At a time when Europe and the United States were seized with Russia’s military engagements in Ukraine and Syria, Human Rights Watch remained a leading voice on the human rights crisis inside Russia. Since 2014 the Kremlin has tightened control over media, the Internet, and NGOs. Despite the closing space for civil society, we have been able to make progress and maintain dialogue with Russian officials on important issues such as the rights of people with disabilities.

A child in a Russian state orphanage for children with disabilities.

© 2011 Gordon Welters/laif /Redux

In 2014 we reported on violence, neglect, and other abuses against children with disabilities in Russian institutions, mostly orphanages. Soon after the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection sent a letter to all executive agencies in Russia responsible for these children, which summarized our findings and instructed officials to read our report and take measures to address them. This marks the first time that we became aware of the Russian government directly ordering officials to take action in response to a Human Rights Watch report. In June 2015 government officials showed us the large file of responses that it is now analyzing. They plan to make detailed recommendations to all executive agencies about measures needed to curb abuses against children with disabilities in institutions. The government even asked us to review its report.

Building on this momentum in the coming year, we will engage with the government to ensure it develops a plan to end the use of institutions, promotes family-based care for all children, and facilitates their living and studying in the community. In dealing with governments around the world, we will consider various routes for engagement and strive to shed a light on the often hidden abuses at their doorstep.