US raises rights concerns at Russia detentions
The United States raised human rights concerns on Tuesday after Russia detained several people at demonstrations against curbs on freedom of assembly.
Opposition movements and rights groups organize demonstrations on the 31st day of months with 31 days, a nod to Article 31 of the Russian constitution that guarantees the right to public demonstrations.
A White House statement said the United States was "concerned" by the detentions on Saturday of citizens across Russia participating in the rallies.
"The United States reiterates the importance of embracing and protecting universal values, including freedoms of expression and assembly, enshrined in the Russian Constitution as well as in international agreements which Russia has signed," said National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer.
"Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are also characteristics of a modern political system that supports economic modernization," he said.
"The infringement of Russian citizens' rights to exercise these freedoms runs counter to our shared commitments to international norms and common interests in fostering modernization."
Leading US senator John McCain had already on Monday condemned the arrests of protestors, including opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, in the weekend demonstrations.
The Arizona senator called for the "immediate release" of Nemtsov "and all who have been unfairly arrested in common cause with him" and urged President Barack Obama's administration to help ensure the prisoners are freed.
The United States must "make it clear to the Russian government that continued violations of human rights will only harm our bilateral relationship," said McCain.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said before the last gatherings at the end of May that the authorities should not "create impossible conditions for the expression of freedom of speech."
But rights campaigners said 168 people were arrested and news reports carried accounts of police brutality as police blocked the main rally in Moscow for the ninth straight time.
The Moscow authorities regularly refuse permission to hold the rally on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad in central Moscow, saying the venue is being used for other events.
© 2010 AFP