HomeLibraryAddress to the Leaders of the G8 Countries of the Conference “Human Rights in Russia in the Year of Russia’s Chairmanship in the G8 and the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers”

Address to the Leaders of the G8 Countries of the Conference “Human Rights in Russia in the Year of Russia’s Chairmanship in the G8 and the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers”

June 05, 2006 15:35

Address to the Leaders of the G8 Countries of the Conference "Human Rights in Russia in the Year of Russia's Chairmanship in the G8 and the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers"

July 5, 2006


We, more than 130 representatives of Russian and international human rights organizations, participants of the July 5 Conference "Human Rights in Russia in the Year of Russia's Chairmanship in the G8 and the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers," express our grave concern with the human rights situation in the Russian Federation.

We believe that the partnership of the leading democratic and economically developed states not only implies joint actions aimed at resolving such key global problems as "energy security", counter-terrorism, poverty, health and education, but also must also include a sincere discussion of the most pressing problems in each of the G8 members, primarily, human rights problems.

We maintain that today Russia is immersed into a systemic crisis of human rights and democratic institutions. Silencing these problems can only assist to further degradation of the human rights situation and the erosion of democracy in our country. The neglect of these issues in fact undermines the founding principles of the G8, whose members not only exhort the most significant political and economic influence on the status of the contemporary world but also affirm human rights and democracy values.

At the July 5 Conference, we have discussed and developed recommendations on such crucial issues as (1) problems with domestic legislation and judicial system; (2) arbitrariness of the law-enforcement bodies and problems within the penitentiary system; (3) crimes against individuals in the army; (4) political persecutions; (5) erosion of democratic institutions in context of the "war against terror"; (6) restrictions on freedom of speech; (7) curtailment of freedom of associations and freedom of assembly; (8) curtailment of electoral rights; (9) grave human rights crisis in Chechnya and the Northern Caucasus; (10) situation of migrants; (11) growth of racism and xenophobia in Russia and the use of anti-extremist legislation by the State with the aim of exhorting pressure on civil society; (13) violations of social, economic and cultural rights; (12) and lack of adequate reaction by international organizations and democratic states to the deteriorating human rights situation in Russia. A briefing paper providing background on the aforesaid problems and listing all of the recommendations elaborated by the participants of the conference shall be published separately. The most important of those recommendations are listed below. They are as follows:

• Ensure independence of the judiciary and make it possible for judges to make decisions within the framework of fair procedures and based exclusively on the rule of law; ensure transparency of the judicial system to the public.
• Ratify without delay Protocol 6 to the European Convention for Human Rights and abolish the death penalty.
• Develop and implement an effective reform of the law-enforcement with such priorities as optimizing the financing of the law-enforcement system, improving and decentralizing the system's management, improving the personnel policy, ensuring quality training of personnel (including in the field of human rights), building ties between the law-enforcement agencies and the public (including civilian oversight of the law-enforcement system).
• Adopt without delay a law on civilian oversight of closed institutions, including the buy-laws to provide for a system of visits to such institutions by human rights and other NGOs.
• Review criminal cases of individuals convicted on the grounds of political motives, in particular the cases of Igor Sutyagin (pronounced "political prisoner" by Amnesty International), Valentin Danilov, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev, Mikhail Trepashkin; and close politically motivated criminal cases against scientists Oskar Kaibyshev and Oleg Korobeinichev.
• Review national laws with the aim of ensuring the rights of military servicemen and conscripts; provide adequate protection to victims and witnesses of crimes in the armed forces; create a system of human rights visits in the armed forces.
• Instruct and control law-enforcement agencies with regard to the fact that in connection with their actions during public rallies and demonstrations, their priority task is to ensure security of the participants of such events, and force must be used in a strictly proportionate manner solely for the maintenance of order and public security.
• Reinstate direct elections for heads of subjects of the Russian Federation and elections of single-mandate candidates to the Federal Assembly; lower the threshold for political parties at the State Duma elections; and reinstate the possibility of forming electoral blocs of parties.
• Put an end to impunity for human rights violations in Chechnya and broader in the Northern Caucasus and bring the perpetrators to accountability without regard for their official rank; provide possibilities for return to peaceful life for the rebels through conducting an amnesty under control of an especially created independent commission; launch a real political process in Chechnya with the involvement of all political forces.
• Amend the law on foreign citizens to legalize former residents of the USSR who were residing in the territory of Russia on the date when the said law came into force; provide access to the identification of status procedure to all asylum seekers; develop and reinforce the system of asylum giving priority to victims of political persecutions and discrimination.
• Develop anti-discrimination legislation in collaboration with experts from human rights NGOs; ratify the anti-discrimination international documents, including 12th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
• Bring the anti-terrorist and anti-extremist legislation in line with Russia's relevant international human rights obligations; review court rulings made on "Islamic extremism" cases on the basis of the existing laws;
• Abandon the idea and the practice of broadening and toughening the anti-extremist legislation; stop using the anti-extremist legislation to pursue other agendas, particularly against civil society activists and independent media.
• Create independently-run public television and support socially oriented journalism through special programs.
• Review the legislation on non-governmental organizations to eliminate recently adopted repressive provisions allowing discretion by public officials in its implementations; respect and guarantee the freedoms of association and expression, including, in particular, the right of human rights defenders to work without hindrance, in accordance with the 1998 U.N. Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

Furthermore, we would like to stress the role of the international community with regards to the status of human rights and democratic transit in Russia. We cannot but state with regret that international mechanism of human rights protection do not work with necessary effectiveness as far as Russia is concerned, and the reaction of democratic nations to the human rights crisis in Russia has been, to say the least, far from adequate.

In the recent years, the work of the UN Human Rights Commission brought little result, and the newly formed Human Rights Council still has to prove itself. The Russian Federation takes practically no account of the resolutions by the UN treaty bodies. Similarly, Russia tends to neglects the resolutions by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which primarily concern the situation in the Chechen Republic and the broader region of the Northern Caucasus. The human rights consultations between Russia and the EU take place behind closed doors. Public critique of Russia's detrimental policies in the sphere of human rights by democratic governments becomes an exception.

In fact, the only effective international human rights mechanism that we can now speak of is the European Court of Human Rights. But its judgments are implemented by Russia only in connection to the individual measures (financial compensations to the victims) but not the general measures aimed at bringing national legal and law-enforcement system in line with the European Convention.

We often hear from representatives of democratic states that it is necessary to maintain dialogue with Russia and avoid Russia's isolation. We certainly agree that dialogue with Russia is indispensable. However, it must be conducted more firmly, and its tone must be adequate to that of the Russian counterparts. Referring to the lack of leverage with Russia, particularly in light of the international "war on terror" and energy cooperation, the community of democratic states allows for a profanation of the dialogue as well as a profanation of the international law. Thus the very mechanisms that could work effectively are being discredited.

To stress, this does not mean that Russia should be threatened with sanctions on the level of its exclusion from the community of developed democratic states. We are convinced that Russia's very membership in the "elite club" of developed democratic states represents a point of leverage and can be effectively used to make impact on the human rights situation in the country. At the accession to the "club", the Russian Federation pledged to follow its set of rules, based on the values and principles of human rights and democracy. And today, Russia's partners within the G8 must remind Russia that its status in this elite community directly depends on its commitment to its obligations.

Hence, we call the leaders of the G8 to discuss the situation with human rights in Russia at the St Petersburg Summit and take into account the recommendations made by the human rights defenders to the Russian leadership.