MOSCOW, January 31 (RIA Novosti) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday slammed Russia for its poor human rights record and a crackdown on political freedoms, but the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the criticism.
Over the past year the Russian leadership unleashed the worst political crackdown in Russia’s post-Soviet history, the rights group said in its World Report 2013, in which it assessed the state of human rights in more than 90 countries throughout 2012.
“The authorities introduced a series of restrictive laws, harassed and intimidated activists, and interfered in the work of nongovernmental organizations, crushing hopes for reform following the winter 2011 mass protests,” HRW said in a press release.
“This has been the worst year for human rights in Russia in recent memory,” HRW quoted its Europe and Central Asia Director Hugh Williamson as saying. “Russia’s civil society is standing strong, but with the space around it shrinking rapidly, it needs support now more than ever.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich dismissed HRW’s criticism, saying the situation was not so bad in Russia.
“I have not read the report yet,” Lukashevich said. “I think we will make a comment later and show that the human rights situation in Russia is not the worst [in the world].”
The spokesman said the United States and the European Union have “serious systemic problems” with regard to human rights, adding that relevant reports are available on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.
“I am also addressing those who compile other reports: before criticizing others, look at yourselves,” the diplomat concluded.
HRW also criticized the United States. “The federal government under President Barack Obama has continued some abusive counterterrorism policies, including detentions without charge at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, and proceedings before fundamentally flawed military commissions,” the rights group said.
Late last year, Washington angered the Russian government by introducing the so-called Magnitsky Act, a law imposing sanctions against Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses. The law was named after Sergei Magnitsky, a whistleblowing lawyer who died in a Moscow jail in 2009.
Russia responded by banning US citizens from adopting Russian children and prohibiting politically active Russian nongovernmental organizations from accepting financing from the United States.