The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Russia

By Vexen Crabtree 2019

#equality #freedom #human_rights #politics #russia #syria #tolerance

Russian Federation

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Social and Moral Index82nd best
Land Area16 376 870km21
Life Expectancy70.26yrs (2017)3
GNI$23 286 (2017)4
ISO3166-1 CodesRU, RUS, 6435
Internet, .su6
CurrencyRuble (RUB)7

Russia is generally poor at ensuring human rights and freedom compared to the rest of the world. Russia does better than average when it comes to speed of uptake of HR treaties9, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice10, opposing gender inequality11 and in its nominal commitment to Human Rights12. Russia does not succeed in everything, however. It does worse than average in supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms13, LGBT equality14 and in supporting press freedom15. And finally, it falls into the worst-performing 20 when it comes to commentary in Human Rights Watch reports16. Russia was one of the 10 countries that did not sign the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 194817. It actively abuses international law to cover for its own human rights abuses and for those of its allies. By late 2017, it had cast 11 vetoes to block the UN Security Council from addressing Syrian government war crimes. In 2017, the rate of punishments for (supposedly) violating laws on public gatherings was five times greater than the year before - as protests against corruption and other issues continued, "officials harassed and intimidated protesters" including beating them18. New laws on "foreign funding" have meant that several human rights and environmental groups have had to close from 201218. Socially, the country suffers from great inequality between the powerful and all others: the richest 1% draw 20% of the country's entire income19.

1. Russia's Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)20,21
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank20,21
76Dominican Rep.80.4
80Cape Verde81.3
World Avg89.8

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Denmark, Sweden and Norway20. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are Tuvalu, The Solomon Islands and Palestine20.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice and LGBT equality. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe20, whereas the worst are Micronesia, Melanesia and Australasia20.

2. Human Rights & Tolerance Data Sets

In 2017, the rate of punishments for (supposedly) violating laws on public gatherings was five times greater than the year before, as protests against corruption continued - "Officials harassed and intimidated protesters"18.

[In 2017] Putin´s efforts to repress opposition to his lengthening rule met little resistance from foreign governments. [...] From spring 2017 onward, authorities systematically interfered with the presidential campaign of a leading opposition politician, Alexei Navalny. [...]

[By last 2017] Russia cast no less than 11 vetoes to block any attempt by the UN Security Council to address Syrian government war crimes. Russia also threatened to withdraw from a key European oversight body on human rights if it maintained sanctions for the occupation of Crimea [and] it aimed to silence Crimean Tatars and other critics in occupied Crimea, including through criminal prosecution.. [...]

Parliament decriminalized acts of domestic violence not involving serious bodily harm. The government continued to support “separatists” in eastern Ukraine, who committed abuses in areas under their control.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)22

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments


Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)16
Pos.Higher is better
109Central African Rep.-8
110Myanmar (Burma)-9
World Avg-1.9

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR


Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)12
Pos.Higher is better
3Costa Rica23
World Avg15.1

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag (2019)9
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Yrs/Treaty9
35Cape Verde6.40
42El Salvador6.80
World Avg10.02

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

2.4. Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom

#freedom #politics

Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom (2014)13
Pos.Lower is better
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
World Avg79.7

The Human Freedom Index published by the Fraser Institute is...

... a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Movement, Religion, Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Expression, Relationships, Size of Government, Legal System and Property Rights, Access to Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business. [...]

The highest levels of freedom are in Western Europe, Northern Europe, and North America (Canada and the United States. The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. [...]

Countries in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significant higher per capita income ($37,147) [compared with] the least-free quartile [at] $8,700). The HFI finds a strong correlation between human freedom and democracy.

"The Human Freedom Index" by The Fraser Institute (2016)23

2.5. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom (2013)15
Pos.Lower is better15
150Myanmar (Burma)4471
World Avg3249

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted".

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

In December 2016, a court in Tyumen sentenced Alexey Kungurov, a journalist and blogger, to two-and-a-half years in prison for “publicly justifying terrorism.” The charges had stemmed from his blog post criticizing Russia´s actions in Syria.

In May [2017], a court convicted video blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky for inciting hatred and insulting the feelings of religious believers, and handed down a three-and-ahalf-year suspended sentence [reduced to two years and three months on appeal]. The charges stemmed from a prank video mocking the Russian Orthodox Church, which Sokolovsky shared on social media.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)18

2.6. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

Slavery (2018)24
Pos.Lower is better
% Victims24
World Avg0.65

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory25. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends26. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life27. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves28.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery29. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity30. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.31. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi24, Eritrea24, Indonesia32) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery33.

3. Gender Equality Data Sets

Russia is on the way towards ending gender inequality but women are still in an unfavourable position much of the time.

Despite persistently high rates of domestic violence, in February [2017] the Russian government enacted a law decriminalizing acts of domestic violence that do not cause serious harm leading to hospital treatment, or which aren´t reported more than once a year. The law leaves domestic violence victims more vulnerable to escalation of abuse. Moscow´s mayor denied activists authorization to protest the law. A comprehensive domestic violence law has been stalled in parliament since 2014.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)18


3.1. Gender Inequality

#gender #gender_equality #human_rights #misogyny #women

Gender Inequality (2015)11
Pos.Lower is better11
50Saudi Arabia0.26
World Avg0.36

The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchialism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

3.2. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Pos.Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
World Avg1930

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

4. Prejudice Data Sets

4.1. Anti-Semite Opinions

#antisemitism #christianity #germany #indonesia #israel #jordan #judaism #laos #morocco #netherlands #pakistan #philippines #religion #religious_violence #saudi_arabia #spain #sweden #turkey #UK #vietnam

Anti-Semite Opinions (2014)10
Pos.Lower is better
World Avg36.8

Anti-Semitism is the world given to irrational racism against Jews. It is not the same as anti-Judaism (involving arguments against the religion) nor the same as anti-Zionism (arguments against Israel). In history, influential Christian theologians concocted the arguments against Jews that led, very early on, to widespread Christian action against Jews34,35,36,37. As Christianity rose to power in the West and presided over the Dark Ages, there were widespread violent outbursts against Jews of the most persistent and horrible kind. The Crusades were frequently aimed at them and the feared Spanish Inquisition paid Jews particular attention. The horror of the holocaust instigated by German Nazis in the 1940s was followed (finally) by the era of European human rights and a movement against racism in general.

The places that are the least anti-Semitical are a few countries of south-east Asia (Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam) and some of the secular liberal democracies of Europe (Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK). The worst countries for antisemitism are Islamic states of the Middle East38, which are undergoing their own Dark Age. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey see the most oppressive and violent actions towards Jews39,40. Jews in Muslim countries face a host of restrictions and "ceaseless humiliation and regular pogroms"41. In 2004 the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia reported on violent anti-Jew crimes in the EU and found that that largest group of perpetrators were young Muslim males42.

4.2. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

Authorities continued to enforce discriminatory policies and laws against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)18

Human Rights Watch reports that in 2017 in Chechnya, "local authorities carried out a large-scale anti-gay purge, rounding up and torturing dozens of men because of their presumed homosexuality" and despite multiple complaints and letters of concern from multiple developed countries, Russian authorities have not conducted an effective investigation18.

LGBT Equality (2017)14
Pos.Higher is better
119Ivory Coast1
124Sierra Leone-3
World Avg12.6

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence43. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws44. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries43. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

5. Russia and Syria

Between April and August, Russia conducted at least 13,000 air strikes. While the number of civilian casualties appeared to decrease, partially as a result of local ceasefires, monitoring groups reported hundreds of civilian deaths each month, including from unlawful aerial attacks. Syrian and Russian forces carried out unlawful attacks, including airstrikes on schools and hospitals, and airdropped cluster munitions and incendiary weapons in populated areas.

Russian ground forces became more active in Syria. Russia also played a role in negotiating local ceasefires and evacuations and participated in the evacuation of fighters and civilians from opposition-controlled areas. [...]

Russia continued to protect Syria from repercussions for violating the laws of war. At the United Nations Security Council, Russia, along with China, vetoed a February 2017 resolution proposing sanctions on those responsible for chemical attacks. Russia was also the only member to veto an April 2017 resolution condemning a chemical attack in northern Syria and calling for an international investigation.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)18

6. Freedom of Belief and Religion

#denmark #russia

Freedom of religion and belief is protected in law and in the constitution, however, Article 282 of the Criminal Code bans "Inciting religious hatred" which is sometimes over-used, or misused for political purposes45. The Russian Orthodox Church has ran a long-term and officially supported campaign to restrict other religious groups, especially since the religious liberalisation of Russia in 199046: "Since July 2016, when the “Yarovaya Law” entered into force, authorities fined over 100 religious activists, mainly evangelist Christians" for various minor oversights and The Jehovah's Witnesses were outlawed in 201718.

Persecution of Salafi Muslims continued in Dagestan despite an official statement that "non-traditional" forms of Islam would no longer receive special attention from the police18.

Freedom of Thought: The International Humanist and Ethical Union produced a report in 2012 entitled "Freedom of Thought" (2012)45, in which they document bias and prejudice at the national level that is based on religion, belief and/or lack of belief. Their entry for Russia states:

The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief; however, Article 282 of the Criminal Code bans "Inciting religious hatred", for which maximum penalty is 3 years in prison. Most often fines are levied, at a maximum of 200,000 Rubles (US$6,500).

Cases of Discrimination

  • On Jan. 18, 2008, Aleksander Sdvizhkov, the editor of the White-Russian magazine Zgoda, was sentenced to three years in a labor camp for reprinting the Danish Muhammad cartoons.

  • On June 13, 2010, two Russian gallerists, Jury Samadurov and Andrei Jerefeyev, were given large fines for organizing an exhibition called "Prohibited Art" at the Sakharov Center, which included portrayals of Jesus as Mickey Mouse and as Lenin.

  • On August 17, 2012, three members of Pussy Riot, a feminist group that spreads its freethinking message through punk rock and performance art, were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" and sentenced to two years hard labor. Their offense was to shoot a music video called "Punk Prayer: Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!" at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

"Freedom of Thought" by IHEU (2012)45

The Russian Orthodox Church's Campaign Against Other Religions

In October 1990, the Supreme Soviet abandoned the official Soviet ideology of scientific atheism and passed [the Law on Freedom of Religions,] guaranteeing freedom of conscience and legal status for all religious communities. [...] Even the often persecuted Jehovah's Witnesses were welcomed. [...] But as the new groups´ audience and membership grew rapidly and began to provide competitive alternatives to the Russian Orthodox Church, support for allowing virtually all groups to register began to wane.

In 1997... Russian parliament passed the complex law On Freedom of Conscience and Associations by a vote of 358 to 6. Contradicting the Russian constitution, which states that all religions are equal under the law, this bill established two categories of religious institutions: traditional organizations and nontraditional groups. The traditional organizations received full legal privileges and tax exemptions. The nontraditional groups, which included Catholic, Baptist, and sectarian Russian Orthodox groups operating separately from the Russian Orthodox Church, were denied full privileges and were required to undergo an annual registration. Along with being cumbersome and time consuming, this registration procedure proved highly restrictive, with many regional authorities within Russia passing even harsher legislation against the “new” sects.

When a 1999 amendment to the 1997 law required all groups to reregister or be dissolved, the Ministry of Justice dissolved approximately 980 groups by May 2002. [...]

Many have commented that the Russian Orthodox Church was a driving force behind the more restrictive legislation passed in 1997, but they often fail to notice that the church was effectively promoting tighter restrictions even before the formal legislation was passed.

"The Price of Freedom Denied" by Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke (2011)47

Since July 2016, "when the “Yarovaya Law” entered into force, authorities fined over 100 religious activists, mainly evangelist Christians" for various minor oversights and The Jehovah's Witnesses were outlawed in 2017 after suffering many years of harassments18.