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8 Mar, 2007 01:04

Russia disagrees with U.S. human rights report

Russia disagrees with U.S. human rights report

A U.S. State Department report claiming Russia's human rights record has worsened last year is criticised by Russia. The head of the Duma's International Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachyov, says its parts are not objective.

The U.S. Department of State has come up with its annual report on human rights. That is human rights worldwide, except for the United States itself and its actions overseas.

This year it looks at the situation in 196 countries. Almost one hundred pages of the bulky document are dedicated to Russia that is by a third more than the year before.

The conclusion is that the situation with human rights in Russia remains poor.

The new document mostly repeats what has  been said before alleging the centralization of power, restricted freedom of speech, and human rights abuses in Chechnya.

It documents  the growing number of apparent contract killings, singling out those of high-ranking Russian banker, Andrey Kozlov and journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

“I think where a report like this is valuable, is keeping a focus on what are grave human right abuses in various sectors of Russia including in Chechnya with its spread disappearances of civilians, army hazing, and frankly these are issues that Russians are concerned about. I mean the idea that Russians don't care about human rights is not borne out at surveys that we have done,” says Dr. Sarah Mendelson, Human Rights & Security Initiative, Washington.

The United States of America is missing from the list of countries the State Department is looking at. And that is the focal point of the criticism it is receiving.

International human rights organizations say the U.S. has lost credibility reporting on human rights.
In an interview to the Washington Post the executive director of Amnesty International, Larry Cox, accused the US of “hypocrisy”, saying it criticizes other countries failing to note its own involvement in human rights abuses.

“How can the U.S. have any credibility in trying to stop torture in Egypt when the whole world and we know what it does not mention – our role in sending people to be tortured, extradited and jailed. How can we criticize regimes for holding people in indefinite detention while we ourselves are holding people in indefinite detention?” asks Larry Cox.

In Russia, the report caused negative but measured reaction.

“I think that a significant number of the claims that the situation with human rights has worsened in Russia are not well-grounded. For example, freedom of speech and public opinion. Not long ago the State Duma wanted to pass a bill on rallies and demonstrations which would significantly limit people's freedom of speech. This draft faced harsh criticism. Fortunately, there were many of us who opposed it and the proposal was recalled.  So the fact that public opinion can influence the legislation so that some drafts are recalled means that public opinion does exist in Russia,” says Maria Slobodskaya, Russian Public Chamber.

Many claims in the document are controversial. But politicians in Russia say there is no point in disputing the report, since it is no more than a private view on the issues that are to be addressed by the affected countries themselves.