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Russia's Anti-Terrorism Policies Boost Insecurity, Experts Say

(Washington, DC--June 20, 2005) The policies of the Russian government, under the "banner of fighting terrorism," have produced more insecurity and an ever-growing authoritarian regime, according to two distinguished human rights monitors. Yuri Dzhibladze, president of the Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights in Moscow and Tanya Lokshina, chairperson of DEMOS Center for Information and Research told a recent RFE/RL audience that Russia's broad and vaguely defined approach to extremism has producing wide-scale abuses of human rights and even the dismantlement of fledgling democratic institutions.

The antiterrorist legislation adopted two years ago to combat extremism, Dzhibladze said, furthered the erosion of civil and human rights in Russia, but "the tragedy in Beslan, in September of last year, became Russia's September 11 and triggered a fundamental change in the overall political regime in Russia" -- and in Russia's legal system. The government has ignored its commitments to the Council of Europe, while "eliminating" its domestic opposition, "terrorizing" the business community, and launching a "campaign" of "harassment and repression" against human rights and civic organizations in Russia, said Dzhibladze.

A new law on combating terrorism, which passed its first reading in the Duma in December 2004 and is expected to be adopted this year, is generating particular pressure on human rights NGOs who work with the victims of the Chechen conflict, racial discrimination, and abuses in the Russian military, Dzhibladze said. He also expressed concern that Russia's strategic partnership in the global war on terrorism "includes closing the eyes of the U.S. and western democracies to Russia's human rights abuses." Dzhibladze and Lokshina are urging the U.S. to build a dialogue with Russia that "defends human rights within the context of the security issue."

DEMOS recently published an analytical report on the situation in Russian law enforcement and its observance of human rights observance. DEMOS chairperson Lokshina noted that terrorist attacks are on the rise in Russia, citing Russia's Prosecutor-General. Lokshina believes that Russia "is too unstable" to be a reliable partner in the global war on terrorism, because the government's policies have bred a vicious cycle where "anti-terrorism in Russia actually results in more terrorism and more violence."

Lokshina said that in Chechnya, where there are "gross and massive human rights violations" by both sides, the "impunity" of government agencies has left citizens vulnerable by ignoring victims and providing them "no justice." These policies have made the rebel movement vulnerable to "jihadization." According to Lokshina, "Every young man is a potential victim in Chechnya, where he can be kidnapped at night and tortured during interrogations," she said. This leaves him "only two alternatives -- to join the rebels or join Kadyrov. There is no option to live a peaceful life," Lokshina concluded.