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Russian report criticizes US on human rights, US responds 'bring it on'

The author of the professionally written report says it is meant to broaden the conversation by inviting Americans to see that they have plenty of problems in their own country.

By Correspondent / October 24, 2012

Russian prisoners rights activist Valery Borschev gestures during a news conference in Moscow on Wednesday. A respected group of Russian human rights activists has backed claims made by jailed opposition activist Leonid Razvozzhayev that he was tortured into confessing to plotting riots – the same week that Moscow released a report criticizing human rights in the US.

Ivan Sekretarev/AP

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Moscow

Russian officials claim they are tired of being criticized by the US government for Russia's alleged human rights abuses, democratic deficiencies, and systemic inadequacies, in many cases from a standpoint that's less than objective, often ignorant of cultural relativities, and sometimes downright hypocritical.

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Correspondent

Fred Weir has been the Monitor's Moscow correspondent, covering Russia and the former Soviet Union, since 1998. 

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So, the Russian Foreign Ministry, at the behest of Russia's State Duma, has decided to give the United States a blast of its own medicine – and, its main author claims, hopefully spark a dialogue – by issuing a well-documented 50-page report on the state of civil rights, electoral democracy, and judicial independence, among other things, inside the US.

It's a professionally written report, based largely on the work of US nongovernment and academic sources, that covers a gamut of social problems that will mostly be familiar to any well-informed American. But the Russian purpose, argues its main author Konstantin Dolgov, is not necessarily to tell Americans anything new but to urge them to change their angle of view and learn to do without the harsh judgements that he sees lurking behind many official US pronouncements on Russia.

"Nobody likes to be hectored," Mr. Dolgov says. "We are a young democracy. We have our problems, but we also have serious achievement that we hope won't be overlooked."

Dolgov, the Foreign Ministry's special representative for human rights, insists it's not an attempt to copy the US State Department's annual reports on human rights around the world, but simply an effort to broaden the conversation by inviting Americans to see that they have plenty of problems in their own country, and should deal with them before lecturing to others.

"They criticize and judge everyone except themselves. We think the US should not try to monopolize the role of leader, teacher, and mentor in the field of human rights," Mr. Dolgov says. "If they want to do this, they should be aware that they are also being monitored."

Dolgov says Russia isn't judging the US, or denying that it's an established democratic state, just that Americans should be aware that they're living in a glass house.

"Nobody is rejecting the historic accomplishments of the US, but at the same time they should be aware that serious problems continue to exist, and some of them are growing," he says.

His preference would be for the US and Russia to discuss differences behind closed doors, in intergovernmental committees that already exist but have fallen into disuse, such as the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission.

As for human rights violations in Russia, that's not his department, he says. The Kremlin has a human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, who deals with domestic matters and produces annual reports of his own.

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