26 March 2002
Honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation
Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)
Rapporteurs: Mr David Atkinson, United Kingdom, European Democratic Group, and Mr Rudolf Bindig, Germany, Socialist Group
The report welcomes the progress made by the Russian authorities, notably with regard to the signature and ratification of Council of Europe conventions, the reform of the judicial system, the transfer of responsibility for the penitentiary system from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Justice, and the adoption of the Law on the Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights.
However, the co-rapporteurs consider that progress on a number of obligations and major commitments by the Russian authorities remains insufficient. The greatest problem remains compliance with the commitment to settle the conflict in Chechnya by peaceful means. As the problems related to that conflict are excluded from the co-rapporteurs’s current mandate, and they do not form part of the report, the co-rapporteurs refer to the various resolutions adopted by the Assembly recently, but also reiterate the call to conduct a proper investigation into all cases of human rights violations and the abuse of power in Chechnya, and to prosecute their perpetrators irrespective of their functions.
Moreover, the Russian authorities should replace the current moratorium on executions, based on a presidential decree, with a formal abolition of the death penalty based on law, which should allow them to ratify Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights.
The co-rapporteurs conclude that a number of obligations still warrant further action. In view of the most recent developments, the following areas should be areas of priority:
- full implementation of fundamental freedoms (freedom of expression, of the media, and of religion);
- full reform of the Prosecutor’s Office and the Federal Security Service (FSB) in accordance with Council of Europe principles and commitments entered into;
- application of the rule of law across the country’s entire territory;
- lifting of the reservations to the European Convention on Human Rights;
- fight against ill-treatment of conscripts and adoption of a law on alternative military service;
- fight against corruption and organised crime in the economy;
- organisation of parliamentary and presidential elections which are free of bias towards individual parties and candidates and on the part of the media.
The co-rapporteurs therefore propose to the Assembly to pursue the monitoring procedure in close co-operation with the Russian delegation.
I. Draft resolution
1. Referring to the two previous reports by the Monitoring Committee on honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation (Doc. 8127 (1998) and Doc. 9396), the Assembly welcomes the undoubted progress made by Russia towards the rule of law and democracy, and the building of a democratic multi-party state, which is resulting in increased political and economic stability. It also welcomes the significant efforts the Russian Federation has made since its accession on 28 February 1996 towards honouring its obligations and commitments, which it accepted in Opinion No. 193 (1996).
2. With regard to the signature and ratification of conventions, the Assembly is pleased to note that:
i. On 5 May 1998, Russia ratified the European Convention on Human Rights as well as its Protocols Nos. 1, 2, 4,7 and 11, the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the European Charter of Local Self-Government;
ii. Russia has also ratified the European Convention on Extradition and its protocols and the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (on 10 December 1999) as well as the European Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of Proceeds from Crime (on 28 May 2001);
iii. Russia has also ratified the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and. the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe and its additional protocols.
3. The Assembly expresses its satisfaction with the development of an ambitious project of reform of the judiciary system, launched by the President of the Russian Federation at the end of 2000 through the creation of a Working Group on the reform of the judiciary. This reform concerns the most important instruments governing the judicial system, such as the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Codes of Civil and Commercial Procedure, the Laws on the Judicial Bodies and on the Status of Judges, the Law on the Bar, on the mediation and execution procedures.
4. In this respect, Russia is also to be commended on the progress made in implementing judicial reform, above all on adopting on 22 November 2001 a new draft Code of Criminal Procedure and a number of bills of the judicial reform package, in the third and second reading respectively. The Assembly also welcomes the fact that if the new Code comes into force by January 2004 – the time period presently set – it would finally enable the Russian Federation to lift its reservation to the European Convention on Human Rights.
5. The Assembly is pleased to underline that all these projects were subject to Council of Europe expertise and that, among the new clauses adopted by this legislation, an important part of them enhanced the consolidation and the independence of the judicial system and the enforcement of the Rule of Law.
6. The Assembly also welcomes the transfer of responsibility for the penitentiary system from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Justice on 31 December 1998 and encourages further demilitarisation of the prison administration.
7. The Assembly notes with satisfaction the adoption of the Law on the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights and the ultimate election of Mr Oleg Mironov for the post of Human Rights Ombudsman on 22 May 1998. It recommends the extension of the institution of Human Rights Ombudsman throughout the Russian Federation.
8. However, the Assembly is concerned about a number of obligations and major commitments where progress remains insufficient, and the honouring of which requires further action by the Russian authorities:
i. Russia’s greatest problem indeed remains its obligation and commitment to settle by peaceful means the conflict in Chechnya, for which the Assembly refers to its various resolutions, in particular Resolution 1270 (2002). It reiterates its call on the Russian authorities to conduct a proper investigation into all cases of human rights violations and the abuse of power in Chechnya, and to prosecute their perpetrators irrespective of their functions;
ii. The Assembly is shocked by the vote in the State Duma on 15 February 2002, asking President Putin to re-introduce the death penalty. Whilst recognising that the official moratorium on executions introduced by President Yeltsin on 2 August 1996 is respected, the Assembly nevertheless urges the Russian authorities to abolish the death penalty de jure and to conclude the ratification of Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights;
iii. The Assembly reminds the Russian Federation of its commitment to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages it signed on 10 May 2001;
iv. With regard to domestic legislation, the Assembly recognises that legal reforms have indeed advanced in many areas, but remains concerned by the lack of enforcement and recalls the need for a proper implementation of existing legislation;
v. In this respect, the Assembly expects the Russian authorities to complete the reform of the Prosecutor General’s Office in accordance with Council of Europe principles and commitments entered into;
vi. As concerns the armed forces, the Assembly recalls the commitment of the Russian Federation to eliminate incidents of ill-treatment of conscripts, and regrets that this has not yet been carried out;
vii. The Assembly strongly urges the State Duma to finally adopt a law on alternative military service as foreseen in Article 59 of the Russian Constitution;
viii. The Assembly regrets that a new law on the secret services which was passed in July 2001 has still not been adopted. Whilst noting the fact that the Federal Security Service’s (FSB) right to run pre-trial detention centres has been withdrawn (with the exception of the pre-trial detention centre “Lefortovo” in Moscow which should be transferred from the FSB to the Ministry of Justice without further delay), it strongly urges the Russian authorities to withdraw the FSB’s criminal investigative powers;
ix Whilst noting the notable decrease in the numbers of detainees in penitentiary institutions, the Assembly deplores detention conditions, in particular as regards prison overcrowding, poor health care and insufficient financing. The Assembly calls on the Russian authorities to improve without delay the conditions in prisons and pre-trial detention centres. It insists that Russia should respect the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that it ratified on 5 May 1998, implement the recommendations made by the CPT and authorise publication of the reports on the CPT’s visits to the country;
x. The Assembly expresses its deep concern with regard to allegations of ill-treatment or torture in penitentiary institutions. The Assembly is also alarmed by the harassment of journalists which clearly violates the fundamental freedom of expression and urges the Russian authorities to take measures to stop these practices;
xi. In this respect, the Assembly is also seriously concerned at recent events affecting the Russian media, which could be interpreted as encouraging measures to restrict freedom of the press. In particular, it regrets that the closure of TV6, the last nationwide private television channel, is resulting in the apparent end of independent television broadcasting in Russia. It therefore expects the Russian authorities to take measures enabling the plurality of the media to be preserved and strengthened, and to conduct media policy in a way that will convincingly alleviate the fears that freedom of expression in the country is under threat;
xii. Whilst noting that the Russian federal authorities had achieved notable progress in abolishing the remains of the old propiska (internal registration) system, the Assembly reiterates its call made in Recommendation 1544 (2001) in which it urged member states concerned “to undertake a thorough review of national laws and policies with a view to eliminating any provisions which might impede the right to freedom of movement and choice of place of residence within internal borders”;
xiii. The Assembly regrets the banning of the Salvation Army and Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow, but welcomes the decision of the Russian authorities to ensure that the problem of local discrimination and harassment of these religious communities be brought to an end;
xiv. The Assembly notes the ongoing withdrawal of Russian troops and heavy weaponry from the Transdniestrian region of Moldova, and reiterates its expectation of a complete withdrawal of Russian troops by the deadline set for 31 December 2002. It calls on the Russian authorities to ensure an early, orderly and complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of the Republic of Moldova - together with the disposal of the large ammunition stockpiles – in order to create more favourable conditions for a final settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict, as well as to contribute to consolidating peace and security in the region;
xv. As regards the return of diplomatic property transferred to the Soviet Union in 1940, and compensation for those persons deported from the Baltic States, the Assembly urges the Russian authorities to settle these issues as quickly as possible;
xvi. Similarly, the Assembly urges the Russian authorities to settle rapidly all issues related to the return of cultural property claimed by Council of Europe member states, directly with these states.
9. In conclusion, the Assembly welcomes the progress the Russian Federation has made in the honouring of its obligations as a member state of the Council of Europe, and in particular the open and sincere dialogue that has developed on the still outstanding issues. It recognises however that a number of obligations, listed in paragraph 8 above, still warrant further action. In addition to the satisfactory implementation of all outstanding commitments and obligations entered into by the Russian Federation, the Assembly will need to be convinced of the establishment of radio and television channels free of influence of the state and regional government, and of the impartiality of the media in the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
10. The Assembly thus resolves to pursue, in close co-operation with the Russian delegation, the monitoring procedure in respect of the Russian Federation, with a view to advising and assisting where necessary the Russian authorities in their policy towards complying with Russia’s obligations as a member state.
II. Draft recommendation
1. The Assembly refers to its Resolution …(2002) on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Russia.
2. In the light of the considerations stated in this resolution, the Assembly informs the Committee of Ministers that the Russian Federation has made significant efforts towards honouring its obligations as a member state of the Council of Europe, which it accepted in Opinion No. 193 (1996) on Russia’s request for admission to the Council of Europe. It recognises however that a number of obligations, listed in paragraph 8 of Resolution …(2002) still warrant further action. In addition to satisfactory implementation of all outstanding commitments and obligations entered into by the Russian Federation, the Assembly will need to be convinced of the establishment of radio and television channels free of influence of the state and regional government, and of the impartiality of the media in the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
3. Therefore, the Assembly resolves to pursue, in close co-operation with the Russian delegation, the monitoring procedure in respect of the Russian Federation, with a view to advising and assisting where necessary the Russian authorities in their policy towards complying with Russia’s obligations as a member state.
4. Russia’s greatest problem indeed remains its obligation and commitment to settle by peaceful means the conflict in Chechnya, for which the Assembly refers to its various resolutions, in particular Resolution 1270 (2002). Therefore, it asks the Committee of Ministers to reiterate its call on the Russian authorities to conduct a proper investigation into all cases of human rights violations and the abuse of power in Chechnya, and to prosecute their perpetrators irrespective of their functions.
5. The Assembly furthermore recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
i. encourage the Russian authorities to strengthen co-operation with the Council of Europe in order to ensure full compatibility of Russian legislation and practice with the Organisation’s principles and standards, especially with standards guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and the Strasbourg Court’s case-law. Moreover, appropriate information on the Organisation’s principles should be available to all parts of the Russian society - executive, legislative and judicial branches of power, local and regional self government, politicians, and last but not least, civil society.
ii. intensify the co-operation programmes between the Council of Europe and the Russian Federation with a view to assisting the Russian authorities in their efforts to secure fundamental rights and liberties, particularly as regards freedom of expression and the media, and application of the rule of law across the country’s entire territory;
iii. devise specific co-operation activities with the Russian authorities for elaboration of proposals related to the division of competences between federal state bodies, bodies of the subjects of the Russian Federation and bodies of local self-government;
iv. whilst noting the ongoing withdrawal of Russian troops and heavy weaponry from the Transdniestrian region of Moldova, reiterate the expectation of a complete withdrawal of Russian troops by the deadline set for 31 December 2002. The early, orderly and complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of the Republic of Moldova - together with the disposal of the large ammunition stockpiles – should create more favourable conditions for a final settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict, as well as contribute to consolidating peace and security in the region.
v. as regards the return of diplomatic property transferred to the Soviet Union in 1940, and compensation for those persons deported from the Baltic States, call on the Russian authorities to settle these issues as quickly as possible - and similarly, settle rapidly all issues related to the return of cultural property claimed by Council of Europe member states, such as the problem of restitution of the Romanian national treasure, directly with these states.
III. Explanatory memorandum by the rapporteurs
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Introduction 7
II. Honouring of obligations and commitments by Russia in June 1998 7
III. Trends in the political situation 8
IV. Issues raised during the visits of the co-rapporteurs 9
The death penalty 9
Reform of the penitentiary system, conditions in prisons and custody centres 10
Reform of the judiciary 12
Reform of the Prosecutor General’s Office 14
Corruption of police, judges and law enforcement agencies 15
Role and power of the FSB 15
The Russian Human Rights Ombudsman 16
Rights of conscripts 16
Freedom of movement and propiska system of residential permits in Moscow 18
Discrimination against minorities – rights of IDPs 18
Freedom of association and NGOs 19
Freedom of the press and state control of the media 20
Freedom of religion and discrimination against churches and other religious organisations 21
Other commitments arising from Opinion No. 193 (1996) 23
V. Administrative reforms 23
Administrative districts 24
The Federation Council 25
The State Council 25
VI. Conclusions 25
Appendix I: Opinion No. 193 27
Appendix II: Programme of the fact-finding visit to Moscow (11 – 14 February 2001) 31
Appendix III: Programme of the fact-finding visit to St Petersburg, Pskov and Novgorod
(1 to 6 October 2001) 33
Appendix IV: Programme of the fact-finding visit to Moscow (20 to 23 November 2001) 35
Appendix V: Comments by the Russian delegation on the revised draft report
(received on 4 March (2002) 37
1. The Russian Federation became a member of the Council of Europe on 28 February 1996, when it accepted a large number of commitments included in Opinion no 193 (1996) of the Parliamentary Assembly (Appendix I). The then co-rapporteurs (Mr Bindig and Mr Muehlemann) presented an initial information report to the Assembly on the situation regarding the honouring of these commitments in June 1998 (Doc. 8127). Their conclusions are summarised in the second chapter of the report.
2. In late 1998 and early 1999 Russia experienced a serious economic and social crisis and significant political upheavals, leading to fears that the democratic transition might fail. Fortunately, despite approaching elections in December 1999 (parliamentary) and March 2000 (presidential), the country has continued to evolve within the framework of the existing legislation and the Constitution. The conduct of parliamentary and presidential elections in 1999-2000 confirmed Russia’s commitment to the political principles of multi-party pluralism and democracy, whilst in the views of the observing rapporteurs, falling short of Council of Europe standards in practice.
3. However, a number of international humans rights monitors and multilateral organisations have criticised Russia for human rights violations associated with the Chechen conflict, particularly with regard to the civilian population. The Chechnya conflict is likely to remain a difficult problem for some time to come. Under these circumstances, in its Resolution 1240 (2001) the Assembly reiterated its determination “to join forces with Russian parliamentarians in their efforts to implement the recommendations [of the Assembly]”. The progress report on the activities of the Joint Working Group on Chechnya (Doc. 9227) was presented to the Parliamentary Assembly during its September 2001 part-session. Therefore, the co-rapporteurs wish to stress that the problems related to the Chechnya conflict are excluded from their current mandate, and as a result, they do not form part of this report.
4. In the course of 2001, the co-rapporteurs, Mr Atkinson and Mr Bindig, made three fact-finding visits: to Moscow (11-14 February 2001), from 1 to 6 October to St. Petersburg, Pskov and Novgorod in order to study the impact of the latest administrative reforms and the changing federal structures in Russia, and a new mission to Moscow from 20 to 23 November in order to collect up-to-date information and to assess the progress made on the respect by Russia of its obligations and commitments to the Council of Europe. They are grateful to the Russian authorities and delegation for their co-operation (the programmes of the visits are appended). During their fact-finding visits, the co-rapporteurs paid particular attention to the reform of the judiciary; reform of the penitentiary system and conditions in prison and pre-trial detention centres; corruption of police, judges and law enforcement agencies; freedom of association; freedom of religion as well as other issues such as rights of conscripts and ill-treatment in the armed forces and alternative service; local self-government and the regional reform, and freedom of the media. All these discussions have fed into chapter IV of the present report.
II. Honouring of obligations and commitments by Russia in June 1998
5. In their June 1998 information report, the then co-rapporteurs noted the undeniable progress achieved by Russia towards the rule of law and democracy, as witnessed by the various democratic elections that had marked Russia's political landscape in the preceding years. Political pluralism, freedom of opinion and the transition to a market economy had been achieved in spite of considerable difficulties. Russia's ratification, on 5 May 1998, of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Anti-Torture Convention and the European Charter of Local Self-Government represented a historical step in the enshrinement of this immense country in the system of values fostered by the Council of Europe. The then impending transfer of responsibility for the penitentiary system to the Ministry of Justice, the entry into force of new civil and criminal codes and the respect for the presidential moratorium on the death penalty since August 1996, represented further fundamental steps forward.
6. Nevertheless, the co-rapporteurs stressed that in many fields Russia had to make considerable further efforts to fulfil the obligations and commitments it entered into when joining the Council of Europe; this obviously justified the need to continue the monitoring process as well. The Monitoring Committee agreed that attention should be directed in particular to the implementation of the following obligations and commitments:
- application of the rule of the law across the country's entire territory;
- implementation of the freedom of movement and of choice of residence;
- respect for social rights, in particular the payment of salaries and pensions, in conformity with the European Social Charter, which Russia was called upon to ratify in the near future;
- complete abolition of the death penalty;
- lifting of the reservations to the European Convention on Human Rights;
- the full implementation of the freedom of religion;
- adoption of a code of criminal procedure, compatible with European standards;
- reform of the Prosecutor's Office;
- reform of the penitentiary system, improvement of prison conditions and increased use of non custodial sentences;
- fight against ill-treatment of conscripts and adoption of a law on alternative military service;
- fight against corruption and organised crime in the economy;
- reform of the secret services with a view to removing the Federal Security Service’s right to conduct criminal investigations and run their own pre-trial detention centres;
- speeding up of the prosecution of human rights violations during the conflict in Chechnya in 1994-96 and search for a political settlement of the conflict;
- maintaining friendly relations with neighbouring states.
7. Moreover, the co-rapporteurs recommended an enlargement of co-operation programmes with Russia, and in particular of the joint European Union/Council of Europe programme for the strengthening of federal structures and human rights protection machinery, and for reform of the legal system.
III. Trends in the political situation
8. The election of President Putin has brought changes to the lengthy period of political uncertainty and institutional instability in the Russian Federation. The parliamentary and presidential elections of 1999-2000 have led to some consolidation of Russia’s fragmented political system. Prior to the elections, the country struggled with divided policy-making on two fronts: (i) between the President and the Duma and (ii) between the centre and the regions. The authorities have sought to make progress on both fronts simultaneously. On the former, President Putin has created the foundations for co-operative executive-legislative relations for the first time in Russia’s transition, and established a strong majority supporting the policy of the President. On the latter, President Putin has begun to strengthen the centre’s authority and reign in the power of the regional governors. However, on both fronts further initiatives are needed to consolidate democracy.
9. In this context it is worth mentioning that on 12 July 2001 President Putin signed a new law on political parties. This law - initiated by the government-backed Central Electoral Commission and approved finally by the Duma on 21 June 2001 - is expected to fundamentally alter the Russian party system.1 The co-rapporteurs believe that the new law is likely to promote consolidation of the party system and bring an end to the opacity of party financing in Russia. However, critics have pointed to the dangers of (further) bureaucratisation of the party-building process in Russia, and cautioned that state funding of political parties would eventually make them more subservient to the government.
10. Since his election in March 2000, President Putin has made the issue of strengthening the centre’s authority over Russia’s regions a main priority of his administration with the aim to create a more coherent system of federalism. On the President’s initiative, the State Duma adopted the Federal Law “On the Order for Forming the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation” on 5 August 2000. (see § 121 hereafter)
11. Another key element of this strategy to create a new structure of federal control over regions was the establishment of seven “federal districts”, each with an appointed presidential representative responsible for ensuring the implementation of federal laws in the subject regions within their constituency. The seven new presidential representatives are mainly responsible for organising the work of other federal agencies in the regions (such as the tax police and justice ministry), co-ordinating the work of federal and regional authorities, and monitoring and reporting back to the centre on activities in the regions.
12. President Putin has also taken the initiative to establish a State Council, which would serve as an advisory body made up of regional representatives. Although some observers believed that Russia was on the verge of state collapse and needed stronger central discipline, President Putin’s enhanced powers raised questions regarding the degree of discretionary authority held by the president. (The issues related to strengthening federalism are discussed in greater detail in the chapter on “administrative reforms”.)
13. As regards the general economic situation, economic growth in 2000 attained a record 8.3%, and 5% in 2001. Foreign debt payment is the main budget expenditure item. The 2001 budget and 2002 draft budget provide for full foreign debt payments to be settled in the coming years. Certain important measures to implement reforms and improve economic legislation were taken in 2000-2001. Among them, one of the most important: on 10 October, 2001 the Federation Council approved the Land Code (it was signed by the President of the Russian Federation on 25 November 2001), thus putting an end to a decade-long debate in the Duma over land sales and marking the first time since the Bolshevik revolution that a federal law allows the sale of the country’s commercial land to Russians and foreigners.
14. It must be emphasised, however, that although the new Land Code is of tremendous political importance, it concerns only the private ownership of non-agricultural land. Moreover, it is only part of a bigger package of reforms, which have to be carried out before Russia completes its transition to the market economy and can become competitive in the global marketplace. This reform package should also include the private ownership of agricultural land in due course, as well as new laws on corporate taxation, and customs duties, the introduction of an adequate state pension system, higher standards of corporate governance, proper banking regulation and greater transparency and competition in the pricing of energy services. It should extend to a fundamental strengthening of the legal system and a systematic attempt to reduce the burden of state bureaucracy on the economy.
15. Legal reforms have indeed advanced in many areas and new laws designed to support a market economy have been adopted, but there remain important gray areas, contradictions between different legislative documents and vague provisions subject to diverging interpretations. Much legislation could benefit from refinement and further clarification. All the same, in this context the co-rapporteurs also are encouraged by an increase in efficiency of the Duma’s work, as its spring 2001 session has apparently been its most productive period in a decade, unimaginable during the Yeltsin-era, when the executive branch and parliament were mostly locked in fierce battle.
16. However, the key deficiency of the legal system is still the weak and inconsistent implementation and enforcement of the law. In fact the difference between the extensiveness and the effectiveness of Russia’s law, i.e. the so-called “enforcement gap” is the widest among all the transition economies. The low level of independence of most parts of the judiciary system is among the crucial problems.
IV. Issues raised during the visits of the co-rapporteurs
The death penalty
17. Upon accession to the Council of Europe on 28 February 1996, Russia undertook to impose an immediate moratorium on executions and ratify Protocol no 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights within three years. This ratification is still awaited. However, significant progress has been made: (i) following the Presidential Decree "On Stage-by-Stage Reduction of Execution of Death Penalty in connection with the Russian Federation Joining the Council of Europe" of 16 May 1996, the official moratorium on execution of death sentences, introduced by President Yeltsin on 2 August 1996, has been respected; (ii) on 16 April 1997, Russia signed Protocol no 6, which under the Treaty of Vienna constitutes a legal undertaking; (iii) on 2 February 1999, the Constitutional Court introduced a de-facto moratorium on death sentences by its ruling that henceforth death sentences were unconstitutional and “[with the entering into force of that judgement] there was no federal legislation entitling persons accused of crimes [that elicited capital punishment] to be tried by an assize court with a popular jury in all the subjects of the Russian Federation”.
18. The Russian Presidential Administration, together with the Council of Europe organised a major conference on the abolition of the death penalty on 3-4 June 1999 in Moscow. On the opening day, the Russian Minister of Justice announced that the President had commuted all current death sentences to prison terms ranging from 25 years to life imprisonment. The presidential decision means that no one remains on death row in Russia. In fact, since the death penalty has not yet been abolished in law, courts continue to hand down death sentences. However, these death sentences are commuted to sentences of life imprisonment by the President upon the advice of the Presidential Clemency Commission, chaired by the famous writer Anatoly Pristavkin.2
19. A draft law on its abolition and the ratification of Protocol No 6 was submitted to the State Duma, which never considered it. The co-rapporteurs have been told by members of the relevant parliamentary committees that they were very pessimistic as regards the early ratification of this law as the Duma had been put under constant pressure by a public opinion, which is purported to be strongly against abolition. In this respect, the co-rapporteurs welcome the unequivocal statement by the President of the Russian Federation of 9 July 2001 in which Mr Putin strongly disapproved of restoring the capital punishment in Russia despite widespread public support for it (according to opinion polls, about 80% of Russian society are in favour of the death penalty). Indeed, the co-rapporteurs are shocked by the vote in the State Duma on 15 February 2002, asking President Putin to re-introduce the death penalty. Whilst recognising that the official moratorium on executions introduced by President Yeltsin on 2 August 1996 is respected, the co-rapporteurs nevertheless urge the Russian authorities to abolish the death penalty de jure and to conclude the ratification of Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights.
reform of the penitentiary system, conditions in prisons and custody centres
20. One of Russia's commitments was to transfer responsibility for the penitentiary system3 to the Ministry of Justice. Following a presidential decree, responsibility for all prisons and pre-trial detention centres was transferred to the Ministry of Justice on 28 July 1998, with the exception of the pre-trial detention centre “Lefortovo” in Moscow which continues to be run by the Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the Soviet KGB. This decree provided for two further stages: the demilitarisation of the prison service, the separation of sick and healthy prisoners, and of minor offenders and major criminals.
21. Mr Chaika, Minister of Justice, indicated to the co-rapporteurs that the commitment set out in Opinion 193 to transfer the responsibility for the prison administration and the execution of judgments to the Ministry of Justice has been fulfilled. The Ministry of Justice is henceforth responsible for the whole penitentiary system, and of the 80.000 civil personnel concerned.
22. At the same time, the “demilitarisation process” of the penitentiary administration is underway. The State Duma and the Federation Council have adopted a draft law on the service in the organs of the penitentiary system, which inter alia foresees a civilian status for the penitentiary staff, but it is currently awaiting President Putin’s confirmation who asked for a slight modification of “some technical aspects” of the law’s provisions.
23. As regards the penitentiary system, an important new development concerns the new federal law, which was adopted by the State Duma on 21 February 2001, and signed by the President of the Russian Federation on 9 March. The law "on Amendments to the Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and other legal acts of the Russian Federation" has brought substantial amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of criminal procedure. It envisages the following lines of change: correcting the State’s criminal policy; expanding the grounds for applying penalties and measures of restraint alternative to imprisonment or custody; further delineation of jurisdiction between federal bodies and the subjects of the Russian Federation in matters of administering and ensuring the functioning of the penal systems institutions. Considered to be of great importance to the humanization of the penitentiary system, the law also includes stipulations on:
- the limitation of the number of circumstances for which accused people could be
- immediately put in pre-trial detention;
- the creation of alternative probation measures;
- the reduction of the maximum duration in pre-trial detention from 18 to 12 months;
- the reduction of the highest sentence for a certain number of criminal or petty offences;
- the immediate release of detainees who are accused of petty offences and retained in pre-trial centres for more than one year.
24. The co-rapporteurs feel that these reforms are important as Russia occupies the second place in the world in terms of the relative number of prisoners (630 per 100 000 population)4. Maintaining an army of almost one million prisoners and penitentiary system employees puts an unbearable burden on the federal budget. (The whole bulk of resources spent on penitentiary institutions maintenance can be estimated at nearly 2% of the GDP).
25. According to the Chief Penitentiary Directorate of the Ministry of Justice (GUIN) by 1 January 2002 the total number of prisoners, detained in penitentiary institutions comprised 979 thousand people, including 748,7 thousand in 739 penal colonies (96 % of the official capacity), 212 thousand in 184 SIZOs, 13 prisons and 168 wards that operate as SIZO facilities (151 % of the official capacity), and 18,6 thousand in 64 correction colonies for minors (72,4%). 62,7 thousand of the total number of prisoners are women. 11 female colonies hold children homes for 470 children.
26. The co-rapporteurs are also concerned by allegations of ill-treatment or torture in prisons, pre-trial detention centres and police stations that are still being reported by NGOs. Similarly, according to the Russian Human Rights Ombudsman's activities report for 1998, twenty-six percent of the applications to his office concerned ill-treatment by the police and professional misconduct by interior ministry officials. In temporary holdover facilities, pre-trial detention centres and prisons, cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment are everyday occurrences.
27. Despite the undertakings made by Russia to the Council of Europe, prison conditions are inhuman. Correctional institutions do not have enough food, medication or clothing for the prisoners. Cells in preliminary detention institutions hold three to five times more prisoners than they are supposed to. Each prisoner has an average of 2.5 m˛ of space, compared with the 4 m˛ that is required by a federal law (as of 1 January 1998). Overcrowding is appalling, and nearly 70 000 detainees have no bed. It is impossible to go on reducing the prison, pre-trial centre population space per prisoner any further, for the mere stay in penal institutions will turn into inhuman and degrading treatment. Nor is it possible to provide normal nutrition. Tuberculosis and other infectious diseases are rampant and spreading widely. Cases of tuberculosis are 56 times more common in prisons than in the remainder of the population and mortality is 29 times higher.5
28. Indeed, the situation as it has developed in the Russian penitentiary system causes alarm and anxiety among Russia’s NGOs and authorities.6 At present there are about one million prisoners in Russia, some 100 000 of them afflicted with an open form of tuberculosis, with more than 10 000 dying annually (2 500 of them before trial). Four million Russian citizens have passed pre-trial detention facilities and penal institutions in the past ten years. A large part of them have been released with a substantial loss of health. The co-rapporteurs were told that insufficient financing of the penitentiary institutions is the most acute problem. Actual financing amounted to only 46% of required resources.
29. At the same time, the co-rapporteurs were heartened to learn that in the course of 2000-2001, the number of prisoners in penitentiary institutions noticeably decreased. Following the transfer of the penal system from the Interior Ministry to the Ministry of Justice in 1998, the leadership of the Ministry has devised a new initiative of cardinally changing the criminal policy of the Russian State. Concrete steps, taken by the Chief Penitentiary Directorate of the Ministry of Justice (GUIN), to assess the correct observance of legislation in the penitentiary institutions - have already produced first positive results: the total number of prisoners in Russia has decreased of more than 250.000 persons in the year 2000 alone. (Since March 2001, the number of detainees in SIZOs has decreased by 31,000 people. Since 1999 the total number of prisoners in SIZOs has diminished by more than 61,000 people.)
30. That means that the “overcrowding rate” decreased similarly to 1.8, but overcrowding still remains a huge problem in Moscow, St-Petersburg and Yekaterinburg prisons. Moreover, four new detention facilities have been constructed in 2000 to improve the detention conditions, a programme of combating tuberculosis in detention centres is being carried out with the assistance of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (three new specialized hospitals for detainees started functioning in Tomsk, Saratov and Nizhny Novgorod in the second half of 2001).
31. The co-rapporteurs were pleased to learn that Russian penal institutions are becoming increasingly permeable and open to human rights activists. The GUIN leadership is well aware that the implementation of the planned reforms requires not only changes in the legislation, but a social reform as well. Yet the latter is impossible without the involvement in the process of institutions of the civil society.
32. The co-rapporteurs welcome that the Russian legislation envisages a number of judicial and non-judicial (pardoning, amnesty) procedures, which permit early release of prisoners, and reduction of their prison sentences. These measures are all the more necessary as the Moscow Centre for Prison Reform informed them that according to current practice, prosecutors and judges very rarely use the opportunities available for early release or alternative penalties. (About one third of sentences impose imprisonment). According to the evaluation of the above-mentioned NGO, not less than half of prosecutors’ arrest warrants and, especially arrest prolongation, are ungrounded. It should also be noted that investigators, prosecutors and judges are usually inclined to issue harsh punishments even against people who have committed petty crimes and do not present a danger to society. The co-rapporteurs recall also that in trials in Russia presided over by judges the conviction rate is extremely high (over 90%) which might be an indication that the presumption of innocence is not systematically respected. In this respect, Mr Makarov from the Moscow City Bar Association told the co-rapporteurs that this high conviction rate represented still a remnant of Soviet-type justice and added that in the jury trials (which system should be generalised according to the latest reforms) the acquittal rate was around 20%.
33. The co-rapporteurs wish to encourage the Ministry of Justice to continue these reforms and take decisive steps to improve detention conditions, particularly with regard to prison overcrowding, and to encourage a policy of reducing prison sentences. In this respect, they also welcome the fact that on 30 November 2001, the State Duma approved on third and final reading an amnesty for minors and women It would free about 10,000 minors and 14,000 women charged with petty crimes, a group that represents 9 percent of the overall population of Russian prisoners.
34. The co-rapporteurs also insist that Russia should respect the european convention for the prevention of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that it ratified on 5 may 1998, implement the recommendations made by the CPT and authorise publication of the reports on the CPT’s visits to the country.
reform of the judiciary
35. Mr Lebedev, Chairman of the Russian Supreme Court, reported on substantial progress made towards a stable, independent judiciary, especially as regards the full and effective independence of judges. The budget of the judiciary increased from 3,1 billion roubles in 1999 to 11 billion roubles in 2001 (in nominal, not inflation-adjusted terms). The judiciary department of the Supreme Court is in charge of the supervision of the functioning of the courts in the 89 subjects of the Russian Federation. Salaries of the judges have been recently increased in order to strengthen their independence. However, NGOs as well as international observers expressed serious doubts on the independence of the judges (despite the increase of their wages and other material gains). The courts, which should be the main mechanism for protecting human rights, are often short of staff and financial resources, and public lacks confidence in the judicial system.
36. Therefore, the co-rapporteurs have taken note with interest of the initiative to set up a “justice of the peace” (proximity justice) system. If accompanied by adequate guarantees of fair and objective justice, this system may significantly help to improve the efficiency of the judiciary, and speed up the time of consideration of justice cases. In July 2001, more than 3000 of the planned 6500 Peace Courts were already working - with itinerant judges visiting the different Russian oblasts. These courts have jurisdiction in civil matters as well as in criminal matters, but only for crimes of little and medium gravity (with a maximum sentence of 3 years of prison). It is hoped that in the middle term, peace courts will be able to deal with 65% of the civil cases and 20% of criminal cases.
37. Mr Putin has repeatedly stressed the need for an independent judicial system at the centre of his reform programme, and the establishment of the "dictatorship of law” 7 - a strong and impartial state that will guarantee the rights of citizens and businesses. In this context, the Russian court reform proposals, proposed by the presidential administration, are a key priority for legal reform. The new measures are intended to root out “corruption on the bench” linked to organized crime.
38. On 22 November 2001, the State Duma passed on second reading fundamental amendments to a three-bill package of the presidential administration that would set new limits on judges' terms in office and establish complicated procedures for lifting their immunity from prosecution. The most controversial of the package are the amendments to the law “on the Status of Judges in the Russian Ferderation”. Currently, judges are appointed for life and enjoy immunity from prosecution. Under the new rules, all federal judges will be appointed for three-year terms initially and, after that, for five years. The mandatory retirement age will be 65, except for judges of the Constitutional Court. (This norm, intended to gradually rejuvenate the aging judges' corps, will take effect only in 2005.)The new legislation also establishes a maximum of two consecutive six-year terms for court chairmen and deputy chairmen, and introduces a multi-tier system for stripping judges of immunity from prosecution.
39. The latter measure was one of the most contentious points in the haggling between the presidential administration and the judiciary branch. Under existing practices, judges can be punished only with the consent of tight-knit corporate bodies, such as the committee of peers or the so-called Qualification Collegia. (In this regard, members of the Moscow Bar Association pointed to the remarkable fact that 75% of the disciplinary cases before the committee of peers had ended in acquittals.) The reform proposal of presidential administration however, wanted to make judges accountable to a trio of judges from a higher court. The compromise version agreed eventually requires the sanction of both groups.
40. Proponents of the bills hope that the planned overhaul of the judiciary will raise public trust in the courts through such measures as heightening the independence and accountability of judges and expanding the rights of defendants. Mrs Yelena Mizulina, deputy head of the Duma's legislation committee, considered the draft laws as comprehensive enough to ensure the "impartiality of justice", and added: “people intuitively feel that the courts are weak. If they were strong and independent, bureaucrats on all levels would think twice before violating the law or people's rights".
41. Mr Lebedev, Chairman of the Russian Supreme Court, recognized the need to create an unbiased legal system, but he thought that reforms should not be undertaken “at the detriment of freedom of society”: the proposals could weaken the independence of the judiciary, while efforts to rein in abuse by police and prosecutors remain stalled. The co-rapporteurs were also told that the reform did not address one of the main problems in the country's courts – the judges' dependence on the executive branch and the huge powers of court chairmen.
42. As regards the overall reform of the judiciary, several improvements have already been made to the old Soviet-time code through amendments adopted in successive laws. In this respect, the co-rapporteurs were pleased to learn that on 22 November 2001 a new draft Code of Criminal Procedure was adopted by the State Duma in its third reading, on which Council of Europe experts made a number of recommendations. The new Code will put into effect, inter alia, the unimplemented provisions of the 1993 Constitution, such as jury trials and court warrants for arrests. The Code also expands the powers of defense lawyers and attempts to separate the court's functions from those of the prosecution.
43. One of the amendments, hailed as especially progressive by the legislation's proponents, pertains to the introduction of jury trials, which would be mandatory as of January 2003 in all regional courts for cases involving "dangerous" crimes such as murder and rape. The other cases would be heard by either one or three judges, depending on the gravity of the crime. Defendants accused of crimes like theft - one of the most common charges among the country's nearly 1 million prisoners - would not be eligible for jury trials.
44. It is also worth mentioning the Presidential Decree of 10 August 2001, which aims at restoring a common legal framework in the Federation. The Presidential Decree "On Additional Measures on Ensuring A Common Legal Framework in the Russian Federation" instructs the Ministry of Justice to establish a federal data base of norm-setting legal acts issued in the 89 subjects of the Russian Federation - the so-called Federal Register – and to conduct their examination. It should lead to the suppression of local laws and regulations, not in compliance with federal laws. In addition, competence in criminal police matters has been transferred from local governors to the central administration by creating a federal committee for criminal police under the direct control of the Ministry of the Interior. (The Presidential Decree № 644 of 4 July 2001 established a Criminal Police Service within the Ministry.)
45. In the field of administrative justice, the State Duma had its first reading of a draft law on the creation of administrative courts. At present, ordinary courts are in charge of the protection of the rights of the citizens and the consideration of their complaints against the administration. A new Code of Civil Procedure was also adopted by the Duma in its first reading on 14 June 2001.
reform of the Prosecutor General’s Office
46. The Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) is responsible for the enforcement of laws in Russia. This responsibility includes the guardianship over the legality of the administrative acts and laws adopted by local authorities on the one hand, and the task of criminal prosecution on the other.
47. As stressed by Mr Andrey Makarov of the Moscow City Bar Association, the public prosecution in Russia was a hybrid institution which in Soviet times had been used as a means of oppression. Fortunately that regime had now disappeared, but the balance between powers remained delicate. The Prosecutor General’s Office was indeed considered to be the only institution where the legal reforms had thus far been stalled. Therefore it was essential to underscore one of the key roles of the public prosecution, notably guaranteeing respect of individual rights and freedoms under the control of the courts. Significantly, at present in the Russian Federation there are 16 000 judges and at the same time 40 000 officials in the Prosecutor General’s Office. Among them, 20 000 deal with administrative oversight, representing an additional system of bureaucratic control. In particular this administrative oversight should be entrusted to the courts, which are far better placed to fulfil this function.
48. It is true, however, that the new Code of Criminal Procedure envisages significant strengthening of judicial control over the activities of the PGO. As regards criminal prosecution, as of 1 January 2004, warrants for searches and arrests will have to be issued by the court, and not a prosecutor, as had previously been the case (indeed a fundamental step on the road to reform). Similarly, prosecutors would be required to attend all court proceedings and would not be allowed to submit evidence obtained with violations of the code; moreover, any action or investigation by the PGO could be appealed to the courts in the future.
49. However, some observers claim that the reform is not genuinely radical. The PGO achieved that these proposals would not come into force until at least 2004. This leaves enough time for the prosecutors either to try to have them repealed altogether or at least to postpone them yet again. In addition, the PGO slipped some discrete provisions into the new Code to compensate for the loss of prosecutor’s privileges, e.g. with the provision that search and arrest warrants can be issued by prosecutors without court approval ‘in exceptional circumstances when the case won’t allow any delay’. In these circumstances, the court is to be informed within 24 hours.
50. Moreover, the supervisory functions of prosecutors might even grow as a result of an amendment to the Code introduced at the behest of the Prosecutor General's Office that stipulates that all agencies wishing to open a criminal investigation, including the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Tax Police, would be required to receive consent from prosecutors. This amendment, which was passed by an overwhelming majority, is thought to be a necessary safeguard against criminal proceedings instigated under pressure from persons or groups with vested interests.
51. The co-rapporteurs regret that to date, contrary to one of the commitments made by Russia in Opinion N° 193 (1996) on Russia’s request for membership of the Council of Europe, no new law in line with Council of Europe standards has been introduced on the role, functioning and administration of the Prosecutor General’s Office, notwithstanding several attempts. At the same time, they welcome the fact that if all parts of the enacted Code of Criminal Procedure (adopted by the State Duma on 22 November 2001, approved by the Council of Federation on 5 December, and signed by the President of the Russian Federation on December 18, 2001) come into force by January 2004 – the time period presently set – it would finally enable the Russian Federation to lift its reservation to the European Convention on Human Rights and to bring its Constitution fully into force.
52. It is also essential to strengthen the oversight of local police forces coming under the Ministry of the Interior and establish a system for redressing police misconduct. Ill-treatment and torture in police stations still represents an enormous problem, according to human rights NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch. Similarly, the harassment of ethnic minorities by the police has become a specific problem, especially in Moscow, where disturbing incidents occurred in October-November 2001.
corruption of police, judges and law enforcement agencies
53. Corruption is still widespread in Russian society, and it remains a huge problem8. Although the Prosecutor General’s Office reassured the co-rapporteurs that the situation in the field of fight against corruption and organised crime has been significantly improved in recent times, other interlocutors of the co-rapporteurs did not share this optimism, however.
54. As maintained by the Interior Ministry's economics crime department, up to 45 percent of the country's goods and services are part of the shadow economy, and more than 40 Moscow banks are currently involved in what can be described as "serious" shady deals. According to estimates of the State Duma Security Committee Chairman, Mr Aleksandre Gurov, the treasury receives only 50 percent of taxes owed because of operations in the shadow economy.
55. The co-rapporteurs have been told that combating corruption among law enforcement officials represents a clear priority. In 2000, more than 18 000 civil servants had to be prosecuted on corruption charges, among them a number of officials belonging to law enforcement agencies (1,905 registered cases in the Ministry of the Interior, 1,700 in the Ministry of Customs, 21 in the Ministry of Finances, and 10 in the PGO). (For the first half of 2001 Russian law enforcement bodies have discovered 5 400 instances of bribery, which represents an increase of 12 per cent against the same period of 2000).
56. Accordingly, the Ministry of the Interior has intensified the fight against police corruption since 1999: anti-corruption guidelines will be adopted soon; anti-corruption units have been created as well as “free hotlines” for victims at federal, regional and local levels. Moreover, a number of draft laws on combating corruption and money laundering are under consideration before the State Duma. The Penal Code already contains several provisions on combating corruption (chapter 23 on crimes against commercial organisations and chapter 30 on crimes against the State), article 174 which would make money laundering a crime. The fight against corruption and organised crime has been also placed among the highest priorities of the Ministry of Justice – acting together with the PGO and the Ministry of the Interior - which inter alia launched a programme to study the experiences and legal framework of foreign countries in this field.
57. In this respect, it should be noted that Russia ratified the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and the European Convention on Extradition in December 1999 (together with the respective Protocols to them - one Protocol to the first Convention and two to the second one). In addition, several bilateral co-operation agreements in the legal field have been signed – or will be signed in the nearest future - with Germany, France, Italy and Denmark. The co-rapporteurs were informed, however, by representatives of the Ministry of the Interior that in the fight against corruption and economic crime, these agreements proved to be not as successful as expected: in the year 2000 Russia issued 319 assistance requests to foreign countries, but received only 49 replies and in 2001 to 350 Russian requests only 40 replies were given.
58. Russia has also signed the Council of Europe’s Criminal Law Convention on Corruption in January 1999, and a draft law on the ratification of this convention is presently under consideration by the Ministry of Justice. (The draft laws on ratification of this Convention and on amendments and supplements to the Penal Code of the Russian Federation –prepared by the Ministry of Justice- have transferred through the Ministry of the Interior to the Council of Europe for legal expertise.) The European Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime was signed in May 1999 and ratified on 28 May 2001. Russia is particularly active and involved in Council of Europe’s Octopus Programmes.
role and power of the FSB
59. When acceding to the Council of Europe in 1996, Russia undertook “to revise the law on federal security services in order to bring it into line with Council of Europe principles and standards within one year from the time of accession, in particular, the right of the Federal Security Service (FSB) to possess and run pre-trial detention centres should be withdrawn”. The administration of the pre-trial detention centre “Lefortovo” in Moscow should thus be transferred from the FSB to the Ministry of Justice without further delay.
60. The co-rapporteurs regret that such law has still not been enacted. What is even worse, they have been told by Human Rights NGOs that concerns are currently growing in Russia as regards the increasing pressure of the Federal Security Service on society, especially on the media. NGOs also complained on what they perceived to be kept under close scrutiny by the FSB, especially those organisations active in Chechnya. Another development during 2000 has been the series of arrests and court trials that smack of lawlessness. The persecution of Russian citizens afflicts mainly environmental activists. The cases of navy captain Aleksandr Nikitin who was finally cleared of espionage charges after a long legal battle, journalist Grigory Pasko and scientists (for instance Mr Igor Sutyagin or the Krasnoyarsk physicist Valentin Danyilov) are symptomatic. All of them have been prosecuted for spying, treason and disclosure of state secrets. According to Amnesty International, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and other human rights organisations, all of them peacefully exercised their fundamental right to freedom of expression and the charges against them are completely groundless. (The co-rapporteurs were told that the main problem in this field represents the ambiguity of Russia’s laws on classified information which have been criticised for containing vague or contradictory definitions, and have often been kept secret even from those accused of breaking them.)
the Russian Human Rights Ombudsman
61. The co-rapporteurs are pleased that, albeit with a considerable delay (more than a year after the legislation on the Human Rights Ombudsman came into force) the Human Rights Ombudsman, Mr Oleg Mironov, was elected by the Duma on 22 May 1998 for a five-year term of office. NGOs reported favourably on the activities undertaken by the Human Rights Ombudsman: his initiatives, visits and reports, especially those related to psychiatric institutions, the conditions of detention, torture and ill-treatment in prisons and in the armed forces, are considered to be highly relevant and most courageous. During their November 2001 meeting, Mr Mironov told the co-rapporteurs “not to be fooled by the wealth of Russian legislation as the newly adopted laws often have only a limited impact in practice”.
62. The Ombudsman considers it essential to expedite the implementation of the new Code of Criminal Procedure. There is also an urgent need for legislation to implement article 22.2 of the Constitution, whereby "arrest, taking into custody and close confinement shall be allowed upon decision of the court only".
63. However, the co-rapporteurs are disappointed to be told that the Human Rights Ombudsman is facing poor working conditions. They feel that the Ombudsman and his colleagues (eight other ombudsmen are also working in Russian regions) should be better resourced and supported by Russian authorities and encouraged by the Council of Europe. In this context, they welcome the preparations by the State Duma of a new law on expanding the institution of Human Rights Commissioner at regional level. If adopted this would lead to the creation of sixteen new Human Rights Commissioners in the regions.
rights of conscripts and ill-treatment in the armed forces - adoption of a law on alternative military service and a law on conscientious objection
64. Russia undertook in Opinion No.193 to “reduce, if not eliminate, incidents of ill-treatment and deaths in the armed forces outside military conflicts”. Ill-treatment of servicemen in the armed forces is, unfortunately, still a topical question. The representatives of the Union of Soldiers’ Mothers Committees stressed the urgent need for Russia to reform its conscription system with a view to abolishing it, to stop operations of forced conscription, and to radically improve the living conditions in the army. The authorities should more vigorously address the acute problems of dedovschina (also known as hazing), torture and ill-treatment. Young soldiers suffer an ordeal in the armed forces: they continuously report on disproportionate punishments, harassments, beatings, ordered by superiors or their fellow mates. No real investigation on such cases has been ordered, and victims are often put under terrible pressure if they intend to lodge a complaint.
65 According to the 2001 report of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, violations of conscripts’ rights continue unabatedly, the numbers keep rising, as shown by the flows of applications and complaints received by human rights organisations. The common violations include: drafting young men who have deferrals; conscripting those unfit for military service due to health reasons; refusing to accept appeals against decisions passed by the drafting commissions and rounding-up conscripts by the integrated military police (e.g. in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Dagestan).
66. Cases of forced conscription of young men regularly occur. The Soldiers’ Mothers Committee reported about more than 200 current court cases of “forcibly conscripted servicemen” who should have been normally discharged on medical grounds.
67. The Prosecutor General’s Office also acknowledged that the respect of human rights of conscripts in the armed forces was disastrous. Military commanders alone are responsible for the enforcement of laws, including those related to the protection of human rights, or the protection of health of conscripts. The PGO endeavoured to investigate and prosecute allegations of violation of human rights or any suspected injury by visiting military units and military hospitals. The abuses on young soldiers represent 8 % of the total of crimes and offences registered in the armed forces. In 2000, 68 persons were acknowledged to have died as a result of violence in the army. Also in 2000, 1454 prosecutions and 1549 court cases involved soldiers. In this respect, the co-rapporteurs regret that two successive draft laws on the setting-up of an ombudsman in the armed forces have been rejected in the past.
68. The co-rapporteurs were also informed that the number of conscripts who suffered violence or abuses in 2000 decreased by 35 % compared to 1999, although this number seems too optimistic. The PGO and the Ministry of Defense are working in close co-operation with the Soldiers’ Mothers Committees on this issue. The Ministry of Defense also stressed efforts to reduce “incidents, ill-treatment and abuses” in the armed forces. These measures include: reducing “legal illiteracy” of officers; raising awareness among officers and soldiers on human rights issues; reforming the training programmes for conscripts, and - last but not least - improving the living conditions of servicemen (at present, about 100.000 army officers have no proper housing). Indeed, officials from the Ministry were confident that by improving the (currently difficult) financial situation in the army, and by progressively establishing full civil control of the military, the incidents would decline.
69. In Opinion No 193 Russia also undertook to adopt a law on alternative military service. In fact, Article 59 of the Russian Constitution stipulates the right to alternative civil service instead of serving in the military. A first draft law was presented to the State Duma in 1994, adopted on first reading, but finally rejected four years later. A new draft law was issued on the basis of the last draft and is still under consideration by the State Duma.
70. The year 2000 saw a renewed effort to draft a law on alternative service: the State Duma set up a working group and a new version of the bill was drafted by Russian deputies under the direction of Mr. Yuli Rybakov of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS). However, the provisions of this new draft law, liberal in nature, were severely opposed by the military leadership. Thus a second draft law - drawn up by Defense Committee Chairman Mr Andrei Nikolaev, at the behest of the Russian Defense Ministry - was submitted to the Duma in order to question the Rybakov-backed legislation.
71. Thus, the appearance of two competing drafts raises the likelihood that lawmakers will remain deadlocked over the alternative service legislation, and that yet another year could go by without the passage of an alternative service law. Meanwhile, the military insists that, owing to the absence of a law on alternative service, there is no right to conscientious objection and therefore young men have to carry out military service regardless of their religious or pacifist convictions. Military commissariats deny conscripts the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to alternative service.9 In February 2002 the governmental variant of the draft law "On Alternative Civil Service" was submitted to the State Duma - after having joint discussions among government officials and representatives of relevant State Duma Committees.
72. The co-rapporteurs therefore urge the Russian State Duma to finally adopt a law on alternative civilian service. They very much agree with the conclusions of Mr Vorobiov, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Defense that such a law should be “a legally weighted, ethically balanced and transparent law”.
73. At any rate, the co-rapporteurs have been told by officials in the Defense Ministry that abolition of conscription, as decreed by President Yeltsin in 1996, is the final objective of the Federal Security Council: the Russian army should become progressively a “contract-based military service”: indeed, on 21 November 2001, President Putin approved the government’s plan of transition from the draft to a contract army. In this respect, General Vladislav Putilin, the deputy chief of the Russian army's General Staff, informed the co-rapporteurs that in 2005 Russia would begin a gradual transition to manning the armed forces primarily with professionals. A state program should be drafted in 2004 to this effect after the completion of the current military reform. The ultimate aim was the cancellation of military draft by 2010. Mr Putilin also added that in 2001 only 12 percent of those eligible for the army or navy are likely to be conscripted, down from 24 percent in 2000.
freedom of movement and propiska system of residential permits in Moscow
74. A report on the “propiska” system applied to migrants and refugees in the CIS countries has been prepared by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography (Doc. 9262), and it was presented to the Standing Committee in November 2001. In addition to the conclusions of this report and the resulting Recommendation 1544 (2001), the co-rapporteurs wish to make the following observations on this system in Russia.
75. The 1993 legislation replaced the former propiska system, which required permission from the authorities to register one's place of residence. Despite several Constitutional Court rulings confirming the illegality of the propiska, several cities and territories, in particular Moscow, Stavropol and Krasnodar, have introduced regulations to control the residence of newly arrived persons, which strongly resemble the propiska system. The result is that certain ethnic groups – above all refugees and displaced persons from the Caucasus and central Asia – are particularly exposed to arbitrary arrest, repeated fines and police ill-treatment.
76. Despite these e examples, the co-rapporteurs were informed that considerable progress had been achieved through the efforts of the federal structures to abolish the remains of the old propiska system. In particular, from the beginning of 2001 on, following an instruction by the President of the Russian Federation, a thorough revision of the legislation of the Federation entities has been undertaken with a view to eliminating laws, which do not comply with federal legislation. According to information received from the Ministry of Justice, this work will be completed by the end of 2001.
77. The co-rapporteurs welcome these steps, but recall that in Recommendation 1544 the Assembly urges member states concerned “to undertake a thorough review of national laws and policies with a view to eliminating any provisions which might impede the right to freedom of movement and choice of place of residence within internal borders”.
discrimination against minorities – rights of idps
78. Russia has ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which came into force in December 1998. Discrimination remains however a huge problem and is widespread, above all against Caucasians as a consequence of the war in Chechnya. Chechens and other ethnic minorities face continuous harassment by the police. (Chechen refugees in the Moscow region have especially suffered from administrative measures put into place by federal and local authorities in the aftermath of the terrorist bombings in Moscow in 1999 and 2000). At the same time, Moscow government officials emphasized the efforts made to regulate interethnic relations (around one thousand organisations representing minorities had been registered, 100 local public bodies were dealing with minorities or migrants, and 60 schools providing for interethnic education).
79. The question of migrants, refugees and IDPs also remains acute. Despite the generous provisions of the 1993 law on the subject, which was amended in 1997, the situation of asylum seekers and the procedures for examining their requests still raise concerns. For example, asylum seekers, particularly former Soviet citizens10, seeking refugee status at the border whose applications are rejected for procedural reasons must leave the Russian Federation within three days. They can appeal against such decisions but these appeals do not have delaying effect. This situation is a source of abuse and discriminatory practices by local authorities in the issuing of residence permits.
80. This is also the case with the Meskhetian Turks in the Krasnodar region, where they are subjected to a particularly discriminatory registration procedure by the local authorities. The authorities and a considerable part of the population are very intolerant towards Meskhetian Turks who (deported by order of Stalin from Georgia to Uzbekistan in 1944) came to the Krasnodar territory while fleeing pogroms in the Fergana Valley in 1989. (Their numbers range, according to various estimates, from 13000 to 20000.) Meskhetian Turks were neither granted Russian citizenship nor allowed to register for residence in the Krasnodar territory. In this respect, the co-rapporteurs fully support the motion for Resolution (Doc. 9164) of 4 July 2001, presented by Mr Adamia and others on “Situation of people deported from Georgia in 1944 (Meskhetians) and currently residing in Stavropol Krai (Russian Federation)” and referred for information to the Monitoring Committee (ref. 2642), and they invite the Russian authorities to address this issue.
81. In the context of migration policy, the co-rapporteurs wish to point to a specific problem. In May 2000, the President dissolved the Federal Migration Service, and the Federal Ministry for National and Migration Policies assumed its functions. The move took everybody by surprise at the time, and has led to disruptions in dealing with migrants; for instance financing of budgetary items that provide for refugees’ most urgent needs was suspended for several months during the reorganization period. However, after only a year and a half, another reshuffle occurred. On 16 October 2001 Mr Putin signed a decree disbanding the Nationalities and Migration Ministry and dismissed its minister, Mr Alexander Blokhin. According to this Decree, the Ministry of the Interior took over (as from 1 January 2002) not only migration control and issues of granting legal status to migrants, but also the social issues involved, including the management of refugee camps and centres for asylum seekers throughout the country. Human rights activists consider the decree as a "natural disaster" that has broken down the fledgling managerial structures that dealt with migration issues at a time of growing animosity towards migrants.11
freedom of association and NGOs
82. This issue is of particular concern to the Parliamentary Assembly, as shown by the motion for a resolution on problems of registration of non-governmental organisations dealing with human rights in the Russian Federation, presented in July 2000 by Mr Jurgens and others (Doc. 8799) and referred to the Committee for information (ref. 2532).
83. Under the 1995 Federal Law on public associations, NGOs and public associations have to register, and all associations, which had been registered before 1995 (i.e. under Soviet law) had to renew their registration. A large number of public associations (nearly half on the federal level) failed to re-register in time; a number of other NGOs were forced to change their name or statute to obtain re-registration; others were denied re-registration by the authorities. There are allegations that some regional and local authorities used the requirement for NGOs to re-register as an opportunity to silence critical NGOs, in particular those working in the field of human rights and on ecological issues. NGOs claimed that 8500 local associations and about 57% of federal associations had been denied the right to register.
84. The NGO community informed the co-rapporteurs that these organisations had faced serious problems in re-registering, mostly owing to the bureaucratic attitude of the Ministry of Justice (which is responsible for registration both at federal and local levels). As a large number of them failed to register by 30 June 1999, the deadline had to be postponed twice, and finally set on 1st July 2000. For its part, the Ministry of Justice objected that it was not to be blamed for the negligence of some associations, which had failed to provide the required documents.
85. The co-rapporteurs are also very much concerned by the fact that at present NGOs have to undergo a considerable pressure in their activities by the tax administration: legislation provides that a tax-rate of 30 % should be applied to every amount, contribution or donation received by associations, including amounts collected as humanitarian aid. They consider that such fiscal imposition is excessive and not in accordance with Council of Europe values and in particular the freedom of association.
86. At the same time, the co-rapporteurs welcome the recent initiative of the Presidential administration to stimulate a regular dialogue between civil society and the authorities. The Civic Forum, a gathering of almost 5,000 activists from nongovernmental organizations across Russia, took place on 21- 22 November 2001 at the Kremlin State Palace in Moscow. The meeting was attended by a number of high-level government officials in addition to Mr Putin and Prime Minister Mr Kasyanov. Discussion groups and roundtables were organized along 21 different themes including education, Chechnya, and military reform. The co-rapporteurs hope that the structures created at the forum will increase communication between public organizations and state power bodies.
freedom of the press and state control of the media
87. The constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech, press, and association are basically ensured. During the parliamentary and presidential elections, questions were raised, however, concerning the impartiality of the media linked to the increasing concentration of media ownership by large financial-industrial groups and, more recently, over allegations of undue government pressure on the independent media.
88. In this respect, it is worth noting that the Parliamentary Assembly’s ad hoc Committee for observing the parliamentary elections in December 1999 noted that “the electoral campaign in the Russian media appeared to have been utterly unfair, (…) not clean and not honest”, with “certain media, both public and private, [which were] clearly influenced by major stockholders, certain political circles or the administration to provide partial and incorrect information on certain political parties, blocs or candidates” and “in some regions, local media were forced by the regional authorities (…) to refrain from criticism of local authorities”. Media coverage for the presidential elections was clearly unbalanced for the sole benefit of the winning candidate.
89. International observers have told the co-rapporteurs that Russia remained a pluralistic society; printed media was entirely independent and free. Some of the interlocutors, including NGOs, evoked however the efforts by authorities to bring the media into line. The Russian military’s detention of a Russian reporter (Mr. Babitski) working in Chechnya for a western radio station and his subsequent transfer to unidentified forces in a “prisoner exchange” fed allegations that the government was seeking to harass or silence critical voices in the media.
90. Similarly, the co-rapporteurs have followed with concern the changes in NTV’s management and editorial structures introduced by the state-controlled Gazprom company.12 Although alterations in ownership and management of private companies are a normal occurrence in a market economy, the co-rapporteurs are worried by the circumstances surrounding the changes at the embattled television station on 3 April 2001. Media freedom is essential to ensure the proper functioning of a strong, modern democracy. This is true in all countries, but especially in those with a limited number of independent, non-governmental electronic media with national coverage. The management changes at NTV should not have a negative impact on media pluralism in Russia. The co-rapporteurs therefore call on the Russian authorities to refrain from any acts, which may interfere with media pluralism, and to conduct its media policy in a way that will convincingly alleviate the fears that freedom of expression in the country is under threat.
91. Another disquieting phenomenon is the expansion of state control over the mass media, under the cover of punishing financial violations and fighting corruption. While the state is destroying some holding companies and trusts that managed publications and television stations (incidentally critical of the government), it is creating, under its own control, others that are more powerful and sometimes even more corrupt. It looks as if in a short time there will be no truly free and independent television stations in Russia. The co-rapporteurs have also heard of a recently promulgated “doctrine on information security” which calls for government supervision of state-owned press and television.
92. Another problem is the situation of regional media. In the regions, the media continue to be harassed by local politicians and journalist face incessant libel suits and intimidation. Copies of newspapers have been confiscated, televisions stations have been taken off the air and journalists have been asked to submit their articles for clearance before publishing them. The government has also extended its influence over the regional newspapers. A bill introduced in 2000 gives the federal Media Ministry control over government subsidies to regional newspapers, shifting the control over this important instrument - on which many newspapers rely for their survival - from local politicians to central government. Handouts are often granted on the basis of the amount of favourable news coverage given to the authorities.
93. Whether it is by means of tax raids and litigation or more callous forms such as “contract killings” ordered by mafia-structures, journalism has the dubious distinction of being one of the most dangerous professions in Russia. According to the Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations, in 2000 54 journalists were attacked (and six were killed among them) in Russia in response to their reporting.13 Perhaps the most worrying aspect of these attacks is that the perpetrators often, if not always, escape with impunity.
freedom of religion and discrimination against churches and other religious organisations
94. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights is presently preparing a report on the new Russian Law on religion. Pending its publication, the co-rapporteurs wish to make the following observations in respect of the implementation by Russia of its commitment to introduce a new law on freedom of religion.
95. The Russian Constitution safeguards freedom of conscience and of religion (article 28); the equality of religious associations before the law and the separation of church and state (article 14), and offers protection against discrimination based on religion (article 19). The law on freedom of religion of December 1990 has led to a considerable renewal of religious activities in Russia. According to religious organisations met in Moscow, this law has opened a new era, and led to a revitalisation of churches. It was replaced on 26 September 1997 by a new federal law on freedom of conscience and religious associations. This legislation has been criticised both at home and abroad on the grounds that it disregards the principle of equality of religions.
96. On 6 November 1997, Mr Atkinson and others presented a motion for a recommendation (Doc. 7957 which was referred to the Legal Affairs Committee by Reference 2238) in which they argued that this new legislation on freedom of conscience and religious associations contravened the European Convention on Human Rights, the Russian Constitution as well as the commitments entered into by Russia on accession. In February 2001, the Ombudsman on Human Rights, Oleg Mironov, also acknowledged that many articles of the 1997 law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations” do not meet Russia’s international obligations on human rights. According to him, some of its clauses have led to discrimination against different religious faiths and should therefore be amended.
97. In its preamble the law recognises "the special role of Orthodoxy in the history of Russia and in the establishment and development of its spiritual and cultural life" and respects "Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other religions constituting an integral part of the historical heritage of the peoples of Russia". The law then goes on to draw a distinction between "religious organisations", according to whether or not they existed before 1982, and a third category, called "religious groups". Religious organisations that had existed for less than fifteen years, and religious groups have been subject to legal and tax disadvantages and their activities have been restricted.
98. According to the regulations by the Ministry of Justice, - responsible for the implementation of the law on freedom of conscience and religious associations -, religious organisations established before the law came into force (26 September 1997) had to re-register before 31 December 2000.
99. The registration process was finally completed on 1 January 2001 as the State Duma decided to extend the deadline twice. About 12 000 religious organisations and groups have been registered, and only 200 were refused their registration, most of them because they failed to produce a complete file. Many others have, for a variety of reasons, failed to register. The Minister of Justice, Mr Chaika strongly rejected allegations that the Orthodox Church had exerted pressure on the Ministry to prevent some religious organisations from obtaining their registration. Mr Chaika also indicated that experts of the Ministry had “closely examined” the status of the Salvation Army and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and had come to the conclusion that nothing prevented the latter’s’ registration at the federal level.
100. The Salvation Army, which feeds around 6,000 Russians every month in the winter, has had to waste tens of thousands of dollars in legal fights over registration, and the Catholic church (as well as the Jewish community) has had trouble getting visas for its foreign clergy. Some other religious organisations have also been prevented from being registered at the local level: the Adventist Church, the Pentecostal Church, the Baptists, the Evangelist Church and other churches in particular in Tatarstan, in the region of Rostov and in Vladimir oblast. These religious organisations also voiced complaints that they had serious difficulties to settle, to build or buy their places of worship, or to recover confiscated properties. Some among them – e.g. the True Orthodox Church, the Union of Evangelists Pentecotists – have claimed that they suffered from repeated harassment by the authorities.
101. Indeed, there have been cases where, even if a religious organisation had re-registered nationally, local authorities created obstacles. This has especially been the case with the Jehovah's Witnesses, whose Moscow congregation has long been the target of civil and criminal proceedings designed to prevent its activities14.
102. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were registered at federal level in 1999, and its 360 communities have also been registered throughout Russia. Nevertheless, the community in Moscow was forced completely underground and prevented from possessing properties and places of worship. The Moscow civil trial against Jehovah’s Witnesses (since 1995) has been considered by many as an important test case. The co-rapporteurs thought then that the Moscow case has come to an end with a judgment issued on 23 February 2001, dismissing the charges against Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, on 30 May 2001, the Moscow City Court set aside this ruling and ordered the Golovinsky District Court to hear the case once again. The retrial started on 30 October 2001. Until a definitive ruling is reached, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow will be without registration and unable to profess their faith without hindrance. The co-rapporteurs regard the length of the judicial examination in this case as an example of harassment against a religious minority and believe that after six years of criminal and legal proceedings the trial should finally be halted.
103. Although on 22 February 2001, the Russian Justice Ministry finally reregistered the Salvation Army in Russia, at federal level, registration had been constantly denied to the Moscow chapter of this religious organisation by the Chief Directorate of the Ministry of Justice in Moscow, and appeals to the various courts in Moscow failed. Moreover, in April 2001, liquidation procedures were put in place to close down Salvation Army Corps and social programs within Moscow, and on 11 September 2001 theTagansk intermunicipal court ruled that the Moscow chapter was subject to liquidation on the basis of article 27 of the 1997 federal law. (It provides for the liquidation of the legal entity that did not reregister by the 31 December 2000 deadline.)
104. The co-rapporteurs are very surprised and puzzled by the decision to ban the operations of the Salvation Army in Moscow, and they would highly appreciate the clarification of this matter by the Russian authorities. In this respect, they refer to the Monitoring Committee’s call on Russia of 6 September 2001 to ensure that the Salvation Army enjoys the same rights as it has in other member states of the Council of Europe, including the right to be registered in Moscow. During their fact-finding visit in November 2001, the co-rapporteurs used every opportunity to stress the need for a solution, and the potential embarrassment this problem may cause for Russia.
105. Another problem represents the fact that 30 out of 89 federal subjects have adopted laws on the freedom of conscience the provisions of which often are in total contradiction with the federal law on religion. The Ministry of Justice has checked these laws and obtained for some of them their withdrawal or abolition. But in some regions, such laws remain valid, in particular in Tatarstan.
106. The co-rapporteurs fully support the view of representatives of churches and religious organisations they have met in Moscow who had called for a complete separation of churches from the State, and had hoped that the different religions and religious organisations would be treated by Russian authorities without discrimination.
107. Anti-Semitism is still widespread among Russian society, although it seems that it is no longer a leitmotiv in political speeches. Yet, incidents and provocations still occur. The leadership of the Russian Jewish Congress noted that while the level of anti-Semitism in Russia compares with that in advanced democracies, the percent of Russians prepared to combat manifestations of anti-Semitism is far lower than in those states. In Western Europe, more than 50 percent of the population will speak out against anti-Semitism, the Jewish congress said, while in Russia, the percentage of people willing to do so does not exceed 10-11 percent.
108. The Gusinsky case has also had several repercussions on the Jewish community, owing to the fact that Mr Gusinsky was until recently the Head of the Russian Jewish Congress. The Jewish community is divided in two throughout the country, each one being headed by a Chief Rabbi. The co-rapporteurs heard complaints that Russian authorities had interfered in the functioning of the Jewish community by privileging relations with the representatives of one community, and recognising one Chief Rabbi – Rabbi Lazar – as the only Chief Rabbi of Russia. Such preferences have important consequences as regards the restitution of synagogues and other Jewish properties.
other commitments arising from Opinion No.193 (1996)
109. Although the co-rapporteurs recognise that the relations between Russia and the Baltic States have in recent times become more constructive, they believe that there are still some significant issues to be solved. As regards the signing of border agreements with Latvia and Estonia, although the border talks were concluded and Estonia and Latvia resigned from territorial claims arising from the 1920 peace treaties, both countries are still dependent on the Russian State Duma for the formal ratification of the agreements. Moreover, Russia on various occasions strengthened the feeling of insecurity in the Baltic countries, above all by its official statements with respect to the so-called “near abroad” and its vigorous objections to Baltic NATO membership. On 8 October 2001, Mr Landsbergis and others presented a motion for resolution (Doc. 9244) demanding the amendment of the Russian law on additional guarantees and compensations for military personnel of 19 November 1997 which defines the Baltic states as a possible ‘zone of armed conflict’.
110. Another contentious issue is the problem of the former Baltic embassies.15 Bearing in mind the relevant provisions of Opinion No. 193 (in which Russia commited itself “to settle rapidly all issues related to the return of property claimed by Council of Europe member states”) and also Reccommendation 1392 (1998) of the Parliamentary Assembly, the co-rapporteurs are of the opinion that these embassies should be returned to their rightful owners. They look forward to the states concerned bringing negotiations on this matter to a positive result in the shortest possible time.
111. Another specific issue concerns Russia’s continued military presence in Moldova (Transdniestria), which has been an unresolved and contentious issue since 1992, when units of the Soviet 14th Army (now known as the Operative Group of Russian Forces) were deployed as peacekeepers in that region. The Council of Europe has repeatedly called for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova and for a political resolution of the conflict in the Transdniestria region.
112. In this respect, the co-rapporteurs are pleased to report that after years of delay and uncertainty, the Russian Government appears to be progressing with its commitment to remove its armed forces and military equipment from Transdniestria - in accordance with Opinion 193, but also with the Istanbul Declaration of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (which dates from November 1999). In November 2001, the Russian military completed the scrapping and/or removal of heavy weaponry from this part of Moldova, in accordance with the adapted Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE). Under OSCE decisions, Russia is now obligated to withdraw all of its remaining 2,600 troops from this area by December 31, 2002.
113. In addition, on 15 June 2001 in Tiraspol, representatives of Moldova, the Russian Federation, the OSCE Mission and Transdniestrian authorities signed a “Protocol on joint activities aimed at scraping armament, military equipment and ammunitions”. Indeed, a further distinctive note of Transdniester is to host the largest ammunition stockpiles in Europe outside Russia. (Apart from that ammunition, the Russian military sits atop enormous stockpiles of light weapons and other equipment in this same area.) Some 42,000 to 45,000 tons of that ammunition is deposited at Colbasna near Ribnita. Further amounts are stored at military installations around Tiraspol.) Much of this ammunition’s shelf life has expired, making it untransportable. A large part is deposited improperly in dangerous conditions. Several countries in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe plan to finance and build an ammunition disposal plant in Transdniester by having established a voluntary fund under the auspices of the organisation.
114. The co-rapporteurs welcome these encouraging developments and reiterate their expectation of a complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova by the deadline set for 31 December 2002. They are convinced that an early, orderly and complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of the Republic of Moldova - and the disposal of the large ammunition stockpiles - will create more favorable conditions for a final settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict, as well as contribute to consolidating peace and security in the region.
V. Administrative reforms
115. Since his election in March 2000, President Putin has made the issue of strengthening the centre’s authority over Russia’s regions a main priority of his administration and to create a more coherent system of federalism. These reforms are intended to counter the growing autonomy of the regions and republics and to strengthen the central government. Indeed, since 1993, and especially following the 1998 economic crisis, Russia’s regions and Republics have progressively increased their autonomy to the detriment of an impoverished central State. More than half of the regions have adopted laws contrary to federal laws, leading to legislative chaos. These reforms redefine the (i) Federation Map; (ii) reorganise the Federation Council, (iii) create a State Council, and (iv) introduce new institutions for federal intervention.
116. On 13 May 2000, in order to “strengthen vertical power”, President Vladimir Putin issued a decree (oukaze n° 849), creating seven federal districts, namely the Central (capital Moscow), Northwest (capital Saint Petersburg), North Caucasus16 (capital Rostov-na-Donu), Volga (capital Nizhnii Novgorod), Urals (capital Yekaterinburg), Siberia (capital Novosibirsk) and Far East (capital Khabarovsk) districts. It is interesting to note that the new federal districts closely match the seven military districts into which Russia is divided. For this reason, some observers have feared that reorganization could be the first step towards military control over civilian administration.
117. A presidential representative administers each district. Until now, Moscow had one representative in each region, where power was nominal only. Consequently, in practice, they were often totally subordinated to the goodwill of governors or Presidents of Republics, elected by the local population.17 Under the same decree, Mr Putin dismissed his presidential representatives of the 89 Russian regions, stressed the importance of restoring equality of regions under the law and reaffirmed the importance of standardising legislation across the entire country, calling for a “dictatorship of law”.
118. On May 18 2000, nominations of these seven special representatives were announced: General Viktor Kazantsev - who commanded Russian troops in Chechnya - for the North Caucasus district, Lieutenant-General Konstantin Poulikovskii - one of the main leaders in the first Chechen war - for the Far East district, Viktor Cherkesov - number two of FSB - for the Northwest district, First Deputy Interior Minister Petr Lagtshev for the Urals district, and the former presidential representative to Leningrad Oblast Georgii Poltavchenko for the Central district. Only two “civilians” were nominated: the former Prime Minister Serguei Kirienko, presidential representative for the Volga district, and the former diplomat Leonid Drachevskii for the Siberia district. These appointments further worried observers about the fusion of military and civilian structures.
119. In principle, their powers will be extensive – allowing them to demand information from regional and local authorities and to use federal employees to conduct inspections on bodies in their jurisdictions. However, it is not clear yet how this streamlining of bureaucratic authority will deliver results in practice in cases where district/regional antagonisms run high. One potential improvement worth noting is in the area of fiscal federalism, as federal budget allocations could be distributed through this new structure, considerably enhancing central control over regional budgets. By far the most potent instruments President Putin has adopted are based on three federal reform bills passed by the Duma in summer 2000.
120. While many governors initially expressed guarded support for this reform, seen as an “administrative revolution” by experts, a growing sense of unease set in when Mr Putin’s government introduced other bills aimed at restoring some hierarchical accountability to the regional and local levels of government.18
121. Without changing the Constitution, the President has managed to bar the regional governors from serving in the Federation Council, replacing them with full-time representatives from each of the regions appointed by the governor and local parliaments. With support of the Duma, the President has also been granted the right to remove law-breaking governors and other local elected officials from office (following due process). The majorities on all the federal reform bills were so large that the Federation Council members ultimately had no choice but to go along with the new laws lest their veto be overturned by a two-thirds majority vote in the Duma. The co-rapporteurs are not convinced that this is a positive development.
122. Thus, the reform will also prohibit governors from becoming members of Parliament and strip them of their parliamentary immunity, leading to the reform of the Federation Council.
123. The co-rapporteurs welcome in principle the aim to restore the legal and economic integrity of the federation, and they very much hope – at the same time – that the presidential envoys can enforce Council of Europe standards throughout the territory of Russia.
The Federation Council
124. To re-establish the “vertical system of authority”, Mr Putin’s reform affected the Federation Council, upper house of the Russian legislature.19 Currently, the Federation Council is a part-time body, composed of the heads of regions and regional parliaments. Under the new legislation, each member of the Federation Council will be replaced by two permanent representatives, one named by each region's legislature and another appointed by its executive branch. The new representatives can be dismissed in the same way as they are selected. The new upper house is scheduled to be in place by 1 January 2002. After this date, the current members of the Federation Council who are not members of local legislatures will lose their immunity from criminal prosecution. Indeed, the co-rapporteurs have often been told during their fact-finding visit to the Russian Federation’s regions in October 2001 that the real aim of the reform is to diminish the position of regional governors. Not only have they been deprived of their vote in the Federation Council, but also of their parliamentary immunity.
The State Council
125. On 1 September 2000, President Putin issued another decree forming a new advisory body, the State Council. The State Council is chaired by the President of the Russian Federation and consists of governors and heads of republics. It holds meetings in the Kremlin regularly, once every three month as a rule. The statutory function of the Council is to assist the president in “ensuring a coordinated functioning and the interaction between the state authorities”.
126. It is generally believed that the State Council was created to compensate the regional leaders for their loss of seats in the upper house. The future of this institution is uncertain - most leading political players see the State Council as a “transitional body”, whose powers will ultimately be clarified. (At present, the State Council continues to function on the basis of the presidential decree and could be abolished at any moment.)
127. The “vertical regime” constructed by President Putin thus dividing Russia into seven groups, headed by Presidential appointees, standardising the constitutions of the National Republics, changing the way of the upper house of the Federal Assembly is formed and limiting its functions – represents the most significant attempt to shift the balance of power in Russia since the adoption of the 1993 Constitution. However, the reform is not of constitutional but administrative character. It preserves the Constitutional institutions but changes their substance, rules of the game, and their interplay.
128. The administrative reforms are being presented as a programme to bring order to the Russian State, an attempt to restore the legal and economic integrity of the federation. There are, however, fears that these transformations might contribute to the significant increase of power of the President, and in fact turn multi-national Russia from a federated state into a strictly centralised and unified one. The co-rapporteurs consider that a delicate balance should be found between the tendency for central command and supervision on the one hand, and autonomy for self-government at local and regional levels on the other. Of course, the level of “freedom” at local and regional levels should always respect the fact that the Russian Federation represents one State. On the other hand, however, democracy must not become a victim of the visions of a strong state and order.
129. Since the first information report on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Russia, the country has experienced a political, economic and social upheaval. The co-rapporteurs welcome the fact that the political crises have been overcome without violation of the legal and Constitutional order. The parliamentary elections in December 1999 and the presidential elections in March 2000 have been further tests of the stability of the system of government established by the 1993 Constitution. These elections have led to a consolidation of Russia’s fragmented political system, and the election of President Putin has brought changes to a lengthy period of political uncertainty and institutional instability in the Russian Federation.
130. The co-rapporteurs also observe progress made in honouring certain other obligations and commitments: the transfer of responsibility for administering the prison system to the Ministry of Justice has been completed, the “demilitarisation process” of the penitentiary administration is underway, and the substantial amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of criminal procedure (adopted in February-March 2001) can have a great impact on the humanization of the penitentiary system. They also welcome the Constitutional Court's decision to declare death sentences illegal, and the functioning of the institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman.
131. The co-rapporteurs are pleased to report that the State Duma adopted a new draft Code of Criminal Procedure in November 2001, on which Council of Europe experts made a number of recommendations. The new Code will put into effect, inter alia, the unendorsed provisions of the 1993 Constitution, such as jury trials and court sanction for arrests. They also welcome the fact that if all parts of the new Code comes into force by January 2004 – the time period presently set – it would finally enable the Russian Federation to lift its reservation to the European Convention on Human Rights.
132. At the same time, however, they note with regret that, despite the undeniable good intentions of the Russian national authorities, insufficient progress has been made in the other areas identified in the June 1998 report. Some crucial laws listed in the obligations and commitments entered into by Russia are still subject to long-lasting discussions in the State Duma and the Federation Council, although these legislative bodies have shown an intense legislative activity in 1999 and 2000. However, the key deficiency of the legal system is still the weak and inconsistent implementation and enforcement of the law. The low level of independence of most parts of the judiciary system is among the crucial problems.
133. In this respect, the co-rapporteurs wish to reiterate the need to strengthen cooperation between the Russian authorities and the Council of Europe in order to enforce Council of Europe principles and standards throughout the territory of Russia. Moreover, appropriate information on the Organisation’s principles should reach all parts of the Russian society - executive, legislative and judicial branches of power, local and regional self government, politicians, and last but not least, civil society.
134. Russia still needs to do more to honour its obligations and commitments. In view of the most recent developments, the following areas should be areas of priority:
- the full implementation of fundamental freedoms (freedom of expression, of the media, and of religion);
- full reform of the Prosecutor’s Office and the FSB in accordance with Council of Europe principles and commitments entered into;
- application of the rule of law across the country’s entire territory;
- complete abolition of the death penalty;
- lifting of the reservations to the European Convention on Human Rights;
- fight against ill-treatment of conscripts and adoption of a law on alternative military service;
- fight against corruption and organised crime in the economy;
- organisation of parliamentary and presidential elections which are free of bias towards individual parties and candidates and on the part of the media.
135. As regards the organisation of elections, the co-rapporteurs wish to reiterate the conclusions of the Parliamentary Assembly’s ad hoc Committee for observing the parliamentary elections in December 1999, which called for a number of reforms, in particular in the following areas. The appointment by businesses, institutions and parties of local election commissions should be brought to an end. Elections should be run by local government, as happens in most member states of the Council of Europe.The principle of immunity for those who are elected should be modified. It is wrong for people to stand not because they want to serve, but to avoid being investigated for corruption and other crimes. The co-rapporteurs insist on a secret ballot. It may be traditional for families to discuss their voting intentions around the table at the polling station, but it is illegal. They also want an end to the public listing of the assets of each candidate. That information should be private and subject to registration only on election.
136. Russia’s greatest problem remains the conflict in Chechnya, for which the co-rapporteurs refer to the various resolutions adopted by the Assembly recently.
OPINION No. 193 (1996)*
on Russia's request for membership of the Council of Europe
1. The Russian Federation applied to join the Council of Europe on 7 May 1992. By Resolution (92) 27 of 25 June 1992, the Committee of Ministers asked the Parliamentary Assembly to give an opinion, in accordance with Statutory Resolution (51) 30 A.
2. Special guest status with the Parliamentary Assembly was granted to the Russian Parliament on 14 January 1992.
3. Procedure for an opinion on Russia's request for membership was interrupted on 2 February 1995 because of the conflict in Chechnya. On 27 September 1995, with the adoption of Resolution 1065, procedure was resumed on the grounds that Russia was henceforth committed to finding a political solution and that alleged and documented human rights violations were being investigated.
4. The Assembly has followed the events of December 1995 in Gudermes and the recent events in Pervomayskoye with deep concern. It firmly condemns the taking of hostages as an act of terrorism and a flagrant violation of human rights, which no cause can justify. At the same time, it considers that the Russian authorities did not show sufficient concern for the safety of the hostages. The apparently indiscriminate use of force cost the lives of many innocent people and violated international humanitarian law. The Chechen conflict cannot be resolved by the use of force. There will be no peace in the region, nor an end to terrorist attacks, without a political solution based on negotiation and on European democratic values.
5. The Assembly notes that political, legal and economic reforms have been sustained. The legal system continues to show shortcomings, as noted by Council of Europe legal experts (7 October 1994). Nonetheless, there is progress towards a general awareness of - and respect for - the rule of law.
6. Assurances of continued progress were given to the Council of Europe by the President of the Federation, the Prime Minister, the President of the Duma and the President of the Council of the Federation in their letter of 18 January 1995.
7. On the basis of these assurances and of the following considerations and commitments, the Assembly believes that Russia - in the sense of Article 4 of the Statute - is clearly willing and will be able in the near future to fulfil the provisions for membership of the Council of Europe as set forth in Article 3 ("Every member of the Council of Europe must accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and collaborate sincerely and effectively in the realisation of the aim of the Council ..."):
i.Russia has been taking part in various activities of the Council of Europe since 1992 - through its participation in intergovernmental "co-operation and assistance" programmes (notably in the fields of legal reform and human rights), and through the participation of its special guest delegation in the work of the Parliamentary Assembly and its committees;
ii."political dialogue" between Russia and the Committee of Ministers has been established since 7 May 1992;
iii.Russia has acceded to several Council of Europe conventions, including the European Cultural Convention;
iv.the following legislation is being prepared as a matter of priority, with international consultation, on the basis of Council of Europe principles and standards: a new criminal code and a code of criminal procedure; a new civil code and a code of civil procedure; a law on the functioning and administration of the penitentiary system;
v.new laws in line with Council of Europe standards will be introduced: on the role, functioning and administration of the Procurator's Office and of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights; for the protection of national minorities; on freedom of assembly and on freedom of religion;
vi.the status of the legal profession will be protected by law: a professional bar association will be established;
vii.those found responsible for human rights violations will be brought to justice - notably in relation to events in Chechnya;
viii.effective exercise will be guaranteed of the rights enshrined in Article 27 of the constitution and in the law on freedom of movement and choice of place of residence;
ix.conditions of detention will be improved in line with Recommendation A (87) 3 on European prison rules: in particular, the practically inhuman conditions in many pre-trial detention centres will be ameliorated without delay;
x.responsibility for the prison administration and the execution of judgments will be transferred to the Ministry of Justice as soon as possible;
xi.the state and progress of legislative reform will permit the signature and ratification, within the indicated timetable, of the European conventions listed hereunder in paragraph 10;
xii.the Russian Federation will assist persons formerly deported from the occupied Baltic states or the descendants of deportees to return home according to special repatriation and compensation programmes which must be worked out.
8. With a view to the fulfilment of these assurances and respect for these commitments, the Assembly resolves to establish - with the close co-operation of Russia's national parliamentary delegation - its own parliamentary "advisory and control" programme under the authority of the committees responsible for the implementation of Order No. 508 (1995) on the honouring of obligations and commitments by member states of the Council of Europe. This programme will complement, and not prejudice, the monitoring procedure under Order No. 508 (1995).
9. As a contribution to long-term assistance and co-operation, the Assembly welcomes the European Union/Council of Europe joint programme for the strengthening of the federal structure and of human rights protection mechanisms and for legal system reform: particular attention should also be paid to support for, and the strengthening of, non-governmental organisations in the field of human rights and to the establishment of a civil society.
10. The Parliamentary Assembly notes that the Russian Federation shares fully its understanding and interpretation of commitments entered into as spelt out in paragraph 7, and intends:
i.to sign the European Convention on Human Rights at the moment of accession; to ratify the Convention and Protocols Nos. 1, 2, 4, 7 and 11 within a year; to recognise, pending the entry into force of Protocol No. 11, the right of individual application to the European Commission and the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court (Articles 25 and 46 of the Convention);
ii.to sign within one year and ratify within three years from the time of accession Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights on the abolition of the death penalty in time of peace, and to put into place a moratorium on executions with effect from the day of accession;
iii.to sign and ratify within a year from the time of accession the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
iv.to sign and ratify within a year from the time of accession the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities; to conduct its policy towards minorities on the principles set forth in Assembly Recommendation 1201 (1993), and to incorporate these principles into the legal and administrative system and practice of the country;
v.to sign and ratify within a year from the time of accession the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages; to study, with a view to ratification, the Council of Europe's Social Charter; and meanwhile to conduct its policy in accordance with the principles of these conventions;
vi.to sign and ratify and meanwhile to apply the basic principles of other Council of Europe conventions - notably those on extradition; on mutual assistance in criminal matters; on the transfer of sentenced persons; and on the laundering, search, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of crime;
vii.to settle international as well as internal disputes by peaceful means (an obligation incumbent upon all member states of the Council of Europe), rejecting resolutely any forms of threats of force against its neighbours;
viii.to settle outstanding international border disputes according to the principles of international law, abiding by the existing international treaties;
ix.to ratify, within six months from the time of accession, the agreement of 21 October 1994 between the Russian and Moldovan Governments, and to continue the withdrawal of the 14th Army and its equipment from the territory of Moldova within a time-limit of three years from the date of signature of the agreement;
x.to fulfil its obligations under the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE);
xi.to denounce as wrong the concept of two different categories of foreign countries, whereby some are treated as a zone of special influence called the "near abroad";
xii.to negotiate claims for the return of cultural property to other European countries on an ad hoc basis that differentiates between types of property (archives, works of art, buildings, etc.) and of ownership (public, private or institutional);
xiii.to return without delay the property of religious institutions;
xiv. to settle rapidly all issues related to the return of property claimed by Council of Europe member states, in particular the archives transferred to Moscow in 1945;
xv.to cease to restrict - with immediate effect - international travel of persons aware of state secrets, with the exception of those restrictions which are generally accepted in Council of Europe member states, and to facilitate the consultation of archives kept in the Russian Federation;
xvi.to ensure that the application of the CIS Convention on Human Rights does not in any way interfere with the procedure and guarantees of the European Convention on Human Rights;
xvii.to revise the law on federal security services in order to bring it into line with Council of Europe principles and standards within one year from the time of accession: in particular, the right of the Federal Security Service (FSB) to possess and run pre-trial detention centres should be withdrawn;
xviii.to adopt a law on alternative military service, as foreseen in Article 59 of the constitution;
xix.to reduce, if not eliminate, incidents of ill-treatment and deaths in the armed forces outside military conflicts;
xx.to pursue legal reform with a view to bringing all legislation in line with Council of Europe principles and standards: in particular, Presidential Decree No. 1226 should be revised without delay;
xxi.to extend its international co-operation to prevent - and eliminate the ecological effects of - natural and technological disasters;
xxii.to sign and ratify within a year from the time of accession the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe and its additional protocols;
xxiii.to co-operate fully in the implementation of Assembly Order No. 508 (1995) on the honouring of obligations and commitments by member states of the Council of Europe, as well as in monitoring processes established by virtue of the Committee of Ministers' Declaration of 10 November 1994 (95th session);
xxiv.to respect strictly the provisions of international humanitarian law, including in cases of armed conflict on its territory;
xxv.to co-operate in good faith with international humanitarian organisations and to enable them to carry on their activities on its territory in conformity with their mandates.
11. The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers - on the basis of the commitments and understandings indicated above:
i.invite the Russian Federation to become a member of the Council of Europe;
ii.allocate eighteen seats to the Russian Federation in the Parliamentary Assembly;
iii.guarantee that the Organisation's means and capabilities, in particular those of the Assembly and of the human rights institutions, are increased to meet the consequences of these decisions, and refrain from using the Russian Federation's accession to reduce the contributions of states which are already members.
Programme of the fact-finding visit to Moscow (11-14 February 2001)
Co-rapporteurs: Mr D. ATKINSON (United-Kingdom, EDG)
Mr R. BINDIG (Germany, SOC)
Secretariat: Mr G. MEZEI, Secretary of the Committee
Mrs V. CLAMER
Sunday 11 February
Evening - Arrival of the co-rapporteurs
19.30 - Meeting with Human Rights NGOs
- Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights
- Institute on Human Rights
- International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights-Moscow
- Helsinki Group
- Moscow Centre for Prison Reform
- Association for Social Partnership
Monday 12 February
8.15 - 9.00 Working breakfast with representatives of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia
9.30 – 10.30 Meeting with Mr Yuriy CHAIKA, Minister of Justice
11.00 – 12.00 Meeting with Mr Vyacheslav LEBEDEV, Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation
13.30 Lunch hosted by Mr Dmitriy ROGOZIN, Chairman of the Russian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly, Chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee (in the State Duma)
15.00 – 16.00 Moscow Mayor Office and Moscow Government – meeting with Mr PLATONOV, Deputy Mayor, and his staff
16.30 – 17.30 Prosecutor General’s Office – meeting with Mr BIRUKOV and Mr NYIKITIN, Deputies to the Prosecutor General
18.00 Meeting with Mr Eduard VOROBIOV, Deputy Chairman, and members of the State Duma Committee on Defence
20.00 Meeting with Ambassadors of Council of Europe member states hosted by Mr Imants DAUDISS, Ambassador of the Republic of Latvia (Embassy of Latvia)
Tuesday 13 February
8.15 – 9.00 Working breakfast with Mr Sergey GLOTOV, Director of the Institute of Human Rights, Moscow State Social University
(at the hotel)
9.30 Ministry of Interior – meeting with Mr Stanislaw KUZNETSOV, Head of the International Department
12.00 - 13.00 Ministry of Defence – meeting with Colonel General Valery MANILOV, First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces
13.15 – 14.15 Working lunch with Mr Nikolay KOVALYOV (in the State Duma)
14.30 – 15.00 Meeting with Mr Grigoriy YAVLINSKIY, Yabloko
15.15 – 16.00 Meeting with Mr Anatoliy LUKYANOV, Chairman, and members of the State Duma Committee on Legislation and Judicial Reform, and with Mr Alexander CHUEV, Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Social and Religious Organisations
16.45 – 17.30 Meeting with Rabbi Berl LAZAR, Chief Rabbi of Russia
17.45 – 18.30 Meeting with Mufti Ravil GAYNUTDIN, Chairman of the Russia Mufties Council
19.15 Meeting with religious organisations (at the Institute for Religion and Law, Leninsky prospect, 20)
Wednesday 14 February
8.45 – 9.30 Council of Europe Information Office (in the State Institute for International Relations in Moscow (MGIMO) Pr. Vernadskogo 76)
10.00 – 10.45 Meeting with Rabbi SHAEVITCH, Chief Rabbi of Russia, and Rabbi GOLDSCHMIDT, Chief Rabbi of Moscow
11.30 – 12.15 Ministry for Press, Television, Radio broadcasting and Mass Communications
Departure of Mr Bindig
12.30 Union of Journalists and meeting with representatives of mass media
Meeting in the Patriarchy (Orthodox Church)
Departure of Mr Atkinson
Programme of the visit to St Petersburg, Pskov and Novgorod (Russian Federation)
from 1 to 6 October 2001
Co-rapporteurs: Mr D. Atkinson and Mr R. Bindig
Secretariat: Mr G. Mezei, Secretary of the Committee
Monday 1 October
4.25 pm Arrival of Mr Atkinson at St Petersburg Airport (flight BA 2878)
6.15 pm Arrival of Mr Bindig and Mr Mezei at St Petersburg Airport (flight LH 3264)
Tuesday 2 October
10.30 am Departure from hotel in St Petersburg
11.00 am Meeting with Mr Vladimir E. Churov, Head of the International Co-operation Department of St Petersburg City Administration, at the headquarters of the city administration in the Smolny
2.00 pm Meeting with Mr Y.I. Makarov, Deputy Representative of the President of Russia in the North-West Region
4.00 pm Meeting with Mr V. Yagya, Chairman of the Council on International Affairs of St. Petersburg City Assembly, and his colleagues in the Mariinsky Palace
7.00 pm Meeting with the representatives of mass media
Wednesday 3 October
10.00 a m Departure to Novgorod
1.30 pm Arrival in Novgorod
2.30 pm Meeting with Mr Prussak, Governor of Novgorod Oblast
4.30-7.00 pm Guided tour of Novgorod
Thursday 4 October
9.00 Meeting with Mr A. Boytsev, Chairman of the Oblast Duma
10.00 Meeting with the representatives of political parties
12.00 Lunch hosted by Mr Prussak, Governor of Novgorod Oblast
2.00 pm Departure for Pskov
6.00 pm Arrival in Pskov
Friday 5 October
10.00 Visit of the city of Pskov
12.00-12.45 Meeting with Mr Evgeny Mikhailov, Governor, followed by a working lunch
2.00 pm Meeting with the members of the Regional Assembly
3.00 pm Meeting with Mr Khoronen, Mayor of Pskov, and his deputy, Mr Khritonenkov
4.00 pm Meeting with the Deputy Governor of Pskov Oblast
4.45 pm Meeting with Mr Vladimirovich Basov, Leader of the “Edinstvo” Party Faction
5.30 pm Meeting with Mr Arturs Leicis, Consul of the Republic of Latvia in Pskov
Saturday 6 October
9.00 am Return to St Petersburg
2.45 pm Departure of Mr Bindig (flight LH 3219)
pm Departure of Mr Atkinson (flight BA 2879)
Programme of the visit to Moscow (Russian Federation)
from 20 to 23 November 2001
Co-rapporteurs: Mr D. ATKINSON and Mr R. BINDIG
Secretariat: Mr G. MEZEI, Secretary of the Committee
Tuesday 20 November
Arrival of Mr D. Atkinson
14.00 Arrival of Mr R. Bindig
15.35 Arrival of Mr G. Mezei
Meeting with Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, Mr O. Mironov
19.00 Meeting with Ambassadors of the Council of Europe Member States hosted by Mr Z. Namavicius, Ambassador of Lithuania
Wednesday 21 November
08.15 Meeting with “Salvation Army” representatives (Hotel National)
10.00 Meeting with Mr A.B. Karlin, First Deputy Minister of Justice and his colleagues, at the Ministry of Justice
12.00 Meeting at the Prosecutor General’s Office
13.30 – 14.30 Lunch at the State Duma on behalf of the Head of the Russian Delegation in the PACE Mr D. Rogozin
15.00 – 16.30 Visit to a district Court of Moscow
17.00 Meeting at the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation
18.30 Meeting with representatives of Human Rights Watch (Hotel “National”)
Thursday 22 November
08.15 Meeting with the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers (Hotel “National”)
09.30 Meeting with General V. N. Putilin, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces and his colleagues, Ministry of Defence
11.00 Meeting with Mr V.V. Gordienko, Head of the Directorate of Criminal Investigation, Mr O.L. Dimitrov, Deputy Head of the Department of International Co-operation, and their colleagues, Ministry of Interior
12.30 – 13.30 Lunch (at the State Duma)
14.00 Meeting at the Moscow Bar Association
16.00 Meeting at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs
18.00 Meeting with Mr D. Kozak, Deputy Head of the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation
19.00 Meeting with Mrs E.A. Panfilova, Managing Director, Transparency International, Russia
Friday 23 November
10.00 Meeting at the State Duma Committee on State Structure
11.30 Meeting with representatives of the media
13.00 Meeting with “Jehova’s Witnesses” (Hotel National)
16.40 Departure of Mr Bindig and Mr Mezei
Sunday 25 November
Departure of Mr Atkinson
Comments on the revised draft report “Honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation” (received on 4 March 2002)
para 11 (also para. 116-120)
The wording of these paragraphs concerning competence and responsibilities of the presidential representatives is not quite correct. The main tasks, functions and powers of the presidential representatives in the federal regions are determined in the Regulations on the Activities of a Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Federal Region approved by the Presidential Decree of May 13, 2000 (№ 849).
2. para. 14
Issues concerning the private ownership of land, corporate taxation, customs duties, banking regulation and the pricing of energy services do not have anything to do with the obligations and commitments of the Russian Federation as a member-state of the Council of Europe. Laws concerning the pension system reform have already been adopted by the State Duma.
3. para. 26
The last sentence of this paragraph needs official proof. Treatment of detainees in temporary hold-over facilities, pre-trial detention centers and prisons is monitored by the CPT on regular basis.
4. para. 27
To solve the problem of overcrowding in SIZOs, the Government of the Russian Federation, on the initiative of the Ministry of Justice, by its Decision № 636 of 29 August 2001 approved a special federal program "On Reforming Criminal Execution (Penitentiary) System of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation (2002-2006)". From the moment when criminal execution system was transferred to the Ministry of Justice 6,074 beds were added (each prisoner having an average of 4m2 per person) in SIZOs and prisons. Five new SIZOs were built: SIZO-4 (in Spassk-Dalny, Primorsky Region) - 252 beds; SIZO-3 (Orenburg) - 490 beds; SIZO-4 (Volgograd) - 280 beds; SIZO -5 (Leninsk, Volgogradsky Region) - 200 beds; SIZO-2 (Chernokozovo in the Chechen Republic) - 250 beds.
5. para. 32
The statement that "prosecutors … very rarely use the opportunities available for early release or alternative penalties " is not correct because courts only can make decisions on early release or alternative penalties. The words "in trials in Russia presided over by judges the conviction rate is extremely high (over 90%) which might be an indication that the presumption of innocence is not systematically respected" are not correct. The presumption of innocence means that a person could not be found guilty without a court sentence that has come into force (para. 1 Article 49 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation). If court finds a person guilty it does not mean that the presumption of innocence is violated.
There is a contradiction in this paragraph between the statement that courts " very rarely use … alternative penalties" and the fact that only about 1/3 of sentences imply imprisonment.
6. para. 32 (also para. 40 and 47)
Quotations of statements made by some Deputies and some other officials in the draft report of the Monitoring Committee, irrespective of the contents, should be either followed by the presentation of their official positions or excluded from the report. Otherwise there might be questions about biased selection of such statements.
7. para. 34
The Russian side is interested in further constructive cooperation with the CPT in conformity with the provisions of the Convention. At the same time publications of the reports on the CPT`s visits in some cases may lead to the use of such reports for propaganda purposes, that can damage the implementation of the Convention.
8. para. 47
Control of the courts is implemented and consists in checking legality of concrete legal decisions and actions of the prosecutor's offices on petitions of persons involved. Such form of control ensures legality of decisions and actions of prosecutors and investigators of prosecutor's office.
9. para 48
The conclusion made by the rapporteurs that "prosecutors would not be allowed to submit evidence obtained with violations of the code" requires an explanation. Legal impossibility of submitting such evidence was envisaged in the previous Code of Criminal Procedure (part 3 Article 69 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the RSFSR and Article 75 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation).
10. para. 49
References to the opinion "of some (unnamed) observers " are not convincing. It would be more preferable if the report contained assessments based on objective analysis of the information obtained.
11. para. 51
It should be noted that part of Articles of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation come into effect on 01.07.2002, part - on 01.01.2003, part - on 01.01.2004 (Federal Law "On Putting Into Effect the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation").
12. para. 52
It is not clear what "disturbing incidents" the rapporteurs are speaking about. In autumn 2001 in Moscow there were two cases of hooligan assaults by groups of extremists at citizens representing ethnic minorities. In both cases the law-enforcement agencies took resolute measures. The initiators of these assaults were brought to justice.
13. para. 60
Ranking Mr. I. Sutyagin and Mr. V. Danylov among "environmental activists" is wrong by virtue of charges against them which have nothing to do with exercising the right to freedom of expression. Judgements on substantiality of charges can be passed by court only, but not by a non-governmental organization.
14. para. 62
This paragraph has lost urgency.
15. para. 63
The Legislative Assembly of St.-Petersburg has submitted draft law "On Human Rights Commissioner in the Subject of the Russian Federation".
16. para. 65
According to the law "On Militia" there is no "military (police) militia" in the Russian Federation.
17. para. 75
One of the bases of legal status of a person (individual) in the Russian Federation is the right of a person legally present on the territory of the Russian Federation to freedom of movement and choice of place of residence (part 1 Article 27 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation). In accordance with Article 56 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation this right is not an absolute right and can be limited by a federal law only when it is necessary to protect fundamental basis of constitutional system, morality, health, rights and legal interests of other persons, ensurance of national defense and security of the state (part 3 Article 55 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation).
Requirements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 13), International Pact on Civil and Political Rights (Article 12) on ensuring constitutional right of citizens to freedom of movement and choice of place of residence have found reflection in the provisions of the Law of the Russian Federation № 5242-I of 25.06.1993 "On the Right of Citizens of Russian Federation to Freedom of Movement and Choice of Place of Residence within Internal Borders of the Russian Federation".
On July 17, 1995 the Decision of the Government of the Russian Federation № 713 approved the rules of registration and taking off registration the citizens of the Russian Federation in places of residence within internal borders of the Russian Federation, as well as a list of officials responsible for registration. Special form of registration was defined for refugees who, as well as forced migrants, at registration should show not only documents identifying their personality (Ids) but also a certificate, given by the Federal Migration Service of Russia or its territorial bodies, proving (stating) that they are refugees or forced migrants. Action or inaction of the authorities responsible for such registration may be appealed against in higher authority or in court.
18. para. 79
Taking into account the contents of this paragraph one may come to a conclusion that applications of the persons seeking refugee status were rejected for “procedural reasons”.
It should be noted that Article 5 of the Federal Law "On Refugees" contains a comprehensive list of reasons for refusal (rejection) to examine applications. This list does not include the above mentioned "procedural reasons".
19. para. 80
It is not mentioned in a draft report that Meskhetian Turks should be immediately given an opportunity to return to Georgia from which they were deported. In case these persons are facing threats of persecution or discrimination in Georgia, they have the right to apply for asylum in the Russian Federation; their applications will be examined in established procedure.
20. para. 95
According to paragraph 1 of the Federal Law "On Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations" religious associations are separated from the state and are equal before the law, so it is not correct to say that the law "disregards the principle of equality of religions."
21. para. 96
The statements, that the Federal Law "On Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations" contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights, the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the obligations and commitments undertaken by Russia upon accession to the Council of Europe, are ungrounded. They also run contrary to the statements made by the rapporteur of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights Mr. Kevin McNamara in his Memorandum "Russia's law on religion".
22. para. 100
The Ministry of Justice bodies in the subjects of the Russian Federation do not have official information on illegal refusals to re-register religious organizations.
23. para. 102
The Jehovah's Witnesses activity was not banned in Moscow; they were not deprived of their property either. This organization has lost the status of legal identity on temporary basis.
24. para. 103-104
The dispute between the Moscow chapter of the Salvation Army and the Chief Directorate of the Ministry of Justice in(of) Moscow and the Chief Directorate of the Ministry of Justice in(of) Moscow has been solved in court and was of purely juridical nature. The documents submitted by the Moscow chapter of this organization for state registration did not meet the requirements of current legislation.
On February 7, 2002 the Constitution Court examined the application of the Moscow chapter of the Salvation Army and referred to inappropriate use of Article 27, part 4, of the Federal Law "On Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations" on liquidation of a religious organization that did not pass state re-registration within the term established by law. The activity of the Moscow chapter of the Salvation Army has not been prohibited in conformity with this Federal Law.
25. para. 105
Legislation in the subjects of the Russian Federation on freedom of conscience and religious associations has been analyzed and the provisions that contradicted federal legislation were disputed in procedure established by law. On November 27, 2001 the law of the Republic of Tatarstan "On Amendments to the Law of the Republic of Tatarstan "On Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations" came into force.
26. para. 109
This paragraph needs substantial correction.Border agreements with Latvia and Estonia have not been signed; they are to undergo legal expertise (examination). Accordingly, there is no question about their ratification. Allegations that “ Russia on various occasions strengthened the feeling of insecurity in the Baltic countries” are groundless. As to NATO enlargement to the East, Russia believes that this process runs counter to the aims of building Greater Europe without dividing lines proclaimed at the 1997 summit of the Council of Europe.
27. para. 110
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have assigned the rights to the buildings of the former Baltic embassies in Paris to France. This problem remains an issue of negotiations.
28. para. 121
In accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation (part 4, Article 105) the Federation Council has a right to vote down a federal law adopted by the State Duma. According to Article 107, part 1 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation a federal law adopted by the State Duma goes to the President of the Russian Federation for signature and further publication.
29. para. 127
The statement that the changed order of formation of the Federation Council limits the functions of the upper chamber of parliament is wrong. The Federal Law "On the Order of Forming the Federation Council of Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation" does not deal with the powers of the Federation Council.
30. para. 135
The recommendations of the rapporteurs on correcting the electoral legislation seem to be disputable. The inclusion of representatives of the public and political parties into the staff of election commissions contributes to the increase of transparency of elections. Preservation, within certain limits, of the principle of immunity for those who are elected is an additional guarantee of independence of deputies. The public listing of the assets of a candidate meets the interests of the electorate and helps to put a stop to financial violations during election campaigns.
Reporting committee: Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)
Reference to committee: Resolution 1115 (1997) of 27 January 1997
Draft resolution and draft recommendation unanimously adopted by the committee on 11 March 2002
Members of the committee: Mr Bársony (Chairperson), Mr Pollozhani, Ms Severinsen, Mr Frunda (Vice-Chairpersons), Mrs Akgönenç, Mr Akhvlediani, Mr B. Aliyev, Mr Arzilli, Mr Atkinson, Mr Attard-Montalto, Mr Bartoš, Mrs Belohorska, Mr Bindig, Mr Van den Brande, Mr Budin, Mr Cekuolis, Mr Christodoulides, Mr Cilevics, Mr Davis, Mrs Delvaux-Stehres, Mr Demetriou, Mr Dobelis, Mrs Durrieu, Mr Einarsson, Mr Enright, Mr Eörsi, Mrs Feric-Vać, Mr Frey, Mr Glesener, Mr Gligoroski, Mr Gross, Mr Gürkan, Mr Gusenbauer, Mr Hancock, Mr Haraldsson, Mr Holovaty, Mr Irmer, Mr Jakic, Mr Jansson, Mr Jaskiernia, Mr Jurgens, Mrs Kautto, Lord Kilclooney, Mr Kirilov, Mr Kostytsky, Mr Landsbergis, Mr Van der Linden, Mr Lintner, Mr Luis, Mr Magnusson, Mr Marmazov, Mr Martínez Casań, Mr Mota Amaral, Mr Neguta, Mr Olteanu, Mr Pangalos, Mr Popescu, Mrs Ringstad, Mr Rogozin, Mr Rustamyan, Mr Saglam, Mrs Sehnalova, Mrs Shakhtakhtinskaya, Mr Shishlov, Mr Slutsky, Mr Smorawinski, Mr Soendergaard, Mrs Stoyanova, Mr Surjan, Mr Tepshi, Mrs Tevdoradze, Mr Vahtre, Mr Vella, Mr Weiss, Mrs Wohlwend, Mr Yáńez-Barnuevo, Mr Zacchera, Mr Zierer
N.B. The names of those members who were present at the meeting are printed in italics.
Secretaries to the committee: Mr Ausems, Mr Mezei, Mrs Clamer, Ms Mathey
1 The new law is expected to initiate the process of building larger, stronger parties. It tightens up demands on political organizations wanting to officially register as political parties. Under the new rules, to qualify as a political party, an organization must have at least 10,000 members and have regional branches with at least 100 people in more than half of Russia’s 89 federal regions. Political parties will also be compelled to take part in elections "at all levels," putting forward their own candidates. The law also contains something entirely new for Russia in that it introduces state financing of parties. To qualify for funds, a party must receive more than 3 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections and submit regular financial reports to the state tax service.
2 In accordance with the Presidential Decree of 28 December 2001, the Presidential Clemency Commission (chaired by Mr. A. Pristavkin) has been replaced by Clemency Commissions that are being established in the subjects of the Russian Federation. These commissions are to make recommendations for the President on using his constitutional right to pardon persons sentenced by courts.
3 In Russia, there are: IVS – temporary holdover facilities (run by the Ministry of the Interior); SIZO – pre-trial detention centres (run by the Ministry of Justice, with one exception: Lefortovo pre-trial detention centre in Moscow, run by the Federal Security Service, FSB); Prisons and prison colonies (run by the Ministry of Justice). Everything together might by characterised as the “penitentiary” system.
4 This means that Russia let the US ‘enjoy’ the world leadership in the relative number of prisoners (where this figure comprised 725 people in 2000). This fact is of historical significance as in this field Russia had been a customary leader since the time of Stalin’s GULAG.
5 It could be added as well that the Russian penal institutions turned into a source of new drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis (MDR TB), which are developing as a result of non-standardized treatment or no treatment at all. The WHO "Global Tuberculosis Control Report 2000" has pronounced MDR TB to be the chief infectious disease of the 21st century, and Russia – the main source of the rise and spread of this deadly sickness. The WHO survey revealed that 8.9 percent of new cases in the Ivanovo oblast and 16.7 percent of new cases in Siberian prisons (in the Kemerovo oblast) were drug-resistant.
6 The co-rapporteurs have been told by the NGO community that the record-breaking number of prisoners and its constant increase between 1989 and 1995 are associated with an entire set of social, cultural and economic reasons, which contributed to the increase of crime rate. According to the Moscow Centre for Prison Reform, crime rate predictions for the next few years are rather unfavourable. In 1998, for instance, recorded crime went up 8%, with the share of grave crimes coming to 60%.
7 It is interesting to note that the President has borrowed this expression from the vocabulary of Pavel Miliukov, a prominent Russian reform politician at the beginning of the 20th century.
8 According to the Global Corruption Report, released by Transparency International in October 2001, "corruption is not just a collection of criminal activities in Russia, it is a perverse system of governance”. Russia comes in at place 79 in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks 91 countries from the least to most corrupt places to do business. The index draws on 14 sources of data from several economic institutions and is based on the perceptions of business people and risk analysts. The Transparency International study is one of several that have given Russia low marks in that field.
9 . The case of Mr Dmitry Neverovsky from the Kaluga region became one of the most significant public cases regarding conscientious objection. Neverovsky declared his refusal to carry out military service, as he did not want to serve in an army that was used in 1993 against the Duma and conducted military actions in Chechnya. Despite active support on his behalf, he was sentenced to imprisonment. Public pressure led his case to be revised and Neverovsky was released after spending 146 days in prison. Several similar trials took place in 2000.
10 More than 5 million persons immigrated into Russia from other CIS countries and the Baltic States between 1992 and 1998. They had the greatest difficulties obtaining refugee status, making it almost impossible for them to secure the payment of wage and pension arrears, find housing, have access to medical care, enrol their children in school and withdraw their savings.
11 "There is nothing wrong with giving the Interior Ministry control over migration, and that has been debated for months already," said Svetlana Gannushkina, head of the nongovernmental Civic Assistance organization, which aids migrants in Russia. "But the ministry is incapable of dealing with the human side of migration. Working with migrants requires a high-level human rights culture, which the Interior Ministry does not have."
12 It should be noted, however, that six months after a hostile takeover of NTV television, on 12 October 2001, Gazprom head Mr Alexei Miller announced that the state-controlled gas company would sell its media assets, including NTV, as well as NTV Plus, THT television and the Ekho Moskvy radio station, either separately or as a holding. Details of the sale would be decided in January 2002, following a three-month valuation of the assets.
13 On 21 September 2001, Mr Iskandar Khatloni, a Moscow-based correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Tajik Service died after being attacked with an axe by an unknown assailant in Russia's capital. On 12 May 2001, Igor Domnekov a journalist with Novaia Gazeta, was attacked in front of his Moscow home and died as a result a few days later. On 26 July 2001, Sergei Novikov owner of independent Vesna radio station in the Smolensk region was shot dead in his apartment building. These are just some examples of this year’s instances of physical attacks, harassment and intimidation against journalists that are listed by the Vienna-based International Press Institute.
14 See motion for an order on "Russian law on religion and Jehovah's Witnesses", presented by Mr Atkinson and others on 12 April 1999 (Doc. 8351 revised).
15 After the Baltic states had been annexed to the Soviet Union in June 1940, diplomatic staff of the Baltic republics in some European countries were obliged to abandon their embassies. There are four former embassies of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which have never been returned to their former – and in fact titular – owners and are still occupied by diplomatic or consular staff of the Russian Federation. Three of them are situated in Paris and one in Rome.
16 On 23 June 2000, the North Caucasus district was renamed the Southern district.
17 According to the decree’s preamble, the task of these new representatives would be to “ensure the exercise by the president of the Russian Federation of his constitutional powers, to make the work of federal bodies of state power more effective, and to improve control over compliance with their decisions”. This decree came two days after Mr Putin ordered Ingushetia and Bashkortostan to rescind legislation in violation of federal laws.
18 Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak for instance had a reserved attitude vis-ŕ-vis the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts. Mr Prusak thought that envoys were needed in the North Caucasus, where there was an unstable situation, and in the Far East, where because of the severe cold people were freezing, and possibly, the envoys could be of some help there. But - he added-, “as regards the North-western district, I am convinced that an envoy is not necessary. None of us violate federal laws."
19 The Federal Law "On the Order of Forming the Federation Council of Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation" № 113 was adopted by the State Duma on 19 July 2000, approved by the Federation Council on 26 July 2000 and signed by the President on 5 August 2000.
* 1. Assembly debate on 25 January 1996 (6th and 7th Sittings) (see Doc. 7443, report of the Political Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mr Muehlemann; and Doc. 7463, opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, rapporteur: Mr Bindig). Text adopted by the Assembly on 25 January 1996 (7th Sitting).