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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW6820 2006-06-27 13:05 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #6820/01 1781305
P 271305Z JUN 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 006820 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/27/2016 
Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Kirk Augustine. 
 Reasons 1.4 (B/D). 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  In a meeting with a visiting delegation 
from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom 
June 24, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Yakovenko: 
-- Welcomed frank discussion of Russia's human rights record, 
emphasizing that his ministry routinely facilitated visits by 
foreign delegations and special rapporteurs; 
-- Said he was personally pleased that Russians were winning 
cases (and monetary settlements) at the European Court of 
Human Rights, as that would force correction of weaknesses in 
the domestic Russian system; 
-- Asserted that the number of "hate crimes" against ethnic 
and religious minorities had not increased in Russia in 
recent years, despite media reports that suggested the 
-- Said the MFA had taken a lead role within the GOR in 
ensuring that the recently enacted law governing NGO activity 
met international standards; and 
-- Supported creation of the UN Human Rights Council but 
hoped it could avoid becoming politicized or engaged in 
"double standards."  END SUMMARY. 
2.  (C) Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Yakovenko told a 
visiting delegation from the U.S. Commission on International 
Religious Freedom (USCIRF) June 24 that Russia welcomed frank 
discussion on its human rights record.  (NOTE:  Septel 
discusses the Commission's meeting with Federal Registration 
Service head Sergey Movchan.)  Yakovenko, whose duties 
include oversight of Russia's relations with the UN and 
humanitarian affairs, including coordination with NGOs 
involved in promoting human rights and civil society 
development, assured the USCIRF delegation that human rights 
and religious freedom were top GOR priorities.  He said the 
MFA, in collaboration with the office of Human Rights 
Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, routinely coordinated visits to 
Russia by officials like Doudou Diene, the UN Special 
Rapporteur on Racism, who had just concluded a visit last 
week.  The Ministry also worked closely with the Council of 
Europe (COE) and regularly hosted briefings for NGO 
representatives (approximately every 1-2 months) to explain 
official policies or discuss specific issues like the 
recently enacted law governing NGO activity. 
3.  (C) Yakovenko's personal view was that the number of 
cases involving abuse of ethnic or religious minorities has 
remained fairly constant in recent years, despite several 
disturbing incidents in Moscow and other large cities.  In 
his view, increased media coverage -- which was a "good 
thing" -- had led to the perception that attacks against 
minorities had increased.  Yakovenko insisted that animosity 
against ethnic and religious minorities was not a strong 
sentiment in Russian society, although he acknowledged that 
attitudes differed in some regions of the country.  In any 
case, it was a situation that the GOR could not allow to get 
out of hand because it could affect the peace and stability 
of Russia's multi-ethnic society.  President Putin had 
addressed the issue on several occasions.  Yakovenko said he 
was confident that with the help of the Duma (many of whose 
deputies were members of ethnic and religious minorities), 
along with the monitoring roles of the Public Chamber, human 
rights NGOs, and the media, the situation would remain under 
control and gradually improve.  He added that the 
government's institutional response to incidents of abuse had 
become more efficient.  In this respect, Yakovenko said he 
was pleased personally to see that many Russians, including 
Chechens, had won decisions against the GOR in the European 
Court of Human Rights (ECHR).  The Government was being 
ordered to pay compensation to some claimants, which he 
thought would encourage better performance on human rights 
issues by governmental organizations.  Yakovenko noted that 
the number of cases involving Russia before the ECHR was 
currently around 6000. 
4.  (C) With respect to the NGO law that went into effect in 
April, Yakovenko asserted that the MFA had taken a lead role 
in ensuring that it met international standards.  Among other 
MOSCOW 00006820  002 OF 002 
things, the Ministry had voiced its concern that the law be 
applied fairly and objectively.  The MFA had also arranged 
for officials from the Ministry of Justice and other GOR 
agencies involved in the law's implementation to consult with 
COE experts in Strasbourg.  Yakovenko added that a Russian 
NGO had been commissioned to draft a report comparing 
provisions of the new law with those of other European 
countries, which he promised to make available to the USCIRF. 
 He also maintained that the Public Chamber would monitor the 
law's implementation.  Ultimately, he said, individual NGOs 
could appeal negative decisions by the GOR's Federal 
Registration Service (FRS) in court, and potentially to the 
CHR.  Yakovenko acknowledged, however, that the GOR, and the 
FRS in particular, could have clarified prospective 
procedures earlier and more transparently to lessen anxiety 
among NGOs. 
5.  (C) Turning to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), 
Yakovenko said Russia welcomed the creation of the new body 
but was disappointed that the U.S. was not currently 
represented.  He thought the U.S. approach in not immediately 
seeking election to the body was wrong, since the UNHRC was a 
"serious organization that would deal with serious issues." 
It needed the U.S. voice.  Yakovenko said the GOR hoped the 
new body would avoid becoming politicized and refrain from 
engaging in "double standards."  He added that the UNHRC 
should retain some of the procedures of the former 
Commission, including welcoming NGO participation in some of 
the Council's activities.  Referring to the first session of 
the UNHRC in Geneva, Yakovenko observed that the Non-Aligned 
Movement had already sought -- as it had often tried with the 
Commission -- to focus the Council's attention on economic 
and social rights, partly to deflect attention from 
traditional human rights.  He was optimistic that the 
Council's members would establish a solid structure and 
direction for the new organization prior to the close of the 
first session on June 30. 
6.  (C) Yakovenko went out of his way to meet with the USCIRF 
delegation on a Saturday in a darkened MFA building, and 
devoted over an hour to the meeting.  He was upbeat 
throughout the meeting and eager to present the Ministry of 
Foreign Affairs -- and Russia -- in a positive light. 
Although we have little doubt that the Ministry did what it 
could to ensure that the NGO law met basic international 
standards, the chief concern pertains to how fairly and 
impartially the law will be applied, especially with regard 
to politically sensitive organizations.  Moreover, the 
reality is that the MFA carries relatively little weight in 
Russia's domestic policy establishment, where the extent and 
nature of the NGO law's implementation will be determined. 


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