U.N. Criticized Russia for Murders of Journalists and Rights Defenders
Russia was grilled on Thursday by United Nations (U.N.) human rights experts over murders of journalists and activists, the independence of its judiciary and abductions in Chechnya.
Georgy Matyushkin, Deputy Justice Minister and representative of Russian Federation at European Court of Human Rights, led a 24-member delegation sent to defend Russia’s record at the U.N. Human Rights Committee, where debate continues on Friday.
The discussion came one day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Moscow and called on Russia to prevent attacks on activists challenging the Kremlin.
“The physical danger to people who speak out on human rights in Russia is still striking,” said Ms Ruth Wedgwood, an American expert on the U.N. panel. “People who are either journalists or human rights activists seem to have a very high mortality rate.”
Wedgwood cited the unsolved murder cases of Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, her Novaya Gazeta newspaper colleague Anastasia Baburova, Forbes Russia editor Paul Klebnikov and human rights activist Natalya Estemirova.
“I think that the past still hangs heavily on society. Things from the past can set the tone of lawlessness which is very hard to tamp down,” added Wedgwood, an international law professor at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C.
British Professor Sir Nigel Rodley, Vice Chair of the Human Rights Committe, cited allegations that people were mistreated in police custody in Russia, but acknowledged that the situation had improved since he visited the country as U.N. torture investigator in 1994.
Committee members also voiced concerns at the effectiveness of criminal investigations in Russia.
The U.N. committee, composed of 18 independent experts, is examining the compliance of five states including Russia with an international treaty on civil and political rights. Its findings will be issued at the end of the three-week session on October 30, 2009.