PACE urges President Putin to ‘democratise the system’ in Russia

Strasbourg, 02.10.2012 – In its first full monitoring assessment in seven years, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has urged the newly-elected President Putin to “democratise the system” in Russia.

In a resolution based on a report by György Frunda (Romania, EPP/CD) and Andreas Gross (Switzerland, SOC), the Assembly said Russia was “at a unique moment” in its short history of democratic development and needed concrete reforms to realise the potential of the “momentum for change” created by recent events, such as the mobilization of more than 100,000 citizens following recent elections, the awakening of a very engaged civil society and the willingness of the authorities to hear the call for reforms.

The Assembly said a number of laws introduced since December 2011, including amendments to the law on political parties, changes in the electoral law and the re-introduction of direct elections of governors, constituted “positive steps” and illustrated a will to liberalise the system and make it more inclusive.

However, other measures and decisions taken this year “raise serious concerns”, the parliamentarians said. Four laws adopted in June and July 2012 are particularly worrying: the laws on criminalisation of defamation and on the Internet, and amendments to the law on Assemblies and the law on NGOs.

These “illustrate how full of contradictions the political situation in the Russian Federation is, and must call the authorities’ real intentions into question,” PACE said. In particular, it called on Russia to refrain from undue pressure and intimidation on the opposition and critical NGOs. The two-year prison terms handed down to three members of the Pussy Riot group, widely perceived as patently disproportionate, have added to existing concerns and the Assembly calls for their immediate release.

The Assembly called on the Russian authorities to take a series of specific measures to improve pluralist democracy, the rule of law, human rights and other outstanding commitments, and resolved to pursue its monitoring of the country.

A draft recommendation on the same topic did not pass with the requisite majority of two-thirds of the votes cast.

The Russian Federation is one of ten Council of Europe member states subject to the monitoring procedure, which assesses how far a country honours its obligations and commitments to the Council of Europe. This is the third Assembly monitoring report since Russia joined the Organisation in 1996.