‘The Unrest Will Be Put Down with Weapons’

A Russian human rights activist urges that a mission be sent from the Russian Federation. “It’s about time the situation in North America was dealt with by putting into perspective the protection of civilization and citizens’ rights and freedoms,” Igor Borisov, member of Russia’s human rights campaign, told Vzgliad. He demands involving international organizations in investigations of basic human rights violations.

The situation in the American city of Ferguson, with its ongoing mass unrest, calls for the dispatch of an international human rights mission, Igor Borisov, member of the president of Russia’s Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, said this Thursday.

It is important to prevent a full-scale genocide [in the U.S.] against “its own people,” primarily its black population, said Mr. Borisov. Earlier, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himself urged the U.S. government to ensure full access to the rights of freedom of speech and assembly for residents of Ferguson, Missouri, where a week-long social unrest was set off by the killing of an African-American teenager by a police officer. The statement was given by U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Monday evening.

“The secretary-general calls on the authorities to ensure that the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are protected,” Dujarric said. “He calls on all to exercise restraint, for law enforcement officials to abide by U.S. and international standards in dealing with demonstrators.”

To recap, the unrest in the U.S. city of Ferguson began after Saturday, Aug. 9, when 18-year-old teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by a police officer. Several city residents were injured in the clashes with the policemen, who had to call in the National Guard for help. On Monday, the unrest re-escalated.

Igor Borisov urged the International Human Rights Commission to discuss the situation in Missouri. Mr. Borisov thinks that a human rights mission, which should be sent there in the aftermath of the events, could also include Russian human rights activists from the president of Russia’s Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation and representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Igor Borisov, member of the president of Russia’s Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, told Vzgliad in his interview about the reasons the American government is not able to deal with the issue in the long term.

Vzgliad: Do you tend to agree with the version that the unrest was triggered by law enforcement itself? Because the events in Ferguson started with the killing of the 18-year-old African-American by a white police officer.

Igor Borisov: If this incident didn’t happened today, it would have definitely happened tomorrow. The incident itself was only an excuse for the social turmoil. For now, it is taking place in one state, but this is just the beginning. Respect for human rights in the U.S. is in a critical situation. We need to get foreign observers and experts involved. An independent opinion could provide an appropriate and full assessment and find a consolidated way of solving this problem from the point of view of basic human rights and freedoms.

V: But can we say that residents of Ferguson are protesting peacefully? It is reported that the protesters are burning cars, looting businesses, shooting at policemen, even at police helicopters. It seems the protests are becoming violent.

IB: Most likely, these events are a part of a bigger problem in American society. I suppose the American government will be able to put down this unrest with weapons. But suppression methods alone cannot resolve these issues. First of all, the attitude toward the population should be fundamentally changed, its needs should be met; their needs cannot be considered only from the point of view of the [country’s] financial elite and the protection of the interests of this elite — with weapons and under the flag of democracy.

Washington [uses suppression tactics] not only in other countries, but in its own country as well. Democracy cannot serve as a front for solving financial and political problems.

V: It is obvious that Washington is not interested in some sort of international monitoring of the situation in Missouri. Why do you hope that it will agree to invite an international group?

IB: I will answer using conventional wisdom: A little goes a long way. The international community is ready to help, as it realizes that Americans are failing to keep up with the challenging tasks that they themselves are trying to dictate to the world. Note how opinion about the situation in southeastern regions of Ukraine has been changing. Originally, international organizations were a priori on the U.S. side, but now this has started to change under pressure from those country’s own populations.

Red Cross and U.N. organizations have taken a different stance — as opposed to the days when the conflict was only getting worse. We are talking about the consequences of humanitarian crises, which can spread to Europe, too. We will be trying to get the attention of international organizations to the violation of the fundamental human rights in the U.S. — and [the U.S.] will have to consider public opinion, as well as the opinions of human rights activists, and start to actually solve the problems that it has accumulated. We cannot keep silent about this anymore; we need to speak up.

V: But State Department spokesperson Marie Harf has said that she doesn’t find parallels between the events in Ferguson and unrest in other countries. Do you agree that American government violently suppresses public demonstrations and at the same time wholeheartedly approves them in other countries — for instance, in Maidan [Square]?

IB: Unlike Eastern European countries and Russia, all of which try to respond to the comments of international organizations, the U.S. doesn’t accept any international standards. This isn’t a question of finding parallels, but it’s about time the situation in North America was dealt with by putting into perspective the protection of civilization and citizens’ rights and freedoms.

To be specific, in the last presidential election in the U.S., our organization observed that about 50 million American citizens were denied their right to vote for the head of their state. Our observations were identical with those of OSCE’s working group.

Together, we noted that out of a total of 32 candidates who were presidential nominees, airtime and print media coverage were granted to only two main candidates. This is prejudiced.

A lot of other violations of international election standards can be observed in the U.S. Nevertheless, Washington turns a blind eye to the violations in its own country, while it tries to teach others, including the European Union, [the precepts of] freedom and democracy. Every civilized country must abide by the universal, academic principles of respect for human rights.

V: As you have already pointed out, the U.S. political system is very closed off. Washington does not accept the supremacy of international standards over U.S. laws. In your opinion, whom can we cooperate with from the American political elite to ensure that the work of the International Human Rights Commission is a reality?

IB: I can’t name anyone specifically. The fact is, the American elite serves big business. We need to, and should, talk to the American people. We should directly contact public organizations in the U.S. and tell the truth about the tragic events in Ferguson. I suppose that in America the truth about these events is distorted, just as the truth about the events in Ukraine is distorted.

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