In its annual Country Reports On Human Rights, the U.S. Department of State cited significant human rights problems and abuses within the Russian Federation during the year 2008.
Despite these problems, however, some civil society organizations within Russia are working to call attention to human rights abuses, and are getting attention.
One such organization is "Mother's Right," a non-governmental organization that raises public awareness of peacetime deaths of Russian Army conscripts and provides moral and legal support to the families of the deceased. The founder and leader of Mother's Right, Veronika Marchenko, was recognized by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton earlier this month as a winner of the 2009 International Women of Courage Award.
The United States and other sovereign nations have an obligation to respect the universal human rights and freedoms of all citizens, and citizens have a responsibility to speak out when those obligations are not being fulfilled. The valuable work that Ms. Marchenko has done, despite the significant restrictions on freedom of speech and ongoing harassment of NGO's by the Russian government, speaks clearly and eloquently of her and her organization's dedication to the people of Russia.
As Secretary Clinton said as she introduced this year’s Human Rights Report, "guaranteeing the right of every man, woman, and child to participate fully in society and live up to his or her God-given potential is an ideal that has animated our nation since its founding. It is enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and was reflected in President Obama’s Inaugural Address, when he reminded us that every generation must carry forward the belief that “all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness”.
We applaud the work of Veronika Marchenko and others who work to ensure the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are aspired to around the globe