Russian government criticizes US over human rights record

HYPOCRISY::The report accuses the US of prying into citizens’ personal lives and of violating the rights of Muslim Americans in the war against terrorism

AP, MOSCOW

Fri, Dec 30, 2011 - Page 6

The Russian Foreign Ministry has attacked the human rights record of the US in its first report on injustice elsewhere in the world, offering examples such as the Guantanamo Bay prison and wrongful death row convictions, to paint the US as hypocritical for lecturing other nations on the subject of rights.

“The situation in the United States is a far cry from the ideals that Washington proclaims,” the report released on Wednesday says.

Moscow has previously reacted angrily to accusations of human rights breaches that the US Department of State has leveled at Russia in its annual reports. The department has expressed concern about the violent attacks on rights activists and journalists in Russia, most of which go unpunished. It has also criticized abuses in Russia’s Caucasus, including extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and torture.

The 90-page Russian report slams EU nations, Canada and Georgia, but reserves its longest section of 20 pages for what it says are violations by the US. The report does not cover Asia, Africa or the Middle East, other than a five-page section criticizing the NATO operation in Libya.

Moscow laments the ongoing operation of the “notorious” prison in Guantanamo Bay, where terrorism suspects have been held since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and it criticizes US President Barack Obama for “legalizing indefinite and extrajudicial custody and the return of court martials.”

The report accuses the US of prying into citizens’ personal lives and violating the rights of Muslim Americans in the fight against terrorism. It also points to errors made by US courts.

“Judicial errors are the Achilles heel of American justice as concerns capital punishment,” the report says.

It notes about 130 people were sentenced to death in the past 30 years, but were later cleared of the charges, some after they were executed.

The ministry also struck back at international criticism of Russia’s recent parliamentary elections, which independent observers said involved widespread fraud. Outrage over the vote set off a spate of protests led by citizens unhappy with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s rule.

The report accuses the US of blocking independent candidates from elections and criticizes the practice of allowing governors to nominate senators when a Senate seat is vacated.

The US Department of State is reviewing the Russian report, spokesman Mark Toner said.

He said such reports can be a “useful mechanism, provided that they are produced using objective methodology.”

“We certainly don’t regard it as interference in our internal affairs when foreign governments, individuals or organizations comment on or criticize US human rights practices,” he said. “In terms of our human rights record, we’re an open book.”