Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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Classical Guitar:
"The Other Profession





Moscow, January 21, 2001

The current Russian Constitution proclaims that Russia is a federative, lawful, social, secular and democratic state. Today, however, the situation with democratic and human rights has become worse: we can observe erosion of the Constitution democratic basis with our own eyes; so, we can say that what we are observing now is a step-by-step constitutional coup. Cases of human rights restrictions and abuse occurring in various fields are signs of a clear trend of moving towards an authoritarian system. From our experience we know that this type of regime leads to massive repressions and may provoke large-scale military clashes.

The following are the most dangerous threats to citizens' rights and freedoms in the Russian Federation:

  • Anti-constitutional military operations in Chechnya that caused thousands and thousands of deaths, human rights abuse that can be found throughout the country, war crimes and crimes against humanity; 

  • Ethnic and racial discrimination that is encouraged by the authorities, growing intolerance and violence towards ethnic minorities and displaced persons, cultivating the enemy image presenting people from the Caucasus and some other regions as enemies; 

  • The blight of those people who have lost their housing and registration, both refugees and displaced individuals, who became the new homeless in Russia in peaceful times. It is as if the state struck them out of life register as the are denied not only social rights (the right to housing, health care, etc.) but civil and political rights, and sometimes the right to life; 

  • Bureaucratic desire to limit citizens' private initiatives and restrict the activities of NGOs, making people weak, scared and deprived of their rights; 

  • Massive violations of social and labor rights and a threat of further restrictions through passing relevant legislation;

  • The authorities' growing onslaught to deny the people's right to a healthy environment, crackdown on environmental NGOs, demonstratively ignoring the will of millions of citizens who supported holding an environmental referendum;

  •  The desire of the Presidential Administration to obtain a special mandate and set up such a Constitutional Assembly that would be easy to control, as this Assembly is not going to have real powers to be able to amend the Constitution in a "lawful" way; 

  • The policy requiring the submission of legislative and judicial branches to the executives operating at all levels of Administration; 

  • Demonstrative disregard by all branches of government of their international human rights commitments that Russia has pledged to fulfill; 

  • Growing trend of replacing the Constitution and laws and statutes of the Russian Federation with rules and regulations that abuse human rights; 

  • Monopolization by the ruling authorities of informational, social, and financial and economic areas; 

  • Crackdown on independent mass media, attempts to reestablish censorship, and revival of state ideological propaganda;

  • Numerous violations of the right to vote, manipulations with the election laws at all levels; the use of mass media, election committees and courts to make election more difficult for those candidates the authorities do not endorse; 

  • Putting on hold the judicial reform; ineffective counsel defense in cases of human rights violations and arbitrary decisions made by the authorities; poor enforcement of court verdicts;

  • Ineffective work of law enforcement agencies in defending people's rights, and - which is still worse - turning law enforcement agencies into main violators of human rights; 

  • Extremely powerful roles played by the special services both in society and in the state; low transparency in those deals and steps that are made by the authorities; restricting people's access to information; 

  • Making the Attorney General's office, the FSB and other power structures act as tools of political infighting and initiating "spy cases";

  • Militarization of power and society, dangerous involvement of power structures in the issues of domestic and foreign policy of the country.

The All-Russian Special Conference for the Protection of Human Rights thinks that this situation is a threat to the stability and security of our society and peaceful and democratic development of our country.

We call upon all the organizations of the Russian civil society to consolidate their efforts and actions to protect civil rights and freedoms.

The growing threat to the Constitutional state structure and civil society, the supremacy of law and human rights induces us to act as a constructive, civil and non-political opposition to this regime. A consolidated and effective civil society should leverage a stronger state.

The All-Russian Special Conference has resolved the following:

1. To form working groups that should be working continuously in order to implement the following:

- Antimilitary actions; 
- Civil control; 
- Judicial reform; 
- Correction facilities reform and the protection of inmates' rights; 
- Social and economic rights of the citizens; 
- Military reform and protection of servicemen's rights and the rights of their families; 
- Citizens' right to free entrepreneurship; 
- Protection of citizens' right to vote; 
- Protection from ethnic and racial discrimination; 
- Protection of environmental rights; 
- Protection of the freedom of speech and independent media; 
- Protection of intellectual property rights; - Protection of children's rights.

2. To set up a special working group to facilitate legislation protecting human rights in Russia and draft a package of federal legislation aimed at ensuring human and citizens' rights in the Russian Federation. The United Action Initiative Group will be coordinating these activities.

3. To set up a monitoring mechanism for political and lawful protection of human rights, including the evaluation of the following issues: 

- The Russian Federation State Duma voting results on bills and other issues dealing with human rights;
- Bills, initiated by factions and other entities and individuals that have the right to introduce bills;
- Politicians' response to the proposals made by organizations involved in human rights protection.

On the basis of the monitoring data the human rights community should decide which political forces are worth of their support and what recommendations are advisable and should be offered to civil society organizations and constituencies.

The Conference instructs the United Action Initiative Group to coordinate the implementation of this resolution and the monitoring of political and legal protection of human rights.



The Conference believes that the Constitutional right to a referendum is one of the most important political achievements of the Russian society as it gives citizens an opportunity to be directly involved in governing their state.

In August-October 2000 environmental organizations in 60 regions of the Russian Federation collected close to 2.5 million signatures of Russian citizens in support of holding an All-Russian referendum on ecological problems.

In December 2000 the Central Election Committee, apparently driven by political motives, refused to issue a permit to hold this referendum and declared more than 600 thousand signatures invalid, using the violation of some formalities as an excuse.

The Conference supports the appeal filed by the referendum headquarters in the Constitutional Court of Russia that contains a request to review the instructions issued by the Central Executive Committee that made it possible to disregard the opinion expressed in no uncertain terms by the millions of Russians in the Russian Constitution.

The Conference condemns banning local referenda on the issue of the future of the most hazardous facilities (including nuclear and chemical facilities) that are managed both by federal and regional authorities.

The Conference appeals to all human rights and other NGOs in Russia to use more extensively our right to a referendum as an effective tool of fighting growing bureaucracy and crime within the governmental structures.



The Conference is against the infringement of social rights of those citizens who suffered as a result of having jobs in the chemical industry and were involved in the production of chemical weapons. The interests of these people have been ignored in the Act entitled "On Social Protection of the Citizens Involved in the Manufacture of Chemical Weapons". We think it expedient that relevant amendments should be made to this Act.


In the past few years Russia has seen more frequent cases of crackdown on environmental organizations:

Difficulties in obtaining registration and registration renewal;
Unlawful public prosecutor inspections;
Unjustifiably harsh auditing;
Accusations of environmental NGOs of espionage;
FSB "crackdown" on environmental NGOs and their active participants.

There have been attempts to restrict and control international communications of environmental NGOs.

We are aware of a growing number of cases of harassment by law enforcement agencies and cases of imprisonment of environmental activists allegedly accused of spying, exposing state secrets and terrorism.

This crackdown on the environmental movement is further exacerbated in the context of dissolving federal agencies and entities working in the area of ecology and environmental protection.

Having listed these facts of crackdown on the one of the most active non-governmental sectors in Russia, the Conference believes that these facts are extremely dangerous signs of the growing policing functions of the state that threaten the implementation of the citizens' fundamental environmental rights, listed in our Constitution, including the right to a healthy environment, to accessible and authentic ecological information, to collecting and proliferating this information, to compensation in cases of damage caused as a result of violations of environmental laws.

The Conference calls on environmentalists and human rights activists to strengthen their connections and work jointly to create a civil society and a lawful state.

The Conference demands that harassment of ecological experts and environmental NGOs be stopped.


The Sate Duma passed bills that allow the import of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) from other countries. This step is turning Russia into an international nuclear materials burial place.

Millions of Russians are still experiencing the consequences of nuclear disasters. The import of foreign nuclear materials will create new victims, ruin the country and make Russia a more dangerous place to live, only to see a few entrepreneurs growing richer from this profitable business.

One cannot make long-term decisions guided only by short-term advantages. Many generations are going to suffer from the deadly radioactive effect of imported nuclear materials.

The Conference passed a vote of no confidence to those parliamentarians who have a higher regard for agency interests and other interests rather than for national interests, and who voted in support of those bills.

The Conference participants share the opinions of more than 2.5 million Russian citizens who spoke in favor of holding an All-Russian referendum on environmental issues. It is common knowledge that the first and the most fundamental issue of this referendum was the question related to banning the import of radioactive materials to Russia from other countries. The Conference participants express their determination against the import of nuclear and radioactive materials that jeopardize one of the most fundamental human rights - the right to live in a healthy and safe environment.


In the past few years some states have used those types of weapons whose hazardous consequences have not yet been sufficiently researched and identified.

These consequences that may manifest themselves much later since the time of their military use may cause suffering and deaths to those people who were never involved in the military operations.

Military operations may have different goals, but no goal can justify the use of weapons with these characteristics in a modern civil society.

The Conference supports the demands of numerous organizations and countries that the use and development of these types of weapons be stopped in those countries that possess those types of weapons (or plan to use them as part of their arsenals).


To the President of the Republic of Belarus, Mr. A.G. Lukashenko

For more than eighteen months the law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Belarus have been harassing and prosecuting Professor Yuri Ivanovich Bandazhevsky, the founder and former President of the Gomel Medical Institute (he is allegedly accused of accepting bribes).

We think that this harassment and prosecution was initiated for political reasons. Mr. Banadazhevsky is a corresponding member of the Belarus Academy of Medical Science, a winner of the International Hypocrites Award and the Schweitzer Medal. He is also a member of several foreign academies and the author of many books depicting those medical problems that people have developed as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. Mr. Bandazhevsky is being prosecuted for his activities and his sharp criticism of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster contamination that has been wrongly evaluated and misinterpreted by the authorities.

Mr. President, we request you to use your political clout and put an end to the prosecution of Mr. Bandazhevsky, a great scientist and a great patriot as this prosecution is shameful for Belarus. Please give him a chance to continue his noble activities directed at the fulfillment of one of the fundamental human rights - the right to life and access to health care. And he is really in need of medical attention as he has developed some health problems.


For more than three years the FSB and the Public Prosecutor's office have been prosecuting journalist Grigoriy Pasko on a framed-up accusation of state treason and espionage.

In July 1999 after a trial that lasted six months the tribunal of the Pacific Navy came to the conclusion that the FSB charges against Pasko were not grounded. However, on November 21, 2000 the military college of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation reopened the case to conduct a new investigation and suggested that the court find new evidence of Pasko's involvement in espionage.

What we see in this case is an open prosecution of a journalist doing his job professionally. None of the courts was sufficiently independent and dared to do the right thing that is pass a verdict of his acquittal.

The prosecution of a journalist is shameful for Russia, and Grigoriy Pasko should be acquitted, as his acquittal will serve as a proof that Russia has really chosen a democratic way of development.


In the past few years very much as in the Soviet times Russia has seen an increased number of espionage allegations.

Currently, several individuals have been charged with espionage and creating a threat to the country's state and military security and their trials and investigations are in progress. These allegations have been made against Grigoriy Pasko, military journalist, scientists Igor Soutyagin, Vladimir Soyfer and Vladimir Schurov and a diplomat Valentine Moiseev. The FSB resorts to fabrications, lies, distortion of facts and inadmissible evidence that is not allowed to be used in court; such are the standards for the FSB operations. In some cases the agency even resorted to harassing the counsels of the accused. All these things prove that the authorities are trying hard to shape the enemy image in the minds of the people of our country.

High-ranking government officials labeled these people as spies and criminals long before the trials, they constantly make groundless accusations against various Russian and foreign NGOs that are working fruitfully in the social and humanitarian fields and in the areas of charity and human rights. Secrete services, public prosecutor offices and courts regard their statements as guidelines for their actions. Presumption of innocence has become a mere fiction.

The FSB is unable to cope with such crimes as corruption, terrorism, the flow of capital to foreign countries, political assassinations committed by professional killers and other dangerous types of crime. Instead, they have chosen a much easier way and found "an easy prey" among environmentalists, journalists, scholars and diplomats.

The authorities have devised a new type of crime - "analytical espionage" that can be used as a weapon against any intelligent and thinking individual in Russia.

The FSB agents, who are involved in the fabrication of espionage cases, have been encouraged and promoted to a higher rank, and government employees have been encouraged to report and inform on each other.

The FSB and other special services have never been drastically reformed, that is why they are capable of any wrongdoing and are prepared to repeat the past.

The Conference is concerned over the dangerous process of espionage mania in the country: growing insecurity among government employees, encouraging immigration of talented researchers and restrictions of economic, scientific and cultural partnerships. All these facts should be regarded as forbearers of a new iron curtain.

The Conference appeals to the President of Russia with a request to use his political clout and break the vicious anti-constitutional circle of unified actions of investigators, public prosecutor offices and courts.

The Conference demands that observers from both Russian and foreign humanitarian and human rights NGOs were allowed to participate in the trials of Grigoriy Pasko, Valentine Moiseev and Igor Soutyagin. The Conference also demands that in compliance with international agreements Russia should shut down special jails within the FSB jurisdiction.

The Conference appeals to the International Amnesty with the request to declare Valentine Moiseev and Igor Soutyagin victims who have been imprisoned for their beliefs as they have already been incarcerated for a long time on fabricated charges.

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .