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Freedom House condemns the U.S. government’s decision to shut down the activities of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Russia. The move was made after the Russian government recently asked that USAID “cease activities” by October 1, 2012, according to a senior U.S. official.

Nearly two years after a wave of popular uprisings began in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a lack of substantive institutional reform has left states struggling to maintain democratic achievements, according to a new Freedom House report. The findings illuminate reform failures that have contributed to recent violence across the MENA region.

Five months after the attack on Novaya Gazeta investigative journalist Elena Milashina and Freedom House employee Ella Asoyan in Moscow, Freedom House is concerned with inconsistencies in the official investigation and falsification of facts in the case, and calls on the Russian authorities to conduct a probe into the results of the investigation and to take appropriate measures to ensure that the true perpetrators are brought to justice.

Freedom House today released a statement regarding the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, as well as yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.

Freedom House denounces an appeals court decision in Bahrain to uphold prison sentences for 20 Bahraini opposition activists, including the life sentences for Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Ebrahim Sharif, and six other prominent activists accused of “plotting to overthrow the government.”  These harsh sentences further demonstrate the failure of the Bahraini government to follow through on reforms and reflect the ongoing repressive environment for those opposing the actions of the regime. Bahraini authorities must immediately release the activists and drop all charges against them.

The absence of internationally accepted criteria to define the term “political prisoner” is a critical problem that allows repressive regimes to hide behind ambiguity and hampers the ability of those advocating on prisoners’ behalves. Human rights defenders from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine addressed this issue at a two-day working session, organized by Freedom House and the Belarusian Human Rights House on August 27-28, 2012, in Vilnius, Lithuania.

According to a public opinion survey released today, Zimbabweans remain anxiously uncertain about the political future of their country. Findings from Change and ‘New’ Politics in Zimbabwe revealed that despite widespread optimism that the next elections expected in the first half of 2013 will bring definite change, many Zimbabweans continue to fear that the lead up to elections will include heightened levels of political violence.

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