Clinton Urges Investigation of Russian Vote 'Fraud,' Says Rights Eroding

Tuesday, 06 Dec 2011 06:03 AM

 

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for an investigation into “fraud” in Russia’s election in remarks that focused on “growing restrictions” on democracy and human rights in the former Soviet Union.

Speaking to a gathering of the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vilnius, Lithuania, today, Clinton pointed to protests sweeping the Arab world and described an “essential” link between human rights and political stability. People’s aspirations are as central to stability as military security, she said.

Clinton warned about eroding rights and violence against minorities in parts of the OSCE, targeting Belarus, which subjects human rights defenders to “unremitting persecution.” Bolstering a call for a Russian probe, Clinton cited a preliminary OSCE report on Russia’s Dec. 4 election for the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, that lists election- day attempts to stuff ballot boxes, manipulate voter lists, and the harassment of independent Russian election observers.

“Russian voters deserve a full investigation of electoral fraud and manipulation,” Clinton said. “The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted. And that means they deserve free, fair, transparent elections and leaders who are accountable to them.”

Thousands of protesters took to Moscow’s streets Monday to accuse Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party of rigging the elections. United Russia won 49.5 percent of the vote, preliminary results show, down from the last election, when it won 64.3 percent.

The top U.S. diplomat urged the Russian government to act on recommendations by the OSCE observer mission. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is at the meeting, didn’t respond directly to Clinton’s call. He criticized the United Nations Security Council resolution, pushed by the U.S., that authorized NATO’s military engagement in Libya.

“ We’re seriously concerned about use of the Security Council for illegal ends,” Lavrov said. “If we deviate from the rule of law, however elegant our excuses for doing so,” we cannot help but undermine it.

Clinton’s weeklong swing through Europe includes stops in Brussels, Geneva, and The Hague. She attended a conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, yesterday. Her trip is focused on promoting democracy, basic freedoms and minority rights.

“There are growing restrictions on the exercise of fundamental rights throughout the OSCE region,” Clinton said.

She put special emphasis on the situation in Belarus, mentioning two presidential candidates — Andrei Sannikov and Mikalai Statkevich — who were jailed after December 2010 elections, describing them as “political prisoners.”

She also singled out the case of Ales Bialiatski, a human rights activist who was convicted on tax charges in November and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail.

His “real crime, in the eyes of the state, was helping victims of state repression,” Clinton said. She met privately with Belarusian activists while at the OSCE meeting.

Clinton highlighted the prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko in the Ukraine, saying it raised “serious questions about political motivations.”

She also presented a Declaration on Fundamental Freedoms in the Digital Age, urging members to guarantee freedom of speech whether it occurs in the town square or on the social networking sites of Twitter Inc. or Facebook Inc.

Independent journalists in the OSCE region have been attacked and even killed “with impunity,” she said. The declaration has 27 co-sponsors and needs unanimous backing to be adopted.


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