[JURIST] Russian human rights activist Sergei Kovalev on Wednesday urged the European Union (EU) [official website] to hold Russia accountable for human rights violations, in a speech after receiving the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought [official website]. Kovalev, joined by Oleg Orlov and Lyudmila Alexeyeva, accepted the award [press release] on behalf of Russian human rights group Memorial [advocacy website, in Russian]. Addressing the European Parliament [official website], Kovalev said that ignoring sensitive human rights issues [text] would only harm Russia, continue human rights abuse, and impair European values. Kovalev accused the EU of not making full use of its unity to pressure Moscow to resolve the human rights violations in Russia:
[Europe] should act towards Russia just as it does towards any other European country that has taken on certain obligations and has a responsibility to meet them. Alas, today, Europe increasingly rarely formulates its recommendations to Russia in the area of democracy and human rights, sometimes even preferring not to mention them at all…It is Europe's duty not to remain silent but, again and again, to repeat and remind, and insist respectfully and firmly that Russia meet its obligations.
Awarded by the European Parliament, the Prize for Freedom of Thought is named in honor of the late Russian human rights activist and founder of Memorial, Andrei Sakharov [official profile]. European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek [official profile] attributed the award to Memorial activist, Natalia Estemirova [BBC obituary], who was murdered [JURIST report] in July.
In October, a report by the UN Human Rights Committee [official website] found [JURIST report] that Russia is failing to protect important human rights in a number of areas. The report specifically criticized Russian actions in Chechnya [JURIST news archive]. Recent violence has reportedly caused Russian human rights activists to leave the region [JURIST report], with Memorial closing its Chechen offices after the death of Estemirova.