The Committee to Protect Journalists have released their annual report Attacks on the Press, which documents the killing and imprisonment around the world. The study, of course, includes a section on Europe and Central Asia. The report reads:
Ukraineto , 46 journalists have been murdered in the former Soviet states over the past 15 years, with 90 percent of the cases unsolved, according to CPJ research. The message from the authorities has been clear: When it comes to journalists, you can get away with murder. This has had the intended chilling effect on media coverage of sensitive issues of corruption, organized crime, human rights violations, and abuse of power in countries such as Turkmenistan Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and , CPJ research shows. Turkmenistan
Shielded by institutional secrecy, authorities make little effort to track down the killers. CPJ has documented case after case in Europe and
Central Asiawhere investigators ignore journalism as a motive. Instead, they classify the killings as common crimes and label professional assassins “hooligans.” Prosecutors open and suspend investigations, rarely informing victims’ relatives and colleagues, who have to scramble for information or do their own forensic investigation. Detectives sometimes fail to study the dead journalist’s notebooks, computers, and tape recorders. They fail to interview all witnesses, then ignore the testimony of those they do interview. Investigations are closed “for lack of suspects” despite glaring evidence to the contrary.
Among those nations listed above,
The condemnation of
The rise of “democratators”—popularly elected autocrats—is alarming because it represents a new model for government control of the press. These leaders stand for election and express rhetorical support for democratic institutions while using measures such as punitive tax audits, manipulation of government advertising, and sweeping content restrictions to control the news media. The democratators tolerate the fa?ade of democracy—a free press, opposition political parties, an independent judiciary—while gutting it from within.
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By Sean — 12 years ago
Here is a summary of interesting news stories coming out of Russia this week.
—The U.S. military will abandon its airbases in Uzbekistan. Uzbek President Islam Karimov’s administration asked the U.S. to leave after it suggested an international probe into the massacre of over 800 people in town of Andijan. I’m surprised. Given the Bush Administration’s “commitment” to human rights, I figured that they would make the standard public condemnations, while assuring Karimov behind the scenes that their call for a probe was far from serious. Perhaps Karimov accidentally took them seriously. This news comes as the Andijan 15 are being tried in Uzbek courts for orchestrating an uprising. It seems that the EU is taking some “harsher” measures by placing an arms embargo on Uzbekistan.
—The drama around the Beslan Mothers and cult leader Grigorii Grabovoi heats up. Several of the mothers have filed a request to the Russian General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov to investigate Grabovoi’s dealings. The appeal stated: “This cultist’s cynical promise to resurrect those killed in the terrorist act is blasphemous to all those who suffered in this dreadful tragedy. We … ask you to investigate the legality of Grigory Grabovoi’s actions and to bring him to justice under Russian law.”
—Amnesty International released a report this week condemning abductions, secret detentions, and torture carried out by Russian authorities in Ingushetia and Chechnya. The report charges that “Russia’s “war on terror” is being used as an excuse for systematic human rights abuses.” Unfortunately, Russia is not alone it the use of Bush’s “war on terror” to commit such acts without concern for national or international law, not to mention, human rights. According to the press release, Amnesty International
“detected a new trend in the human rights abuses in the North Caucasus. People are reportedly being arbitrarily detained and held in incommunicado detention, where they are subjected to torture and ill-treatment, in order to force them to confess to crimes that they have not committed. Once they have signed a “confession” they are reportedly transferred to another detention facility where they have access to a lawyer of their choice and relatives; but the confession seems to be enough “evidence” to secure their conviction.”
Such measures are a disturbing reminder of Soviet practices. Then it was “enemies of the people.” Now its “terrorists.”
—In a sign of some progress and recognition of the problem of HIV/AIDS in the military, Russian soldiers will now be given condoms before they go on leave. Official statistics put detected HIV/AIDS cases in the Russian military since 1989 has number 2000. One can assume that this number is very, very low.
—Already in anticipation to the 2008 elections, the Federal Registration Service is going to begin a “proverka,” or check, of registered Russian political parties. According to legislation passed last December, registered electoral parties must have a national membership of 100,000, and at least 500 members in each of the county’s 89 regions.
—Kommersant is reporting that the bones of General Anton Denikin, the commander of the White Army during the Russian Civil War (1918-1920, are being flown from New York for burial in the Donskoi cemetery in Moscow. The transfer comes with a special Presidential envoy.
—In another sign of progress, a St. Petersburg Court ruled that Oktyabrskaya Railroad broke the law when it rejected a man’s application because he was a homosexual. In addition, a Yaroslav court upheld the rights of a lesbian woman who was fired from teaching because of “health problems,” i.e. she’s gay. Many Russians still believe in the Soviet view that homosexuality is a mental disease.
—I don’t think that I need to dwell to long on the biggest story coming out of Russia this week: Gazprom’s $13 billion purchase of SibNeft. The purchase further consolidates Gazprom’s dominance of Russian energy and oil markets as well as shows its intention to become a global player in oil and natural gas.
—And finally, Vitaly Matyukhin, a resident of Archangelsk has spent the last 15 years in a living his summer days in a refrigerator. Matyukhin apparently suffers from a rare heat exchange disorder where he can’t be in temperatures over 5 C. So during the warm weather of September he spends most of his time in a self built refrigerator, only to come out at night. Born in Krasnodar, he moved to Archangelsk to escape the southern heat. Only in Russia . . .Post Views: 117
By Sean — 11 years ago
I’ve been doing a lot of book shopping here in Moscow. Most of the libraries and archives I work in have little lavki of mostly academic books. I have to say that there are some interesting things being published here.
What has caught my eye is the sheer number of translations of post-structuralist philosophy. The works of Jacques Derrida, Alain Badiou, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze are filling bookstores philosophy sections.
There are also some interesting historical works being published. I was happy to find Igor’ Navskii’s brilliant study of the Russian Civil War, Zhizn v katastrofe: Budni naseleniia Urala v 1917-1922 (Life in Catastrophe: Everyday Life in the Urals, 1917-1920), at a ROSSPEN store for only 99 rubles as well as the second volume of Sovetskaya derevnia glazami VChK-OGPU-NKVD dokumenty i materialy, 1923-1929 (The Soviet Countryside through the eyes of the Cheka, GPU and NKVD documents and materials, 1923-1929). There are also an increasing number of studies, memoirs, and document collections on the Gulag, Spetspereselenie or “Special Resettlements,” etc. These are also common subjects now being researched and published.
What is even more intriguing are books like Irina Zherebkina’s Feministskaia interventsiia v stalinizm ili Stalina ne sushchestvuet (A Feminist Intervention in Stalinism or Stalin does not Exist). The author of the acclaimed Strast’: Zhenskoe telo i zhenskaia seksual’nost’ v Rossii (Passion: The Female Body and Female Sexuality in Russia), Zherebkina makes a gender and Lacanian analysis of Stalinist Russia. Influenced by the works of Slavoj Zizek, Zherebkina seeks to deploy “Alenka Zupanchich’s methodology of the “ethics of the Real” as a theory of ethical choice in the analysis of totalitarian eroticism, especially the gendered structure of subjectivity” (7).
Another interesting find was Nataliia Lebina’s Entsiklopediia banal’nostei: Sovetskaia povsednevnost’: kontury, simvoly, znaki (Encyclopedia of Banality: Soviet Everyday Life: Contours, Symbols, Signs). This is a great book of short entries on the small, not to mention forgotten tokens of Soviet life. Inside you can find entries on things like stiliaga, the postwar youth subculture, Eseninshchina, the 1920s hysteria about suicides inspired by the poetry of Sergei Esenin, and babetta, which was a woman who dressed and did her hair like Brigit Bardot in the late 1950s and early 60s.
Lastly is Il’ia Utekhin’s Ocherki Kommunal’nogo byta (Study of Communal Life). How Soviet citizens live, regulated, and ordered communal space in kommunalki is a fascinating subject. We often forget that the Soviet experiment was more than just changing the economic and social structure of Russian life; it was also about the restructuring of how people interacted with space. The communal apartment was both practical and revolutionary. The crisis of housing required many families to share apartments; while at the same time also trying to create unalienated living space. Utekhin’s text tries to capture what life was like in these living spaces and how residents negotiated its many compromises and conflicts.Post Views: 24
By Sean — 11 years ago
Human Rights Watch slapped both Russia and the United States in the face this week. The first slap was the release of a 43 page report detailing how the US sent seven “enemy combatants” held at Guantanamo Bay to Russia. The result was all seven, Rustam Akhmiarov, Ravil Gumarov, Timur Ishmuratov, Shamil Khazhiev, Rasul Kudaev, Ruslan Odizhev, and Airat Vakhitov, were repeatedly tortured and brutalized by Russian police and security forces. The second slap was a press release condemning Bush’s meeting with Russian Major-General Vladimir Shamanov.
The HRW report, “The Stamp of Guantanamo,” didn’t spare either party from vilification. First, the United States for “stamping” these seven men with the elastic label of “terrorist” and for the “torture and ill treatment” they suffered at Guantanamo. According to the British human rights group Reprieve, this included:
beatings; deliberately inflicting serious pain upon the wounded (by deliberately letting stretchers drop, for example); forcing detainees to kneel on small rocks for hours with their hands behind their heads; exposing detainees to the elements, especially cold; denying medical treatment, especially for the wounded; jumping and landing with the knees on the backs of detainees’ heads; depriving detainees of sleep; forcing detainees to run while shackled in painful positions; threatening detainees with dogs; desecrating the Koran and interfering with daily prayers; and at least initially, failing to honor the dietary restrictions of Muslims. Some said bright lights were shone on their faces throughout the night; others described crude and degrading attempts at sexual humiliation.
The main focus, however, was not United States was the use of torture in Afghanistan, Iraq, or in Guantanamo. It has done that more thoroughly in previous reports. The focus was on the US reliance on hollow “diplomatic assurances” from countries that they would not torture returnees, a subject HRW already dealt with in 2005. The Russian case only highlights to utter futility in such “assurances.”
Governments that have transferred or tried to transfer suspects with such “assurances” include Austria, Canada, Georgia, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The receiving countries have included China, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Russia, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Yemen, all of which have well documented records of torture. The US government has been particularly eager to use such “assurances” as it begins to repatriate detainees from Guantanamo Bay.
Human Rights Watch opposes the use of “diplomatic assurances” in returning suspects to countries where they are at risk of torture. Governments that engage in torture routinely deny it and refuse to investigate allegations of torture. A government that is already violating its international obligation not to torture cannot be trusted to abide by a further “assurance” that it will not torture. This report provides evidence of precisely that fact, in the case of Russia.
The report goes on to state that despite “diplomatic assurances” the Americans used the threat of torture in Russia as a coercive measure against the seven. As the report states: “The Americans … frightened us with return to Russia, [and] said that in Russia, we will be tortured,” Airat Vakhitov told Human Rights Watch. “There was constant blackmail,” Ravil Gumarov told Human Rights Watch. “They kept saying, ‘We’ll send you to Russia,’ that ‘They’ll string you up there’ and that kind of thing.”
Yet despite the United State’s direct involvement in the use of torture, as Ravil Gumarov told HRW, “In the final analysis, the Russians were worse.”
Russia’s state and local security forces are well known for their use of secret and arbitrary detention, intimidation, kidnapping, torture, and brutality, especially in Chechnya. And while Russia’s use of these methods pre-dates the “global war on terror”, the latter has only given the use of brutality new life and new “legal” justification. “The Russian human rights organization Memorial stated in February 2006, “We have extensive evidence to suggest that under the pretext of fighting ‘Islamic extremism’ and ‘international terrorism,’ a large-scale campaign of persecution of Muslim followers of so-called ‘unconventional’ Islamic sects has been launched in Russia,” the HRW report cites.
To get a sense of what these seven men went through upon their return to Russia, one need only point to the case of Rasul Kudaev.
Kudaev returned to Russia from Guantanamo with the following aliments: “hepatitis, stomach ulcers, the after-effects of a bullet he received in the hip in Afghanistan that was never removed, serious headaches, high blood pressure, and other ailments.” All of this rendered him disabled and incapable of working. But the fact that Kudaev was relegated to crutches didn’t stop the local FSB in Nalchik from abducting Kudaev in a sweep after several gunmen attacked government offices and police stations in Nalchik in October 2005.
The details of Kudaev’s detention were spelled out by his lawyer Irina Komissarova in her testimony before the European Court of Human Rights in December 2005. While Komissarova’s testimony is too long to quote in its entirety (I urge readers to read the report themselves), here is a sample:
Upon arrival at the Sixth Department I saw Kudaev R.V., who was sitting on a stool, in a contorted position, holding his stomach. There were a large bruise and many scratches on the right side of his face near the eye. Apart from the investigator, there were many other persons in the office (three to five people). Investigator Artemenko A., who had worked with him that day, gave me the record of the interrogation of suspect Kudaev R.V. to read. After reading the document, I asked Kudaev R.V. whether he had indeed given the testimony. In response, he expressed the wish to talk to me alone…
In our conversation, Kudaev R.V. told me that he had been tortured and beaten after he was brought to the Sixth Department. The testimony in the interrogation record was not his, it had been made up, and it was not correct…
When Kudaev R.V. informed the investigator that he would not sign the interrogation record… all hell broke loose!!! From all sides people in the office gathered around (by the way, none introduced themselves) and everyone started issuing threats at Kudaev R.V. In the end, he could no longer stand it and said that he would sign the interrogation record because he was afraid that after I left they would beat him again. Someone in the room told me “you are free to go, we don’t need your services any more.”
The fear expressed by Kudaev R.V. that he would again be beaten I saw as realistic.
I think readers get the gist of it. For more gory details I again suggest readers examine the report themselves.
HRW’s conclusion reiterates its admonition of both the United States and Russia.
Since September 11, 2001, the US government has advanced several novel and pernicious interpretations of international law, including the law on torture. The Bush administration’s attack on the Geneva Conventions, for example, has ignited a storm of criticism worldwide. Unfortunately, the US government’s novel and pernicious use of “diplomatic assurances” has not been as widely condemned by the international community—in large part because other governments, particularly Western European states and Canada, are using them too. These governments have played, therefore, an indirect role in the shameless use of “diplomatic assurances” that is described in this report.
Immediate responsibility for the suffering of these seven Russian men lies of course with the Russian government. But the US government must bear its share of the blame as well. Given the commonplace nature of torture by Russian law enforcement, it seems implausible that the Americans could have sent home these seven men, branded as they were by the “stamp of Guantanamo,” and expected them to suffer anything less than the misery that they have, in fact, endured.
It seems that when it comes to torture the Bush Administration and Russia are joined at the hip in other ways. On March 27, Bush did a photo-op with Russian Major-General Vladimir Shamanov. The Major-General was visiting the White House as the co-chairman of the Russian-US Commission on mission soldiers. Shamanov, according to HRW, “is implicated in grave human rights abuses, including the killing of civilians in the villages of Alkhan-Yurt in 1999 and Katyr-Yurt in 2000, and the illegal detention and torture of detainees in 2000.” HRW documented these abuses in a report in 1999. In addition, according to the Washington Post, “The European Court of Human Rights also has found Shamanov’s troops responsible for the “massive use of indiscriminate weapons” that killed civilians in another village, and human rights investigators concluded that detainees at a base under his command were beaten, subjected to electric shocks and held in pits.” Shamanov called these allegations as “fairy tales” in 2004.
The Bush Administration’s ignominy results not so much from meeting with Shamanov. After all, officials responsible for atrocities are easy to find working there daily. It comes from its feeble attempt to claim that it didn’t know about Shamanov’s crimes. As White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters, “The president was not aware of the allegations made against (Shamanov) and he was seeking to sharpen the focus on the commission’s good work.”
Not aware!? Perhaps a White House staffer should have consulted the Internets and do a search on the Google. Think Progress did and they found that “a quick Google search of “Vladimir Shamanov,” references to the general’s role in the killings come up on the first page.” Plus are we really to believe that anyone would get as much as a pinkie finger into the Oval Office without extensive background checks? Is White House security really that lax?
Alas we should remember that claims of amnesia are a favorite response for the White House. Either Bush has one of those flashy thingies from Men in Black in his desk or he and his people are flat out liars. I suspect the latter.
Oh and let us not forget that scandal begins with the Kremlin. Shamanov’s crimes were essentially applauded when he was awarded the “Hero of Russia” medal for his service in Chechnya in 1999. There are even reports that he proudly wore it to his visit to the Oval Office.Tags: Chechnya|Putin|Russia|democracy|terrorism|human rights|Bush|United States|Human Rights Watch|Guantanamo Bay|torturePost Views: 37