RUSSIA’S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD UNDER FIRE.

Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 7

Vladimir Kartashkin, chairman of Russia’s Presidential Commission on Human Rights, has called on the Russian parliament to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Until that happens, he points out, Russian citizens will not be able to appeal to the European Court in Strasbourg, nor will Russian lawyers be able to appear before it. (Itar-Tass, January 8)

Russia became a full member of the Council of Europe in February, 1996, but has still not ratified several important human rights conventions and protocols, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In its annual report on human rights worldwide, issued last month, the U.S.-based monitoring group Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticizes the Council of Europe for not reacting sharply enough to Russia’s failure to ratify these conventions. (See http://www.hrw.com) HRW says that Russia was admitted to the Council of Europe in 1996 as an experiment in "constructive engagement" and that Moscow did not do enough last year in improving its human rights record to justify the experiment. HRW singles out for special condemnation Russia’s controversial 1997 law on religion, and its failure to fulfill its obligation to abolish capital punishment.

HRW also deplores what it says was the persecution of human rights activists by local authorities in several Russian regions in 1997. HRW is only slightly more approving of the Council of Europe’s decision to suspend Belarus’s guest status, saying that the disparity between the Council of Europe’s strictness toward Belarus and its willingness to make allowances for Russia’s non-compliance exemplifies the Council of Europe’s inconsistent attitude toward those of its members that fail to live up to international standards.

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