Medvedev talks human rights with UN high commissioner

RIA Novosti / STF
President Dmitry Medvedev held a meeting with UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay, who arrived in Moscow on Sunday.

From the Russian side, the meeting was also attended by Russian ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, the Presidential Representative for Children's Rights, Pavel Astakhov and the President’s aide, Sergey Prikhodko.

The meeting between Russia’s President and the UN Commissioner indicates the recognition of the UN’s leading role in the international arena, as noted in the documents of the talks.

"The country's leadership regards further improvement of the state policy in fostering and protecting human rights, above all, in reforming police agencies, the judicial system as well as making criminal legislation humane closely coupled with efforts to modernize the state," cited Itar-Tass.

Moscow is building up its relations with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights guided by efforts to strengthen the universal principle of all operating human rights standards and inadmissibility of any manifestations of racial discrimination and xenophobia.

This is the fourth visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human rights to Russia. During her stay in the country, which will end on February 19, Pillay is going to meet with heads of the several ministries – including the Foreign Ministry, Interior, Justice and Health Ministries as well as the chairman of the Constitutional Court in St Petersburg.

Earlier on Tuesday, environmentalists from the Movement for the Protection of the Khimki Forest passed a petition on to Pillay asking the UN to help them stop the construction of a Moscow-St Petersburg highway through the forest just outside the capital.

“Since 2011 is the Year of Forests, we appeal [to Navanethem Pillay] to ask President Dmitry Medvedev to stop the construction of the highway through the Khimki forest,” Yaroslav Nikitenko from the movement told Interfax.He said that in their appeal they also mention “repressions” against some activists who were taking active part in the protection of the area outside Moscow, including Mikhail Beketov, Editor in Chief of the newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda and others.The journalist is known for his harsh criticism of the Khimki administration and writing articles on illegal tree felling and grave desecration in the Moscow region. He was severely beaten in 2008.

According to Nikitenko, in their petition the activists state that further construction of the highway “will lead to more violence and human rights violations.”

In December last year, despite months of protests by environmentalists, the government commission gave the green light to the construction plan and sent it to the president. Before that, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered the Ministries of Transport and Natural Resources to conduct an additional assessment of the project. The decision on the construction would be based on that evaluation, he said.

Back in August, Dmitry Medvedev ordered to halt the construction so that the additional evaluation of the project could take place. He cited opinions of environmentalists, political parties and experts. Given “such a number of appeals,” the president said more public and expert discussion was necessary. About 60 hectares of the forest had already been logged by that time.