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Testimony at the UN

Oral Statement by United Nations Watch
Delivered by Executive Director Hillel C. Neuer
April 04, 2005


Commission on Human Rights
61st Session, March 14 – April 22, 2005


Item 11:   Civil and Political Rights


Mr. Chairman,

Russia faces a choice:  To be a bona fide member of the Community of Democracies, or to pursue a policy of imprisoning dissidents such as Yevgeniya (Jenya) Taranenko.  It cannot do both.

Political rights and civil liberties have become so restricted in Russia that the country was downgraded to “Not Free” by the latest Freedom House survey of global freedom.  UN Watch is alarmed by the further consolidation of state control of the media, and the imposition of official curbs on opposition political parties and groups.

The struggle for freedom of expression and political liberty in Russia has a symbol.  Her name is Jenya Taranenko.  Jenya is a 23-year old post-graduate student of sociology at Russia’s State University for Humanities, in Moscow.  She was in middle of writing a dissertation on youth organizations in Russia—until one day last December, when she was arrested and beaten without having done anything wrong.  Now Jenya sits in prison.  Nobody knows when she will be released.

On December 14, 2004, Jenya and 39 other activists made a vigorous but non-violent protest in a Moscow building connected to the President’s Office.  The group issued strong calls against various government policies.  They barricaded themselves inside and chanted “Putin, Step Down!”

Federal Guard officers and riot police broke down the door of the office, and brutally beat and arrested the protesters, including adolescents and young women.  They broke Jenya’s nose.  During detention, activists suffered further beatings.  Many had their ears beaten, a painful technique leaving few marks.

The next day, the Court, by in camera proceeding, imposed a rare form of pre-trial detention, meant for those posing a danger to society—hardly justified for a group of youths.

On December 22, the protesters were charged with destruction of property, vandalism and “forceful seizure of power.”  These charges were since replaced with the charge of “organization of mass disorders,” which means a trial with no jury.

Mr. Chairman,

Russia was invited to the Ministerial Meeting of the Community of Democracies, taking place in Santiago on April 28.  The criteria require that no state be invited where there is “severe persistent erosion of … essential elements of democracy,” which include freedom of expression and freedom of association. 

Can Russia pledge before the Commission today that it will earn this invitation by releasing Jenya Taranenko before the Meeting in Santiago?

Thank you.

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