest by eight Soviet dissidents against the introduction of Soviet forces into Czechoslovakia, the Moscow Helsinki Group, as it has since 1997, released its annual report on the state of human rights in the Russian Federation (

            Speaking at the event, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the irreplaceable had of the Helsinki Group, said that “unfortunately, our insane Duma has approved a very large number of laws about civil rights … and literally all of these laws are anti-constitutional and directed at the limitation of the rights” of Russians.

            “Since 2012,” the authors of the report say, “in haste, the State duma has become to adopt laws which generate serious concern in civil society,” laws directed not only “against the least defended and problematic elements of society like migrants, minors, or prisoners but at the rights activists themselves, the work of which has become significantly more difficult and even risky.”

            Konstantin Baranov of the Coordinating Council of the International Rights Defense Movement, expanded on that. He said that until 2012, rights activists were targeted for government persecution only “if they worked on the North Caucasus, and defended prisoners, migrants and LGBTs.” Now, all rights groups are subject to repressive measures.

            In 2012, he pointed out, there were up to 50 cases of administrative actions rights groups and activists, a number that rose to 120 in 2013.  Since then, the number has gone up, as the government has imposed its “foreign agents” law on many of the groups because they receive funding from abroad or have refused to accept that designation.

            The Russian authorities have imposed “more than 10 million rubles” (150,000 US dollars) in fines in this sector alone, Baranov says.  It certainly appears that the Russian government intends to go on in this direction until the day when “there are no more rights in the country.”

            But he argued that rights activists should not be dissuaded by this. Instead, Baranov said, the monitoring of human rights abuses in Russia should expand, taking into account not just official documents but surveying what is actually taking place on the ground, since there is often a large gap between the two.

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