Saturday, 20 April 2013

U.S. State Department on Putin's Russia: Corruption "widespread throughout the executive, legislative, and judicial branches at all levels of government"

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin

The U.S. State Department has just released its Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Russia 2012. The report begins by stating that power in Russia's "highly centralized political system" is "increasingly concentrated in the president". 
The State Department should, of course, have used less "diplomatic" language here: What they in reality say, is that Vladimir Putin is a dictator. 
In general, however, the State Department report is clear about the situation in Putin's Russia:
Corruption was widespread throughout the executive, legislative, and judicial branches at all levels of government. Manifestations included bribery of officials, misuse of budgetary resources, theft of government property, kickbacks in the procurement process, extortion, and improper use of official position to secure personal profits. While there were prosecutions for bribery, a general lack of enforcement remained a problem. Official corruption continued to be rampant in numerous areas, including education, military conscription, healthcare, commerce, housing, pensions/social welfare, law enforcement, and the judicial system.
The executive summary focuses on three main issues: 
1. Restrictions of Civil Liberties: Following increased mobilization of civil society and mass demonstrations in reaction to elections, the government introduced a series of measures limiting political pluralism. During the year Russia adopted laws that impose harsh fines for unsanctioned meetings; identify nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as “foreign agents” if they engage in “political activity” while receiving foreign funding; suspend NGOs that have U.S. citizen members or receive U.S. support and are engaged in “political activity” or “pose a threat to Russian interests”; recriminalize libel; allow authorities to block Web sites without a court order; and significantly expand the definition of treason. Media outlets were pressured to alter their coverage or to fire reporters and editors critical of the government.
2. Violations of Electoral Processes: Domestic and international observers described the presidential campaign as skewed in favor of the ruling party’s candidate, Vladimir Putin. Procedural irregularities marred voting, with reports of vote fraud, administrative measures disadvantaging the opposition, and pressure on election monitoring groups. Several gubernatorial elections in October were likewise criticized.
3. Administration of Justice: Due process was denied during the detentions and trials of protesters arrested following the May 6 demonstration in Moscow in which a small group of the protestors engaged in violence; in the detention, trial, and sentencing of the members of the punk rock group Pussy Riot, who were charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred; and searches and criminal cases lodged against several political activists. Individuals responsible for the deaths of prominent journalists, activists, and whistleblowers, notably Sergey Magnitskiy, have yet to be brought to be brought to justice.
Other problems reported during the year included: allegations of torture and excessive force by law enforcement officials; life-threatening prison conditions; interference in the judiciary and the right to a fair trial; abridgement of the right to privacy; restrictions on minority religions; widespread corruption; societal and official intimidation of civil society and labor activists; limitations on the rights of workers; trafficking in persons; attacks on migrants and select religious and ethnic minorities; and discrimination against and limitation of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons.
The government failed to take adequate steps to prosecute or punish most officials who committed abuses, resulting in a climate of impunity.
Russia and Vladimir Putin should of course be treated by the U.S. government as the kind of  corrupt and criminal dictatorship described in the U.S. State Department report. Sadly, however, the Obama regime does not seem to take its own report seriously. Instead, Obama chooses to send "constructive" messages to the dictator. 

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