Washington, March 6 (nca/Lyle) - The Russian government's human
rights record "continued to be uneven" in the last year, reports the
U.S. State Department, with the worst reversals occurring in and
In its annual report on human rights practices, the State
Department says that there are Constitutional guarantees for most
freedoms in Russia and that "institutions and democratic practices
are evolving but not fully developed."
Most of the abuses noted by the U.S. report center on the actions
of Russian forces in Chechnya which it says were "in conflict with a
number of Russia's international obligations." It says: "The
indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force in Chechnya by
Russian troops resulted in thousands to tens of thousands of
civilians killed and some 500,000 people displaced."
The report says there were "a substantial number of credible
accounts of torture and other cruel and inhuman or degrading
punishment of chechens by Russian military and internal forces" and
that the abuses included "beatings of combatants as well as of
It says "credible sources reported severe mistreatment of Chechen
prisoners by Russian defense and internal security forces," but that
the "worst violations of international humanitarian law and human
rights" were committed by the "kontraktniki, nonconscripted Russian
citizens paid by the Russian army."
The State Department says that the kontraktniki are the group
"most likely responsible" for the "civilian massacre at Samashki,"
where 103 people aged 15 to 103 were killed in retaliation for the
village's support for Chechen separatists.
More generally, the U.S. report says that the media in Russia
functioned unhindered, with a few notable exceptions, and represented
a wide range of opinion; that with some exceptions, non-governmental
organizations freely documented and reported on human rights abuses;
that while the judiciary is far from independent, it is starting to
act more like an independent judiciary; that there are few reports of
political prisoners, and that trial by jury has been introduced in
nine out of 89 regions.
The report says the law on the Federal Security Service (FSB) has
enhanced its powers, provides for only limited oversight and has
human rights provisions that are "unclear." Further, it says, human
rights groups are charging that the FSB is stepping up harassment of
domestic critics and certain other groups in recent months.
There continue to be serious problems with detention and
imprisonment of citizens, particularly before trial. The report says
it is difficult to determine exactly how many citizens who were
detained or incarcerated died in custody and notes that conditions in
detention centers are harsh and, at times, life threatening with
severe overcrowding caused by a lack of funds.
Conditions in prisons are better, it adds, but says that prison
reform has not yet been instituted and a shortage of funds has forced
many prisons to provide only 60 to 70 percent of the daily food
ration and just 20 percent of needed medical care.
Freedom to practice religion is generally respected, says the
report, although it says there were reports that Jehovah's Witnesses
were forcibly inducted into the military and that Jews and Muslims
"continue to encounter prejudice."