17 March 2015
The Human Rights Committee today completed its consideration of the seventh periodic report of Russia on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The report was presented by the Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation Georgy Matyushkin, who said that Russia continued to strengthen mechanisms to protect human rights by seeking to involve civil society at all levels. He spoke about large-scale reform of the prison system and said Russia was pursuing a more humane approach to criminal and legal policy, and alternatives to deprivation of liberty. Summarizing legislative developments he noted that a new law which took effect this month meant that people with mental illness were no longer deprived of their ability to act, except by court order. Guarantees, related in particular to the inviolability of private life were made to the citizens under the new provisions of the Civil Code. Mr Matyushkin stressed that the number of cases before the European Court of Human Rights concerning Russia had declined considerably in recent years, from 40,000 complaints in 2011 to 10,000 today.
In the interactive dialogue a Committee Expert noted that Russia’s predecessor, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was among the first parties to ratify the Covenant and it was shortly after the creation of the Russian Federation that the State party ratified the first Optional Protocol, in 1973. It was one of only two permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to do so, which was a very commendable fact. Experts raised a number of concerns, which included protection from discrimination for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and widespread institutionalization of children with disabilities, and the situation of illegal drug users in Russia, as well as anti-opiate policies in Crimea which had caused an interruption of substitution therapy for 800 drug addicts, resulting in the deaths of at least 10 per cent of them.
Experts asked about the use of torture and ill-treatment, including allegations that the people who confessed the murder of Boris Nemtsov were allegedly tortured. Other issues raised included enforced disappearances in Chechnya, harassment of human rights defenders and alleged rights violations in the North Caucasus following the military operations between Russia and Georgia in 2008. In Crimea, Experts asked about allegations of harassment against the media, the legal status of inhabitants of Crimea and provisions for the Ukrainian-speaking minority. The practice of hazing in the military, freedom of expression and assembly, the situation of Roma, and the fight against extremism, including neo-Nazi groups, were also discussed.
Fabián Omar Salvioli, Chairperson of the Committee, thanked the delegation for their thorough responses, but said the issues of torture, enforced disappearance and the freedom of expression would require further discussion.
Mr. Matyushkin, in concluding remarks thanked the Committee for the interactive dialogue and assured it that Russia would continue to work on the implementation of all human rights, including those enumerated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The large Russian delegation included representatives of the Russian Ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Crimean Affairs, Justice, Business, Labour and Social Protection, Defence, Health, Education, and Science and Culture. The delegation also included representatives of the Federal Prison Service, the Central Election Commission, the Federal Migration Service, the Office of the Attorney General and the Supreme Court.
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 3 p.m. today when it starts its review of the second periodic report of Cambodia (CCPR/C/KHM/2
), to be concluded tomorrow morning. Report
The seventh periodic report of the Russian Federation is available here: CCPR/C/RUS/7
Presentation of the Report
GEORGY MATYUSHKIN, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation
, presenting the report, recalled that Russia’s seventh periodic report was submitted to the Committee in November 2012 and was followed in December by responses to the list of questions sent by the Committee. Today there were more than 70 political parties in Russia, and it continued to strengthen mechanisms to protect human rights at the national level by trying to involve civil society at all levels. Mr. Matyushkin highlighted legislative developments, and noted that an information portal had been established which published draft laws for open discussion to encourage civil society participation in analysing proposed new legislation. Russia continued to strengthen national human rights mechanisms and to provide the opportunity for broader civil society participation through them. An Ombudsman and a national human rights institution were being developed at the federal and regional levels, and a council representing non-governmental organisations had also been established.
The Russian authorities are pursuing large-scale reform of the prison system, said Mr. Matyushkin, who emphasized that Russia was pursuing a more humane approach to criminal and legal policy, as well as the promotion of alternative sanctions to deprivation of liberty. There were less people being held in pre-trial custody than ever before and sentencing for lesser crimes had been reduced. There were new civilian oversight mechanisms for custodial facilities and a 2015 reform would provide a more comprehensive list of facilities that could be inspected, including facilities for foreigners subject to deportation orders. The Deputy Minister of Justice indicated that people with mental illness were no longer deprived of their ability to act except by court order, thanks to a new law that came into force this month.
Individuals could sue for damage from unlawful actions by a State official or body under the Civil Code, which also provided guarantees for the protection for intangible assets, such as an individual’s name, private and family secrets. Mr Matyushkin recalled that in 2013 the Supreme Court adopted a provision allowing a better application of the European Convention on Human Rights and its associated protocols. Over the past four years there had been a significant decrease in the number of cases concerning Russia before the European Court of Human Rights, from 40,000 complaints in 2011 to 10,000 today, he stressed. That success was partly due to Russia’s implementation of the provisions of the Convention into domestic legislation, as well as the identification of structural gaps.
Questions by the Experts
Commencing the interactive dialogue a Committee Expert said the predecessor of Russia, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was among the first parties to ratify the Covenant, and it was shortly after the creation of the Russian Federation that the State party ratified the first Optional Protocol, in 1973. It was one of only two permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to do so, which was a very commendable fact.
An Expert acknowledged that Russia had adopted new anti-discrimination legislation and also ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He asked about specific legal provisions to protect members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
community from discrimination, and asked if the Criminal Code provisions on hate crimes also cover hatred or enmity of a social group. Some prosecutors had said that they did not regard lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons as a social group. Only in a small percentage of cases where complaints of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons had been filed had prosecutions been initiated. Did the State consider hate crime against sexual minorities a problem, asked the Expert. He referred to a case of a teacher being dismissed from her job in a school because she had been seen kissing another woman, and asked how Russian law analysed the termination of employment due to sexual orientation.
Certain sexual orientations
, including transgender, bi-sexual, asexual and cross-dressing, had recently been classified by the Government as “personality disorders said an Expert, asking what steps were being taken to promote tolerance. She asked whether the law on propaganda, adopted in June 2013, was used to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, and what education school children received on the subject.
An Expert raised discrimination against children with disabilities
, citing a non-governmental organization report which stated that 30 per cent of Russian children with disabilities lived in orphanages. She also asked about the Dima Yakovlev Federal Act of 2012 which prohibited the adoption of Russian children by couples living in the United States, which had increased the number of children with disabilities who were institutionalized. She also asked if there was any truth in media reports that forced sterilization and forced abortion were practiced on women with certain mental disabilities.
Regarding the treatment of drug-addicts
and in particular those who encountered the criminal justice system, an Expert appreciated Russia’s frank response regarding opium substitutes. He noted the 2013 position set out by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture that the denial of methadone treatment in custodial settings was a violation of the right to be free from torture and ill-treatment. He also asked about reports that the introduction of anti-opium policies in Crimea had led to a 10 per cent increase in the mortality rate from suicide.
What practical steps were being taken to combat the social exclusion and discrimination of Roma people
, and in particular their access to housing, quality education, health care, and employment. There was concern about the early dropout rate of Roma children from school due to the fact that they did not speak enough Russian. On the subject of housing, an Expert asked how the problem of forced eviction, which left Roma people without alternative housing, was addressed. The report stated that Roma people were unable to obtain personal documents, such as birth certificates, internal passports and residency registration, because they did not meet statutory requirements, said an Expert, asking for more information. Racial profiling by law enforcement officers
was addressed by an Expert who said the Committee had received reports that Roma people and persons from the Caucuses, Central Asia and Africa were disproportionally subject to identity checks, harassment arrests, detention, physical violence and verbal abuse. Central Asians were 20 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police. In a village in Dagestan security forces had reportedly rounded up hundreds of people to conduct identity checks, and forced them to leave.
Regarding women in public life
the Committee asked what proportion of members of the Duma, Federal Council and other decision-making bodies were women, whether there was a wage gap between men and women, and in general what was being done to eradicate patriarchal attitudes.
There were a high number of domestic violence
cases and it appeared that officials did not take the matter seriously, said an Expert, asking for a progress report on the draft law on the prevention of domestic violence. The Expert also asked for statistics on honour crimes and bride kidnapping
was raised by an Expert who said the Committee had heard allegations that medical officials and doctors had refused to practice abortion on grounds of conscience and were promoting “traditional values”.
Regarding hazing practices in the military
an Expert said the Committee had been informed that number of incidences had decreased by 20 per cent from 2013 to 2014 but those were relative figures. Was human rights awareness part of military training, and did non-governmental organizations play any part in the investigations of the alleged deaths of 38 soldiers in 2014? The delegation was also asked about the application of corporal punishment, which was illegal, in such cases.
Statistics showed that racist crimes
were on the rise in Russia, said an Expert, asking whether the State intended to include elements of nationality and language as hate crimes. She also asked what was being done to prevent the proliferation of neo-Nazi organisations
, noting the detailed explanations provided by Russia on actions to criminalize, ban and restrict such groups. Several politicians had been found to use racist discourse and discriminatory rhetoric in their speeches, particularly in municipal elections. Counter-terrorism
measures were also enquired about.
An Expert asked about the human rights situation in the North Caucasus
, in particular enforced disappearance and bride kidnapping. He also asked about allegations of 15 cases of houses belonging to relatives of members of the armed forces being burned.
Turning to the death penalty, an Expert commended Russia for its affirmation of the moratorium and its move towards abolition. She asked whether the moratorium meant that legislation was no longer necessary to remove the death penalty from the law. An Expert said a substantial number of cases of deaths in detention were cited as death from “other causes”, and asked what they were.
The use of torture and ill-treatment seemed to be a problem, said an Expert, asking about the authority of the Investigative Committee which dealt with complaints of torture. The Committee had heard allegations that the persons alleged to have confessed to the killing of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov had been tortured. He also asked about the legal definition of torture.
An Expert raised the provision of non-refoulement and asked what measures were in place to ensure that foreigners due to be deported had access to legal advice and could claim asylum.
The condition of Nadia Sauchenko, a Ukrainian Army Officer who was in detention in Russia, was enquired about by an Expert. Ms. Sauchenko had been accused of charges of complicity and forcibly brought to Russia from Ukraine. She was currently on hunger strike. A key witness who had testified against her claimed that he had done so as a result of torture and threats to his life. Could the delegation comment on those allegations?
An Expert asked about the scope of restrictions on the legislation on freedom of expression and asked what justified prosecutions and convictions against members of the punk-rock group Pussy Riot for hooliganism motivated by racial hatred.
Response by the Delegation
In response to the question about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and their protection from discrimination, a delegate said that all citizens in Russia, regardless of their sexual orientation, had equal rights and responsibilities. There were no discriminatory provisions in Russian legislation, and homosexuality was not persecuted under the Penal Code. In its 2012 decision the Constitutional Court stated that the propaganda of homosexuality amongst minors was not desirable, as it constituted an activity which was uncontrolled and could constitute harm to the moral and physical development of youth, including by inflicting a skewed view of non-traditional relationships. That decision did not constitute interference in individual life, including self-determination of a person’s sexual identity.
Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community had the right to discuss their rights and legitimate interests and to take relevant action in that context, by using all legal means to express their views and organise events. Regarding sex education, a delegate explained that it was taught in high school but in general the discussion of that particular topic was left for families.
Concerning the issue of mental disabilities and their classification, a delegate specified that the classification did not state that a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender person was mentally ill. If a person sought medical assistance from a psychiatrist out of his own free will, then it is possible that a diagnosis and treatment would be provided.
Abortion was not prohibited in Russia. Abortions were carried out exclusively with the informed and voluntary consent of the woman involved. Given its demographics Russia had made considerable efforts to reduce the abortion rate and improve birth rates, and at the same time to improve the material conditions of families. Any woman who requested an abortion was asked to take one week to reflect upon her decision, and may receive psychological assistance. If her decision was based upon material concerns, and her material situation was improved, then the woman may decide not to go ahead with an abortion, commented the delegate. It was true that a doctor could refuse to provide an abortion on ethical or moral grounds, and in such cases the chief of the medical establishment must find another doctor to provide the abortion.
Regarding methadone-substitution therapy, a delegate said Russia for many years had consistently defended the position that drug abuse could be treated without any substitute medication. Methadone substitution was prohibited and methadone was number one on lists of prohibited substances. However, there was assistance for drug users which was financed by regional administrations. Rather than medical therapy they were offered psychological therapy and social rehabilitation. In 2013 number of patients who were removed from monitoring for drug abuse was 7,000, which represented 40 per cent of the number of persons under observation for drug abuse, which showed the Russian model was effective. The delegation rejected the claim that a large number of people previously subjected to substitution therapy with methadone had died following the entry of Crimea into the Russian Federation. In fact, in 2014, only seven people who were previously receiving methadone had died in the Crimea, compared to 16 deaths in 2013.
Answering the question about the suicide rate of drug addicts in Crimea, a delegate said the data the Committee had did not reflect reality and again emphasized that in 2014 of all those who previously received methadone substitution therapy, only seven had died. Those fatalities were not related to intoxication or suicide, but were due to secondary diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV AIDS. The delegate noted that many patients identified in Crimea had not been given any psychosocial or social support nor been assessed for the last five years. Only four per cent of persons receiving methadone substitution therapy had moved to Ukraine in order to continue receiving the treatment.
The use of torture or violence against detainees was prohibited, and any evidence derived through the use of torture was not admissible in court. The law guaranteed the rights of persons against whom illegal investigation methods may have been used. Any complaints of the use of cruel treatment were carefully investigated, under the supervision of the Prosecutor’s Office, as well as the European Court of Human Rights. Regarding the prohibition of torture, a delegate noted that the Attorney General had informed the regional prosecution of a number of Council of Europe decisions, and noted that statistics showed that the number of officials prosecuted for using torture had declined.
Regarding the expert interpretation of the Dima Yakovlev law on international adoption, a delegate emphasized that the prohibition of the adoption of Russian children by citizens of the United States came about because the United States authorities were not competent to carry out appropriate monitoring of adoptive children in their new families. The delegate spoke about the cases of 26 children placed with adoptive families via adoption websites who were then abused by paedophile rings and used for internet pornography. The conclusion drawn was that the tragic fate of some adopted children in the United States was due to systematic failures that needed to be addressed by that country. Russia and the United States were engaged in a dialogue on the matter but so far no tangible headway had been made.
There were 250,000 Roma people living in dozens of autonomous regions of Russia, at all levels of society, said a delegate. She described the 2014 Action Plan for Social and Economic Development of Roma, which contained methodological recommendations, the implementation of which were mandatory throughout Russia.
Regarding documentation, a delegate noted that 65,000 Roma people had recently received Russian passports and many others were having their legal status elucidated and were likely to receive citizenship. Regarding the use of language, the last census indicated that 277 languages were in use in Russia, including Roma. He outlined measures to support Roma children in school, such as primary-level reading books and curricula. He also noted that Russia had joined that Council of Europe Roma Project and was receiving training for mediators. Efforts had been taken to raise awareness about the Roma.
Answering the questions on gender equality, an Expert said the composition of many major decision-making bodies was almost equally men and women, which pointed to a lack of gender discrimination in Russia. The trend showed an increase in women holding senior positions. In terms of equal work for equal pay, the Labour Inspectorate carried out checks and monitoring to ensure there was no pay discrimination in the workplace. Certain differences in statistical data on the gender gap could be explained by fact that women often had to interrupt their careers to give birth and raise children, commented a delegate, but once their children reached a certain age women tended to make up the difference.
Regarding measures to combat patriarchal attitudes and practices, particularly in north Caucuses, a delegate said that bride kidnapping was no longer widespread but was rather a tradition carried out with full agreement of the bride. Any kidnapping carried out against the will of the woman concerned was legislatively considered a genuine kidnapping and the perpetrator would be brought to justice.
There had been large scale reforms to the armed forces, in particular to reduce the length of compulsory military service from two to one year. The problem of hazing in the armed forces was examined under various procedures a decade ago, and had been highlighted by stakeholders including soldiers’ mothers, non-governmental organizations, human rights organizations and the media. Serving military professionals were separated from conscripts, and that had helped overcome the scourge of hazing.
With regard to the expulsion of foreigners, a delegate said the procedures for the expulsion of aliens involved the Russian authorities contacting the consulates of the countries of origin of the person to be evicted. When a person applied for asylum, deportation proceedings against him or her were suspended until a decision was made. In 2014 a large number of immigrants from neighbouring countries entered the Russian territory, mainly looking for employment. In that context the delegate noted that some 132 officials were prosecuted last year for seeking to obtain bribes from immigrants, in comparison to 238 officials the previous year. Concerning racial profiling by law enforcement agencies of certain ethnic groups, a delegate said there had been a reduction in the number of personal checks.
The fight against extremism was carried out by the general law enforcement bodies, said a delegate. The website of the Ministry of Justice contained a list of associations that have been dissolved because they were engaged in activities contrary to the law, she said. People who have been convicted of extremist activities are not allowed to be members of an association, she said. As for the number of crimes recorded in Russia under Article 105 of the Penal Code, which dealt with hate crimes, the delegation noted that in recent years the annual figure was between three and 19. For example, there were 18 murders classified as hate crimes committed in 2011, six in 2012, three in 2013 and 12 in 2014.
The mortality rates in the penitentiary system had decreased, said a delegate, with a 1.4 per cent decrease in 2014 compared to 2013, and the progress was due to preventative methods. The main causes of mortality in the penitentiary system were injury, suicide and murder. On average there was one death by injury per year. In 2013 there were 125 suicides recorded, and 118 recorded in 2014. There were 14 killings recorded in 2014. Systematic investigations and precautionary measures were undertaken for every case.
A delegate responded to the question about medical services provided to former Ukrainian army officer Nadiya Savchenko who was on hunger strike in Russia. Ms. Savchenko was arrested for illegally crossing the Russia border, and on suspicion of killing a Russian journalist. He said her hunger strike began last year while she was being held in a penitentiary centre in Moscow. She was subsequently transferred to a medical treatment facility under the penitentiary centre in Moscow and was being observed. The facility provided the necessary support and appropriate treatment in accordance with Article 3 of the Covenant. In March Ms. Savchenko met with doctors from Germany who stated that her life or health was not threatened and there was no need to transfer her to a hospital.
Regarding gender equality and protection of domestic violence, a draft law was being prepared to combat domestic violence against women and children. In the past five years violence had increased by 20 per cent, and thus the subject was very much in the spotlight. There were over 42,000 victims recorded in 2014, more than half of which were women, and the rest were children.
In follow-up questions Committee Experts asked the delegation questions regarding the implementation of the Covenant and the law prohibiting the use of propaganda. The Committee welcomed investigations into certain military operations in the North Caucuses and asked whether similar investigations were planned in respect to alleged human rights violations committed during the 2008 conflict with Georgia.
Experts asked the delegation if it could demonstrate necessity and proportionality of safeguards to freedom of expression, about if it could explain the open-ended terms with regard to the law on treason and the law imposing penalties for the crime of insulting religious feelings. What constituted an “activity against the security of the Russian Federation” and what constituted “public acts”, asked an Expert.
The delegation was asked to justify the prosecution, conviction and prison sentence of members of the Pussy Riot punk band for hooliganism, and about allegations that amendments to the law on information had been made to block certain websites, for example news websites such as grani.ru and kasparov.ru and a blog written by opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The delegation was asked about investigations into the summary executions of journalists and human rights defenders, specifically the cases of Anna Politkovskaya, killed in 2006, and Natalia Estimirova, killed in 2009. What sentence had the person responsible for the killing of Sergei Nazarov received?
An Expert asked about measures to prevent harassment of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by chronic activists. He also asked the delegation to clarify the law on public assemblies, enquiring what the nature of acts by protesters were that justified prison sentences of up to four years, and pre-trial detention of up to one year. In particular, the delegation was asked to comment on the demonstration organised by the opposition on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow in 2012, and the post-Sochi protests in 2014 against the military intervention in Ukraine.
Regarding the human rights situation in Crimea, an Expert asked about alleged cases of abduction and enforced disappearance of Leonid Korzh, Timur Shaimardanov and Seiran Zinedinov and the lack of progress in investigating the case of the Crimean Tatar Reshat Ametov. The Delegation was asked to provide information about the Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov who was arrested in Crimea in 2014, and who was a vocal opponent of the annexation of Crimea. There had been reports that he had been illegally detained and tortured, and denied information.
Concerning Crimea, the delegation was asked to comment on reports of arbitrary detentions, violence and ill-treatment of journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents, harassment of people who had not applied for Russian citizenship, intimidation and harassment of religious communities, and ongoing discrimination towards members of minorities and indigenous peoples. The delegation was also asked for information about the forced shutdown of the regional TV station ‘Black Sea TV’ and about the Crimean Tatar TV channel ATR, as well as the shutdown of local websites. Were defence forces engaged in quasi-police functions had they been implicated in any cases of human rights violations? An Expert also asked about the process of renouncing Ukrainian citizenship and claiming Russian citizenship.
With regard to reform of the prison system, the delegation was asked for more information on plans to sanction detainees with compulsory work as an alternative to detention. The delegation was also asked about the appointment of judges and disciplinary actions for judges, as well as the low acquittal rate. The independence of the Office of the Prosecutor, the non-random selection of juries and the protection of defence laws were also discussed. The Committee also asked for information about the killings of 61 people who were being held in the detention system, and what had happened to the perpetrators. Did Russia plan to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and the Convention on Enforced Disappearances?
The definition of ‘political activity’ was somewhat controversial, said an Expert, asking if it was used to restrict the activities of non-governmental organisations when they were not really engaged in political activity. How was the term ‘undesirable’ construed in the context of the draft law on ‘undesirable organisations’, she asked.
With regard to Chechnya, but also other regions under control of the State party, the delegation was asked to provide details on a database of people who had disappeared and specifically on how bodies were identified and how families were included in the process. What legal grounds underpinned the destruction of houses in Chechnya, asked an Expert. An Expert questioned Russia’s responsibility with regard to the human rights situation in the Donbass region, because of its considerable influence on the authorities of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Ukraine.
Response by the Delegation
The Public Civilian Oversight Commission had been in place since 2008 and operated in 88 constituencies with 114 representatives. In 2014 it conducted 3,064 visits to prisons, which was an increase compared to previous years. The Committee was allowed to freely visit penitentiaries freely, and only had to give notification of its visits 10 minutes in advance, when possible.
The Public Civilian Oversight Commission had visited Zaur Dadayev, who was accused of the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. Mr. Dadayev had not lodged any complaint with the Investigative Committee, and was enjoying all of his rights, including the access to defence. He had been granted the opportunity to meet with the Public Civilian Oversight Commission and its leader, noted the delegate.
Responding to a series of specific cases raised by Committee Experts, delegates said the perpetrators of the killing of Sergei Nazarov, in Tatarstan, were convicted and sentenced. The defence lawyer of the accused was now appealing his conviction. The perpetrator of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya had been arrested, noted a delegate, while the perpetrator of the murder of Natalia Estimirova had been identified but not yet arrested. The investigation into the killing of the Deputy Editor of the Novoe Delo newspaper, Akhmednabi Akhmednabiev, continued. The cases of Dzhevdet Islamov, Timur Shaimardanov and Seiran Zinedinov were being treated as disappearance cases and were being investigated.
In response to questions about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, the delegation stated that they had the same rights and obligations as any other citizens of Russia, including the right to freedom of assembly. For example, there had been five public events organized by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in St. Petersburg between July 2013 and May 2014, including one on public awareness. Throughout 2014 many cities had seen ‘flash parades’, including Ekaterinburg, Nakhodka, Perm, Arkhangelsk, Moscow, and several other cities. A recent protest in St Petersburg featured 18 members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and 70 people who were against that community, as well as media representatives. The police had intervened to uphold the public order and to protect the members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
To date 220,000 non-governmental organisations had registered with the Government, of which 40,000 received foreign funding. Russia did not aim to curtail the activities of non-governmental organisations but rather sought to provide transparency about those that received foreign funding and were politically active. Furthermore, more than two billion Russian rubles had been earmarked as funding for non-governmental organisations that were human rights defenders, including some well-known international human rights groups. Investigative committees had been established to look into the cases of certain human rights defenders in the Caucuses.
The Russian Federation considered Donbass to be part of Ukraine and therefore it was strange to be questioned about it, said the delegation. Russia was in favour of the peace process launched by France, Russia, Germany and Ukraine, known as the Minsk Agreements, and hoped that would not be questioned because of the conflict in Ukraine.
Much work had been carried out since its accession to integrate Crimea into the Russian Federation both economically and politically, said a delegate. The majority of the two million residents in Crimea had now received Russian citizenship. Russia had made provisions for dual citizenship, making it possible for people to receive Russian citizenship without giving up Ukrainian citizenship.
It was true that the Crimean Tatars had been subject to cruel injustice in the past, said the delate, recalling the history of that people and their return to their land. Russia had been taking the necessary steps to complete the process of rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatars and the restitution of their rights. Regarding official languages in Crimea, a delegate explained that the Russian constitution approved three official languages there: Crimean Tatar, Russian and Ukrainian. In Crimea 390 schools taught in Ukrainian, more than 50 schools taught in Russian and Ukrainian, and 50 schools taught entirely in Crimean Tatar, while a further 300 schools offered Crimean Tatar as a language subject.
Regarding the right of association, Russia had created all necessary legal conditions and a simplified procedure for the registration of associations without any cessation of their activities. Almost all associations had re-registered some 30,000 in total.
Answering the question on media in Crimea, a delegate confirmed that all media organizations had been freed from need to pay the State fee for registration, and said the TV station ATR had not been closed, even though it had not yet received a Russian licence. He noted that documents had been confiscated from the archives of ATR in order to investigate certain materials, namely a video of an event on February 26 involving a meeting between Crimean, Russian and Tatar people, where injuries had been inflicted to members of the Russian authority and two people were killed.
Regarding the conflict in South Ossetia, Russia had not been informed that there were any applications regarding violations of citizen rights in the conflict implicating Russian soldiers, said the delegate.
Concerning new laws criminalizing defamation, a delegate explained that to ensure balance between the providers of information and those affected by it, and to ensure public order, the Criminal Code had established a liability for slander, which was fully in keeping with global practice. The law to protect religious freedoms held any person who insulted the feelings of a religious believer liable.
In response to questions about extremist behaviour, a delegate said that the authorities had a good idea of who the aggressors were, including those sanctioning acts committed by the Nazi regime. Acts such as the march of an SS battalion would be unacceptable in Russia. Protections of the freedom of speech did not include the right to call for Nazism said the delegate.
Changes to national legislation regarding information held on the internet and websites were in sync with the constitution, and were being made in order to protect public health and morals. Examples of websites affected included websites that explained how to prepare illegal drugs, promoted terrorism or contained child pornography.
There was a general procedure for the detention of drug users. If the law-enforcement officers were aware of their condition, detainees were helped by medical doctors who gave them special medication to alleviate the consequences of their deprivation of the illegal drug they usually took.
Regarding provision of rights of people under expulsion procedures, Russia had made significant legislative changes allowing individuals to turn to the European Court of Human Rights to establish contact and communications, which provided additional guarantees to persons who might be expelled on illegal grounds.
Medical assistance and access to doctors in penitentiaries was regulated, and any detainee had the opportunity to access medical assistance during daily rounds. They could also turn to any staff member at the prison. Remaining on the subject of reform of the penitentiary system, a delegate highlighted improvements to both legislative and administrative practices, as well as to physical facilities. The total number of people held in custody had reduced by 20 per cent. The minimal threshold for penalties had been reduced for more than 100 offences and Judges consistently had filed judgments that did not deprive the liberty of persons.
Regarding the independence of judges, every constituent entry had a judicial board which covered general, military, and administrative courts, and examined 1,000 cases per year. 24 judges had had their appointment terminated as a result of disciplinary proceedings.
FABIÁN OMAR SALVIOLI, Chairperson of the Committee, said the Committee had a number of ongoing concerns, and the fact that some of its questions referred back to the 2009 dialogue meant more cooperation was needed in terms of follow-up on concluding observations. Torture, enforced disappearance and the freedom of expression were among key issues requiring further discussion. The Committee thanked the distinguished delegation for their thorough responses. The Chairperson noted that the delegation had 48 hours to provide any further answers in writing to questions raised during the dialogue that they had not had time to respond to.
GEORGY MATYUSHKIN, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, in concluding remarks thanked the Committee for the interactive dialogue and assured it that Russia would continue to work on the implementation of all human rights, including those enumerated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
For use of the information media; not an official record