Amnesty International: Russian authorities are flagrantly violating human rights in a pandemic

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Amnesty International: Russian authorities are flagrantly violating human rights in a pandemic

Amnesty International report highlights massive human rights abuses by authorities in Eastern European and Central Asian countries amid COVID-19 pandemic

The authorities of countries in Eastern Europe, including Russia, and Central Asia are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with repressive measures, massively violating human rights. This is stated in a report entitled “Eastern Europe and Central Asia Face COVID-19: Responses and Responsibilities”, which was released Wednesday by human rights organization Amnesty International..

“As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds in the region, many governments seem more interested in suppressing dissent than protecting public health,” says Heather McGill, Central Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

“From authorities in Kazakhstan who close apartment doors to trap residents to Chechen police who attack people for not wearing masks, the authorities seem to see the pandemic as an excuse to suppress human rights. Any tough measures to prevent the spread of the virus must be temporary, proportionate and meet human rights standards, ”Amnesty International said..

The authorities in many countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia regularly resort to repression to stifle criticism. Unsurprisingly, some governments are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic while ignoring basic human rights.

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In Russia, Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of gross violations of human rights. For example, at the end of March, human rights activists obtained a video recording showing that Chechen police physically attacked people because they did not have face masks with them..

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Amnesty International: Russian authorities are flagrantly violating human rights in a pandemic

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The “optimization” of public health in Russia, carried out in the country over the past decade, has led to a sharp reduction in the number of medical personnel and medical institutions. Healthcare workers are at increased risk of contracting coronavirus as a result of lack of equipment.

Anastasia Vasilyeva, chairwoman of the independent Alliance of Doctors, was summoned for questioning for allegedly spreading “fabricated news”. The organization, headed by Vasilyeva, has called on Russian health workers to expose the authorities’ incompetence. As a result, many members of the alliance were persecuted and received threats, and Vasilyeva herself was detained by police for “violating the quarantine regime”, delivering personal protective equipment to hospitals in the city of Okulovka, Novgorod region.

Russian journalists did not escape pressure either. The authorities forced Novaya Gazeta to remove from the site an article criticizing the policies pursued by the Chechen authorities after public threats made by the head of the republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, to the author of the article.

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Amnesty International: Russian authorities are flagrantly violating human rights in a pandemic
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“People in Eastern Europe and Central Asia deserve better in these difficult and challenging times,” says Heather McGill. “Their governments must commit all available resources to realizing the right to health and focus on respecting human rights in responding to the virus outbreak.”.

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Director of the Russian office of Amnesty International Natalia Zvyagina In an interview with the Russian service of the Voice of America, she noted that the Russian penitentiary system has become one of the most risky places for people in terms of the possibility of “picking up” an infection. According to her, for Amnesty International this is one of the key topics in connection with the coronavirus..

Natalya Zvyagina also emphasized the inadmissibility in today’s conditions, under one pretext or another, to exert pressure on the media and journalists. “Amnesty International’s position on this issue is well known,” she added. – In particular, we have always opposed and are categorically against the practice of appointing anyone as foreign agents at the legislative level. We have consistently condemned the adoption of the law on non-profit foreign agents and the law that actually equates bloggers and individuals with foreign agents. In general, we are against the media being included in some discriminatory lists “.

All this is an extremely vicious practice that requires universal condemnation, the director of the Russian office of Amnesty International is convinced. “Freedom of speech, assembly and association in no way presupposes the identification of certain outcasts. Any opinions and statements have a place to be, if they are not aimed at inciting violence “.

And these freedoms cannot be canceled by simply labeling someone, including in black lists, imposing restrictions, sanctions and fines, ” Natalia Zvyagina summed up.

Co-chairman of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) Valery Borshchev I agree that human rights are being massively violated in Russia under the pretext of fighting the coronavirus. In his opinion, this already looks like a “digital war”.

“In addition, all these passes (for travel by car and public transport – VV) are simply illegal,” he added in a comment to the Russian service of the Voice of America. – Yes, there are passes in other countries as well. But in our country they are not provided for by law, that is, in fact, they are illegal. In addition, the police interpret the situation at their own discretion, and not infrequently – not at all in favor of citizens, and the courts have withdrawn themselves “.

The authorities have learned to act arbitrarily, the human rights activist stated. “From the word“ arbitrariness, ”he explained. – Instead of issuing a decree where everything would be clearly spelled out. As a result, the police were virtually out of control. And most importantly – no one says when this whole orgy will end “.

In addition, Valery Borshchev fears that the restrictions imposed for the period of the fight against the epidemic will remain in the future: “I’m afraid the authorities have such a temptation. In any case, there is no guarantee that some innovations will not remain in effect even after the fight against coronavirus fades into the background “.

This is also supported by the draft amendments to the federal law “On Police” prepared by the government, the MHG co-chairman believes..

“The document is monstrous. It gives a police officer the right to shoot to kill only on the grounds that the officer considered certain actions to be a threat to attack him. Moreover, the amendments actually make the police unpunished. We already had them untouchable. Recall only the Moscow events of last year (protest actions in connection with the non-admission of independent candidates to the Moscow City Duma – V.V.). They even perceived a paper cup thrown in their direction as a threat … ”

All this allows us to assert that under the pretext of combating coronavirus in the country, the police regime is strengthening, concluded Valery Borshchev.

According to the current law “On Police”, a police officer can use firearms when there is a threat to his life and the lives of citizens. According to the new version, it is allowed to shoot if someone “takes actions that give grounds to regard them as a threat to attack a police officer.” The following passage also causes a lot of criticism: “A police officer is not subject to prosecution for actions committed in the performance of duties assigned to the police, and in connection with the exercise of the rights granted to the police.”.

Opposition politician agrees with the human rights activist Dmitry Gudkov, calling to think about what will happen after the pandemic. “It only depends on you and me,” he said at an online rally “For Life” organized by the “NO!” Campaign, held the day before. “Either we live in a digital concentration camp, or we can bring about change. I would be glad to see you on the square in the center of Moscow, but you have to use this format. Meeting of citizens under house arrest. The regime turned out to be greedy and cannibalistic. Having colossal reserves, the government abandoned people and business. She preserves the egg-capsule for herself “.

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Amnesty International: Russian authorities are flagrantly violating human rights in a pandemic
Amnesty International: Russian authorities are flagrantly violating human rights in a pandemic

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