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July 05, 2006

Message to Leaders of the G8: Condemn Human Rights Violations in Russia

MOSCOW – When G8 leaders meet later this month in St. Petersburg, Russia, they should speak out against the erosion of human rights protections in Russia.

That is the message that came out of a conference in Moscow today that was sponsored by eleven independent Russian human rights organizations and attended by more than 150 people, including Human Rights First Executive Director Maureen Byrnes. 

“Fundamental democratic values like the rule of law and freedom of association are under fire in Russia,” said Byrnes. “World leaders attending the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg must call on President Putin to lift restrictions on independent NGOs in Russia.”

Participants in today’s conference detailed a wide range of human rights abuses, from ongoing killings in Chechnya to the inadequate government response to racist hate crimes taking place in Russia on a daily basis. Experts placed the violations in the context of a legal system in crisis, in which the executive branch exercises too much influence over the judiciary and the legislature.

Earlier this week, Human Rights First staff also attended a Russian government-sponsored meeting of NGOs from around the world. The more than 700 participants joined together to develop a series of reports and recommendations on a wide variety of topics, including human rights, that will be presented directly to the G8 leaders. 

President Putin attended the second day of the conference and in response to the public outcry over the new NGO law suggested a willingness to amend the law – but only after monitoring its implementation. Despite modifications that were made to an early draft of the NGO law, which is now in effect, it is overly restrictive and open to abuse.

“Monitoring implementation is often an excuse for allowing a very destructive law to run its course, and in this case, put essential human rights organizations out of business,” Byrnes said. “President Putin should be held accountable for what he does, not what he says.”

For more information on human rights in Russia, see these recent Human Rights First reports: