Britain Documents Crumbling Human Rights Situation in Russia

Russian police arresting gay-rights activists in Moscow.  Source: UK Human Rights Report 2007The latest edition of a human rights report from the British Foreign Office finds new lows in the arena of human rights in Russia. The report, revealed on March 25th by Great Britain’s Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, puts Russia among the list of countries that raises the most worry on the part of the foreign policy department.

Russia and Belarus are the only European nations on the list. Separate chapters are also devoted to Afghanistan, Myanmar, China, Columbia, Cuba, the Dem. Rep. of the Congo, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

According to the publication, Russia has experienced “a shrinking of the democratic space” over the past year and a half, resulting in part from recent laws on non-governmental organizations and countering extremism. The British Foreign Office is also concerned with violations during December 2007 State Duma elections, and is disappointed that Russian authorities “prevented” independent electoral monitoring by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE’s) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

Other issues include new restrictions on the freedom of the Russian mass-media, and the growing security risks faced by journalists. The report also voices concern over an accelerating rate of attacks on ethnic, racial and religious minorities, increasingly common use of punitive psychiatry, and the endless reports of murder, torture, kidnappings and unlawful arrests in the North Caucasus region.

The publication also devotes time to Anna Politkovskaya, the slain investigative journalist whose violent murder remains unsolved. Additionally, the authors bring to light gross violations on the freedom of assembly for both the political opposition as well as the gay-rights movement.

The British Foreign office earmarked some 700 thousand pounds to Russian non-governmental organizations in the 2006-2007 fiscal year, funding 18 projects for developing the rule of law and protecting human rights. According to the report, 16 projects in the same fields will receive over 440 thousand pounds in the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

Read the complete report (pdf). The section on Russia begins on page 169.