[JURIST] Russia [JURIST report] Friday assumed the rotating chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers [official website] of the Council of Europe (COE) [official website; JURIST news archive], the assembly responsible for maintaining human rights and democracy in Europe. Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov [Wikipedia profile] outlined his country's priorities [press release] as head of the organization, which include working toward creating "pan-European" legal standards through the "uniform interpretation and full application" of legal conventions, and "reinforcing national human rights protection mechanisms."
Russia has recently been targeted by international observers [JURIST report] and senior US officials [JURIST report] for violating the rights of its own citizens, for limiting free expression and for clamping down on political opposition and NGOs. Last month, the COE urged Russia to officially abolish the death penalty [JURIST report] before assuming the chairmanship, but Russia, which imposed a moratorium on the practice as part of the country's entry agreement into the COE, has yet to do so. Russia will serve as chair of the committee for 6 months, succeeding Romania. See the statement of Romania's chairmanship [press release]. AFP has more.