US State Department: Russia Still Failing Basic Human Rights

The Russian authorities are still not paying enough attention human rights in the country, according to the US State Department's annual report on the state of human rights in the world. The State Department's experts say that Russia's electronic media have lost a large amount of independence due to certain steps taken by the Russian government. The report also suggests that the behaviour of the authorities in Chechnya remains unsatisfactory: federal security forces continue 'not to show respect to basic human rights.'

The report states that reliable information has been received about serious violations, including information about killings without trials carried out both by the authorities and Chechen separatists. 'Harassment of servicemen in the armed forces has led to a number of deaths. Information has been received about the participation of the authorities in politically motivated disappearance of people in Chechnya,' the report says.

The State Department also believes that there is discrimination in Russia against ethnic minorities, including gypsies and emigrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia. This discrimination is from the authorities and individuals, and sometimes involves the use of violence. The US has also obtained information about the use of 'forced and child labour.' Trade in people, particularly women and girls, is also named as a serious problem.

The US State Department acknowledges that significant reforms of law-enforcement agencies and judicial procedures have been carried out in Russia. The introduction of the new Legal Codex has led to a significant fall in the number of arbitrary arrests and detainments, a 25% reduction in the number of trials, and a 30% fall in the number of suspects remanded in custody before trial. Courts have also rejected 15% of requests for arrest warrants. However, the report's authors believe that corruption is still a problem in the police, and that the conditions in which prisoners are held 'remain extremely harsh and occasionally life-threatening.'

The report also notes that laws on military courts, military service and the rights of service personnel often contradict the Constitution, federal laws and presidential decrees, as a result of which military commanders issue arbitrary punishments instead of following the law.

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