Political stability and democracy in Russia must go hand in hand, Monitoring rapporteurs believe
Strasbourg, 07.04.2007 - The need for political stability and economic prosperity of Russia are no alternatives to the need to further develop democracy and human rights; both should go hand in hand, the newly appointed co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) concluded after their first visit to the country on 3-5 April 2006.
Luc Van den Brande (Belgium, EPP/CD) and Theodoros Pangalos (Greece, SOC) acknowledge the progress made by Russia during its ten years of membership in the Council of Europe. In view of its geographical size, its huge cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, the legacy of its past, both in terms of state structures and mentality, the new geopolitical challenges posed by globalisation and the acute threat of terrorism, the progress achieved has indeed been considerable.
The co-rapporteurs fully understand and support the ambition of the Russian authorities to build strong state structures which would be able to face all these challenges and the need to find methods which correspond to today’s Russian realities. However any search for a “Russian model” should fully integrate the fundamental values and principles that unite the 46 members of our European family and on which there can be no compromise.
Among the recommendations listed in Assembly Resolution 1455 (2005) on the honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation, Mr Van den Brande and Mr Pangalos outlined the following areas of concern on which they will focus during their forthcoming visits and to which they will seek to find common answers with their Russian counterparts as a matter of priority:
- the separation of powers, the need for the “vertical of power” to be underpinned by strong, independent and mutually balancing democratic institutions; in the first place the parliament, the government and local and regional authorities;
- the need to ensure that the judiciary, the Prosecutor General and the law enforcement structures are independent in their action and that they are guided by only one higher goal: respect for the human rights and freedoms of each individual citizen;
- the need to respect human dignity in the army and in places of detention: hazing in the army and torture and ill-treatment in prisons are unacceptable in a civilised society. The measures taken in recent years to eliminate these trends deserve full encouragement; the publication of the reports of the European Committee against Torture would be the best public proof of the determination of the authorities in that respect;
- media freedom: creating conditions for vibrant, pluralist and economically viable media, setting up a public service broadcaster and eliminating media concentrations, especially those with direct or indirect state participation, in the media sector;
- combating interethnic, religious and racial intolerance: the acts of violence on those grounds are reaching a disturbing level; the spreading of hatred on those grounds by the media is equally unacceptable;
- the creation of a strong and vibrant civil society: the co-rapporteurs take note with interest of the first steps of the Public Chamber, which has some useful potential as long as it does not become a substitute for the role which is normally performed by the parliament, the ombudsman and independent NGOs. They also hope that the new law on NGOs will be implemented without impediment to the work of NGOs;
- respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Chechnya: although this is subject to a scrutiny also by other Assembly committees, the co-rapporteurs will be watching carefully that impunity in the case of violations and lack of transparency are no longer the norm with regard to Chechnya;
- abolition of the death penalty: Russia is the only member state of the Council of Europe which has not yet ratified Protocol No. 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The co-rapporteurs highly appreciate the efforts of the leaders of the Russian delegation to PACE to publicly defend a cause which is not supported by the majority of the population after the tragedy in Beslan. The solution to this problem is a matter of political courage and responsibility which has to be shown at the highest level;
- compliance with the most important Council of Europe instruments and the need to support them: the co-rapporteurs hope that Russia will ratify in the near future Protocol No. 14 of the ECHR, which will allow the European Court of Human Rights to work more efficiently, also to the benefit of Russian citizens. In this respect, they condemn all reported attempts to put pressure on or harass applicants to the Court, especially in Chechnya. They also hope that the ongoing preparation for the ratification of other important Council of Europe instruments such as the European Social Charter, the European Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the European Convention on Nationality will be successful;
- Russia’s contribution to democratic stability in Europe, notably by excluding the application of any policy of the “near abroad”, and by its pricing policy in the sector of energy supply.
Russia will assume the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in May 2006. This entails major responsibilities and one of the most important amongst them is to ensure respect for the principles and values of our organisation. Russia has always been a strong defender of the need to ensure that equal principles are applied to all member states, thus avoiding double standards. The co-rapporteurs believe that the strongest signal that the country in the Chair can send to its fellow members is by giving a personal example in all the above-mentioned areas.