A Human Rights Agenda for Russia

4 March 2012

By Graham Jones

There is a lot of speculation around the world not as to who will win the Russian Presidential election but as to the amount of electoral fraud or civil repression that will be evident during the polling period. I am writing in the UK where our own head of state traces a hereditary ”legitimacy” based on a dynasty founded by an illegitimate pretender from a thousand years ago. Never mind twelve years, in the UK we’ve had the same head of state for sixty years! Therefore, apparently unlike many of my compatriots, I do feel not qualified to smugly criticise the process of selection in any other countries where the head of state is actually elected, however flawed the process. I feel this is counter-productive and verging on cultural colonialism.

However, human rights are a different matter: they are universal. Just about all of the world’s governments have subscribed to them in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, like puppies for Christmas, are not just for the electoral season, but need to be cherished throughout the year. In this context we are all world citizens and have a shared responsibility to each other.

Sadly it is almost impossible to identify any country in the world that is a beacon for human rights and Amnesty International’s Annual Report provides evidence that human rights abuses are committed by nearly all countries in the world.

I would suggest that any government’s respect for the human rights of its population can only serve to strengthen the respect by that population for the government.

Therefore, amid all the speculation and accusations of potential rights abuses before they even happen, it is refreshing to read Amnesty International’s timely Human Rights Agenda for Russia published this week.

Document - Russian Federation: A Human Rights agenda for Russia

Public AI Index: EUR 46/006/2012
Russian Federation 
Follow-up to the concluding observations on Russia’s sixth periodic report under the ICCPR

A Human Rights Agenda for Russia

February 2012

Ahead of the Russian Presidential election on 4 March, Amnesty International is calling on the successful candidate to place the respect for human rights at the heart of their political agenda for the next six years.

Over the last few weeks, all of the presidential candidates have, to varying degrees, touched on the core issues preventing Russian society from fulfilling its rich potential, including the lack of political pluralism, the need for greater media freedom, endemic corruption, the impunity of government officials, entrenched inequalities and an ineffective judiciary.

All of these issues constitute, or contribute to, human rights violations – and demand human rights-based solutions. Russia has both the human and the material resources to provide them. Solving these deep-rooted problems requires only the strong political will of Russia’s leadership – the responsibility for which must ultimately lie with its next President.

As the first generation of post-soviet voters heads to the polls, the hopes and expectations of all Russians remain what they always were – the full enjoyment, for so long denied, of their most basic rights as individuals and as citizens.

Amnesty International is therefore urging the next President of the Russian Federation to:

1. Ensure that no Russian citizens are arbitrarily denied their rights to political participation, including by joining or establishing a political party; via the necessary legislative and policy changes, remove obstacles and challenges which prevent the growth of a vibrant civil society;

2. Respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including for those who represent a minority or stand on a dissenting position;

3. Respect and protect freedom of expression for all, among them those with independent or dissenting views, including journalists, trade union activists, civil society activists and human rights defenders; ensure that the threats and attacks against them are effectively investigated;

4. Remove legal and practical barriers which obstruct genuine media pluralism, refrain from censorship and the use of unlawful or arbitrary restrictions on the freedom of exchange of opinions and information on the internet;

5. Strengthen independence of the judiciary and eliminate corruption within the judiciary, prosecutorial and investigative agencies;

6. Eliminate torture and ill-treatment by, and corruption within, law enforcement agencies;

7. Improve conditions in detention and guarantee access to adequate medical care and legal representation for all persons in custody;

8. Ensure that the fight against terrorism and extremism is conducted in accordance with the rule of law and strictly in line with Russia international human rights obligations;

9. Introduce comprehensive legislation prohibiting discrimination on such grounds as race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, political affiliation or sexual orientation, and take measures to ensure that it is fully and effectively implemented;

10. Ensure effective, equal and adequate access to health care, housing and education for everyone.

11. Implement European Court of Human Rights judgments, including by taking general measures to address systemic violations, fully cooperate with all UN, Council of Europe and other international and regional human rights bodies and mechanisms;

12. Ensure that Russia’s international influence is used to promote the respect for human rights abroad.