2010 Human Rights Report: Russia

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The Russian Federation has a centralized political system, with power concentrated in a president and a prime minister, a weak multiparty political system dominated by the ruling United Russia party, and a bicameral legislature (Federal Assembly). The Federal Assembly consists of a lower house (State Duma) and an upper house (Federation Council). The country has an estimated population of 142 million. Security forces generally reported to civilian authorities; however, in some areas of the Northern Caucasus, there were serious problems with civilian control of security forces.

There were numerous reports of governmental and societal human rights problems and abuses during the year. The restrictions on political competition and interference in local and regional elections in ways that restricted citizens' right to change their government continued. There were reports of: attacks on and killings of journalists by unidentified persons for reasons apparently related to their activities; physical abuse by law enforcement officers, particularly in the North Caucasus region; and harsh and often life-threatening prison conditions. Arbitrary detention and politically motivated imprisonments were problems. The government controlled many media outlets and infringed on freedoms of speech and expression, pressured major independent media outlets to abstain from critical coverage, and harassed and intimidated some journalists into practicing self-censorship. The Internet remained by and large free and provided citizens access to an increased amount of information that was not available on state-controlled media. The government limited freedom of assembly, and police at times used violence to prevent groups from engaging in peaceful protest. Rule of law and due process violations remained a problem.

Corruption was widespread throughout the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices. Corruption in law enforcement remained a serious problem. Political and executive influence on the judicial system was observed in some high-profile cases. The government made it difficult for some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to carry out their work. Unidentified assailants physically attacked NGO leaders who took positions opposed to government policies or private interests. Security services and local authorities at times fabricated grounds for legal justification for searches and raids on civil society groups. Violence against women and children, including domestic violence, remained a significant problem. Trafficking in persons continued to be a significant problem. During the year xenophobic, racial, anti-Semitic, and ethnic attacks and hate crimes, particularly by skinheads, nationalists, and right-wing extremists, continued to be significant problems. There were instances of societal discrimination, harassment, and violence against religious and ethnic minorities. There continued to be some governmental and widespread social discrimination against persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and dark-skinned immigrants. Worker rights were limited. Labor activists reported police used intimidation techniques against union supporters, including detention, interrogations, and provocation of physical confrontation.

The conflict between the government and insurgents, Islamist militants, and criminal forces in the North Caucasus led to numerous human rights violations by all parties, who reportedly engaged in killing, torture, abuse, violence, and politically motivated abductions, often with impunity. In Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkariya, the number of attacks on law enforcement personnel increased markedly. Violence generally decreased in Chechnya and Ingushetiya in comparison with 2009, but there were some high-profile attacks on regional government targets. The number of persons killed in the region declined slightly from 2009; however, the number of injured, especially among civilians, increased significantly. Thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region lived in temporary centers that failed to meet international standards.