The EU and Russia hold human rights consultations
On 20 July 2012, the European Union and the Russian Federation held their fifteenth round of
human rights consultations in Brussels. The consultations were held in an open atmosphere.
The EU and Russia focussed in particular on the work of civil society in light of the recent legal
developments in Russia affecting NGOs receiving foreign funding, tightening rules on freedom of
assembly, reinstating slander as a criminal offence as well as the strengthening of the state control
over the internet. The EU and Russia also discussed developments in the rule of law, notably the
investigation into the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009, the reform of the judiciary and the
implementation of European Court of Human Rights judgements. As usual, both sides also explored
ways to improve their cooperation in international fora (UN General Assembly and Human Rights
Council; OSCE and Council of Europe).
The EU raised a number of concerns related to specific human rights issues in the Russian
Federation, including issues pertaining to freedom of expression and freedom of the media
including online media, LGBT rights, freedom of religion or belief (notably the implementation of
anti-extremism legislation), as well as continuing intimidation and impunity, especially regarding
cases involving human rights defenders (e.g.Natalia Estemirova), journalists (e.g. Anna
Politkovskaya) and lawyers in the Northern Caucasus. Both sides agreed to provide further
clarification on individual cases of concern.
One has to ask the question, what´s the point of carrying on with these empty consultations, which have not produced the slightest results in the way of improving human rights in Russia. On the contrary, as we all know, Russian dictator Putin´s first 60 days as the "new" president have been disastrous:
In the two months since returning to the Russian presidency, Vladimir Putin has pursued a stunningly retrograde agenda with stunning alacrity.
“… it has taken no more than 60 days to reverse the few timid positive steps on civil and political freedom that took place during the Medvedev interregnum,” writes Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch.
Putin’s United Russia party has blitzed parliament with bills to impose massive fines for violating public assembly rules, recriminalize libel, expand the government’s power to restrict Web content – especially regarding gay and lesbian issues – and require internationally-funded civic groups to register as “foreign agents,” which connotes “foreign spy” in Russian, Denber notes. Today, these separate measures are either law or fast on their way to becoming law.
So, to sum up, in just over 60 days Putin has taken on freedom of association and assembly, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression. And all this while launching a campaign of arrest and intimidation against the growing opposition movement that has seen tens of thousands of Russians take to the street since December to challenge Putin’s rule. Shudder at what the next 12 years could bring.
“… Putin has singlehandedly quashed the long-held myth that he himself propagated: personalized power can modernize the country while preserving stability,” writes Lilia Shevtsova of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank. “After waiting 12 years for change from the top, Russians finally understand that their political system can be transformed only from the bottom – through popular revolution.”
"As usual, both sides also explored ways to improve their cooperation in international fora (UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council; OSCE and Council of Europe)."
Hopefully the EU side at least pointed out that the best way for Russia to improve "cooperation in international fora" would be to stop the human rights violations in their own country. But that would of course be too much to ask from the Brussels apparatchiks, who specialize in empty rhetorics.