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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Council of Europe Takes Russia to Task

STRASBOURG, France -- Europe's top human rights watchdog on Wednesday urged Russia to abolish the death penalty, combat police violence and safeguard minority rights, particularly in Chechnya.

The Council of Europe also called on Moscow to improve prison conditions, guarantee full freedom of expression and strengthen the independence of the judiciary.

"The abolition of the death penalty is essential to the establishment of a genuine modern democracy which fully respects fundamental freedoms and rights," Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles said in his report on the state of human rights in Russia. "I call on the highest authorities of Russia to pass a law abolishing capital punishment, not only in practice, as is currently the case, but also in law."

Russia imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 1996, fulfilling one of the main conditions for becoming a Council of Europe member state.

However, many Russians support capital punishment, and earlier this year, Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov proposed lifting the moratorium for those convicted of organizing and carrying out terrorist acts.

The report, which praises Russia for the transformation it has undergone over the past 15 years but points out problems with implementing reforms, also urged authorities to renovate and modernize hospitals and grant all citizens access to health care.