News / Europe

    Top Russian Human Rights Advisor Steps Down

    James Brooke

    The top human rights advisor to Russia's president resigned Friday, the day after President Dmitri Medvedev signed into law a bill expanding powers of the successor agency to the KGB.

    After weeks of attack by conservatives, Ella Pamfilova resigned Friday from her post as head of the president's Council on Human Rights and Development of Civil Society.

    The normally outspoken human rights activist was silent Friday on her reasons for resigning from Russia's top human rights post.  But she had complained earlier that she was not receiving support from President Medvedev.  The president, a lawyer, raised hopes of liberals when he took office two years ago.

    On Thursday, Russia's president signed into law a bill that allows the Federal Security Service (FSB) to take into preventive detention people suspected of planning to commit a crime.  Perpetrators face fines or up to 15 days in detention.

    Masha Lipman, a political analyst at the Moscow office of the Carnegie Endowment, said that new law is vaguely written. "They probably thought they needed this legislation in anticipation of the forthcoming election cycle, to curb undesired activism, protests in cities and towns of Russia," said Lipman.

    The bill was introduced in Russia's Duma, or parliament, in the wake of last April's deadly suicide bombings in Moscow's subway system by two women tied to a jihad movement in Russia's heavily Islamic south.  Defenders of the bill say that Russia's domestic intelligence agency can now use the bill to abort future terrorist attacks.

    Severe opposition to the bill resulted in it being watered down.  The Duma dropped some of the most stringent clauses, including tightening controls on the media for "extremist statements."

    Two weeks ago, in the middle of a national debate on the bill, liberals said they were disappointed to hear President Medvedev tell German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a press conference that the law was drawn up "on my direct instructions."

    He told the German leader: "Each country has the right to perfect its legislation."

    This week, Pamfilova, the human rights advisor, complained that Mr. Medvedev did not back her up when she tangled with Nashi, a pro-Kremlin youth group.  This summer, a Nashi camp has been decorated with photo images of Russian liberals placed on stakes and topped with Nazi hats.  In an interview with Moscow's Radio Echo, Pamfilova noted that President Medvedev had visited the camp.

    Referring to young Russians who go through political indoctrination at the camp, she said: "I am frightened that these guys will come to power in a certain number of years."

    In response to her comments, Nashi sued her this week for slander.

    One liberal vilified at the Nashi camp is Lyudmila Alexeyeva, 83, head of the human rights organization, Helsinki Group.  She has noted that her father died fighting the Nazis in World War II.

    Speaking to VOA on Friday, she said that the Nashi members are "are just ill-bred young men if they behave like that towards an old woman."

    She noted fascism propaganda is prohibited in the country, and added "They probably think they are above the law."

    Alexeyeva said the preventive detention law would only make official the long-standing practices by FSB agents in Russia.

    Saturday, July 31 may see a first use of the new preventive detention law.  On the 31st day of each month, Russian dissidents routinely hold protest rallies to mark Article 31 of the Russian constitution, the clause that guarantees freedom of assembly.  The May 31 rally was broken up violently by police.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.