Linking Russia's current economic crisis to widespread corruption, Human Rights Watch has written to President Clinton urging him to address this issue in his upcoming summit with Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Corruption is ruining the Russian economy, but many people don't realize that it causes human rights abuse," said Holly Cartner, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe & Central Asia Division. "To ignore these connections is to just miss the boat on the current crisis in Russia."
The Russian government is riddled with corruption, and its current difficulties, including, for example, chronic wage and pension arrears, insider privatization deals and tax evasion, are often a consequence of corruption. Moreover, it has laid waste to the public institutions crucial to long-term economic development, the rule of law and human rights protection. Finally, it is difficult to overstate how thoroughly corruption has eroded public trust in these institutions," states the letter.

According to Human Rights Watch, among Russia's most corrupt institutions are its law enforcement agencies. This corruption facilitates or is directly responsible for human rights abuses, including ill-treatment, extortion, and abuse in police custody; trafficking of women; and police harassment of refugees and ethnic minorities. Citing U.S. funding of more than sixty law enforcement training programs, Human Rights Watch urges President Clinton "to make clear in meetings with Russian officials that abuse by law enforcement agencies and the corruption that facilitates it sabotage U.S. policy aimed at building the rule of law and protecting rights."

The Human Rights Watch letter to President Clinton also identifies other issues that should figure on the Clinton-Yeltsin summit agenda, including violence against women and Russian foreign policies toward abusive regimes in Belarus and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. A copy of the letter is attached.