UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Thursday urged Russian officials to reform institutions to protect the rule of law [news release] in Russia. Pillay claimed that the Russian people do not trust government institutions, in part because of the ongoing harassment of journalists and human rights activists. She said that the "rule of law, including accountability and protection of rights for all citizens and non-citizens on Russian territory, is an essential prerequisite for true democracy, peace and development." Pillay met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile; JURIST news archive] to discuss possible reforms and suggested that the success of the new Law on Police [text, in Russian], which takes effect March 1 and restricts the level of force [RIA Novosti report] that police may use, will be a preview of future revisions to Russian law. During her visit, Pillay also met with human rights activists at a community center in Moscow and talked about the growing role of public organizations [Voice of Russia report] in the country.
Russia faces ongoing criticism from the international community regarding its human rights record. In July, Medvedev signed into law [JURIST report] a bill that granted controversial new powers to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian Federation's successor to the former USSR's KGB [GlobalSecurity backgrounders]. The bill, which the Russian parliament approved [JURIST report] earlier that month, gives the FSB authority to question citizens about actions that may create the conditions for a crime and issue warnings [DW report] not to engage in unapproved acts. However, Russian courts have recently taken action against extremist groups in the country. A Russian court in July made public a ruling banning access to five websites [JURIST report], including the video-sharing network Youtube [website], for what it called extremist elements. Also in July, a Russian court sentenced 14 neo-Nazis [JURIST news archive], including a group leader and several teenagers, to jail terms for committing hate crimes against ethnic minorities [JURIST report].