Russian senators dismiss ‘biased’ criticism in Amnesty International report

Federation Council file photo

(Interfax – Moscow, May 23, 2013) Federation Council senators consider the (2013 annual) Amnesty International report on Russia to be biased and politically motivated.

“This organization’s report once again criticizes the human rights situation, and Amnesty International is consistent when it comes to this. On the whole, the report is, as always, biased and politically motivated,” the head of the social policies committee, senator Valeriy Ryazanskiy, told Interfax.

He disagreed with assertions about the Russian opposition being persecuted for political reasons. “The authorities have demanded that the opposition adhere to certain behavioural norms by passing particular laws – and not everyone likes these norms. And we are not planning to rewrite our legislation to mimic that in America or anywhere else. Russia is a sovereign state and as lawmakers, we have drawn up rules of conduct for everyone who wants to engage in politics, which everyone needs to abide by. And there are no politics in this,” he said.

The law needs to be adhered to and this rule applies in every civilized country. “Whether this is the EU or the USA – everyone is equal before the law and only the judiciary is in a position to qualify the relationship of a particular NGO, (to decide) whether it is a foreign agent or not. But the rules are stipulated in the law and they need to be observed,” he said.

In his words, Amnesty International constantly pushes Russia towards some kind of mode of behaviour that has fallen into place. “They like to tell us how we should behave. There is a trend towards same-sex marriages falling into place in a number of European countries – so let’s put Russia into the same Procrustean bed. Do not force us into anything. We will decide for ourselves what we should do and naturally, the norms and standards that work for America or European countries do not always fit Russia. We have our own vision with respect to these issues,” he said.

Another senator, Konstantin Surkov, was bewildered by a statement in the report about Russian courts purportedly not meeting international standards of justice. “What does this mean – international standards of justice? Every country has its own standards. There is the letter of the law, where everything should proceed from. The international acts that Russia has ratified – we strictly abide by them,” Surkov told Interfax.

In his words, there is “the spirit and letter of the law”, which every self-respecting state sticks to. “Everything else amounts to wild guesses and populist statements. So it is populism to talk about Russian court rulings not conforming to whatever standards. All of our court decisions are handed down within the framework of the existing laws and this is an axiom – it is not subject to debate and discussion,” he said

This view was echoed by another senator, a member of the constitutional legislation committee, Anatoliy Lyskov.

In an interview with Interfax, he said that courts in Russia review more than 20m cases each year. “And even if one supposes that someone is not happy with a court ruling on a particular case – this could be the result of a judicial error or the consequences of insufficient investigation – but these are one-off situations and talking about injustice in these cases is inappropriate at the very least, and absolutely illiterate from a legal point of view,” Lyskov told Interfax.

He categorically disagreed with Amnesty International’s judgment as regards Russia’s court system. “It is inappropriate to make judgement’s about the system as a whole on the basis of individual, one-off cases, which do not determine the state’s criminal and legal policies as a whole,” he said.

He described the Amnesty International report as “biased and not objective”. “There is nothing surprising about this. Because if you take the last few reports that this international body has published, they were all biased against Russia and raised many questions as regards objectivity,” he concluded.