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Russia: Crime or Simply Punishment? Racist Attacks by Moscow Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
Date Published
32 pages
A Human Rights Watch/Helsinki investigation has revealed that law enforcement authorities in Moscow are not only failing to uphold Russia's obligations to fight racial discrimination, but for about the past 3 years have been conducting a campaign of harassment and brutality against dark-skinned people.
These findings are based on research conducted primarily in Moscow in May and June of 1995. It is based on testimony or official information given by scores of victims and eyewitnesses; leaders of minority diaspora groups; representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for all branches of law enforcement; representatives of the Office of the Mayor of Moscow; representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; human rights activists; and journalists. State- sponsored abuse of ethnic minorities includes restriction on freedom of movement, arbitrary detention, arbitrary house searches, invasion of privacy, extortion, and physical assault. Such abuse reflects the growing xenophobic mood in Russia today. Dark-skinned people are commonly thrown together indiscriminately in media propaganda, the public consciousness, and in some legislative acts into the hated category of "people of Caucasian nationality," or people from the Caucasus Mountains on Russia's southern border, whom many equate with bandits and drug and arms dealers. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls on Russian government authorities to combat the abuse documented in this report on the legislative and judicial levels. Among other recommendations, this report urges that the government enforce current anti- discrimination laws and punish government officials who practice discrimination and use excessive force. Further, the government should publicize the repeal of legislative acts that impinge on the right to freedom of movement and discipline government officials who continue to enforce such acts. Finally, the government should establish the office of independent ombudsman to investigate reports of police abuse. 92 footnotes