$1.5 Million in Grants to Support Human Rights Network in Russia
January 27, 2003 | Press Release | Human Rights

MacArthur has announced six grants totaling $1.5 million to help develop a network of regional human rights organizations in Russia. Grants will support both Moscow-based groups that can serve as network hubs as well as leading human rights organizations in 13 regions across Russia.

The Foundation's support is designed to increase the capacity of the human rights network in Russia to monitor human rights abuses; seek appropriate resolution of cases; disseminate information about human rights issues both nationally and internationally to government officials, journalists, human rights advocates and the general public; and help work toward systematic improvement in the implementation of human rights laws. 

Respect for human rights is an essential ingredient for Russias transition to democracy, said Jonathan Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation. Over a thousand non-governmental human rights groups have taken hold across Russia, addressing issues from media reform, to police abuse, to discrimination against minorities. A robust civil society is redefining the relationship between individuals and the State.

The six grants were awarded to both Moscow-based organizations and groups operating in the Foundations focus regions, which include Khabarovsk, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Moscow Oblast, Nizhnii Novgorod, Perm, Rostov, Samara, Saratov, Sverdlovsk, Tartarstan, Volgograd and Voronezh.

The Independent Council of Legal Expertise was awarded $450,000 over three years in support of research on Russian legal reform and to help educate activists from regional human rights organizations about the implications of specific reforms. The Council is a Moscow-based institution engaged in systematic professional legal review of Russian legislation and legal practices from a human rights perspective. It was established in 1993 by a group of jurists, legal scholars and educators, dedicated to promoting the legal basis of democratic reform in Russia.

The Saratov Legal Reform Project (SLRP) has been awarded a grant of $450,000 over three years to help improve legal education, practice and research in Russia. Founded in 1994, the SLRP is an independent public policy institute that provides expert analysis and commentary on reform initiatives, provides training to legal professionals, and conducts legal clinics to teach ordinary citizens about their rights. SLRP is based in Saratov, the capital of the Saratov region, one of the Foundations 13 focus regions. The organization also plans on opening a branch office in Samara, another MacArthur focus region.

A grant of $315,000 over three years was made to the Glasnost Defense Foundation in continued support of their work ensuring freedom of the press in Russia. The Glasnost Defense Foundation, founded in 1991, is Russias leading organization involved in monitoring mass media freedoms throughout the country and helping to secure the information infrastructure necessary for open communication. 

A grant of $160,000 over two years was awarded to the Perm Regional Human Rights Center in support of a campaign to help educate the public about and help prevent torture and other degrading treatment by law enforcement and criminal justice personnel. The Perm Regional Human Rights Center -- located in Perm, a MacArthur focus region about 500 miles northwest of Moscow -- carries out a broad range of human rights related activities, including public education, information dissemination, the drafting of human rights legislation, and the pursuit of human rights-related court cases.

A grant of $140,000 over two years was awarded to the Perm City Non-Governmental Charitable Organization Center for the Support of Democratic Youth Initiatives to promote the right of military conscripts to refuse military service on religious and moral grounds with the option of alternative civil service. This work will be carried out in the Perm region and the Volga Federal District. The grant will be used specifically to track human rights abuses in the military and medical institutions involved in illegal psychiatric examinations of potential conscripts. The findings will be distributed to garner attention and support for an alternative civil service in the Perm region and Volga Federal District. 

Central Blacksoil Center for Media Rights was awarded a grant of $116,000 over two years to continue work protecting journalists from unnecessary lawsuits designed to silence them and helping to dispute illegal restrictions on access to information. The grant will allow the Central Blacksoil Center to monitor media rights abuses in seven regions of south-central Russia, including Belgorad, Voronezh, Kursk, Lipetsk, Tambov, Ryazan, and Tula, as well as to conduct seminars for journalists and law enforcement officials in the regions about laws governing press freedoms. The funding will also be used to broadly disseminate information throughout the regions about mass media rights and laws. The Central-Blacksoil Center was founded in 1995 and provides free legal consultation and legal defense for journalists in the seven regions of south-central Russia.

In its human rights grantmaking, the Foundation supports U.S.-based human rights anchor institutions that provide a framework for the field, as well as networks of human rights organizations in three countries where MacArthur has offices Russia, Nigeria, and Mexico. These countries were selected because of their influential position as a regional power and their potential for bringing democratic values rooted in the rule of law to their region. Complementing this work, the Foundation also seeks to help improve the international justice system, particularly through support for efforts such as the International Criminal Court.

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