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US Department of State
Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2002-2003
Released June 24, 2003

RUSSIA

To support Russias development of political, civil, and legal institutions that respect human rights and adhere to democratic procedures, as well as a civil society that encourages tolerance and facilitates the free exchange of ideas, the U.S. is working to:

Promote awareness of and respect for human rights, religious freedom and tolerance in Russia through public and quiet diplomacy as well as direct and indirect support for non-governmental organizations (NGOs); encourage development of a fair and impartial judicial and criminal justice system and fair and professional law enforcement bodies through criminal justice reform, professional training and exchanges; protect citizen's rights by encouraging implementation of the new Code of Criminal Procedure; develop human rights educational programs for the judiciary, military and law enforcement; promote anti-trafficking measures;

Promote an open, transparent, and representative democratic political system in Russia through diplomatic and programmatic support for the formation and development of democratic attitudes, processes and institutions, including parties, citizens' organizations, and governmental institutions; and

Promote the development and functioning of a vibrant civil society, including an independent and diverse press and electronic media, widespread access to the Internet, independent citizens' groups, and labor unions.

U.S. assistance in support of this strategy totaled approximately $40 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2002.

The conflict in Chechnya remains the gravest human rights issue for Russia. The Ambassador and other senior U.S. officials regularly express concern and continue their dialogue with Russian political and military leaders and Russian and American NGOs, on the conduct of the Russian military in Chechnya. In this connection, U.S. officials have stressed that human rights violations committed by Russian forces in Chechnya need to be curtailed and abusers held accountable, and that the broader conflict in Chechnya cannot be resolved militarily and instead requires a political solution. For example, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky raised Chechnya human rights concerns with Deputy Foreign Minister Fedotov, and the Ambassador and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs raised concerns with Presidential aide Yastrzhembskiy this year. To convey our continuing concern, the U.S. voted for the EU resolution on Chechnya at the 2003 U.N. Commission on Human Rights. The U.S. pressed the Russians, who did not agree, to extend the mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Chechnya -- including its human rights monitoring function - at the end of 2002. The U.S., in calling for an end to terrorist acts and violence against civilians, has called on the Chechen leadership to repudiate terrorism in word and deed and to cut all ties to Chechen and international terrorists.

The U.S. has supported human rights through a variety of technical assistance projects. For example, in FYs 2002 and 2003, the U.S. supported efforts by Russian human rights activists to build demand for respect for human rights. The project is funding the collection of data on Russian citizens attitudes towards democratic practices, a variety of human rights, and various aspects of the war in Chechnya. The project is also funding the training of human rights activists in the use of data and other social marketing techniques in order to mount public awareness campaigns in the regions on human rights. U.S. FY 2003 programs support an increase in the role and capacity of regional NGOs and human rights ombudsmen and commissions.

The U.S. provided expert advice to legislators, prosecutors, judicial and law enforcement officials to facilitate the development and functioning of a modern, independent judiciary and a fair, impartial criminal justice system and provided training and exchange opportunities in FY 2002. The Embassy continues to monitor and assist in the implementation of the new Criminal Procedure Code. The 2001 Criminal Procedure Code is turning the rights promised in Russias constitution into practical law, with arrest and detention authority transferred from prosecutor to courts on July 1, 2002, and the defense placed on equal footing with the state. Phased implementation of the new Code was supported by U.S.-funded expert advice and logistical assistance, and training for judges, prosecutors, attorneys, law enforcement officials, legislators, and the remaining 80 regions preparing for jury trials.

Through participation in International Military Education and Training (IMET), Russian military and law enforcement personnel were provided with training to observe the rights of citizens by adhering to the new Code of Criminal Procedure and in human rights awareness. The Russian Leadership/Open World Program expands ties in part between the Russian judiciary, procuracy and defense bar and their U.S. counterparts.

USAID implementing partners are training local electoral officials and party poll watchers for the upcoming 2003 Duma and 2004 presidential elections. The U.S. supports and closely coordinates with U.S. NGOs, such as the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, that are engaged in training and other development activities with Russian political parties and citizens groups.

A strong civil society is integral to democracy. To assist Russias civil society, the U.S. supports thousands of NGOs through NGO Resource Centers, direct grants and technical assistance.

The U.S. has been concerned by continued government pressure on the independent media, an important component of civil society. The Ambassador and other senior U.S. officials have raised concerns about press freedom with Russian government officials on several occasions. U.S. programs provide training and exchange opportunities to professional journalists and students, and have expanded public access Internet sites.

The Ambassador and other senior U.S. officials maintain a dialogue on ongoing concerns about freedom of religion and belief, and on religious and ethnic tolerance, with Russian government officials, religious denominations, and NGOs that promote religious freedom and ethnic tolerance. The Ambassador and DCM have been actively engaged on these issues, highlighting USG concerns about religious freedom, hosting a series of lunches and receptions, and encouraging GOR officials to meet with visiting delegations. The Embassy actively supported the visit of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, securing ministerial-level meetings for the Commission delegation and facilitating public and media outreach opportunities. The U.S. continues to monitor crucial court cases and visa issues affecting religious workers. An International Visitor (IV) Program focused on Islam in America. U.S. officials co-chaired a May 2002 Roundtable on Religious Freedom in Russia and Eurasia on the Hill.

To address worker rights concerns, the U.S. supports NGOs active on these issues through the Solidarity Center, includes trade union and labor officials in IV and other exchange programs, and the Embassy engages in dialogue with the Russian government on implementation of new Labor Code. When Russian officials denied the Solidarity Centers longtime Russia director reentry to the country in December, senior U.S. officials including the Ambassador raised her case with their Russian counterparts, and continued to seek her re-entry in 2003.

Trafficking in persons is a serious problem for Russia. U.S. officials have raised this issue with their Russian counterparts, and the U.S. obligated over $3 million in FY 2002 in support of anti-trafficking projects. These projects targeted prevention, law enforcement and victim assistance. The U.S. also assisted the DUMA legislative working group in its efforts to draft comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation. The U.S. supports organizations devoted to the prevention of domestic violence, a major problem in Russia.

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