Human Rights Report

The 2008 US Report on Human Rights was unveiled yesterday, and it made some pretty stark conclusions about Russia. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, issued a pretty formulaic response, telling Reuters that  “We have problems in this sphere (human rights), but we honestly talk about them and, what’s more, we ourselves publish annual reports on the state of things there. We believe all other countries ought to apply the same approach.”

From the State Department report:

“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 March presidential election was marked by problems during the campaign period and on election day, as reported by independent Russian and European observers, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which included the abuse of government resources, media bias in favor of the ruling party and its candidate, authorities’ refusal to register opposition party candidates, lack of equal opportunity for conducting campaigns, and ballot fraud…Violence against women and children were problems, and domestic violence was widespread. Trafficking in persons continued to be a significant problem. There was some governmental discrimination and widespread societal discrimination as well as racially motivated attacks against ethnic minorities and dark-skinned immigrants or guest-workers. During the year there was a steady rise in xenophobic, racial, and ethnic attacks and hate crimes, particularly by skinheads, nationalists, and right-wing extremists. Instances of forced labor were also reported.”

On Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life:

“There were reports that the government or its agentscommitted politically motivated killings and other arbitrary killings.In August, the government’s use of indiscriminate military force in aconflict with Georgia resulted in numerous civilian deaths in thatcountry…Deaths due to hazing in the military continued to be a problem. TheMinistry of Defense reported 17 deaths as a direct result of hazingduring the year.”


“During the year there were reports of disappearancesthroughout the North Caucasus in connection with the conflicts inChechnya, Ingushetiya, and Dagestan. Some disappearances were allegedto be politically motivated and to have involved federal or localgovernments. There were no reports of politically motivateddisappearances outside these regions of the country.”

On Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment:

“The law prohibits such practices; however, there werecredible reports that law enforcement personnel engaged in torture,abuse, and violence to coerce confessions from suspects and allegationsthat the government did not consistently hold officials accountable forsuch actions. During the year there were also reports of torture andother cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by federalor local government security forces in connection with the conflict inChechnya. In August, during a conflict that began in the Georgianseparatist enclave of South Ossetia, the government’s use ofindiscriminate military force resulted in numerous civilian injuries inthat country.”