(Berlin) – The leaders of France and Germany should urge President Vladimir Putin of Russia to mark the beginning of his third presidential term by making human rights a priority, both at home and abroad, Human Rights Watch said today. Putin will make brief visits to Berlin and Paris to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Francois Hollande, the new president of France, on June 1, 2012.
Human Rights Watch called on the French and German leaders to stress the need for accountability for human rights violations in Russia and an end to Russia’s counterproductive positions on Syria. These issues should also be central for the summit between Russia and the European Union in Saint Petersburg on June 3 and 4.
“Human rights issues should be high on the agenda during Putin’s first official visits in his renewed presidential capacity,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “To retain the confidence of his European counterparts, Putin needs to be questioned on accountability for domestic human rights abuses as well as on Russia’s position on the worsening crisis in Syria.”
Merkel and Hollande should urge Putin to address a number of key human rights issues in Russia, Human Rights Watch said. Putin should ensure full implementation of European Court of Human Rights judgments pertaining to Chechnya and promote the independence of Russia’s judiciary. He should also foster a normal working environment for civil society organizations and send a clear message about the need for serious investigations into murders of human rights defenders and journalists, such as Anna Politkovskaya and Natalia Estemirova, and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.
Human Rights Watch also called on Merkel and Hollande to prominently raise the human rights crisis in Syria with Putin, including the French proposal to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Since the beginning of the uprising in Syria in 2011, over 10,000 people have died and tens of thousands have been injured, imprisoned, tortured, or forcibly disappeared in Houla, Deraa, Homs, Idlib, and Rastan. Russia should demand that Syria provide access for the United Nations commission of inquiry to conduct criminal investigations into these human rights violations and support UN sanctions against those responsible for atrocities, Human Rights Watch said.