Russia Accuses U.S. Of Human Rights Abuses

The tone was set by committee Chairman Alexei Pushkov, who said he and his colleagues simply did not agree "that human rights topics should remain the prerogative of states that call themselves traditional democracies."

"Around these [human rights] violations an information vacuum has been created and … as a result we see a distorted picture of all but an exclusive right of the United States to deal with that topic," Pushkov told the sparse audience of lawmakers, speakers, journalists and a group of political science students invited by the organizers. "On a whole number of issues, I think Russia has a greater moral right to raise questions than our American partners as we don't have secret prisons, we do not kidnap people, we haven't had any serious scandals connected with violating international law."

The report also portrayed the U.S. as being beset by growing social inequality and racial and religious discrimination. It says the U.S. commits human rights abuses in other countries and applies the death penalty to underage and mentally disabled offenders.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told lawmakers that instead of conducting a dialogue among equals, U.S. officials preferred "the language of admonition and moralizing" and wielding the issue as "a propaganda tool."

"Human rights issues increasingly become a pretext for direct interference in the affairs of other countries, a tendency that raises concerns for the future of international relations," Ryabkov said, explaining Russia's recent expulsion of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Clearly on the minds of hearing organizers was the Magnitsky Act, a measure before the U.S. Congress that would impose visa restrictions and financial sanctions on Russian officials allegedly responsible in the case of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was jailed after accusing authorities of corruption and died in custody in 2009. Ryabkov suggested that passage of the act would not be left "without a due response."

Pavel Astakhov, a lawyer and Russia's envoy on children's rights, offered lawmakers a blood-curdling description of several Russian disabled children adopted by American parents who he alleged were mistreated, tortured, raped and killed, with their assailants receiving only light punishment.

"There was a time 60 years ago when Afro-Americans were beaten up, lynched and hanged … and now Russian children have become an object for ill treatment," said nationalist lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

Another lawmaker, Alexander Romanovich of the opposition Just Russia faction, joined in the anti-America chorus and used Soviet-era language to call the arrest and prosecution of Viktor Bout, a Russian who in April was sentenced in a U.S. court to 25 years in prison on arms trading charges, "a beastly grin of American imperialism."

Valery Garbuzov, deputy head of the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, a Moscow-based think tank, emerged from the hearing dissatisfied and taken aback by the tone and content of the discussion.

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