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Amnesty International Gives Medvedev Failing Marks on Human Rights

President Dmitry Medvedev has failed to deliver on his promise to uphold civil society and protect human rights activists, Amnesty International said Wednesday as it unveiled its annual global report on rights abuses.

"In 2009, we saw steps like President Medvedev speaking to civil society, on the other hand we also saw [Chechen human rights activist Natalya] Estemirova abducted from the street in broad daylight and killed," said Nicola Duckworth, director of Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia Program.

"This clearly shows things are not right," she said at a news conference.

She said Russia's law enforcement system and courts were weak and unable to bring human rights violators to justice.

"The legal system seems utterly ineffective in prosecuting those who are responsible for attacks on human rights activists, journalists and lawyers," Duckworth said.

Frederica Behr, Amnesty's expert on Russia, said Medvedev acknowledged that human rights activists faced problems working in Russia during a meeting attended by Amnesty representatives in November.

"But these are words, and we want to see actions," Behr said.

"Unfortunately, in 2009, the absence of respect for civil society was evident," she added.

Amnesty faulted authorities for bringing "criminal charges against human rights activists to limit their freedom of speech," banning opposition and gay pride rallies, failing to reduce a "permanently high number" of hate crimes and violating human rights in the North Caucasus.

Duckworth also accused Russia and Georgia of failing to conduct a full investigation of violations committed during the war for South Ossetia in August 2008.

Positive developments were limited to a decision by the Supreme Court to extend the moratorium on the death penalty and an improvement in the public monitoring of detention centers, Duckworth and Behr said.

Amnesty criticized Russia for failing to convict anyone yet in the killings of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, gunned down in January 2009, and opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya, whose 2006 murder case fell apart after a jury cleared four suspects in February 2009.

Amnesty also slammed a Moscow court's decision to fine Oleg Orlov, head of Memorial, a human rights group, for accusing Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov of human rights abuses.

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