Human Rights and Civil Society In Russia


Civil society is a necessary part of any free society and is key in ensuring the collective will of citizens is heard. Seeing civil society organizations repressed in any country is cause for alarm. This is the case today in Russia.

Russia has a poor human rights record and though Russia claims to be a free society today, it is considered by experts a country that is only somewhat free. Many believe that this is worsening as the government collapses.

The number of cases of human rights abuses in the European Court of Human Rights has steadily increased since 2002. These cases include discrimination, murder of journalists, and torture of prisoners.

Opposition to the ruling party is routinely met with intimidation, imprisonment and even murder.

Sergei Magnitsky, for example, was an accountant in Russia who attempted to expose government officials for a massive theft. He was subsequently tortured in prison over the course of a year and eventually died without ever being tried.

Most recently opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, was murdered in front of the Kremlin. The official story alleges he was killed by Chechan Islamic extremists for his support of Charlie Hebdo. These official stories are incredulous after a number of high-profile journalist murders have taken place under Putin’s watch.

The problem is not with a lack of laws it is a problem with people ignoring the laws and not being punished. Torture, for example, is expressly forbidden in the Russian Constitution but some estimates put the number of prisoners whom have endured torture in interrogations at 50%.

Non-governmental organizations are not able to act freely in the country and face government oversight which effectively renders them useless. Civil society organizations are meant to be separate organizations so by requiring NGOs register as Russian organizations they can no longer represent the will of the people if its against the government. Many NGOs have been suspended from acting in the country.

Many are optimistic however and say Russia has a complicated political history and changes are not made overnight. The collapse of the ruble may threaten the Putin regime but even if he were to be replaced it would hard to completely change the corrupt system quickly.

International Human Rights and Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabia and The U.S. have historically had friendly relations. As the world has changed with increasing pace the relationship has remained surprisingly durable and both nations have benefited. Now, however, we are starting to see this slowly deteriorate with the recent death of King Abdullah and increased concern about human rights violations.

Saudi Arabia was started in 1932 as conservative Sunni monarchy and hasn’t had any significant changes to its governing practices.

Many are concerned about human rights violations in the state. Capital punishment and public executions are commonplace in Saudi Arabia and with a globalized world these public executions are coming to light and facing widespread condemnation. One recent case that made international news was the 1,000 lashes punishment that was handed out to Raif Badawi for purportedly insulting Islam and committing apostasy.

Freedom House is an NGO that currently says the country ranks among the lowest countries in the world for human rights violations.

In the interest of productive discourse it is important to understand exactly what is happening in Saudi Arabia and not to be mislead by peoples’ misconceptions.

Purported violations include Saudi citizens’ inability to change the status quo through free speech or use of the internet. Citizens don’t have freedom of religion and even the Shiite Muslim minority are discriminated against. But perhaps most publicized – there is no gender equality.

In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive and are bound by law to cover their heads in public.

One of many Islamic nations in the region, Saudi Arabia’s legal system is based on interpretations of Islamic law. Judges in the country that hand out sentences take into account Sharia Law, current laws and like America, precedent. Many believe that the use of Sharia Law in decision making is the reason for human rights violations.



The Most Notable Human Rights Organizations Worldwide

Human rights organizations come in sizes large and small, some are government sponsored and some are non-governmental organizations (NGO), but all support the effort to make human rights a priority everywhere. Below are a list of some of the largest and most well-known organizations promoting human rights for everyone.


Amnesty International

With a total of 3 million people involved through volunteerism and activism, Amnesty International is active in over 150 countries, and the American arm will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. The organization deliberately keeps itself separate from any government or corporate agenda. They aim to bring human rights to every person in the world regardless of race, religion, gender, or ethnicity. To achieve this end Amnesty International engages in lobbying, education and often works to free prisoners of conscience.


Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch was originally named Helsinki Watch when it was founded in 1978 to ensure the Soviet Union complied with the Helsinki Accords. Their strategy of covering human rights violations in the media was effective and helped transform the Soviet Union. There were other “Watch” organizations that adopted similar strategies and goals in other regions. These organizations which were monitoring The Middle East, Africa, and Asia came together in 1988 to form Human Rights Watch. They monitor and condemn a wide variety of human rights abuses including torture, corruption and the use of children in the military.


The International Labour Organization (ILO)

The vast majority of UN member countries are a part of the ILO. The organization works to protect basic worker rights and improve security and fair pay, and prevent inhumane employment practices. To do this the ILO includes governments, employers and employees in its governing structure. Their main focuses are on ending forced labor and child labor and have made great strides with each.


Human Rights First

Formerly known as Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights, Human Rights First was founded in 1978 and is based in New York and Washington D.C. The organization seeks to protect refugees around the world and believe human rights are for everyone. Human Rights First often works to fight human rights violations within the United States and pushes the government to intervene abroad when it finds human rights violations. The organization itself admits that true change has to come from within a country and outside influence can only do so much.

Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan Speaks With Press After Meeting o

United Nations Foundation

The United Nations Foundation addresses a wide variety of human rights related causes including climate change, energy, technology, and women’s rights. Started in 1998, the foundation received a generous donation of $1 billion dollars from Ted Turner. The organization works closely with the UN and is the UN’s largest source of funding from private sources.


United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

A well known human rights organization, UNICEF works in developing countries to provide assistance to children and mothers. It was started in 1946 to provide humanitarian assistance to the countries that were destroyed during World War II. UNICEF is one of the most well funded human rights organizations and accepts contributions from both private donors and governments. UNICEF works with over 200 countries to give assistance in the form of medicines, shelter, educational supplies and more. In 2006, FC Barcelona became the first sports team to support an organization as opposed to being sponsored by an organization when they agreed to show the UNICEF logo on their jerseys and provide donations annually.


World Health Organization (WHO)

The World Health Organization is an agency of the United Nations that focuses exclusively on health issues throughout the world. WHO came into the spotlight recently with their work in Africa fighting the spread of ebola. WHO helps educate people on both communicable diseases like HIV and non-communicable disease like malnutrition. They were an integral part of the eradication of small pox.

A Brief Discussion of Human Rights Day

Universal Links for Human Rights

Universal Links for Human Rights

Human Rights Day was yesterday on the 10th of December. This is the day The United Nation General Assembly’s proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This global pronouncement of universal human rights was a major achievement of the United Nations and one of their first. This day is normally marked by political conferences and cultural events dealing with human rights. There’s an annual prize given in the field of human rights by the United Nations. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded as well. This year, Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Many NGOs and governmental organizations that are active in human rights commemorate the day in their own ways.

However, Human Rights Day is often also marked by protests and a look into all the the work that still needs to be done in regards to human rights. Massacres by ISIS are a daily occurrence, and world women’s rights are an exception, not a rule. The fight for human rights is an ongoing struggle so yesterday should also a moment to look at some of the issues we are facing today.

Nearly three years ago Syrians left their the country when the Syrian civil war began, over the last three years the number of refugees has increased to over 3 million. And Syria is not the only country where this happening, Ukraine is being attacked by its neighbor Russia and the number of people displaced by that war has increased from 10,000 to 260,000. There are millions of other people from other countries that do not belong to a state. Acquiring citizenship in any country is difficult and often even more difficult if you are coming from war-torn regions. It is estimated that there are 10 million people in the world today that do not have the human rights protection of a nationality and one third of them are children.

It is also estimated that there are up to 36 million people living as slaves in the world today. In India, a country of 1.2 billion, it is estimated that over 1% of the population lives in slavery. In Haiti that number is doubled. 

10 Water Efficiency Tips for Southern Californians

Every summer in Southern California there is talks of a drought, but this year has been particularly bad. Governor Jerry Brown has made helping to remedy this situation the focus of his administration. Brown recently asked residents to cut down on water usage by 20% and the message has been well received. Residents cut down on water usage by 11.5% last month. A far cry from the 20% request but a step in the right direction anyway. Below are some steps you can take to further cut down on water usage.

Make Washing Clothes More Efficient

If you can purchase a water efficient clothes washer, do it. If not, you can still save water by only doing full loads, and washing darks with cold water. These tips will save you cost on energy as well.

Make Washing Dishes More Efficient

Use the dishwasher only when it is full, and purchase a more efficient dishwasher if possible (this will save money and water in the long run). Wash dishes with two reservoirs, one for washing, one for rinsing. If you must let the faucet run, there are inexpensive aerators that will reduce the amount of water flow.

Become a Water Efficient Chef

Generally speaking, don’t let the water run when possible. Wash vegetables in a pan of water and thaw food overnight. Don’t use oversized pans.

Recycle Water

After you wash your vegetables, or rinse your pots, and pans use that water to water your plants.

Install Efficient Toilet, Shower Heads, and Faucets

The bathroom is where a lot of the water is wasted. If it’s in the budget, install new hardware, California will thank you, and it pays itself back.

Don’t Let the Water Run

Shaving, brushing teeth, even washing your hands with soap before lathering can save water.

Water in the Morning or at Night

Cooler temperatures mean less water evaporates.

Irrigation System For Watering

Drip irrigation system can save both time and water, and if it’s in the budget install a smart automatic timer that won’t water when it rains.

Southern California is a Desert, Use Desert Flora

Desert plants are drought resistant, require little to no watering

Use Hose Alternatives for Outdoor Projects

A hose is so useful for cleaning outside and washing cars, but a broom or a sponge and a bucket will suffice.