A Project of the American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society

Erosion of Democracy

Russian Press Digest

September 13, 2006

International human rights group says democracy in Russia keeps declining.

International Helsinki Federation (IHF) presented in Vienna Tuesday its annual Human Rights in the OSCE Region: Europe, Central Asia and North America Report 2006 (Events of 2005). The report says the situation with human rights in Russia substantially worsened past year and it was reflected by the U.S. Freedom House that had downgraded Russia from the party free to the not free.

They were accumulating data about human rights violation throughout the country via the rights advocates in the regions, said Nina Tagankina, deputy chairman of Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), who supervised the project. In the next move, the information was integrated and forwarded to MHG.

In Russia, "the year 2005 saw further consolidation of the powers of the federal executive and further erosion of democratic checks and balances," the report says.

One of the targets of the growing pressure of the Kremlin was the civil society, the report emphasizes. "Various bureaucratic procedures were used to obstruct the work of NGOs, and a new law that was rushed through parliament toward the end of 2005 provided for enhanced control of NGOs, in particular those that receive funding from abroad." Even the espionage was blamed on the Moscow Helsinki Group and a few other human rights organizations of Russia in early 2006 exactly because of the foreign money.

Predictably, the report lambastes Russia for the anti-terrorism operation in Chechnya, which failed so far to bring stability there but continued the violence and abuses.

The report is "more than adequate," according to rights advocates of Russia. "The situation in the country is even more than dramatic," said Vladimir Ryzhkov, who leads the Russian Republican Party and is the member of the Antifascist Front. "The large scale violation of the Constitution is underway. The state is humiliating both common citizens and opposition politicians and law advocates," Ryzhkov pointed out.

"It is exactly what happens in sober fact," said Memorial chief Oleg Orlov when asked to comment on the report. Orlov harbors no doubts about the necessity of the report, as the emergence of such documents "will help change the situation one day." "It is like a drop of acid on the authoritative and bureaucratic stone."

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