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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pasko in the Moscow Times!

La Russophobe does not recall hero journalist Grigory Pasko (pictured) ever publishing an article in the Moscow Times before, and a quick check of the paper's archives indicates he has not (if any reader knows differently, please tell us). But on Monday he sure had one, blasting Russia on human rights. Weirdly, the paper identifies him only as "a journalist." That's like calling Tchaikovsky "a composer." Then again, our quibble is like complaining that our buttered bread doesn't have both red and black caviar on it.

Not long ago, when he was in Portugal at the EU-Russia summit, President Vladimir Putin announced that he planned to set up an institute in the EU that would monitor human rights in Europe. Putin's aide on EU affairs, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, reported to journalists that the new organization would focus on monitoring Europe's track record on freedom of the press, as well as the rights of ethnic minorities and immigrants. Particularly noteworthy was the fact that the institute would be staffed exclusively by Russian citizens.

I asked a friend in Germany whether he would like his rights to be defended by Russian bureaucrats who are cast from the Putin mold. "Heaven forbid!" he replied. He was a bit rash in his answer, of course. The idea of Chekists monitoring the rights of Europeans is a stroke of genius in its own right. First, rights are violated everywhere. (Is it not an abuse of human rights, for example, when a person is forced to choose among dozens of items at breakfast buffets in European hotels?) Second, if there is one thing Chekists know how to do well, it is monitoring people. They have always watched people -- everywhere and everyone. Third, even though the stock argument of double standards and "Why don't you look at yourself first?" is rather cheap and feeble, it still manages to work in favor of the other side. In recent times, Putin has been using precisely this argument to the hilt in meetings with the leaders of Western countries.

The idea's weak spot, in my opinion, is that the scope of the planned institute is limited to Europe. Why think so locally? It would be better to reach wider and to think world-scale. Especially since there is a new example out there right now -- Georgia. In the opinion of Russian politicians of various stripes, Tbilisi is guilty of committing gross human rights violations. Oh, what self-gratifying, righteous indignation we see on the faces of Russia's leaders when they talk about all the terrible things happening in Tbilisi. In the words of all the Gryzlovs and Mironovs, it seems that the rights of all Georgians are being perpetually violated.

Every day, Russian television revels in reporting the atrocities that the Saakashvili regime commits against its people. You just want to say to them, using Boris Pasternak's phrase, "Why don't you take a look at what millennium it is in your own backyard?"

But let's get back to the human rights institute. Russia should definitely share its rich experience of watching various categories of citizens -- including dissidents, journalists and scholars -- and this should be done, of course, on a worldwide scale. Where else can you find the broad experience and global reach of Putin's comrades? Our experts will be able to teach the art of surveillance, intrigues, dirty tricks and lies to anyone. No problem. And why are they talking about an institute? After all, the efforts of one, lone scholarly establishment -- even if it is the best in the world -- are not enough to defend the rights of all of the poor and miserable Europeans who are oppressed by the injustice of society. A more potent defense will no doubt be required as well. This is why I propose to Putin and his comrades that they consider the idea of creating an International Basmanny Court of Human Rights. They could base it in Strasbourg so that it is not too far from the institute in Brussels. They could study the theory in Brussels, then reinforce it in practice in Strasbourg.

And naturally, we will also need to create a whole bunch of international and European nongovernmental organizations to protect people all over the world from the arbitrary rule of bureaucrats, security services, unscrupulous medical personnel and plumbers, bribe-taking police officers and cooks who keep attempting to make greasy food with lots of cholesterol. And all of these NGOs will be run by specialists from Russia -- preferably, former members of the KGB and the Prosecutor General's Office.

Of course, this host of NGOs is going to need funding, which is why I propose the creation of the V.V. Putin Global Fund for the Protection of the Human Rights and a Worldwide Public Chamber. The chamber, naturally, should include only people who have been tested for loyalty to United Russia and have a deep personal love for its one and only leader.

Oh, I nearly forgot about the need to create an International Academy of Law, whose activity will consist mainly of instituting the ideas of First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev about how it isn't Russian laws that need to be changed, but international ones. Closer to the Russian model, of course. There are plenty of lawyers in Russia today who are ready at the drop of a hat to rewrite the laws and Constitution to fit a third term for Putin.

The European Convention on Human Rights and its protocols, as is known, guarantee the rights to:

• life, liberty and freedom of the individual;

• a fair trial in civil and criminal cases;

• to vote in elections and to participate as a candidate in elections;

• freedom of thought, conscience and religion;

• freedom of opinion, including freedom of the press;

• private property protections; and

• freedom of assembly and group association.

Only Russia, of course, can claim to be a role model with respect to all of the above. If we speak about ensuring the protection of journalists' lives, we're ahead of nearly everyone else in the world: Two dozen journalists have been killed just during the years of Putin's rule alone.

And then there are elections. Where else can you find such free and multiparty elections if not in our country? Just ask the members of United Russia about this one, and they will tell you the whole truth.

As for the protection of private property, is there anyone who could speak to that any better than former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence?

The authorities understand very well the importance of complying with prohibitions. After all, the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits:

• torture and inhuman, degrading treatment;

• the death penalty;

• slavery and forced labor;

• discrimination as a result of exercising one's rights guaranteed by the convention;

• expelling citizens from their home country or refusing them entry; and

• the collective expulsion of foreigners.

All of these prohibitions are strictly observed in our country. You don't believe me? Go ask the people locked up in Russian prisons about torture and inhumane, degrading treatment. The number of prisoners, by the way, is already approaching a million -- just like in Soviet times.

In addition, ask the dozens of foreign journalists who are prohibited from entering Russia simply because they criticized Putin and the war in Chechnya. And ask the Chechens about the government's sincere concern for nationalities.

And, after all of this, if somebody still has complaints against the state, let him appeal to the International Basmanny Court of Human Rights. The judges will certainly explain to him the rules of the game in Russia.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I asked a friend in Germany whether he would like his rights to be defended by Russian bureaucrats who are cast from the Putin mold. "Heaven forbid!" he replied.

The average German guy doesn't need Russian human rights monitors to protect his human rights in Europe. The ones who really need it are Russians living in the former Soviet Republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. During the times of the USSR there was large movements of people between the various republics, and ethnic Russians moved to these states just as they moved to Russia and other states (for job opportunities, university or whatever). But now these ethnic Russian people in Europe are having their rights violated, being treated as 2nd class citizens, not given the right to vote, etc.

I am sure such a state of affairs and such violations of universal human rights will be greeted by shouts of glee by the author of this blog, as long as the victims of it are Russians. But understandably Russia is upset about this because Russia is concerned about the basic status of human rights of ethnic Russians who are residents of other European countries.

The EU, despite all its high-minded rhetoric and all its holier-than-though lectures directed at Russia and others on the issue of human rights, has fallen asleep at the switch, right in its own back yard, or so it would seem.

Europe also leads the world in human trafficking and the abuse and violation of the most basic human rights of immigrants, many of whom are Russians.

It's sad that unless Russia stands up for the rights of these victims no one else there will defend them or raise a protest about what is going on. I think it points to the huge gap between the hollow self-serving rhetoric coming out of Europe on the subject of human rights, and the real state of affairs in Europe.

Moscow Times of course is a shill for foreign anti-Russian interests and no one in Russia reads it or pays any attention to it.

Anonymous said...

The author of the article is supposedly a Russian, writing in a Russian publication for Russian readers. But on the subject of Russia's concern for human rights in Europe he only obfuscates and disingenuously presents the situation as if Russia wants to protect Germans from the German government or Dutch people from the government of Holland, which of course would be absurd, if it only was true, which as he knows it is not.

As the author knows fully well Russia's concern about the issue of human rights in Europe is a long standing concern and something that Russia has been protesting about for a long time.

The Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania used to be part of the the USSR. They were 3 of the 15 republics that made up the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. During Soviet times there was a fair degree of mobility of Soviet citizens, and many citizens moved to other republics for various reasons (as say someone moves from Ohio to California, to get married or to accept a job offer).

But now these Baltic Republics are no longer part of the USSR, and neither is Russia, as the USSR no longer exists. The former Soviet Socialist Republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have all three gone into the European Union (EU) and into NATO.

So what becomes of the many ethnic Russians, Uzbeks, and others, and their descendants, who moved into these states during Soviet times? Well if the current governments in these Baltic states have their way, ethnic Russians living there basically have no rights. They cannot vote in elections. They are forbidden from teaching Russian to their children or sending them to Russian language schools. In essence they are not accepted as citizens of the newly established states. They are considered to be "stateless people", and they are being told that if they don't like it they should just "go back to Russia."

That's all fine and well, but it also happens to contravene the most well established principles of human rights, that states cannot deprive people of basic human rights or ethnically cleanse certain groups simply because they are "undesirable".

In many cases Russians living in Europe are 2nd or 3rd generation, or people who are connected by married, who were born in their present countries, and these people have no other home to go to other than the place where they currently reside.

This issue is far more important than only the issue of the status of Russians in Europe, because it really cuts to the heart of basic and universal conceptions of human rights. Nations are not permitted to deny basic democratic rights to minorities are attempt to ethnically cleanse certain groups, merely because they are unpopular or inconvenient for the host country.

Every nation in Europe has large numbers of ethnic minorities, and it is a well-established principle that nations may not violate the human rights of these ethnic minorities, except in the case of ethnic Russians, it would appear.

For example, despite the record of the Germans, there are still a large number of German Jews living in Germany. So why shouldn't Germany say that Germany is for the Germans and the Jews should "go home to Israel"? The issue at stake really is that basic, after all, but the Europeans apparently put on convenient mental blinders when it comes to the status of Russian residents of the EU, who are merely victims of political situations that they did not create and which they have no control over.

This ethnic cleansing and systematic violation of human rights is not happening in Africa or Latin America, but right in the heart of Europe, which prides itself on its "human rights" record, so much so in fact that it regularly lectures other countries at length on the subject of human rights.

Russia is obviously concerned about this situation, if the rights of ethnic Russians are being violated in the heart of Europe. It is the height of cynical nonsense to dismiss Russian concerns, as if Russia is just making a show, or trying to highlight these rights abuses as some sort of cynical ploy to mask its own human rights records. In fact Russia is genuinely concerned with the human rights and the plight of their ethnic cousins living in Europe, and as I said, it is sad that only Russia can stand up for ethnic Russians, and the other Europeans have not recognized these rights abuses for what they are before now, and done something about it.

But as I said, it highlights the utterly cynical and false nature of the supposed superior European concern for universal human rights. To a Russian it seems more like the Europeans are never more than a step away from pasting on the Fuhrer mustache and getting up to their old tricks once again.

Anonymous said...

hi! great article! say hello to pascal schnyder from me.

Artfldgr said...

you give the perfect example of why this is a problem...

you dont realize that these 'russians' are not russians!!!

you see, you quite naturally assume that if they have russian ancestry, then they are russian, but the minute these states went back to their rightful peoples, there is now an issue.

why? because the russians are not seeing themselves as latvians first! that makes them invaders, just as mexicans who come to the US illegally and who have alliegance to mexico, are not americans.

this 'multicultural' view that doesnt embody assimilation into the new and place you move to, creates islands of peoples whose interests are muddled by loyalties to another country.

is it any wonder that those who live in one place but show allegiance to another are not trusted or considered the same as someone whose allegiances are aligned with the place they live?

the islamics who are doing the same thing are also getting the same actions.

and you do not draw any attention to the FORCED IMMIGRATION PROGRAMS... you make it seem like the russians moved to the baltics like americans move to florida.

they didnt... first half the population had to be murdered to make liebensraum for the russians. note the germans did not ship them off to camps like russia did.

that left the best properties, the best things all for the russians that then moved in and being russian, never paid for the property, but killed the owners instead.

maybe thats why people have a thorn in their side?

if you couple this with the fact that a large proportion of spies, operatives and such come from such pools of loyal others... eitehr by choice or manipulation, then you can see that such enclaves are festering wounds... the stink of which those who call the place home dont wish to tolerate.

they are hoping that russians go back to the country they love more, rather than try to change their new home to match...

(after all, this is also a complaint of the vcapitalists who wish that the communists wishing a state of constant revolution will just buy a ticket and go to a place that already exists that does what they are desiring of. except that the other place dont want them eitehr!)

Anonymous said...

The difference between the "authoritarian" Basmanny court and the "democratic" Hague one is that those tried at the former at least don't die before their sentences are passed :(