News / Europe

Russian Rights Activists Say Putin Amnesty Far Too Narrow

FILE - A member of the female punk band "Pussy Riot", Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, is escorted before a court hearing to appeal for parole at the Supreme Court of Mordovia in Saransk, July 26, 2013. FILE - A member of the female punk band "Pussy Riot", Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, is escorted before a court hearing to appeal for parole at the Supreme Court of Mordovia in Saransk, July 26, 2013.
x
FILE - A member of the female punk band "Pussy Riot", Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, is escorted before a court hearing to appeal for parole at the Supreme Court of Mordovia in Saransk, July 26, 2013.
FILE - A member of the female punk band "Pussy Riot", Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, is escorted before a court hearing to appeal for parole at the Supreme Court of Mordovia in Saransk, July 26, 2013.
Reuters
Human rights advisers to President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday criticized his proposal to free some prisoners on the 20th anniversary of Russia's constitution, arguing it was far too limited to help ease social tensions.
 
Putin's amnesty would include the crime of 'hooliganism' and could lead to the early release of two jailed members of female punk band Pussy Riot, convicted on that charge for performing an anti-Kremlin 'punk prayer' in a Moscow cathedral.
 
But members of Putin's advisory council on human rights said the draft, which the Kremlin sent to parliament on Tuesday, would free a relatively small number of inmates.
 
Some protesters were calling for the release of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, December 24, 2011. (VOA - Y. Weeks)Some protesters were calling for the release of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, December 24, 2011. (VOA - Y. Weeks)
x
Some protesters were calling for the release of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, December 24, 2011. (VOA - Y. Weeks)
Some protesters were calling for the release of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, December 24, 2011. (VOA - Y. Weeks)
Several people whom Kremlin critics consider political prisoners, including ex-oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, would remain behind bars. And there would be no clemency for most of those prosecuted for mass protests against Putin on the eve of his third presidential inauguration last year.
 
The scale of the amnesty will be a measure of Putin's tolerance for dissent as Russia prepares to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi in less than two months' time - an event that has focused international attention on his human rights record.
 
A total of 1,335 convicts, or just half of a percent of those jailed in Russia at present, would be allowed to walk free, said Andrei Babushkin, a member of the rights council.
 
The proposal fails to “restore trust in the authorities among the part of the society that is most critical about them”, he said.
 
On Wednesday rights activists filed a request with the Duma, parliament's lower chamber, for a wider amnesty, and backed it with 20,000 signatures collected from citizens.
 
“Of course we are happy for every freed person but we would like the amnesty to affect all political prisoners, not just some,” said veteran activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva, who has quit the council in protest over Putin's human rights policies but goes on cooperating with the panel.
 
Rising discontent
 
In late 2011 and in 2012, Putin faced the largest wave of street protests against his rule since he first rose to the presidency in 2000. He is still Russia's most popular politician but his ratings have slumped over the years and he faces growing discontent in society, mainly among the affluent urban elite.
 
The Kremlin has portrayed the amnesty as a humanitarian act to help re-unite families, as it encompasses people like young offenders, mothers of young children, pregnant women and the elderly.
 
But it would also benefit some military personnel, law enforcement officials and prison workers who abused their roles - a sensitive issue in a country where the opposition accuses Putin of using Russia's justice system to persecute opponents.
 
Another member of the human rights council, Igor Pastukhov, said: “This draft deprives us of the opportunity to ease tensions in society.”
 
But the draft is expected to easily win the necessary Duma approval without major changes, since the chamber is dominated by a party loyal to Putin.
 
Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova - among the most prominent prisoners who could be freed under the amnesty - could be out of jail by Jan. 1, a lawyer for Tolokonnikova said. They are otherwise due for release in March.
 
Environmental group Greenpeace said on Wednesday that under the current wording, the amnesty would be unlikely to benefit 30 people charged over a September protest against Russian oil drilling in the Arctic.
 
It would also have no effect on anyone convicted of financial crimes, meaning Khodorkovsky would remain in jail and opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was given a five-year suspended sentence in July after a theft trial he called politically motivated, would not benefit.
 
Former Constitutional Court justice Tamara Morshchakova, who now also serves on Putin's rights council, said the proposal would affect some 20,000 people in total. That figure includes people with suspended sentences and some who are being prosecuted or are standing trial but have not been convicted.
 
The Kremlin denies clamping down on opponents or using the courts against them. Putin has repeatedly said there are no political prisoners in Russia.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid