Poking with the human rights stick
Arvamus 04 Feb 2012  EWR
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Moscow loses patience

Oliver Bullough, Open Democracy.net
Critical human rights reports from Western agencies have long been the source of consternation among Russian officials. At the end of last month, the Russian Foreign Ministry launched a counterattack, publishing a report highlighting supposed violations in the West. Oliver Bullough was surprised at how readily the document conflated issues of rights and common diplomacy.

For years, Russia has tolerated the State Department’s annual criticism of its human rights situation, but not any more.

It was in April that Moscow finally lost patience. If America would not stop poking it with the human rights stick, it said (though not in precisely those words), Russia would pick up the stick too. It appointed a human rights commissioner and promised to publish probes of its own.

Its first publication, a ‘Report on the situation concerning human Rights in certain states’ came out last month [link in Russian]. It is extremely revealing, though not perhaps for the reasons its author, Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s new Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, intended.

[“The largest portion of bile in the 47 pages devoted to the European Union is reserved for those states with Russian minorities -- the three Baltic States, which get 16 pages between them, and Finland, which gets five.” – extract from this article. EWR]

‘The idea is to show that problems in the sphere of human rights and democracy are present in all states. No one is ideal,’ Dolgov explained to Kommersant Vlast after the report was published on the Foreign Ministry web site.

‘We do not accept attempts to persistently and intrusively teach us democracy. Sadly, some of our partners have used such tactics. It is of course important for them to carefully read the Russian report.’

If they do read the report, carefully or otherwise, they will find that many of its general concerns – domestic violence in Finland, detainee abuse in Britain, anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe – are identical to those in its American rival. Many of the sources are the same too. Dolgov’s document is studded with references to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House.

This is strange, since the Foreign Ministry criticises those international human rights groups almost as much as it does Washington…

Read the entire Open Democracy article here:

Oliver Bullough was a Reuters Moscow correspondent, and is now Caucasus Editor for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. He is author of 'Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys Among the Defiant People of the Caucasus'
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