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Amnesty International Scores Russian Human Rights Record

Amnesty International in Russia has presented the organization's latest findings on the country's human rights record, and reports such violations as stifled dissent, racist attacks, substandard justice, and continued violence in the Caucasus.

Amnesty International says human rights are being relegated around the world to a back seat in the name of recovery from the current global economic crisis.

In Moscow, Amnesty's director for Europe and Central Asia, Nicola Duckworth, told reporters that open markets have not led to open societies, particularly in Russia and China.

"You cannot separate human rights out from the other sorts of problems that exist, because human rights - the observance of human rights - rests at the base of the solution for problems, whether it is political, or whether it is economic," she said.

Duckworth says migrant workers who come to Russia from neighboring countries are among the first to feel the effects of the economic crisis, as Russian authorities fail to uphold their human rights or to prevent xenophobic or racist attacks.

Amnesty reports Russian authorities have frequently violated the right of free assembly, banning, in particular, demonstrations by the political opposition. The human rights organization also notes threats and physical attacks against activists, lawyers, journalists and opposition members.

The report says a recent trial into the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya did not answer critical questions as to who was behind the killing, and investigations into similar attacks remain ineffective, which creates a climate of impunity.

Amnesty International says accountability for crimes is needed for normalization in the Northern Caucasus, where human rights are violated even as authorities pursue the legitimate aim of fighting violence by local armed groups.

An Amnesty researcher in Russia, Friederike Behr, offers an example of collective justice against innocent people in the Caucasus.

Behr says the homes of families of suspected rebels are set on fire, and according to the organization, fire fighters in such cases frequently simply stand on the side.

Behr says Amnesty International in Russia has prepared recommendations for its U.S. affiliate, which will lobby President Barack Obama to raise human rights issues when he visits Moscow in July. Recommendations include fair trials, freedom of speech, and protection for human rights activists.

Nicole Duckworth notes Amnesty would also like to approach Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.

"If we had a better dialogue with President Medvedev, we would be more than happy to give him material to lobby President Obama about the things that still concern us in the U.S.A., for example, the death penalty," she said.

Amnesty International opposes capital punishment and says the United States, China and Saudi Arabia account for the highest number of executions worldwide. Russia has a moratorium on the death penalty.

The human rights organization notes positive statements by President Medvedev about the need to respect the rule of law, but says concrete actions are needed to prove he is doing more than paying lip service to reforms.