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Amnesty International On-line. http://www.amnesty.org
EUR 46/007/2003 23/01/2003
Media Briefing

World Economic Forum/Media Briefing: Doing business in the Russian
Federation: the human rights approach

This document is a summary of Amnesty International's report "Doing business
in the Russian Federation: The human rights approach" which focuses on the
economic and business climate in which companies operate in the Russian
Federation and their responsibilities towards human rights. The report will
be launched by Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Khan at the
World Economic Forum in Davos where the organization is calling on
corporations to be held accountable for human rights in a globalised world.

Amnesty International takes no position on doing business in, or with, the
Russian Federation. Amnesty International neither supports businesses
operating there, nor calls for their withdrawal. The decision to invest or
trade in the Russian Federation is that of the business alone. Amnesty
International asks companies to include human rights in their framework when
they assess the risks of operating in the Russian Federation, and to consider
the impact of their activities on human rights. In the past, Amnesty
International has produced similar documents on China and Saudi Arabia. We
believe the tools of good corporate conduct are universal, and apply to every

Our aim is to increase awareness among business executives of some of the
human rights issues in the Russian Federation and what their companies can do
to promote human rights. We are reminding companies on doing business in the
Russian Federation, bearing in mind the human rights responsibilities.

Doing business in the Russian Federation: the human rights approach
The Russian Federation faces numerous economic and social problems.

Widening disparities of income and widening gap between rich and poor
Widespread human rights violations with victims from the most vulnerable
sectors in society who have little chance of getting justice and redress;
torture or ill-treated in police custody; disease-ridden and overcrowded
pretrial detention centres.
Conflict in the Chechen Republic, where Russian federal forces have
reportedly killed, tortured and raped civilians without fear of punishment.
Chechen forces have also committed abuses.
Businesses in the Russian Federation are not insulated from the human rights
environment - they operate in an environment where corruption and crime are
rife and lack of respect for the rule of law hits companies as well as

Amnesty International believes that companies' problems are closely
intertwined with the way the Russian Federation functions as a society, and
that unless fundamental changes are made to enhance respect for human rights
and the rule of law, the business environment will not significantly improve.
Human rights standards, which aim to protect the individual from unfair
treatment and abuse from states, should be the basis of the rule of law.

Company conduct and human rights standards

International human rights standards are universal. They set out the human
rights framework that companies should respect and take into account in their
operations all over the world, including the Russian Federation. Human rights
standards and principles to guide good practice can be found in treaties, in
principles and statements adopted by the international community and in
voluntary codes. Some of the most important are:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work of the
International Labour Organization.

Governments implement international treaties through their domestic laws.
Companies are governed by these laws, and should adhere as well to non-treaty
standards. Amnesty International believes that the business community also
has a wider responsibility to use its influence to promote respect for human

The Russian economy today

Russian oil is identified as the driving force as energy accounts for
two-fifths of Russian exports and more than 10 per cent of the country's real
Gross Domestic Product.

The vast Russian oil and mineral resources should be of enormous benefit to
the local population. However, experience in Africa, Asia and other parts of
the world shows clearly that extractive industries often end up in dispute
with indigenous communities. Moreover, when companies explore for oil in
areas of conflict, some have become targets of armed opposition groups.

The business climate

After a major economic decline since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the
Russian Federation has achieved a certain degree of political and economic
stability in the last five years. Foreign direct investment remains
relatively low:

The existing legal framework that governs business conduct in the Russian
Federation allows for unwritten, arbitrary and frequently changing rules.
Disputes are often settled informally, by bribes, using personal connections
or force, not by going to the courts.

Businesses have told Amnesty International that many companies are forced to
pay protection money to organized criminal gangs in order to function. Such
acts foster corruption and, with few institutional or legal restrictions on
such activity, many officials behave as if they have limitless scope for
kormlenie, a slang term for "the abuse of public office for private gain".

Corruption: a human rights issue

Corruption occurs at many different levels:

At the national and international level, the decisions and policies of senior
officials are sometimes influenced by bribes and inducements.
At the local level, the poor are sometimes unable to gain access to public
goods and services because they cannot afford to pay a bribe.
At the intermediate level is the grey area of practices that may or may not
be corrupt, such as facilitation payments, industry commissions, rewards.

Amnesty International believes that any society where corruption is
widespread is likely to suffer from arbitrary and unfair decisions which
undermine the rule of law and adversely affect the human rights situation.
Companies have an important role to play in any country in countering
corruption; they can take steps to avoid corrupt practices by devising and
implementing policies consistent with the growing international consensus
against corruption.

Human rights violations in the Russian Federation

Amnesty International's worldwide membership launched a campaign in October
2002 to promote respect for human rights in the Russian Federation, focusing
on specific and serious violations of international human rights and
humanitarian law by Russian law enforcement and security forces:

Torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials. The victims include
children and women.
Lack of accountability for the perpetrators of these abuses and obstacles
faced by victims - particularly women, children and members of ethnic or
national minorities - in obtaining redress.
In the context of the conflict in Chechnya, there have been widespread and
credible reports of attacks against civilians, rape and other forms of
torture, "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions by Russian forces.
Chechen forces are also reported to have committed gross human rights
violations, including taking hostages.

The campaign seeks to highlight the discrepancy between the human rights
protection which those living in the Russian Federation have in international
and national law, and the reality of widespread human rights abuses committed
in a climate of impunity. Amnesty International members around the world will
be urging the government to live up to its obligations to protect and promote
human rights so that there is justice for everybody.

What companies can do

Companies operating in the Russian Federation should ensure that their
operations will not contribute, either directly or indirectly, to human
rights violations. It is their responsibility to ensure that international
standards are followed within the sphere of business practice. Amnesty
International gives a list of recommendations to companies operating in the
Russian Federation, such as:

Write your own code of conduct.
Avoid corrupt practices.
Ensure respect for human rights.
Make information public.
Use your influence to promote human rights.

Amnesty International calls upon companies doing business in the Russian
Federation to implement Amnesty International's Human Rights Principles for
Companies and to apply them to their specific cases and industries.

For more information, to arrange an interview with a member of the Amnesty
International delegations, please contact:

World Economic Forum in Davos -- Judit Arenas on + 44 7778 472 188.

For regular information updates and other materials please visit

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