Russia fails to tackle corruption, rights abuses: Amnesty

13th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Amnesty International on Friday slammed Russia for widespread rights abuses and corruption, saying President Dmitry Medvedev's attempts at reform had failed to make real changes.

Issuing its annual report, the rights watchdog criticised Russia for suppressing public demonstrations, police violence and failures to investigate killings in the North Caucasus.

While President Dmitry Medvedev has stressed the need for modernisation and backed reforms, Amnesty International said legal changes had been only "piecemeal" and not managed to defeat what it called "pervasive corruption."

"The leadership continued to stress its commitment to modernization, including by strengthening the rule of law and reforming the justice system," it said.

"However, pervasive corruption and the ineffective separation of powers were widely perceived as obstructing this agenda."

Russian security forces overstep their remit by heavy-handedly breaking up unsanctioned demonstrations, and courts hand jail sentences to people who did nothing but use their constitutional right to protest, it said.

It warned that law enforcement officials routinely use torture and violence to obtain confessions or bribes, saying a new draft law on police backed by Medvedev appears not to offer adequate ways to hold police to account.

Judicial reforms have been "piecemeal and had only a limited impact," it said.

The case of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in jail in 2009 from untreated illnesses while awaiting trial, has led to legislation exempting those suspected of economic crimes from detention, Amnesty said.

Nevertheless no one had been charged over the lawyer's death at 37 after being held in a notoriously squalid Moscow jail, it noted.

Amnesty also said that charges in the second trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev "appear to be politically motivated," adding that the trial was "unfair" with violations including harassment of witnesses and the refusal to call important defence witnesses.

Amid continuing instability in the North Caucasus, the situation remains "volatile" and illegal detentions, torture and executions have seen a "complete lack of effective investigations," it said.

© 2011 AFP

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