Boot Russia out of the Council of Europe!
Russia has only less than one-sixth the population of Europe, yet it has nearly one-third of all pending cases for human rights violations before the European Court for Human Rights, which is organized and maintained by the Council of Europe — of which Russia is a member. Russia has nearly three times more cases pending before the EHCR than any other nation, and Russia loses nine out of ten cases when it is prosecuted by the EHCR.
The Kremlin’s response to its horrific human rights record — as adjudicated by one of the world’s most respected courts — has been quite simple: It is moving to oust the court’s jurisdiction from Russia. That’s fine, in fact it’s probably rather unfair to expect a nation of corrupt baboons to allow themselves to be controlled by something like the rule of law.
But as former Russian parliamentarian Vladimir Ryzhkov argues in the Moscow Times, it means that Russia must be ousted from the Council of Europe, and the sooner the better. We call upon the COE to heed Ryzhkov’s words and move forward immediately in standing up for its core values and casting Russia out.
And we state what is obvious: If Russia had the slightest shred of national dignity or honor, it would simply resign.
The heroic Russian activist Marina Litvinovich
One of our favorite Russia blogs, Global Voices, interviews one of our favorite bloggers, the epic Russian patriot Marina Litvinovich:
Marina Litvinovich is a blogger, civic rights and human rights activist. After a career in political consulting, an investigation of the Beslan hostage crisis, and participation in the liberal opposition movement, Marina has become one of the most influential activist bloggers in Russia. In this interview Marina shares her thoughts on her own blogging, as well as how the internet might affect deeper social and political changes in Russia.
Her blog has played a significant role in launching independent investigations, in cases such as the “Lukoil” car crash case as well as the “Live Barrier” case. Recently, Litvinovich launched “Best Today”, a web-aggregator that monitors the Russian blogosphere. You can read more about her background here and here.
Human Rights Watch reports:
“Even in the 90s at the time of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria it wasn’t as bad as it is now. After all I didn’t wear a headscarf then and, though the keepers of public morals would sometimes pounce on you, they kept their hands to themselves. You could say to them ‘What’s it got to do with you? I’ve got a father and brothers, so who are you to give me orders?’ They didn’t want problems, so they’d back off. But now you don’t know where to hide. They have the power and the strength and they’re everywhere.”
The pretty young woman in a straight, well-fitting skirt and crisp light-coloured blouse gestures helplessly.
“It’s so humiliating, but you have no other option – you have to put on the headscarf. If, say, they hit you, and that’s not unlikely, then your brothers won’t be able to leave it at that. They’ll have to take action against the aggressors, who will just kill them. You dress according to their rules not so much out of fear for yourself, but to protect your family.”
In June Madina and her friend were fired at from a paintball gun.
Novelist Vladimir Voinovich, writing in the Moscow Times:
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin insists that “without normal democratic development, Russia will have no future.” We Russians are pleased to hear these enlightened words, yet Putin adds a “but” to his argument that renders his points senseless.
We have hated this “but,” this coordinating conjunction, ever since the dawn of the Soviet era. Then we were told that freedom is good, but that one can’t live in an individualist society without common concern for the communist state. Democracy is great, but only in the interests of the working class.
Now Russia’s prime minister tells us that democracy is indeed great, but that public protests cannot take place around hospitals and such. Never mind that the Russian Constitution does not list hospitals among places forbidden for public assembly.
Before it’s News reports on the outrageous misconduct of a small number of foolhardy American corporations. Did somebody say boycott?
Yesterday, Cisco announced a more than one billion dollar initiative to leapfrog innovation in Russia’s ICT sector. As part of the Skolkovo Project, Cisco will establish a “physical presence” in Skolkovo, relocate employees from its engineering team to the area, and launch Skolkovo as a model for Cisco’s“Smart+Connected Communities” by building networked infrastructure that enables a range of technologies like the smart grid, smarter transportation information hubs, and public safety surveillance hubs.
An editorial in the Washington Post:
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Dmitry Medvedev tried again on Friday to portray Russia as a “modernizing” country seeking better relations and more investment from the West. “The changes will take time but it will happen,” he declared in the annual economic forum his government puts on in St. Petersburg. “Russia understands the tasks ahead and is changing for itself and for the rest of the world.”
Unfortunately for Mr. Medvedev, that was not the only message out of St. Petersburg. Friday also brought the news that police had waylaid a truck on its way into the city and seized 100,000 copies of a new book written by two senior opposition figures about Vladimir Putin’s first 10 years in power. “Putin, The Results: 10 Years” by Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov, argues that the decade’s most notable legacy is a massive tide of corruption and lawlessness — a judgment seemingly confirmed by the truck’s hijacking.
An editorial in the Washington Post notes that Russia is flouting the Obama administration on human rights (it overlooks the fact that, as we report below, the deal over Iran sanctions is for a watered-down sham no different than several similar pacts reached in the Bush years, and the deal over nukes is equally dishonest, achieving only tiny marginal changes in weapons stockpiles — so the price Obama has paid for this escalation in human rights atrocities is truly appalling).
RUSSIA’S GOVERNMENT has calculated that it needs better relations with the West to attract more foreign investment and modern technology, according to a paper by its foreign ministry that leaked to the press last month. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has recently made conciliatory gestures to Poland, while President Dmitry Medvedev sealed a nuclear arms treaty with President Obama. At the United Nations, Russia has agreed to join Western powers in supporting new sanctions against Iran.
Moscow’s new friendliness, however, hasn’t led to any change in its repressive domestic policies. The foreign ministry paper says Russia needs to show itself as a democracy with a market economy to gain Western favor. But Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev have yet to take steps in that direction. There have been no arrests in the more than a dozen outstanding cases of murdered journalists and human rights advocates; a former KGB operative accused by Scotland Yard of assassinating a dissident in London still sits in the Russian parliament.
Perhaps most significantly, the Russian leadership is allowing the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil executive who has become the country’s best-known political prisoner, to go forward even though it has become a showcase for the regime’s cynicism, corruption and disregard for the rule of law. Mr. Khodorkovsky, who angered Mr. Putin by funding opposition political parties, was arrested in 2003 and convicted on charges of tax evasion. His Yukos oil company, then Russia’s largest, was broken up and handed over to state-controlled firms. Continue reading
Sandra Kalniete, the former Latvian ambassador to the United Nations, UNESCO and France, writing on Prague Post (hat tip: Robert Amsterdam):
While Russia has always played a significant role in Europe, relations took a new dimension after European Union expansion. Not only because the EU’s border extended substantially eastward, but also because the 10 new member states have a unique relationship with Russia from a long and often forced coexistence. Now, Western Europe has access to expertise based not only on theoretical assumptions but practical experience. This advantage, if used properly, could benefit the entire EU and contribute to a sound and effective plan of cooperation with Russia.
The EU and Russia are predestined to have a close partnership. Both parties realize this but disagree on the term “partnership.” Russia considers the partnership to be primarily economic, while the EU would like to have a dialogue about values. Lately, there are more voices saying, “We must cooperate with Russia.”
But people forget there are two Russias. European politicians could separate them well during the Cold War era: They pragmatically maintained economic ties with the Brezhnev or Andropov regimes and, at the same time, politically and morally supported Soviet political prisoners and dissidents. Today, international support of Russian democrats and human rights campaigners is just as imperative as during the final decades of the Soviet Empire.
Lev Ponomaryev, embraced by Putin
Paul Goble reports:
Moscow city officials are refusing to renew the leases of two leading Russian human rights activist groups, an action that the groups are appealing but that some observers are explaining as official retribution for the participation of these groups in recent anti-government protests and as a reflection of negative trends in Russian life.
Yesterday, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the dean of Russian human rights activists and the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said that Moscow city officials were refusing to extend the lease the Group has for offices in the Russian capital. Lev Ponomaryev, head of the For Human Rights Movement, said officials had taken the same action against his group.
Both of them have appealed to Vladimir Lukin, the Russian government rights activist, and Aleksandr Muzaykantsky, Lukin’s Moscow city counterpart, as well as to Ella Pamfilova, the head of President Dmitry Medvedev’s Council for the Support of the Development of the Institutions of Civil Society and Human Rights.
The EU Spits in Putin’s Eye
If there was anyone left among the wretched Russophile rabble who still thought Europe was on Russia’s side against Georgia, surely not even they could still believe so after learning that the European Union had awarded its highest honor, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, to one of Vladimir Putin’s most ardent and fearless foes, the Memorial human rights organization.
Human Rights Watch reports:
Russia has ignored a series of judgments by the European Court of Human Rights on Chechnya, fueling unchecked violence in the North Caucasus, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Following the recent murders of human rights defenders there, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly will decide on September 28, 2009 whether to schedule a debate to focus on the dangerous conditions for human rights defenders in the North Caucasus.
The 38-page report, “‘Who Will Tell Me What Happened to My Son?': Russia’s Implementation of European Court of Human Rights Judgments on Chechnya,” examines Russia’s response to European Court judgments on cases from Chechnya. In almost all of the 115 rulings, the court concluded that Russia was responsible for extrajudicial executions, torture, and enforced disappearances, and that it had failed to investigate these crimes. In the 33 cases researched by Human Rights Watch, Russia has still not brought a single perpetrator to justice, even in cases in which those who participated in or commanded the operations that led to violations are named in the European Court judgments.
Human Rights Watch reports:
Russian federal and Chechen local authorities should immediately put a stop to the punitive house-burning and other human rights violations in Chechnya and bring those responsible to justice, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch has documented two new cases in Chechnya in which the homes of families related to suspected insurgents were torched by local law-enforcement officials as well as a public extrajudicial killing of a man suspected of providing food to insurgents.
On July 2, 2009, Human Rights Watch published a report, “‘What Your Children Do Will Touch Upon You': Punitive House-Burning in Chechnya“, documenting a pattern of house burnings by security forces to punish families for the alleged involvement by their relatives in the insurgency.
“We have two more houses burned and at least one person killed just in the last couple of weeks,” said Tanya Lokshina, deputy Moscow director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s time for Russia’s leaders to take a clear stand against this kind of brutal collective punishment instead of looking like they endorse it.”
Yelena Maglevannaya is Fleeing Neo-Soviet Russia
On February 18, 2009, the Russian government initiated a defamation lawsuit against 27-year-old Yelena Maglevannaya, a reporter for the local newspaper Svobodnoye Slovo (“Free Word”) and the human rights website Civitas.ru in the city of Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad). She also blogs, in Russian, on Live Journal, and she signed a petition against Russian aggression in Georgia that was joined by many prominent human rights leaders across the country.
The Kremlin accused Maglevannaya of publishing false allegations about federal prison authorities in a series of articles in which she reported acts of torture being carried out by the local government against Zubayr Isaevich Zubayraev, then housed in the local jail administered by the Russian government (as are all such institutions since all Russian criminal law is federal). At the same time that the lawsuit was filed, Zubayraev’s family in Chechnya, especially his sister, began receiving death threats and fled the country.
Now, Maglevannaya has been forced to flee Russia and seek political asylum in the West, just as if Russia were the USSR, in order to avoid being jailed for the simple act of telling the truth about the activities of the Kremlin.
The Horror of Eurovision
No politics at Eurovision?
Last weekend the “Eurovision” song contest wound up in Moscow. The world could only stand slack-jawed gaping at the unbounded horror of it all.
Eurovision has a rule that says “no politics allowed” during the contest.
But that didn’t stop host Russia from decorating the stage with an inflatable fighter jet and an inflatable tank and having the Russian army choir perform the keynote song.
No politics allowed?
Fred Hiatt, writing in the Washington Post, calls upon Barack Obama to speak up for human rights defenders in Russia:
Tanya Lokshina did not set out to put her life in danger as a human rights campaigner in Russia.
Asked whether his killing heightened her sense of danger, Lokshina demurs. Human Rights Watch has taken security precautions; she can travel abroad; people working for smaller, Russian organizations, without outside backing, are far more vulnerable. But, she acknowledges, “anyone who is working on human rights abuses in Russia . . . is part of a group at risk.”Asked whether his killing heightened her se
Paul Goble reports:
Four leading Finnish non-governmental organizations have called on visiting President Dmitry Medvedev to live up to his promises to protect human rights and civic freedoms and to end the violence against journalists and ethnic minorities in the Russian Federation that are creating a gulf between Moscow and Europe.
The appeal, signed by the leaders of the Kiila Social Union, the Finno-Russian Civic Forum, the Finnish Section of Amnesty International, and the Finnish PEN Center, says that its members “had hoped for the development in Russia of a society which shares European values like human rights and civic freedoms.”
But given recent developments in various sectors of Russian life, it continues, the signatories “are deeply concerned by the state of the observation of human rights in Russia,” all the more so because Medvedev, as in his interview with Novaya Gazeta, offered himself as a defender of these rights. “Are you seriously prepared for a change in the law on non-governmental organizations,” the appeal’s authors ask. Are you genuinely attached to the rule of law and the defense of human rights? And with regard to these questions, the Finnish NGOs challenge the Russian president, “will we see actions and not just words?”
The following is an open letter to Vladimir Putin from human rights advocate Sergei Kovalyov, published on the Yezhedevny Zhurnal website and translated by The Power Vertical, which calls Kovalyov “the conscience of Russia.” One must wonder how long this “conscience” will be allowed to go on breathing.
On the night of March 31-April 1, Lev Aleksandrovich Ponomaryov — a former deputy of the Supreme Soviet and then of the Russian State Duma, a noted public activist both at home and abroad, a democrat with an undisputed reputation within the human-right community — was savagely attacked.
No one doubts that this outrage was obviously political in nature. Unfortunately, there is politically motivated violence all around us and even murders have become a fact of daily life for us. I will not bother to recount for you the long and mournful list of political massacres — your assistants can easily present you with all the particulars.
But what is immediately evident in cases where political motivation is obvious is that the victims are always critics and opponents of the authorities. Why is this, Mr. President? What do you think?
Speak Up, Mr. McCain
Even as Russian “president” Dima Medvedev was meeting with Barack Obama in London in an effort to “press the reset button” on U.S.-Russian relations, Medvedev’s cruel KGB regime showed by its actions that the effort was nothing more than a sham. Obama remains silent on the issue of human rights and the new cold war with Russia, giving every indication that he has been suckered by the neo-Soviet regime in Moscow, and it is now time for Republican John McCain to speak up in vehement opposition.
We understand that McCain was honor bound to give Obama the chance to formulate his policy towards the KGB regime of Vladimir Putin without interference, but three months have now passed and Obama has met with his Russian “counterpart,” yet remained totally silent on American values and national security where Russia is concerned. Therefore, McCain must now demand better. And let’s be clear: It’s not only the right thing, but in his party’s partisan interests, to do so. Republicans have lost the intiative on domestic policy but, following the lead of their great leader Ronald Reagan, they can claim the high ground on foreign policy by moving decisively against Putin.
The evidence of Putin’s malignant intentions is damning indeed.
Go, Hilllary, Go!
We continue to be very pleasantly surprised by what we have seen so far from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton where Russia is concerned.
First, on Clinton’s first visit to Europe she made a very strong statement in support of Ukraine and Georgia against Russian aggression. And now, she has followed that up with something even better.
Craven Europe, We condemn you!
No sooner had we recovered from our revulsion at Europe’s cowardly decision to censor Georgia’s Eurovision song entry than we were overcome by an even more profound disgust over the Council of Europe’s failure to take any action against Russia for refusing to ratify two crucial human rights protocols in the organization’s charter. In fact, until Russia agrees to be bound by these basic constraints of civilized nations, it should be summarily booted out of the Council and condemned as the barbaric banana republic that it clearly is.
The New Kosova Report:
There are ample facts that during the years of 1998-99, when the war erupted in Kosovo, Serbia through the Macedonia and Bulgaria channels, has sold out human organs of Kosovar Albanians to Russian “medical businessmen.”