UN watchdog accuses Russia of violating civil, political rights

The United Nations Human Rights Committee is accusing Russia of violating the civil and political rights of people within its territory, as well as in Crimea and the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

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

Independent Israeli expert Yuval Shany tells VOA the committee also has received information about discrimination and harassment of members of minorities and indigenous peoples, in particular Crimean Tatars.

“That information both alleged discrimination of these individuals in access to public service on a daily basis… We took particular note of the exclusion of certain individuals who play a leadership role within that community from entering the territory of Crimea in order to enable that group to continue its social functions,” said Shany.

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

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

It says it has received consistent reports of arbitrary restrictions on the exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly, including violent and unjustified dispersal of protesters by police, arbitrary detentions and the imposition of harsh fines and prison sentences for expressing political views.

Shany says the space for dissent and for political action appears 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 killing.

“The picture is not completely clear in the sense that the state authorities have taken in some cases – they have taken action. We did address the Nemtsov killing and we did acknowledge that the state has made arrests very quickly after the murder. Our concerns actually were in going in the other direction perhaps because there were allegations of torture of the individuals who have been accused of the killings,” he said.

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

Source: VOANews.com

(Map of Crimea. Source: UN Cartographic Section, DFS)