Political rights

UN Watchdog accuses Russia of violating civil and political rights

The United Nations Human Rights Committee accuses Russia of violating the civil and political rights of people on its territory, as well as in Crimea and the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

The committee notes that Russia appears to have influence over armed groups in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Thus, he argues that Russia should exercise its control to ensure that these groups implement the UN Covenant and protect the civil and political rights of people living in the territory.

Independent Israeli expert Yuval Shany told VOA that the committee also received reports of discrimination and harassment of members of minorities and indigenous peoples, particularly Crimean Tatars.

“This information alleges both discrimination against these people in access to day-to-day public service… We have noted in particular the exclusion of certain people who play a leadership role within this community to enter the territory of Crimea in order to allow this group to continue its social functions,” Shany said.

The commission also criticizes Russia’s failure to investigate human rights violations in the Chechen Republic. These include unlawful and extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, torture and enforced disappearances perpetrated by state agents.

In addition, the committee cites what it calls the shrinking space for civil liberties within the Russian Federation, with laws that limit freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association.

He claims to have received constant reports of arbitrary restrictions on the exercise of the freedom of peaceful assembly, including the violent and unjustified dispersal of demonstrators by the police, arbitrary detentions and the imposition of severe fines and prison for expressing political opinions.

Shany says the space for dissent and for political action seems to be under threat. He says journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers and opposition politicians are at risk of harassment, death threats, intimidation, physical violence and death.

“The picture is not entirely clear in the sense that state authorities have taken it in some cases – they have taken action. We talked about the murder of Nemtsov and we recognized that the state made arrests very quickly after the murder. Our concerns were actually to go the other way, perhaps because there were allegations of torture of the individuals who were charged with the murders,” he said.

Shany says the Russian delegation appearing before the committee reported on the 2006 shooting death of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the trials that took place. Five men were convicted of her murder last year, but investigators have not determined who ordered the killing.