HUMAN RIGHTS IN RUSSIA - Statement by Lyudmila Alexeyeva

"Russia today is ruled by people who think and act in terms of special operations, taking hostages, spying, extortion and murder, suppressing the facts, censorship, and corruption. Society is powerless to get rid of them or to influence their decisions. There is no independence of the mass media in the country. Journalists who dare express their disagreement with government policy are persecuted and killed. The independence of the legislative and judicial branches of power has been destroyed. There is no such thing as an independent court system in Russia. Our courts are merely a cudgel the powers that be use to ruthlessly deal with those they don’t like. Less than 1% of the court cases tried in our country result in acquittals. This is the reason why 27% of the total number of applications submitted to the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights are from Russia. The overwhelming majority of these complaints concern groundless detention before trial or torture in jail, in the army or in the police. A third of a million people in Russian jails and prison camps are former entrepreneurs. One out of every six Russian businessmen has been before a court: because of corruption. Entrepreneurs lose about half of their profit on bribes to bureaucrats and other government officials. A single political party has come to the throne in the country, and all who want security in business must join it.

The authorities today have made themselves unaccountable to the citizens. The problems of children, the disabled, xenophobia, violation of migrants’ rights, and the violation of the social rights of citizens have been shifted onto the shoulders of society, but without equipping it with the means to resolve these problems, while every possible obstacle has been put up to the citizens’ ability to solve them on their own. Science, culture, education, and the social sector are being funded at poverty levels from the treasury, which deprives the country and the people of a future.

No fewer than one and a half million Russian citizens have left the country in the past decade and a half. These were the most active and educated people in the country, and yet they did not see any ways of moving up in the world or opportunities for self-realization for themselves even in the years of stratospheric oil prices. These numbers are beginning to approach the emigration levels that were observed after the greatest catastrophe in the life of Russia in 1917. Only now it is not former captains of industry who are emigrating, but ordinary citizens.

If such an anti-world as Russia has now become were to appear in the centre of Europe, no cost would be spared to stop its continuing expansion. And yet everybody is trying not to notice the expansion of such an anti-world right next door. The West needs to realize that accepting something it would never tolerate at home, cordoning itself off from someone else’s misfortune is no protection from this contagion. Because one fine day, you too just might be approached by partners such as these in business, dialogue, and politics with an offer you can’t refuse."