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Friday, March 14, 2008

U.S. Government Bashes Kremlin on Human Rights

The U.S. State Department has issued yet another blistering annual report on human rights condemning Russian barbarism. Predictably, since the Kremlin can't deny the truth of these allegations, it tries to create a smokescreen by attacking the critic, just like they used to do in the good old USSR. Basically, the Kremlin is saying, it doesn't matter how many Russians are brutalized as long as Americans are also being brutalized. It doesn't matter if Russia destroys herself, as long as America does too. Is that sick or what?

Here's just an excerpt of the long document:

There were numerous reports of government and societal human rights problems and abuses during the year. Security forces reportedly engaged in killings, torture, abuse, violence, and other brutal or humiliating treatment, often with impunity. Hazing in the armed forces resulted in severe injuries and deaths. Prison conditions were harsh and frequently life threatening; law enforcement was often corrupt; and the executive branch allegedly exerted influence over judicial decisions in some high‑profile cases. The government's human rights record remained poor in the North Caucasus, where the government in Chechnya forcibly reined in the Islamist insurgency that replaced the separatist insurgency in Chechnya as the main source of conflict. Government security forces were allegedly involved in unlawful killings, politically motivated abductions, and disappearances in Chechnya, Ingushetiya and elsewhere in the North Caucasus. Disappearances and kidnappings in Chechnya declined, as Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov established authoritarian and repressive control over the republic, and federal forces withdrew. Federal and local security forces continued to act with impunity, especially in targeting families of suspected insurgents, and there were allegations that Kadyrov's private militia engaged in kidnapping and torture. In the neighboring republics of Ingushetiya and Dagestan, there was an increase in violence and abuses committed by security forces.

Government pressure continued to weaken freedom of expression and media independence, particularly of the major television networks. Unresolved killings of journalists remained a problem. The government restricted media freedom through direct ownership of media outlets, influencing the owners of major outlets, and harassing and intimidating journalists into practicing self-censorship. Local governments tried to limit freedom of assembly, and police sometimes used violence to prevent groups from engaging in peaceful protest. The government used the law on extremism to limit freedom of expression and association. Government restrictions on religious groups were a problem in some regions. There were incidents of discrimination, harassment, and violence against religious and ethnic minorities. There were some incidents of anti-Semitism.

Continuing centralization of power in the executive branch, a compliant State Duma, corruption and selectivity in enforcement of the law, media restrictions, and harassment of some NGOs eroded the government's accountability to its citizens. The government restricted opposition political parties' ability to participate in the political process. The December elections to the State Duma were marked by problems during the campaign period and on election day, which included abuse of administrative resources, media bias in favor of United Russia and President Putin, harassment of opposition parties, lack of equal opportunity for opposition in registering and conducting campaigns, and ballot fraud. The government restricted the activities of some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), through selective application of the NGO and other laws, tax auditing, and regulations that increased the administrative burden. Authorities exhibited hostility toward, and sometimes harassed, NGOs involved in human rights monitoring. Violence against women and children and trafficking in persons were problems. Instances of forced labor were also reported. Domestic violence was widespread, and the government reported that approximately 14,000 women were killed in such violence during the year. There was widespread governmental and societal discrimination as well as racially motivated attacks against ethnic minorities and dark-skinned immigrants. There was a steady rise this year in xenophobic, racial, and ethnic attacks and hate crimes, particularly by skinheads, nationalists, and right-wing extremists.

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