According to the 2015 Country Reports On Human Rights Practices, issued by the State Department in mid-April, Russia’s authoritarian government continues to commit and ignore numerous human rights violations.
First, citizens’ right to choose their leadership in free and fair elections was consistently restricted through the government’s efforts to suppress dissent. New and existing repressive laws were used to harass, discredit, and punish individuals and organizations that criticized the government. The government particularly targeted those who spoke up in support of the Government of Ukraine or opposed the Russian Government’s activities in Ukraine.
Further the Russian Government continued to selectively prosecute racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities and migrant workers.
In addition, officials denied due process to defendants in politically motivated cases. The government used secret detentions and convictions based on questionable treason and espionage charges, and even tried and convicted non-Russian citizens taken illegally from other countries, especially Ukraine. Yet at the same time, authorities failed to bring to justice individuals responsible for the deaths of prominent journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and opposition politicians.
Indeed, Russia’s support of separatists in eastern Ukraine, and its two-year occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, were responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in the region. According to international monitors and human rights NGOs, the combined Russian-separatist forces in the Donbas region and the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea caused thousands of civilian deaths and injuries. Russian occupation authorities in Crimea cracked down on members of certain groups, in particular Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, who spoke out in opposition to the occupation.
And finally, conflict in Northern Caucasus between government forces, insurgents, Islamist militants, and criminal forces led to numerous human rights abuses and a general degradation in the rule of law.
Such abuses imperil the future of Russia and its people. In the words of Secretary of State John Kerry, “A government that fails to respect human rights, no matter how lofty its pretentions, has very little to boast about, to teach, and very little indeed in the way of reaching its full potential.”