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

Video British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Multimedia Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid