For Immediate Release: July 7, 2009
Following a meeting of American and Russian civil society representatives with President Obama, Paul LeGendre, Director of Human Rights First’s Fighting Discrimination Program said the following:
“Today, by meeting with representatives of the Civil Society Leaders Summit, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to pursue what he described in an interview with independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta as the US and Russia’s ‘common interest in the development of the rule of law, the strengthening of democracy, and the protection of human rights.’
In the course of discussions during the civil society summit, Russian and American human rights NGOs identified a wide range of concerns from torture and illegal detention to rising hate crime that are relevant to both countries, and were able to share in person with President Obama recommendations on addressing these urgent problems.
For the human rights community in both countries, it will now be important to see practical follow-up steps to promote and protect human rights as part of the bi-lateral relationship. The newly created Bilateral Presidential Commission, to be coordinated by U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, could be one step toward ensuring a more regular discussion on vital issues, including human rights concerns. One way to ensure that this bilateral commission produces results is to develop an agenda that addresses human rights concerns and to guarantee that civil society representatives from both countries are fully engaged in the process and that it functions in a transparent manner.”