UK Human Rights Report 2004

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has just released its Human Rights Annual Report 2004.   In their (1.4Mb!) section on Russia, they’ve chosen to focus exclusively on the situation in Chechnya arguing quite rightly that it "remains by far the most serious human rights issue in Russia."

But unfortunately they’ve really dropped the ball in their reporting by dedicating fully 90% of their coverage to Russian abuses, and using just two measly paragraphs to comment on terrorist abuses of human rights.

This failure is even more galling in the light of their introductory comment which recognises the strength of the terrorist threat to human rights:

"by their indiscriminate use of violence, terrorists show total disregard for basic human rights, like the right to life."

So why oh why has the FCO only managed to spend so little time reporting Chechen abuses?  It surely can’t be for a lack of information.  The Russian government is falling over itself to tell the world how evil the Chechens are.  Even by discussing a small sample of the most reliable Russian reports, the FCO could fill page after page.

While it is surely right to hold governments to account for their abuses of human rights, it must also be right to hold non-governmental groups to account for their abuses. 

And, arguably, criticising non-governmental groups could be even more effective than criticising governments.  All of Chechnya’s opposition groups (terrorist and non-terrorist alike) are heavily reliant on external support.  Without that support they are nothing.  While we may never be able to change the minds of terrorists themselves, we can change the minds of those who provide for them.

Update: Bronwen Maddox notes that in the special section on Beslan (page 4), the report has demoted Vladimir Putin to Prime Minister of Russia. Oops.

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