News / Europe

Russian Rights Activists Say Putin Amnesty Far Too Narrow

FILE - A member of the female punk band 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
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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs