Rough Justice: Law and Human Rights in the Russian Federation. (IA Index: EUR 46/054/2003), released by Amnesty International on 2 October 2003, surveys legal reforms instituted since the creation of the Russian Federation in 1991. While noting progress in some areas, the report highlight inequitable administration of justice in many cases, especially those involving ethnic minorities, women, and children. Chapter six focuses on ill treatment of nearly 50,000 mentally disabled youth confined to 155 children's homes and internats.
Amnesty International reports that in Russia, while a few children with mental disabilities, autism, and cerebral palsy are living at home, most are restricted to state care for life. These children are not considered fit to be educated and some are kept in cruel and degrading conditions. Investigators discovered that state authorities encourage parents of children with learning disabilities to renounce their parental rights in favor of state custody. "These children are consigned to an utterly meaningless life," states Lesley Warner of Amnesty International UK, "and unlike prisoners, they have no chance of review or release" (Tom Parfit, "Care of Learning-Disabled Russian Children Condemned," The Lancet, 18-25 October 2003).
The report recommends: 1) "independent judicial oversight of the decision to place children with mental disabilities in institutions; 2) continuing impartial review of all such placements, with a view to discharging where this is in their best interests; and 3) the provision by Russian authorities of greater educational, health, and rehabilitation services and recreational activities, appropriate to the age and abilities of the child." This entire report may be accessed from the Amnesty International web site: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGEUR460542003?open&of=ENG-RUS.
For instructions for writing letters of concern to Russian authorities, consult: "Russian Federation: For a Full and Decent Life—Action to Promote the Rights of Children with Mental Disabilities" (Index: EUR 46/091/2003). Released by Amnesty International on 14 November 2003, it may be accessed at: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGEUR460782003?open&of=ENG-RUS. Readers are advised that Amnesty International now has a Russian language Web site.
Also note that the East-West Church & Ministry Report 9 (Spring 2001) published a theme edition dedicated to Russian children at risk. This issue may be accessed and downloaded at no charge at http://www.samford.edu/groups/global/ewcmreport/tableofcontent3.htm.
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