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Cablegate: Post Nomination for the 2009 "Woman of Courage Award"

VZCZCXYZ0009
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #3241 3101348
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051348Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0637

UNCLAS MOSCOW 003241

STATE FOR G/IWI

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL KWMN KPAO RS
SUBJECT: POST NOMINATION FOR THE 2009 "WOMAN OF COURAGE AWARD"

1. NOMINATION

In accordance with a call for nominations for the Secretary of
State's 2009 Award for International Women of Courage, post
nominates Veronika Marchenko, head of the "Mother's Right"
Foundation, for her exceptional dedication to exposing human rights
abuses in the armed forces.

2. BIODATA

Name: Marchenko, Veronika Aleksandrovna
Job Title/Association: Chair of the Board, Interregional Public
Charity Foundation "Mother's Right"
Date of Birth: November 27, 1969
Country of Birth: Russia
Citizenship: Russian
Address: Moscow, Volokolamskoye Shosse 6, Apt. 160 Telephone:
7(499)158-3410 (h); (495) 606-0581 (w)
E-mail address: mright@rosmail.ru
Passport Number: 62 N 8926393

3. JUSTIFICATION

Veronika Marchenko has been the chair of the board of the "Mother's
Right" Foundation since its inception in 1990. The mission of this
uniquely-positioned NGO is to expose the true circumstances
surrounding peacetime deaths in the army, provide moral and legal
support to surviving families, and lobby for better conditions in an
armed forces ravaged by hazing and corruption.
Despite hurdles to ascertaining information about the deaths,
despite opposition by the military, the "Mother's Right" Foundation
has drawn major successes in defending rights of bereaved families
in court. In 2007 alone, lawyers of Mother's Right participated in
132 litigations free of charge (pro bono) in 21 cities across
Russia, in which parents of victims acted as claimants. In 2007, the
foundation assisted 5,323 families of servicemen who died during
(peacetime / non-combat) military service.
According to Ms. Marchenko, the Russian Defense Ministry purposely
underestimates its official death statistics with an annual death
toll of about 1,000 people. The number is three times as high, Ms.
Marchenko has repeatedly stressed. The most common reasons for these
deaths are beatings and harassment leading to suicide, intolerable
living conditions, denial of needed medical assistance and excessive
labor.
One of the most appalling issues relating to military deaths is the
cause of death given by authorities. About 35 percent of the parents
seeking guidance at Ms. Marchenko's Foundation said that their sons
had committed suicide and hence, parents experienced difficulties in
acquiring entitlements due to the surviving family. In many cases,
lawyers of the Mother's Right foundation investigating the
circumstances of death consistently proved that the reason for a
conscript's death was not suicide, but provocation to a suicide or
murder.
In the course of complicated litigation in 2007-08, Ms. Marchenko's
foundation won an uphill battle against the Presidential Regiment,
an elite military unit, where a conscript was driven to a suicide by
bullying. An unprecedented decision against top brass gives hope to
other families finding themselves in a similar situation.
Ms. Marchenko's efforts to make military leadership accountable for
peacetime deaths have not been recognized by the host government. As
one of the few whistleblowers shedding light on human rights abuses
in the army, she and her foundation have experienced pressure from
authorities
In 1990, in a small room in downtown Moscow, with one table, one
chair and a telephone, young Veronika Marchenko started the
"Mother's Right" Foundation, while still a student at Moscow
University. Her first articles on hazing in the then-Soviet armed
forces generated an immense response from citizens and harsh
criticism by authorities. Pioneering in the investigation of
military-related deaths, she soon became the center of an initiative
group of parents whose sons were killed during
(peacetime/non-combat) military service. Today the "Mother's Right"
Foundation has become an outstanding example of a successful
grass-roots endeavor, which started from scratch and evolved into an
influential citizens' group owing to the support of ordinary
citizens.
4. NOTIFICATION
Ms. Marchenko was notified of the nomination. She confirmed her
willingness to accept such an award and availability to travel to
Washington in March 2009.
BEYRLE

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