European Parliament: Human Rights Situation in Russia Worsening

Source: (info), 14/09/12

· International law  · Access to justice

On 13th September the European Parliament adopted a resolution “On political independence of the judicial system in Russia.’ The Parliament noted that recently the human rights situation in Russia has deteriorated considerably.

Examples cited were the new restrictive laws adopted by the Duma, the detentions of demonstrators on 6th May, the severe sentences handed down to opposition activist Taisiya Osipova and the members of the punk band Pussy Riot, intimidation of the Duma deputy Gennady Gudkov and the case of Sergei Magnitsky.

Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in a speech before the adoption of the resolution described the situation with the Russian legislation on ‘Foreign Agents’ as follows:

'…another law was passed forcing Russian NGOs receiving foreign funding to present themselves as “foreign agents” in all their activities. Given the history of such a term, foreign funding is thus considered by law to turn its recipients into “spies”.

I reiterated my serious concerns over these developments as well as the overall worsening situation for civil society in Russia. Grassroots civil society movements, be it human rights NGOs or election monitoring organisations such as Golos, are important components of democratic societies. They do an essential job in Russia today, key to Russia’s modernisation. In Russia’s proper interest, they should be allowed to work freely, and have the means to do that.

We have supported some NGOs in their activities and will continue to offer our support to their contribution to the modernisation of Russia. We do so because the EU has a strong interest in a stable, prosperous and democratic Russia, and we have been offering our full support to all those in Russia who share this goal.

By doing that, however, we neither impose our objectives on these Russian organisations nor do we aim in any way to control their activities. In no way do these Russian organisations become our or anybody else’s agents. Let me state very clearly: All Russian NGOs I know would undoubtedly prefer to receive Russian funding. But there is barely any public funding available for activities that can potentially be perceived as being critical of the authorities. Nor do many businessmen dare to offer support.'

The representatives of the Russian official elite reacted promptly and in a predictable manner. On the same day, 13th September, President Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said that the Kremlin disagreed with the resolution because ‘its sources were unreliable sources and the its analysis did not correspond with reality.” On 14th September the Foreign Ministry said that it considered the resolution of the European Parliament as interference in Russia’s domestic affairs and an attempt to influence the Russian judiciary.