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June 30, 2017

Trump Should Raise Human Rights Concerns With Putin

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged President Trump to use his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to make clear that the United States condemns Russia’s defiance of international norms and commitments at home and abroad. The call came in a letter from Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino to Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster, the U.S. national security advisor. 

“In today’s interconnected world—whether it’s transnational terrorist organizations, global pandemics, or actors eager to replace the rule of law and a rules-based international order with the standard that might makes right—the security of Americans is inextricably linked to the security of others. Russia is a key case in point,” wrote Massimino. “There is a straight line between Russian repression at home, the Kremlin’s ability to wage war on a neighbor largely hidden from domestic public scrutiny, and its ability to act with impunity in backing a murderous tyrant in Syria.”

Human Rights First notes that governments that violate human rights and the rule of law at home are more likely to flout the agreed rules of the international system abroad, thereby imperiling the security and prosperity of us all. In order to advance American interests, President Trump should press Moscow to adhere to international norms on human rights, including by raising the following:

  • Meddling in foreign elections. President Trump should make clear to President Putin that Russian meddling in our elections or in those of our allies—including Germany, which holds its federal elections this September—will not be tolerated.
  • Holding Assad to account in Syria. President Trump should further set out a clear policy that prioritizes civilian protection in Syria, and demand that Russia and its allies end indiscriminate attacks on civilians, while allowing humanitarian agencies rapid, safe, and unhindered access throughout the country, in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.
  • Systematic abuses of gay men in Chechnya. President Trump should make clear to President Putin that the United States will hold him responsible for the failure of Chechen authorities to end all detention, torture, extortion, and persecution of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya and for the safety of all journalists reporting on these crimes. 
  • Human rights violations in Russia-controlled Ukraine. As the president discusses implementation of the Minsk agreements, Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, and Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea, it is important that he raise continued human rights violations in all Ukrainian territories controlled by Russia and its proxies. 
  • Repression of peaceful protest. President Trump should use his conversation with President Putin to condemn politically-motivated arrests of peaceful protestors, which violate Russia’s international commitments, and convey to President Putin that arresting one’s critics is a sign of weakness, not of strength.  

“As you prepare for the president’s meetings in Hamburg, I urge you to place these connections front and center on the bilateral agenda. Leading with our values makes our country stronger and more secure,” added Massimino. 

For more information or to speak with Massimino, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.