For Immediate Release: June 27, 2006
New York – On July 15, the Group of Eight (G8) leaders will gather in a Russia that is very different than the one they envisioned in 2002 when they invited it to hold the presidency. Russia is now a country in which authorities threaten NGOs with closure and vilify, prosecute, and imprison human rights defenders; in which hate crimes against ethnic and religious minorities are a near daily occurrence; in which the independence of the judiciary has eroded; and in which independent television channels no longer exist.
This week, Human Rights First releases three new reports documenting President Putin’s latest crackdowns on civil society organizations and the rise of hate crimes in Russia, including a particular look at the incidence of hate crimes St. Petersburg.
Human Rights First urges world leaders attending the G8 Summit to take advantage of the opportunity to call on President Putin to recommit to the democratic values of the G8, and to establish a set of clear benchmarks against which Russia will be held accountable by the time of next year’s Summit.
Recent developments in Russia include:
- Under the guise of stabilizing civil society and fighting terrorism, President Putin recently signed the “NGO law” that is expected to greatly restrict the activities of Russian NGOs and foreign human rights organizations based in Russia.
- A state-run television station ran a documentary falsely accusing four respected Russian human rights organizations of accepting money from alleged British spies.
- Russian authorities continue to target human rights defenders through false prosecutions. For example, Stanislav Dmitrievsky, editor of a human rights newspaper, was convicted of inciting ethnic hatred under counter-extremism laws for publishing articles calling for peace in Chechnya.
- Racist violence is on the rise; in the past year, NGOs have documented hundreds of cases of assaults – including murder – against immigrants and minorities. Criminal justice authorities tend to treat these assaults as “hooliganism” and the overall government response to these hate crimes has been weak and ineffectual.
Human Rights First’s new reports, which address these and other threats to human rights and the rule of law in Russia:
- Russia’s New Direction on the erosion of civil liberties and democratic institutions in Russia.
- Minorities Under Siege: Hate Crimes and Intolerance in the Russian Federation on the increasing number of hate-motivated crimes in Russia
- Minorities Under Siege: The Case of St. Petersburg focusing specifically on the high incidence of hate crimes in St. Petersburg, Russia
Human Rights First staff will be in Russia attending various events around the Summit from July 2-19. Please check our website beginning next week for regular, real-time updates from Russia.