Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 94

There is a real danger that Russia may develop into a police state. This was the conclusion of a conference held in Moscow May 11-13 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Moscow Helsinki monitoring group, created in 1976 to monitor Soviet compliance with the Helsinki Accords. This week’s conference brought together some of the greatest names in the history of the Soviet human rights movement — Yuri Orlov, Larisa Bogoraz, Sergei Kovalev, and Lyudmila Alekseeva. In a declaration adopted at the close of the conference, participants voiced concern about what they said was the sharp growth of undemocratic trends in Russian government policy. Participants expressed concern about the continuing poor treatment of conscripts in the armed forces and warned of the "mania for secrecy," which they said has spread through the government, parliament, and presidential administration.

Judicial reform has come to a stop, while the powers of the police, procuracy, and secret services have been dangerously expanded. Concern was expressed at the inhumane conditions in which prisoners are confined. Participants deplored Russia’s good relations with regimes that suppress dissent in their own countries such as Belarus, China, Cuba, and several former Soviet republics in Central Asia. They concluded that human rights abuse has reached such a scale in Russia that it can no longer be dismissed as wrongdoing by individual officials, but provokes fear that it is the result of deliberate government policy. The conduct of the federal government in Chechnya now amounts, the conference concluded, to a crime against humanity. (Interfax, May 14)

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