Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Rule of law and human rights in Russia

Delivered in Plenary - 10 October 2013

Mr President

Many of us from across the political divide watched with delight as the Iron Curtain came down and the former countries of the Soviet Union embraced freedom. Then ten years ago Mikhail Khodorkovsky was imprisoned. He has been in jail ever since, a victim of selective justice. His case, and that is why I raised it, was illustrative of a serious and sustained decline in the rule of law and human rights in Russia, whose government has effectively created an enemy of all those who simply want to live their lives in peace without harming anyone.

Violent attacks on gay men, ethnic minorities and others are regrettably not limited to Russia, but the rhetoric which has emanated from the Russian Government in recent months seemingly legitimises this violence which, as we know, has rocketed since the discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation was passed by the Duma. We know Russian society clearly attaches much importance to what its leaders call ‘traditional family values’. But they do not have the right in a free and democratic society, and as members of the Council of Europe, to make the lives of gay people a living hell, by prohibiting access to vital support networks and stifling expressions of identity.

I therefore join all colleagues in this House in seeking to know what the European Union has done to raise these fundamental questions of human rights and the rule of law with the Russian authorities. I hear what Commissioner Malmström has said: nobody here doubts the importance of our strategic, commercial, political and security relations with Russia; but we have a duty to speak out against injustices perpetrated on some of the most vulnerable members of society.