WASHINGTON – Earlier today, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) hosted a briefing entitled “Human Rights Defenders in Russia,” which focused on the efforts by Russian NGOs, human rights activists and legal experts to halt the retreat in the area of human rights and civil liberties that has taken place in Russia under the current government. Participants at the briefing included Ms. Karinna Moskalenko, a prominent Russian human rights attorney and head of the Russian Affiliate, Center of Assistance to International Protection; Mr. Neil Hicks, Director, Human Rights Defenders Program, Human Rights First; and Ms. Maureen Greenwood-Basken, Advocacy Director for Europe and Central Asia, Amnesty International USA.
During the briefing Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission remarked, “Repressive regimes do not make good neighbors or trading partners; They do not seek to improve the welfare of their citizens or the safety of our planet. Not only for the intrinsic value of protecting and promoting human rights, but for the well-being of my own fellow citizens, I wish to see Russia a rule of law state committed to human rights and democratic governance.”
In addition, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission met with Ms. Moskalenko in his Senate office this afternoon, where they discussed the challenges that human rights defenders in Russia face on a daily basis. After the meeting, Cardin commented, “I commend Ms. Moskalenko on her personal strength and resilience to continue doing this heroic work. The current situation in Russia does not bode well for NGOs, which is quite troubling. Congress must work to raise awareness of these injustices and hold the Russian government accountable for the grave actions they have taken, which has failed to respect the human dignity of its citizens.”