Russian Government Must be Held Accountable for Crackdown on Protest
Arvamus 07 May 2012  EWR
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Washington - May 7, 2012

The brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors this past weekend during a sanctioned peaceful protest in Moscow was an assault on Russians’ civil liberties. Freedom House condemns the crackdown and urges the U.S. Administration, Congress and other democratic states to support Russian citizens seeking to hold their government accountable to its international and constitutional commitments to respect and protect fundamental rights.

“The blatant use of force in the last two days sends a clear message that the days of tolerating opposition protests in Russia are a fleeting thing of the past,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “We wholeheartedly express our solidarity with Russian citizens’ exercising their right to free assembly. The return to intimidation techniques and detention of activists without cause are a desperate attempt to prevent protest activity in the country and should be widely condemned.”

In the lead-up to Vladimir Putin’s inauguration to his third term as president of the Russian Federation on May 6, police violently dispersed the so-called “March of Millions,” an opposition demonstration which authorities had earlier approved. Violating participants’ freedom to peacefully gather, law enforcement descended upon Moscow’s streets, gassed crowds, beat journalists and women, and detained up to 600 protestors, including three leading opposition figures. Officers have continued to detain participants well into Monday.

“There should be no more illusions about the nature of the Russian regime and its leadership,” continued Kramer. “Western leaders must publicly hold Russian authorities accountable for the crackdown on and suppression of civil society and opposition forces. When we say this kind of behavior is unacceptable, there should be consequences rhetorically and in policy terms, such as passage of the Sergei Magnitsky legislation.”

The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 would impose a visa ban and asset freeze against Russian officials responsible for major human rights abuses, and both the House and Senate are considering drafts of such legislation.

Russia is ranked Not Free in Freedom of the World 2012, Freedom House’s annual global assessment of political rights and civil liberties, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2012 and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2011.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.
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