Combating Discrimination in Russia: Strategies for Lawyers and NGOs

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January 29, 2003

On January 27-29, 2003, the Open Society Justice Initiative convened a workshop in Moscow focused on combating discrimination in Russia. At the meeting, Russian human rights organizations and lawyers explored with experienced human rights advocates from other countries comparative strategies for challenging racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination in Europe, South Africa, and the United States, and discussed how best to address discriminatory practices in Russia.

The meeting resulted in three principal outputs:

  • The presentation and exploration by Russian human rights lawyers of the extent and nature of discrimination and the domestic legal instruments available to tackle it;
  • An overview by European and other human rights lawyers of comparative strategies to address discrimination, and consideration as to how they might be applied in Russia; and
  • The preliminary formulation of a number of projects to address discrimination in Russia.

In Russia, ethnic and racial minorities face physical mistreatment by the police and violence by private parties. Allegations of widespread discrimination against racial minorities in the criminal justice system and in other spheres of public life have yet to be conclusively rebutted.

To date, few efforts have focused specifically on the development of legal capacity and the pursuit of legal remedies and we will seek to address this gap. A workshop in Moscow held in January 2003 brought together anti-discrimination activists and ethnic/racial minority group representatives, public interest lawyers, and lawyers from Europe experienced in anti-discrimination litigation, to discuss projects to address the treatment of ethnic minorities—including Chechens, Meshketian Turks and Roma—who are the victims of pervasive discrimination and violence. In April 2003, a steering committee for the work was established, including a representative of the Justice Initiative. The successor organization to the OSI Russia office has promised support.

Projects of the Justice Initiative will generally focus on supporting litigation through building local capacity, providing amicus briefs and comparative jurisprudence, as well as financial support. The steering committee has developed a list of themes, including citizenship-related human rights violations, and will convene soon to identify the first projects for engagement.


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