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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Activists Urge Clinton on Rights

Russian human rights activists appealed Wednesday to President Bill Clinton not to leave human rights off his agenda for the superpower summit this week.


At a Wednesday press conference hosted by the prominent human rights group Memorial, activists expressed concern about a variety of human rights issues, from the expulsion of refugees from Moscow to police brutality.


"Since the beginning of last autumn," said Arkady Dubno of the Russian-American center on human rights, "the situation of human rights in Russia has certainly not improved, and many of us believe it has got worse."


In the Soviet era, the human rights issue played a key role in superpower discussions where it proved a powerful weapon in the American diplomatic arsenal. But at post-cold war summits, human rights have largely dropped off the agenda.


Rachel Denber of Helsinki Watch said that although Russian human rights groups have a preliminary agreement to meet with a top-level Clinton administration official this week, no date has yet been set.


Dmitry Leonov, a leader of Memorial, accused Russian government forces of using undue force and conducting random arrests during the confrontations with parliament supporters and the general public in September and October.


Leonov said there had been "practically no government reaction" to these abuses, and criticized the administration of President Boris Yeltsin for failing to bring any of the violators to trial.


Leonov also echoed widespread concern about the deportations of non-Muscovites from the capital during the state of emergency that followed the October violence.


One prominent human rights case that advocates hope to bring to Clinton's attention is the upcoming trial of chemist Vil Mirzayanov, who has been charged with releasing state secrets about chemical weapons.


Mirzayanov's supporters protest the trial is illegal, because under the new constitution unpublished acts, such as that under which Mirzayanov is being tried -- specifying what a state secret is -- are invalid.


Dubno said he hoped Clinton would make Russia's leaders realize that "democratization cannot happen in Russia if progress only happens in the economic spheres," while on the other hand preserving "the totalitarian lack of respect for the fate of every human."