U.S. rights report shows double standards: Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia on Wednesday poured scorn on the United States annual report on human rights, which accused Moscow of corruption and electoral abuse, as an “opus” that showed Washington’s “mentoring tone and double standards”.

Police officers detain Russian human rights activist Lev Ponomarev during an opposition rally in central Moscow, November 24, 2007. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

The report, issued by the U.S. Department of State on Tuesday, detailed alleged rights violations in Russia in 2007, including harassment of the media and reported killings and torture by the security forces.

It also criticized the centralization of power in the Russian executive branch and restrictions on opposition parties during elections.

“The report became yet another proof of ‘double standards’ in U.S. policy on human rights,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“It is obvious the human rights issue is being distributed for external and internal consumption,” it said.

“How else can one explain the fact that the United States, having de facto legalized torture and handing capital punishment to minors, denying responsibility for war crimes and massive human rights abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan ... gives a distorted interpretation of the situation in other countries?”

In a gesture likely to annoy human rights groups, the State Department did not include Russia’s economic and political partner China among the world’s worst offenders, although Beijing’s record was described as “poor”.

Moscow said that it had never expected an objective assessment of its human rights record by Washington, describing the report sarcastically as an “opus”.

U.S.-Russian relations have hit rocky times, even though both sides have cooperated on areas such as policy over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

The White House said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates would go to Moscow next week for talks on missile defense, non-proliferation and counter-terrorism.

In examining human rights in more than 190 countries in 2007, the State Department also criticized Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Korea, Sudan, Nepal, Syria and Zimbabwe -- frequent targets in the past.

Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Richard Balmforth