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Russia rights climate ‘deeply negative’: HRW

Russia’s human rights climate remains “deeply negative” despite some positive rhetoric from the authorities, an international rights group said in a report published Monday.

“President Dmitry Medvedev’s rhetorical commitments to human rights and the rule of law have not been backed by concrete steps to support civil society,” said Human Rights Watch in its report for the year 2010.

Rights activists, especially those working in the country’s North Caucasus region, “remain vulnerable to harassment and attacks” including legal prosecution using “vague anti-extremism legislation.”

Although the government pledged to reform the notoriously corrupt police force, the draft law “falls short of what is necessary to best prevent human rights violations,” and police abuse of power.

The use of anti-extremism legislation was expanded in 2010 after new provisions allowed the security services to order NGOs to stop activities and launch intrusive probes.

“Serious concerns” remain over whether families evicted in Sochi to make way for the future Winter Olympics in 2014 were compensated fairly and according to legal procedures.

Human Rights Watch marked no improvement in the human rights climate of Central Asian former Soviet republics, calling it “abysmal” in Uzbekistan, and “marred by continuous disappointments” in Kazakhstan.

Ukraine, which elected a new president in 2010, has not resolved its issues of censorship and pressure on rights activists, “despite President Viktor Yanukovich’s vows to protect freedom and media pluralism.”