Title

Russia: Are Rights in Retreat?

Monday, June 07, 2004
2255 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington D.C., DC 20024
United States
Unofficial Transcript: 
Moderator(s): 
Name: 
Ronald McNamara
Title Text: 
Chief of Staff
Body: 
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
Witnesses: 
Name: 
Ludmilla Alexeeva
Title: 
Chairwoman/President
Body: 
Moscow Helsinki Group/International Helsinki
Name: 
Arseni Roginsky
Title: 
Chairman
Body: 
International Memorial Society
Name: 
Alexei Simonov
Title: 
Head
Body: 
Glasnost Defense Foundation
Name: 
Mara Polyakova
Title: 
Director
Body: 
Independent Council for Legal Experts

The Helsinki Commission briefing occurred in conjunction with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the United States to attend the G8 Summit and focused on the status of democratic progress, human rights, civil liberties, and press freedom in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The consequences of President Putin’s ascent to power and elements of his government determined to reverse Russia’s direction and institute more authoritarian policies were among several topics that were discussed.

Four prominent Russian human rights activists – including Ludmilla Alexeeva, Chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group, and President, International Helsinki Commission for Human Rights; Arseni Roginsky, Chairman of the International Memorial Society; Alexei Simonov, Head of the Glasnost Defense Foundation and Mara Polyakova, Director of the Independent Council for Legal Experts – gave their assessment of the human rights situation in Russia today, including specific cases of particular interest.

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The Helsinki Commission Contribution The U.S. Helsinki Commission was the first to propose concrete commitments regarding free and fair elections more than a year before they were adopted by the OSCE in June 1990. By that time, Commissioners and staff had already observed the conduct of the first multi-party elections in seven East and Central European countries transitioning from one-party communist states to functioning democracies. As the OSCE developed its institutional capacities in the mid-1990s, the Commission joined the efforts of an increasing number of observer teams from across the OSCE region, which evolved into the well-planned, professional election observation missions of today.  Commissioners and staff have observed well over 100 elections since 1990. 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