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EU urged to adopt rights benchmarks for Russia

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday urged [press release] the European Union (EU) [official website] to adopt a series of specific human rights benchmarks Russia should meet before moving forward with the EU-Russian Partnership and Cooperation Agreement [text and materials]. HRW said Russia must focus on carrying out judgments by the European Court of Human Rights [official website], end restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) [JURIST report], and ensure that ethnic Georgians are allowed to return to South Ossetia [JURIST report] in safety and dignity after the recent conflict there. Lotte Leicht, EU director for HRW said:

It’s time for the EU to make human rights a priority in dealing with Russia and to insist on reforms before an agreement is signed. Russia and the EU are partners, and it’s in their mutual interest for Russia to improve its record.
Thursday's statement reiterated a memorandum [text, PDF] drafted ahead of EU-Russian Human Rights consultations in October, in which HRW outlined a series of steps Russia should take before the EU adopts a long-term strategic partnership with the Russian Federation. The EU and Russia will resume talks on renewing a partnership agreement Friday in France.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] has consistently ruled against Russia in cases involving human rights violations. In October the ECHR issued two decisions [JURIST report] finding Russia in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights [text] in several cases concerning the deaths or abductions of Russian nationals in Chechnya in 2000. In May, the court ruled [JURIST report] that Russia was responsible for the disappearance of a dozen people during Russian armed raids in Chechnya in 2002 and 2003. In July 2007, the court ruled that Russian authorities were responsible for the shooting deaths of 11 unarmed Chechen civilians, and in June 2007 it held that Russian authorities were liable for the 2003 deaths of four Chechen family members [JURIST reports].

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