The era of Stalin had long fallen but did not drag down with it the neglect of the rights of the Russian citizens. Although, after the forced resignation of Gorbachev, Russia had broken into the Confederation of Independent States in 1991 under the democratic system of Boris Yeltsin, the government continued craw along in the slow progress towards complete freedom. Even today, there are countless cases of political and ethnic persecution, inhumane torture, restriction on the freedom of the press, governmental corruption and lack of adequate prison conditions. There are never easy solutions to these types problems, which have been brewing for more than half a century inside the confines of the former USSR. However, if one person took the time to read about these issues, thinks about them carefully, and spares some compassion, the war against such injustices is not lost. If enough people in Russia and world are informed about human rights issues and are willing to do something about them, the state of human rights will gradually improve, not only for Russia but for all of the world.
FREEDOM of SPEECH
In 1998, former president of Russia Yeltsin released the “last ten political prisoners”, seemingly putting an end to government repression on the freedom of speech. It was not the case. Newspapers and radio stations deemed offensive to the government were still routinely shut down, their staffs threatened and, in some cases, treated violently. That same year, nine journalists were murdered; six of who were said to be in the process of uncovering the mass corruption in the government. The police quickly attributed these deaths to vague reasons, such as “family issues.”
Things became so bad that when Lidia Dordzhieva, head of humanitarian organization “Heart to Heart”, held a hunger strike to protest the lack of government funding for programs for disabled children, she was sent to a psychiatric hospital. Although she was released a short time afterwards, the actions of the government in this case was very frightening, as Stalin himself had ordered the same fate for those who had opposed him more than seventy years ago. The Russian government has also forbidden politicians to talk to reporters without prior consent and has access to all the information viewed by internet users inside the country. It seems that the government still holds a tight control on the intellectual freedom of Russia.
In such a closed system as the former Soviet government, corruption is nearly always in existence, though very hard to detect and prosecute effectively. All humans have the tendency to be greedy. Therefore, it is hard to decline or not to be affected by the enormous amount of bribes and bonuses offered as one moves up through the ranks of the Russian government and the former KGB. According to sources, in a court of law, judges and other law administrators routinely accept bribes to have cases dropped.
Police brutality is perhaps a much larger problem than the corruption in the government because it concerns the immediate welfare of the people. An increasing amount of people, especially from minority groups, experience vicious cruelty from the police, who hide under the mask of enforcing the law.
Torture, used as an effective measure to procure forced confessions from suspects, is also a major problem. Methods of police torture include beatings, asphyxiation, electroshock, and forms of mental abuse often extract a confession of guilt from the victim that is used as evidence to incriminate him or her. Although the torture of suspects is well known in Russia, the government never addresses it in a manner that leads to the reform of such a heartless system.
Although Russia was lauded for the transfer of the prison system to the Ministry of Justice, it still has a long way to go in terms of addressing the issues of violence and fraud in its justice system.
Because of the low acquittal rate due to confessions obtained by torture, nearly all of the suspects are found guilty, leading to a crowding of the jails. In one parts of Russia, the amount of people in jail exceeds the maximum by one hundred and fifty percent. The conditions in these jails are deplorable, both due to the large number of people in jail and the negligence of the government. A suspect may languish, for as long as four years in prison, while he or she awaits a trial.
Abuses against Ethnic Minorities:
Over the past years, the number of hate crimes against minority groups has increased. Because the flood of displaced immigrants from other states flowed into Russia at the point of Russia’s economic crises, they were blamed for the fall of the economy. As a result, both police violence and skinhead violence against these minority groups begin to escalate, with almost no attempts to punish fairly these crimes. The government and even the people have always needed some kind of a scapegoat so shift the self-caused blame upon.
The above text serves as an introduction to the issue of human rights for the reader. We, the Andrei Sakharov team, urge you to not just read what we have written, but to get up and do something, whether it’s joining Amnesty International, or speaking up about something that you know is wrong. The campaign for freedom starts with a fearless voice and immediate action.