memorandum by Mr Frunda and Mr Gross, co-rapporteurs
Until now, three reports on the honouring of obligations and
commitments by the Russian Federation have been presented by the
Monitoring Committee: an information report in 1998,Note
reports in 2002 and 2005.Note
present report thus covers a period of seven years.
In the meantime, since the last debate in the Assembly in
2005, the committee has discussed five information notes by the
co-rapporteurs and declassified three of them.Note
respective co-rapporteurs have carried out as many as 11 fact-finding
There are several reasons why the requirement to report on
a monitored country at least once every two years has not been respected
in the case of the Russian Federation. The size and the complex
administrative structure of the country may partly justify the longer
period of time necessary for the preparation of a report.Note
parliamentary elections to the State Duma in 2007 and 2011, as well
as the presidential elections in 2008 and 2012, accounted for further
delays. The war between Georgia and Russia in 2008 and its consequences overshadowed
the monitoring procedure in respect of both countries. The Monitoring
Committee has dealt with the conflict in a separate file (see below).
Last but not least, a relatively frequent rotation of co-rapporteurs
in respect of Russia also contributed to the extension of the monitoring
It has to be noted, however, that the lack of a full monitoring
report has partly been compensated for by a number of other reports
relating to various aspects of the honouring of obligations and
commitments by the Russian Federation. In particular, the question
of the human rights situation in the Chechen Republic has been extensively
dealt with in the report presented by the Committee on Legal Affairs
and Human Rights.Note
Furthermore, some outstanding concerns
with regard to the human rights situation have also been the subject of
As regards the war between Georgia and Russia, a series of
reports has been presented to the AssemblyNote
and the question was followed closely
within the Monitoring Committee initially under a separate file
by specifically appointed co-rapporteurs. Furthermore, with reference
to the question of the war, the Assembly has held a number of debates
on the reconsideration of previously ratified credentials of the
Russian delegation on substantial grounds.Note
7 On 27 January 2011, the Monitoring Committee decided that
the consequences of the war, as well as the implementation of Assembly
recommendations and demands made on Georgia and Russia in the relevant resolutions
on this issue, would be followed by the respective co-rapporteurs
for Georgia and Russia in the framework of the ongoing monitoring
procedures for both countries. The co-rapporteurs, under the responsibility
and co-ordination of the Chairperson of the Monitoring Committee,
would present annually a joint information note to the committee,
in which they would outline developments with regard to the conflict
and their findings with regard to the implementation of Assembly
demands, as expressed in its resolutions on this subject. This information
note would be discussed by the committee in a specific sitting in
which it would also be updated, inter
alia, on relevant developments in other international
fora. In addition, the committee would be informed about possible
activities of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced
Persons with regard to the humanitarian situation. In consequence,
the present report does not deal with the question of the conflict.
Both the 2007 and 2011 parliamentary elections and 2008 and
2012 presidential elections were observed by the ad hoc committees
of the Bureau of the Assembly. The respective reports (except for
the 2012 presidential elections, which, at the time of drafting,
had not yet taken place) were presented to the Assembly.Note
9 We were appointed as co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee
in January 2010, in place of Mr Luc van den Brande (Belgium, EPP/CD)
and Mr Theodoros Pangalos (Greece, SOC), who had both left the Assembly.
We visited Moscow in March 2010, Moscow and Murmansk in July 2010,
Moscow and Kazan in January 2011, Moscow in July 2011, and again
Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod in July 2012, and we submitted the information
notes mentioned in paragraph 3 to the Monitoring Committee following
our visits. We were members of the ad hoc committee on the observation
of parliamentary elections in 2011, and presidential election in
2012, and we participated in post-electoral missions to Moscow in
January and March 2012.
Since our first visit, we have structured our dialogue with
the Russian authorities in order to achieve a common understanding
of the priorities in the fulfilment of obligations and commitments,
as set out in Opinion 193
and other relevant resolutions adopted by the Assembly
since then. Our objective was to draw up a list of outstanding concerns
in the form of a road map, and reach a consensus on the measures
which the Russian authorities would undertake to introduce, within
mutually agreed deadlines, in order to remedy the situation.
11 In the meantime, developments in Russia following the parliamentary
elections in December 2011 have created a new political situation.
A broadly engaged civil society has emerged, the existence of which
even surprised the Russians. We believe that this created a specific
moment of crucial importance and opportunity for the future of the
process of democratisation in this country. The reaction of a large
part of the Russian people to the concerns raised by the election
observers showed clearly that there is a general need and expectation
for democratic progress and reforms, and the authorities should
address this issue in an appropriate way. There is a clear need
12 During the first part-session of 2012, on 26 January, the
Assembly held a current affairs debate entitled “The Russian Federation
between two elections”. Many speakers who took part in the debate
expressed concerns with regard to the state of democracy in Russia.
They reiterated Council of Europe standards in the field of democratic
elections, and urged the Russian authorities to comply with the
statutory obligations and commitments entered into upon accession
to the Organisation.
13 We are fully aware of the risks inherent in the preparation
of a report on such a big and diverse country which is undergoing
such important changes. We cannot exclude that our assessment, based
on the situation as it is today, may prove to be completely inadequate
if developments go in an unexpected direction. The structural opportunity
created by the present openness of the system – mass demonstrations
on the one hand and declared readiness by the authorities for reforms
on the other – may either contribute to the improvement of democracy
in Russia, or result in a more restrictive, even repressive, system.
It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, at this precise moment,
to anticipate in which direction the system will evolve.
14 Indeed, the signals which have been recently sent by the Russian
authorities seem to be contradictory. On the one hand, several laws
introduced since December, including amendments to the law on political parties,
changes in the electoral law or the reintroduction of direct elections
of governors, constitute very positive steps and illustrate the
will to liberalise the system and make it more inclusive. On the
other hand, four laws that passed through the State Duma just before
the summer, namely the law on the criminalisation of defamation,
on the Internet, amendments to the law on assemblies (the so-called
“protest law”) and on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (the
so-called “Law on Foreign Agents”), inevitably raise concern. We must
admit that we are not sure how to evaluate the authorities’ intentions
and wonder who can really answer this question.
15 Despite this uncertainty, we decided not to further postpone
the presentation of a report on Russia. It has been a long time
since the last report on this country was debated in the Assembly
and we feel that nothing can justify any further delay. But, more
importantly, we are convinced that the Council of Europe can make
an essential contribution to overcoming the challenges facing Russia
right now. The Assembly should not remain silent; on the contrary,
it should voice its position, engage in an honest and fair analysis
and actively support all those who work in the country for its democratic
and European future. We hope that this report will contribute to
the improvement of democracy in Russia.
A preliminary draft report was discussed and approved by the
Monitoring Committee on 13 March 2012. In accordance with the monitoring
procedure it was transmitted to the Russian authorities for comments.
The present report has been updated and revised, taking into account
the latest developments as well as the comments of the Russian delegation
on the preliminary draft. We also included the conclusions of the
legal expertise by the European Commission for Democracy through
Law (Venice Commission) of five federal laws,Note
by the Monitoring Committee for opinion and received only after
the discussion of the preliminary draft report by the committee.
17 In the preparation of the present report, we also used the
findings and conclusions of the relevant institutions and monitoring
mechanisms attached to the conventions of the Council of Europe
to which the Russian Federation is a party. The work of the following
bodies has been taken into account: the European Court of Human
Rights (“the Court”), the Committee of Ministers in its supervisory
function of the execution of the Court’s judgments, the Council
of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the Congress of Local and Regional
Authorities of the Council of Europe, the Group of States against
Corruption (GRECO), the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of
Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL),
the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), the Advisory Committee
on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).
18 During our visits, we held a wide range of meetings including,
on the one hand, the highest representatives of the legislative,
executive and judicial authorities, at the federal and regional
levels, and, on the other, representatives of national and international
civil society and leaders of the extra-parliamentary opposition.
We used every opportunity to listen to the latter including during
the sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg. The Monitoring
Committee also organised a hearing to which it invited representatives of
major political forces not represented in the Duma and the Mayor
of Yaroslav, who won the election against a candidate of the ruling
It has to be clear that, in our understanding, the mandate
of the co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee covers both the
commitments and obligations of the country under our responsibility,
in accordance with paragraph 5 of the terms of reference of the
Monitoring Committee, as set out in Resolution 1115 (1997)
on the setting up of an Assembly committee on the honouring
of obligations and commitments by member States of the Council of
Europe (Monitoring Committee), and as modified by Resolution 1431 (2005)
20 A table illustrating the state of fulfilment of commitments
undertaken by the Russian Federation upon accession is appended
to the present report.
2 Political situation
2.1 Major political developments
21 The reporting period was marked
by two parliamentary elections to the State Duma and by two presidential
elections. The first parliamentary elections took place in December
2007 and resulted in a comfortable majority being obtained by the
ruling United Russia Party, which won 315 of the 450 seats. Two other
parties, which generally support governmental policies, Just Russia
and the Liberal Democratic Party, obtained 38 and 40 seats respectively.
The opposition Communist Party won 57 seats. The next parliamentary elections
were held on 4 December 2011, and they triggered off the engagement
of the civil society and the political process which we are witnessing
at the moment and which has surprised us all. We will examine these elections
as well as all the surrounding developments in the next chapter.
22 The first of the two presidential elections took place in
March 2008. The successful candidate, Dmitry Medvedev, who won with
about 70% of the vote, was supported by United Russia and the outgoing
President, Vladimir Putin, who himself was not eligible, as the
Russian Constitution does not allow for more than two consecutive
presidential mandates. Still as a candidate, Mr Medvedev announced
that, if elected, he would appoint Mr Putin as prime minister, which
he did on 8 May 2008. The next presidential election was held on
4 March 2012. It was won by Mr Putin with 63.6% of the votes cast.
On 15 May 2012, Mr Medvedev was appointed prime minister as announced
prior to the election.
23 The reference period of this report has been characterised
by a further strengthening of executive power, a process which had
already started in the early 2000s. It was marked by the legislative
changes of 2004, by which direct gubernatorial elections were replaced
by presidential appointments with the consent of the regional assemblies.
In a series of measures taken during the two terms of presidential
office, between 2000 and 2008, government ownership or control of
major media was established.Note
The introduction of
legislative amendments or more restrictive implementation of existing
laws resulted in the creation of an unfavourable environment for
the activities of independent journalists, human rights defenders
and NGO activists. Harassment and even physical violence, including
assassinations of critics of the government and the president, accompanied
by a climate of impunity, largely contributed to limiting political
pluralism. This trend was reinforced by the restrictions imposed
on the activities of the political opposition, including the refusal
to register new parties, limitations on the freedom of assembly,
expression, etc. A detailed analysis of these questions may be found
in the respective chapters of this report.
The change in the presidency in 2008 generated some expectations,
in view of the newly elected president’s call for modernisation
and reforms of Russia’s ineffective political and economic institutions.
At the outset of his presidency, President Medvedev announced his
intention to focus on the four “Is”: innovation, institutions, investment
26 In late 2008, President Medvedev proposed a number of political
changes that were subsequently enacted. These included constitutional
changes extending the presidential term of office to six years and
the term of office of State Duma Deputies to five years.
27 Furthermore, in an effort to increase parliamentary control
over the executive, he proposed that the government be obliged to
present annual reports to the State Duma. He also announced that
a new law permitting regional authorities to dismiss mayors would
28 At the same time, President Medvedev announced a series of
measures aimed at increasing party pluralism, and in particular
giving small political parties more rights, by, for example, reducing
the number of signatures required for a party to participate in
elections, reducing the number of members necessary in order for
parties to register, and abolishing the payment of the bond in lieu
of signatures for participation in elections.
As a further sign of President Medvedev’s intention to broaden
political pluralism, the Federal Assembly approved in April 2009
his proposal whereby political parties that get between 5% and 7%
of the vote in future Duma elections would win one or two seats.Note
these changes will be examined in detail in the chapter on party
In May 2009, President Medvedev submitted legislative amendments
to laws on the Constitutional Court and on a probationary period
for judicial appointments. They were approved but the changes to
the selection of the Chairperson of the Constitutional Court were
widely viewed as democratically regressive and were openly criticised
by two constitutional judges as being indicative of the growing
lack of judicial independence in Russia.Note
31 In August 2009, President Medvedev called for further limiting
of jury trials (he had signed a law at the end of 2008 limiting
jury trials to terrorist or extremist cases) that involve “criminal
communities”, which some legal experts and civil rights advocates
criticised as an effort to further quench acquittals by juries.
32 All these and other changes in the judicial laws will be examined
in the chapter on the judiciary.
33 The failure to punish those guilty of Mr Magnitsky’s death
in prison, as well as the conviction of Mr Mikhail Khodorkovsky,
in December 2010, to six more years, were largely viewed as signs
that the judiciary in Russia remained subject to political pressure
and the influence of the executive. We will come back to these questions
in the relevant chapter.
34 The situation in the North Caucasus region, and in particular
in the Chechen Republic, Ingushetia and Dagestan, continues to raise
serious concern in terms of human rights protection, the functioning
of democratic institutions and respect for the rule of law.
35 The centre of gravity of the insurgency has shifted to Ingushetia
and particularly to Dagestan, but the situation in Chechnya has
not returned to normal either. Even if the Chechen rebel movement
is in serious decline, it still has the capacity to launch individual
terrorist attacks (see below). Whereas undeniable successes in the
sphere of reconstruction have to be noted, a generalised climate
of fear, the human rights situation and the functioning of justice
and democratic institutions continue to give cause for the most
serious concern. In particular, the disappearance of the government’s
opponents and of human rights defenders still remain widely unpunished.
Real respect for human rights and the rule of law as well as a functioning
democracy are the undeniable conditions to overcome terrorism and
prevent violence of any kind.
36 In Ingushetia and Dagestan, a worrying resurgence of violence,
since 2009, has been accompanied by a climate of impunity, in which
assassinations and disappearances of opponents to the government
and independent journalists are not elucidated or prosecuted.
The European Court of Human Rights has condemned the Russian
Federation for serious human rights violations in the region in
over 150 judgments. Those wishing to have more information in this
respect should refer to the report on “Legal remedies for human
rights violations in the North Caucasus region” (Doc. 12276
), presented by Mr Dick Marty on behalf of the Committee
on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, in June 2010.
38 Terrorist attacks in the Russian Federation unfortunately
remain a major concern. Since the last report in 2005, the country
has been shaken by a considerable number of terrific and deadly
39 A series of attacks against civilian targets across the Russian
Federation includes a bomb explosion in a Moscow suburban market
in August 2006 which killed 10 people. In another attack in August
2007, a bomb derailed the Nevsky Express between Moscow and St Petersburg,
injuring 60 people. Two years later, in November 2009, a bomb blast
on the same railway line killed 26 people and injured 100. In August
2007, a bomb on a bus in the city of Togliatti situated in central
Russia, killed eight and injured 50 people. In March 2010, two blasts
struck Moscow metro stations during the rush hour, killing 34 people
and wounding 18. A suicide bomber attack at Moscow’s Demodedovo
airport in January 2010 left 36 people dead and more than 100 injured.
40 Attacks against military targets were even more frequent.
In October 2005, key security points were attacked in Nalchik, the
main city of the Kabardino-Balkaria region. Some 12 civilians and
12 policemen were killed. In February 2006, seven policemen were
killed in a village in the Stavropol region of southern Russia. In
April 2007, a Russian helicopter was shot down in Chechnya, killing
18 people. In August 2009, a suicide bomber drove a truck into the
gates of the main police station in Nazran (the largest city of
Ingushetia), killing 20 people and wounding 138 others. In January
2010, seven policemen were killed and 20 injured in Dagestan, when
a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives at a traffic
41 In June 2009, Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was seriously
injured when a suicide bomber detonated explosives beside his car.
According to General Yevgeni Potapov, Deputy Chief of Staff
of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee, the overall number of
terrorism-related crimes is decreasing. While there were 1 030 such
crimes in 2009, only 779 cases were registered in 2010. A total
of 410 people (119 civilians, 268 military personnel and law enforcement
officers, 13 government officials, 10 public figures) died as result
of 21 terrorist attacks and 14 bombings, which were carried out
by suicide bombers. According to Mr Potapov, as a result of preventive measures,
60 militants surrendered to the police and 93 terrorist acts were
thwarted. Police and interior troops found and destroyed 433 militant
bases and arms caches, seized 454 home-made explosive devices, 1 263 firearms
and more than 2.5 tons of explosives.Note
43 The above list of terrorist attacks on the territory of the
Russian Federation is not exhaustive, but it illustrates well the
scale of the problem and the challenge faced by the Russian authorities.
It also partly explains the support by the traumatised Russian population
for the restrictive measures taken by the government, even if those
measures also result in restrictions on rights and freedoms.
44 The war between Georgia and Russia broke out in August 2008.
As already mentioned, the Assembly has closely followed developments
since the very beginning, under a distinct file. It was specifically
agreed that the present report, like the report on Georgia, would
not deal in detail with the question of the war and its consequences.
These problems are the subject of a separate report, prepared in
co-operation with our colleagues, co-rapporteurs on Georgia.
2.2 Developments since the December
2011 parliamentary elections
45 In September 2011, at the United
Russia Convention, Mr Putin announced that he would be a candidate for
the presidential election and that, if elected, he would appoint
Mr Medvedev prime minister, and that the latter would not stand
as candidate for the presidency. The way the switch of the power
was announced was perceived as humiliating by many Russians and
is considered as one of the reasons for their wide participation in
The parliamentary elections to the State Duma took place on
4 December 2011. In their joint preliminary conclusions, issued
on 5 December 2011,Note
of the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM), including
representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly, pointed to a number
of deficiencies in the electoral process which, in their view, “did
not provide the necessary conditions for fair electoral competition.”
47 Following the publication of the preliminary conclusions,
a number of European political leaders, including the European Union
High Representative, Catherine Ashton, the British Minister of State
responsible for European Issues, David Lidington, and the German
Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, expressed their concern and
called on the Russian authorities to investigate the allegations
of electoral fraud.
48 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her address to the
foreign ministers of the OSCE member States in Vilnius, said: “Russian
voters deserve a full investigation of all credible reports of electoral
fraud and manipulation and we hope in particular that the Russian
authorities will take action.”
49 The exit polls and preliminary results announced on the day
following the election showed that the ruling party, United Russia,
received much less support than in the previous parliamentary elections
of 2007 (a fall from 64% to approximately 49%) but it still remained
the biggest party with a majority of seats in the State Duma. Out
of seven political parties contesting the elections, only four represented
in the outgoing Duma reached the required 7% threshold and thus
gained seats. These were, apart from the already mentioned United
Russia: the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the Liberal
Democratic Party of Russia and Just Russia. The other three contestants
which failed to pass the 7% threshold were the Russian United Democratic
Party “Yabloko”, the Patriots of Russia and Right Cause.
50 In the immediate aftermath of the elections, allegations of
fraud in favour of the ruling party fuelled by mobile phone videos
and accounts on Internet social networking sites resulted in spontaneous
anti-government demonstrations in the streets of Moscow, St Petersburg
and, to a lesser extent, across the country. Protesters called for
the election results to be annulled and for a fresh ballot.
51 These spontaneous demonstrations, held on 5 and 6 December,
involving several thousand people, resulted in more than 1 000 arrests,
mostly in Moscow. Several leading opposition figures were detained.
While some of them, such as Boris Nemtsov, were released after several
hours, others, such as the well-known opposition blogger Alexei
Navalny, or Ilya Yashin, were given fifteen-day jail sentences for
having disobeyed police orders during the unauthorised demonstration.
On 6 December 2011, President Medvedev declared that the elections
had been free and democratic, and at the same time ordered an investigation
into the alleged violations. He said that a total of 117 claims
of alleged vote fraud were filed on election day.Note
The Head of the Central Electoral Commission,
Mr Churov, publicly promised that all complaints, including video
clips, would be carefully examined. He added, however, that the
complaints amounted to much less than 1% of the votes cast, which
meant that they could not affect the results in a meaningful way.
53 On 7 December 2011, the European Union High Representative,
Catherine Ashton, expressed concern about the detention of hundreds
of protesters and about reports of police violence against activists,
journalists and bystanders. She recalled the need to respect freedom
of assembly and expression.
54 On the same day, the President of the European Parliament,
Jerzy Buzek, expressed his concern about “the events following the
election: detention of dozens of protesting opposition activists,
intimidation against the independent watchdog Golos and the cyberattacks
against leading independent news websites”.
55 In our statement as co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee
on Russia, issued on 8 December 2011, we said that: “[t]he right
to peacefully demonstrate is one of the basic rights of people in
any democratic State, and is part of the freedom of expression and
assembly. There is no justification for the arrest and detention
of hundreds of people just because they have gathered to protest
calmly. On the contrary, they have the same right to police protection
as those who express their support for the winning party.” We also
called on the Russian authorities to release all those detained.
56 On 10 December 2011, the Central Electoral Commission (CEC)
announced the final results of the elections. Voter turnout was
60.2%. United Russia had won 238 out of 450 seats in the State Duma
(49.3% of votes cast), the Communist Party 92 seats (19.19%), Just
Russia 64 seats (13.2%), and the Liberal Democrats 56 seats (11.6%).
United Russia has thus lost its constitutional majority but still
holds more than half of the seats. The parties which did not gain
seats were: Yabloko (3.4%), Patriots of Russia (1%) and Right Cause (0.5%).
57 Several registered political parties, namely the Communist
Party, the Right Cause Party and Yabloko, have contested the results.
The Communist Party accused the CEC of flouting procedure in dealing
with complaints about alleged falsifications and declared its mistrust
of the chairperson, calling for his resignation. Yabloko challenged
the results in the entire Moscow district and requested recounts.
58 Russia’s independent election monitoring organisation, Golos,
said it had lodged complaints regarding more than 7 000 cases of
falsification during the polls. Despite the fact that domestic civil
society groups are not allowed by legislation to observe parliamentary
elections, Golos deployed some 2 000 observers on election day,
registered as journalists.
59 This well-known and respected non-governmental organisation,
which has been operating for over a decade, was the subject of hostile
campaigns before and after the elections. On 3 December 2011, following a
request by the Chair of the CEC, the court imposed on the organisation
a 30 000 rouble fine for breaking the law prohibiting the publication
of opinion polls or other studies relating to elections during the
last five days of the campaign. The accusation related to the Golos
website containing a list of alleged violations during the electoral
campaign. The website had been attacked on several occasions and
the members, including the president, had been subject to harassment.
On 2 December 2011, Golos was the subject of a programme on the
State-controlled NTV station, which aimed to discredit the organisation.
60 On 14 December 2011, the European Parliament adopted a resolution
on the outcome of the Duma elections on 4 December 2011, in which
it “expresse[d] its deep concern with regard to reports of fraud”
and called for “new and fair elections to be held after registration
of all opposition parties”.
61 In reaction to international criticism of the elections, Prime
Minister Putin accused western countries of encouraging the protests.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a statement in which
he declared that “comments by the US Secretary of State, Hillary
Clinton, about the Russian parliamentary elections, as well as those
of other representatives of the White House and the US Department
of State, are unacceptable”.
62 In the meantime, the opposition had called for a big rally
on 11 December and submitted a request for authorisation, which
was granted. Thousands of people attended the biggest anti-government
rally in Moscow, on Bolotnaya Square, since the fall of the Soviet
Union. The number of participants ranged from 25 000, according
to the police, to 100 000, according to the organisers. Most other
sources referred to 50 000. Speakers, applauded by the demonstrators,
called for the cancellation of the election results, new elections, the
resignation of the electoral commission chief, Vladimir Churov,
an investigation into the alleged ballot-rigging and the immediate
release of the arrested protesters. The protest was peaceful and
63 In St Petersburg, around 10 000 people gathered on Pionerskaya
Square and listened to speeches calling for a re-run of the election.
Other smaller protests and rallies took place across the country,
including in Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Kurgan, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg.
There were no protest-related arrests in Moscow, but the Interior
Ministry reported 130 arrests at rallies across the country, most
of them in Khabarovsk, in the far east.
64 Another big demonstration, again authorised by the authorities,
took place on 24 December 2011. It was carried out in a peaceful
and orderly manner and no protest-related detentions were reported.
In Moscow, it gathered approximately 80 000 demonstrators.
65 The political composition of both big demonstrations held
in Moscow was politically very diversified and ranged from far left
to far right. According to the survey conducted by the independent
Levada Centre, the overwhelming majority of participants were very
well-educated representatives of the urban middle class, many of
them connected through social networking sites.
66 The country’s political leaders were obviously taken by surprise
by the scale of the protests, but, from mid-December, they started
making it clear that they would address the outstanding concerns
expressed by the protesters. On 15 December 2011, during a live
nationwide television question and answer session, Prime Minister
Putin promised that he would liberalise politics in Russia if elected
president in the forthcoming presidential elections.
67 On 22 December 2011, in a statement to the joint sitting of
the Duma and the Council of Federation, President Medvedev announced
his intention to submit to parliament, before the end of his mandate,
a number of legal acts aimed at the liberalisation of the political
system, in particular with regard to political parties and the procedure
for appointing governors.
68 In the subsequent weeks, President Medvedev submitted to the
State Duma legislative proposals with regard to liberalisation of
the requirements for the formation and activities of political parties,
exemption of registered political parties from collecting voter
signatures at elections except for the presidential election, and elections
of governors. We will take a closer look at these proposals in the
chapter on pluralist democracy.
69 We would only like to point out here that the law on direct
elections of governors, which would replace their appointment by
the president, addresses a long-standing concern of the Parliamentary
Assembly. However, the provision which foresees the “consultation”
of candidatures with the president before they are registered is
problematic and raises concern. We also regretted to hear that,
on 17 January 2012, even after having submitted the draft legislative
act to the Duma, President Medvedev dismissed the governors of Volgograd
and Arkhangelsk, two regions in which United Russia had received
lower than average voting results. The law was signed by President
Putin on 2 May 2012.
70 In order to address some other concerns formulated by observers
and improve the quality of the process on voting day, the prime
minister announced that specific measures would be introduced on
4 March 2012 during the presidential election, including the installation
of webcams and the introduction of transparent ballot boxes.
On 24 December 2011, the Presidential Council on Human Rights
stated that it had lost confidence in the Head of the CEC, Mr Churov,
widely criticised by the election observers and demonstrators for
lack of impartiality.Note
this, Mr Churov announced that he would not resign.
72 The developments following the parliamentary elections shed
new light on the registration of candidates for the presidential
run, which a few months earlier had been considered by many as a
73 Apart from the leaders of two parties represented in the Duma,
who had contested the presidential race in 2008, Mr Gennady Zyuganov
(Communist Party) and Mr Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Liberal and Democratic Party),
seven other candidates submitted documents for registration with
the Central Electoral Commission. Two of them, Mr Eduard Limonov,
radical left leader, and Mr Boris Mironov, connected to the nationalist
movement, were denied registration on formal grounds. The latter
was permitted inclusion in the list of presidential candidates by
a Supreme Court decision, which was widely perceived as an unprecedented case.
74 Among those six candidates, only Mr Sergei Mironov, the leader
of Just Russia, nominated by his party, was exempted, according
to the law, from the requirement to collect two million signatures.
The others, Mr Mikhail Prokhorov, a billionaire who had founded
the Right Cause Party, but left it before the parliamentary elections;
Mr Grigory Yavlinsky, founder of the Yabloko Party, Mr Eduard Limonov,
and Mr Dmitry Mezentsev, Governor of Irkutsk, had twenty days to
collect signatures in at least 50 entities of the Russian Federation.
75 On 27 January 2012, the CEC announced that out of 2 132 000
signatures submitted by Mr Yavlinsky, 25% had been considered invalid
as they were collected on copies of original forms. In consequence,
he was denied final registration. Speaking to journalists the same
day, Mr Yavlinsky insisted that this decision was of a political
nature. On 10 February 2012, the Supreme Court confirmed the CEC's
decision. Mr Prokhorov was the only one whose candidature was confirmed.
76 In their comments on the preliminary draft report, the Russian
authorities referred to the Supreme Court’s justification of the
dismissal of Mr Yavlinsky’s appeal. The court’s interpretation of
the relevant provision of the Federal Law on Elections of the President
of the Russian Federation was that an elector has to undersign and put
down the date of the signature with his or her own hand. They also
have to write some personal data, either in their own hand or, at
their request, by the person who is collecting signatures. This
has to be done on the original signature sheets delivered by the
Central Electoral Commission. As Mr Yavlinsky had delivered copies of
the signature sheets, the court decided that they could not be considered
as signed and dated by the elector’s own hand.
77 However, given the short time available for the collection
of signatures and the vast territory of the country, we maintain
our opinion that this interpretation is far too restrictive and
detrimental to the democratic process.
78 On 4 February 2012, as many as 120 000 people turned out for
the third and the largest mass protest demonstration since the parliamentary
elections. They denounced the forthcoming presidential election
as illegitimate in the light of the lack of genuine political competition.
79 Protests also took place in St Petersburg on the same day,
drawing 5 000 people, and smaller rallies were held in several dozen
other cities across Russia.
80 A separate rally in Moscow in support of Prime Minister Putin
drew no more than 20 000 people. Most of them were teachers, municipal
workers, employees of State-owned companies or trade union activists,
who had come with co-workers on buses provided by their employers.
81 An opposition event called “Big White Circle” gathered over
30 000 people on the Garden Ring Road in Moscow joining hands to
form an unbroken circle around the city centre.
82 As a result of a spontaneous civil initiative, a League of
Citizens was established with the objective of observing the presidential
elections. Many thousands of volunteers intended to observe the
work of the election commissions on 4 March 2012.
83 The presidential election took place on 4 March 2012. There
were five candidates. The final results were announced by the CEC
on 7 March: Mr Putin won in the first round having received 63.6%
of the votes. The other candidates received respectively: Mr Zyuganov:
17.18%; Mr Prokhorov: 7.98%; Mr Zhirinovsky: 6.22% and Mr Mironov:
3.85%. The turnout was announced at 64%.
In their joint statement, issued on 5 March 2012, the members
of the International Election Observation Mission, including the
representatives of the Assembly, stressed that “conditions were
clearly skewed in favour of one of the contestants, current Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin”. In the report on the observation of the presidential
the Assembly observers concluded
that “these elections showed a clear winner with an absolute majority,
avoiding a second round. However, the voter’s choice was limited,
the electoral competition lacked fairness and an impartial referee
85 Following the widespread allegations of fraud during the Duma
elections, webcams were installed in each polling station in order
to ensure greater transparency. In addition, approximately 30% of
polling stations used new, transparent ballot boxes with a smaller
opening in order to prevent ballot box stuffing.
86 The number of volunteers wishing to observe the presidential
election had risen considerably since the December parliamentary
elections as a clear sign of significant civic mobilisation. A significant
number of observers were designated by the League of Voters, a grass-roots
civil society initiative that emerged from the protest movement
after the State Duma elections.
87 As we have already mentioned, the electoral law in the Russian
Federation does not allow for domestic observers other than those
affiliated with candidates and parties which the latter represent.
In order to overcome this obstacle, a number of NGOs approached
different candidates to have their members registered on their behalf.
For example, the League of Voters concluded co-operation agreements
with candidates Prokhorov, Mironov and Zyuganov, as well as with
the Yabloko Party. In the framework of this agreement, a consolidated
database of reports and protocols by observers was created in order
to compare them with results protocols published by the CEC. Another
method used by NGOs in order to obtain accreditations was to appoint
observers as journalists.
Some NGOs, including Golos, complained about the pressure
on them from the authorities because of their election observation
activities throughout the campaign.Note
On election day, numerous cases
of obstruction of observer activities were reported, including denial
of access to or expulsion from polling stations.Note
cases of harassment and violence towards observers were also reported.
89 According to the CEC’s final report, 178 complaints were filed
with the CEC on election day and 168 complaints afterwards. Some
presidential candidates announced that they had evidence of violations
from many polling stations. For example, Mr Prokhorov stated that
his observers had noted 170 cases where results protocols signed
by the electoral commission were different from those announced.
The Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and Mr Mironov’s
party also announced that they would lodge complaints.
90 The post-election period was marked by several large authorised
and unauthorised protests held in Moscow and St Petersburg with
large-scale police presence. On 5 March, a big demonstration was
held on Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow, claiming that the vote was
marred by widespread fraud. Mr Prokhorov, who was one of the speakers,
announced his intention to establish a new liberal political party.
Around 250 protesters who stayed beyond the authorised time for
the demonstration were detained by the police. On the same day,
in St Petersburg, two unsanctioned rallies were held and several
hundred protesters were detained.
91 On 10 March, a demonstration was organised on Novy Arbat in
Moscow to express dissatisfaction with the election.
92 On 20 March, a picket was organised against manipulations
and slander on television channels in front of Ostankino television
centre. Another meeting was held on 17 March on Pushkinskaya Square
in support of political prisoners.
93 The period directly preceding the day of inauguration, which
took place on 7 May 2012, was marked by street violence. On 6 May,
over 50 000 protesters gathered for a “march of millions”. The demonstration
was authorised but as a result of violent clashes between a small
group, who wanted to break the police cordon, and the police on
Bolotnaya Ploshchad, as many as 650 protesters were arrested and
dozens were injured. According to the police, some 20 to 30 police
officers were among those injured. On 9 May, a court sentenced two
opposition leaders, Mr Navalny and Mr Udaltsov, to fifteen days
in prison for disobeying a police order during the demonstration
of 6 May.
The clashes and arrests continued on a smaller scale on the
following days as groups of protesters dodged police in the city
centre. In an unprecedented step, police also snatched dozens of
opposition supporters from cafes and restaurants for the simple
act of wearing a white ribbon, the symbol of the “Fair Election”
movement. Some 120 arrests were made, according to RIA Novosti.Note
A new form of protest, “protest walks”, has developed following
calls from some opposition leaders. The first “walking protest”
took place on 13 May and gathered about 2 000 people, including
well-known writers and singers, in downtown Moscow.Note
96 In the meantime, the new president announced the composition
of the new cabinet, retaining some key figures heavily criticised
in the past. In particular, the appointment of former Interior Minister
Rashid Nurgaliyev, as an undersecretary of the Presidential Security
Council. Mr Nurgaliyev has faced massive public outrage over widespread
cases of allegations of torture and other abuses by police. His
appointment was widely perceived as a sign of disrespect for public
On 5 June 2012, to our great disappointment and despite protests
by the opposition and the international community,Note
Duma adopted a law which considerably increased fines for participation
in unsanctioned protests or for violations during sanctioned ones.
This law allows for a big margin of interpretation and gives the
authorities greater powers to decide on where public protests can
be held and what form they can take. Civil society in Russia claim
that the bill violates Russia’s Constitution on the right to free
98 We particularly regret that the Duma has decided to adopt
this controversial law, in a situation where already the existing
law on assemblies was raising concern as to its compliance with
Council of Europe standards. The Monitoring Committee asked for
the Venice Commission’s opinion on this legislative act, and the
opinion, delivered in March 2012, confirmed our concerns. The newly
adopted law not only does not address these concerns but creates
new ones. In June 2012, the Monitoring Committee asked the Venice Commission
for an opinion on the “protest bill”.
99 On 12 June 2012, a national holiday in Russia, the authorities
sanctioned a second “march of millions”, which gathered around 50 000
Russians of all ages and political movements. Several protest leaders, Mr Navalny,
Mr Yashin and Ms Sobchak, the famous television star, did not attend
because they were summoned for questioning one hour before the protest
began. Another leader, Mr Udaltsov, refused to obey the summons
and turned up at the protest. The day of the demonstration had been
preceded by police raids and searches without warrant in the houses
of several prominent activists.
100 Another worrying law, which is the subject of strong criticism
by national and international NGOs and civil society, is currently
undergoing legislative process in the Duma. The new law on NGOs
aims at stigmatising as “foreign agents” those organisations which
receive foreign funding (almost all human rights NGOs are concerned)
and burdens them with bureaucratic reporting requirements and inspections.
Staff responsible for this reporting may face, in case of failure,
severe fines of up to US$91 000 or three years in prison. We will
deal with this issue in more detail in the relevant chapter.
101 The situation is evolving. We are quite worried by the direction
it is taking right now. We will obviously follow it closely.
3 Economic and social situation
Russia’s economy grew during
the first eight years of the 2000s (2000-08) with the gross domestic product
(GDP) average rate at approximately 7% a year, in contrast to an
average annual decline in GDP of 6.8% during the previous seven
years (1992-98). As a result, Russia moved up from being the 20th
largest economy of the world to the 7th. Nearly all Russia’s foreign
debts were settled and real income per capita rose from US$5 900
in 1998 to US$9 600 in 2005. Investment rose by an average of 12%
The surge in economic growth, linked to the high price of
oil, brought with it a larger degree of economic stability, such
as Russia had not experienced since the collapse of the Soviet Union,
and resulted in an important increase in the living standards enjoyed
by the population. Real wages increased twice as quickly. The percentage
of the population living in poverty fell from 38% in 1998 to 9.5%
in 2004. Unemployment fell to under 7% during this period.Note
104 The growth of the Russian GDP was led mainly by exports of
oil, gas and other natural resources. Russia is the world’s number
two oil producer and number one natural gas producer. Global prices
for oil quintupled between 2002 and 2008.
105 The decline in energy prices and the global economic crisis
of 2008-09 contributed to an 8% drop in Russia’s GDP in 2009. However,
rising world oil prices in 2010-11 bolstered the Russian economy
106 The Russian oil and natural gas industries are important factors
in the global energy market. Russia has by far the largest natural
gas reserves in the world, possessing over 30% of the world’s total.
It is eighth in the world in oil reserves, with at least 10% of
the global total.
Enterprises in the oil and gas industries are either directly
controlled by the Russian Government or are subject to heavy government
influence. There is some fear that European dependence on Russian
energy and Russia’s growing influence in large segments of Europe’s
energy infrastructure pose a long-term threat. The Parliamentary
Assembly raised these concerns in the report on “The peril of using
energy supply as an instrument of political pressure”.Note
108 Concerns about Russian energy policy focus mainly on natural
gas supplies to Europe. While about 80% of Europe’s natural gas
imports from Russia transit via Ukraine, the State-controlled “Gazprom”
halted all gas supplies going by this route for nearly three weeks
as a result of the lack of agreement with Ukraine in 2006 and 2009.
In 2010 and 2011, disputes between Russia and Belarus led to temporary
reductions of oil and natural gas supplies to Belarus and neighbouring
109 These problems led Russia and some European countries to agree
on new pipeline projects: the North Stream, transporting gas from
Russia directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, and the South Stream,
from Russia under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, Austria, Italy and
110 On the other hand, as a result of concerns about the possible
consequences of over dependence on Russia for energy, the Nabucco
pipeline for transporting gas from Azerbaijan and circumventing
Russia is being constructed.
111 The high dependence of the Russian economy on the export of
oil, gas and other natural resources remains a big challenge. Oil
and gas accounted for 61% of Russia’s export earnings in 2005. Manufacturing accounted
for only 8% of Russia’s exports. The surge in oil revenue has produced
a spike in consumer spending, largely satisfied by imports, but
has not stimulated a recovery of the Russian manufacturing industry or
agriculture. A large share of the wealth has been invested abroad
112 The State is a major beneficiary of the oil boom – it has
doubled the ranks of bureaucrats and tripled spending on the military.
It has reasserted its control over key industrial corporations,
especially in the oil sector, leading to the emergence of a new
hybrid form of State oligarchic capitalism. The climate remains difficult
for small business development, with small firms accounting for
only 17% of employment, compared to 60% in the United States. A
downturn in oil prices risks exposing the rather shaky foundations
of Russia’s development model.
113 Some experts argue that this economic boom cannot be sustained
as it is not built on solid grounds, and the present success is
a matter of luck. The Russian economy is also plagued by decrepit
infrastructure – aged pipelines, dilapidated airports, a limited
highway network, contaminated water, an unreformed and underfunded
health care system, an only partially reformed educational system,
energy efficiency one third that of the average OECD country, low
domestic investments, high rates of crime and corruption, capital
flight and unemployment.
114 In order to better understand the present economic situation,
it is necessary to recall that Boris Yeltsin’s radical liberalisation
in 1992 led not to a competitive market economy but to oligarchic
capitalism without the rule of law and with no social effort to
soften the hardship that the transition meant for millions of Russians.
By 2001, it was estimated that the country’s 23 largest firms accounted
for 30% of Russia’s GDP, and they were controlled by 37 individuals.
The rise of the oligarchs coincided with a wave of lawlessness,
contract killings and grotesque displays of wealth, which remained
in sharp contrast to the drastic economic and social situation of
the overwhelming majority of the population. For many Russians,
the 1990s remain a symbol of economic vulnerability and instability,
which unfortunately they often associate with democracy.
115 Following the strengthening of the executive and the establishment
of “vertical power”, President Putin succeeded in subordinating
and controlling the oligarchs.
In September 2009, President Medvedev published an article
entitled “Go Russia!”,Note
which deplored the economic
downturn in Russia and called for increased efforts to boost economic
modernisation. These ideas were developed in his annual state of
the nation address to the Russian Federal Assembly in November 2009.
In a foreign policy speech, in July 2010, President Medvedev argued
that the global economic crisis had brought about a “paradigm shift
in international relations” and called for his diplomats and trade
officials to forge a “modernisation alliance” with western democracies
which would result in foreign investments in Russia, particularly
in the field of technological innovation.
117 In December 2011, Russia was admitted to the World Trade Organization
(WTO), thus completing negotiations opened in 1993. Until that date,
Russia was the only major economy outside the WTO, an organisation
with over 150 members. Among the concerns raised by the WTO, which
contributed to the lengthy negotiations, were Russia’s enforcement
policies and practices, sanitary regulations that might be blocking imports
of agricultural products and large subsidies to the agricultural
118 Despite the support of the United States and the European
Union, Georgia’s veto prevented Russia from joining for a few years.
The recent WTO accession will certainly make investors more comfortable
with Russia’ commitments to international standards in the area
119 Upon accession, the Russian Federation committed itself to
study, with a view to ratification, the Council of Europe’s European
Social Charter. The revised European Social Charter (ETS No. 163)
was signed in 2000, and ratified in 2009. Russia has not accepted
the Additional Protocol providing for a system of Collective Complaints
(ETS No. 158). The first report prepared by the Russian authorities
on the implementation of the Charter in the framework of the Charter’s
monitoring mechanism was submitted on 28 October 2011.
The main social challenge facing Russia is a demographic crisis
of disputed proportions, but severe enough to prompt its leadership
to treat it as a national security threat, not merely as a socio-economic problem.Note
1992, Russia’s population entered a period of negative growth –
the number of deaths exceeded the number of births combined with
the number of immigrants. The fertility rate has declined to among
the world’s lowest, while its abortion rate is the highest.
121 Russia is experiencing unusually high death rates from non-natural
causes, many related to alcoholism. Life expectancy, especially
among working-age males, has dropped precipitously. Growing alcohol consumption
is not the only explanation of increased mortality. Deaths from
violence, injuries, and other non- natural causes have contributed
significantly to this rise. Russia’s rates of homicide and suicide
are among the highest in the world. In addition, deaths from illness
and chronic and degenerative diseases, such as cancer, respiratory
failure, and circulatory and cardiovascular diseases, have increased
sharply, particularly in the context of the inefficient health care
4 External relations
4.1 Relations in the context
122 The legal framework for co-operation
between the European Union and Russia was established by the Partnership
and Co-operation Agreement (PCA), signed in 1994, which entered
into force in 1997 for ten years. It provided for joint structures
(permanent council, working groups) and each party’s own instruments (strategies,
European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument).
The PCA expired in 2007. Without a new agreement, it has been
automatically renewed and it will remain in force until a new agreement
is reached. The negotiations on a new agreement have, however, been
difficult. They were only launched in 2008, as some members had
blocked their opening for over two years.Note
was slowed for a long time by contention over Russia’s bid for membership
of the WTO and was affected by European Union objections to the
presence of Russian troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The new
agreement is not likely to be concluded in the near future.
124 In the meantime, co-operation continued in the framework of
the “Four Common Spaces”, a common strategy created in 2003, and
covering four specific policy areas: economic issues and the environment; freedom,
security and justice; external security including crisis management
and non-proliferation; and research and education including cultural
125 In addition, in 2010, Russia and the European Union launched
a “Partnership for Modernisation”, which is designed to help develop
and diversify the Russian economy, and the two sides have been negotiating
on the possibility of a visa-free travel regime. The following main
priority areas were set out: enhancing and deepening bilateral trade
and economic relations, and promoting small and medium-sized enterprises; expanding
opportunities for investment in key sectors driving growth and innovation;
co-operation in research, promoting alignment of technical regulations
and standards; ensuring effective functioning of the judiciary and strengthening
the fight against corruption.
126 Relations between the European Union and Russia revolve largely
around energy and economic issues. As indicated before, Europe as
a whole depends to a large extent on Russian gas and oil supplies,
which cover approximately 25% of its needs. However, some European
Union member States are almost completely reliant on Russian energy.
This dependence is expected to grow over the next twenty years.
So far, the European Union has failed to develop a common strategic
energy policy and Russia has prioritised bilateral ties with several
European Union member States, with their consent.
On the other hand, Russia is to a great extent dependent on
the European Union, which is its first foreign exchange partner
(while Russia’s import and export amounts to approximately 6.5%
of the European Union’s exports),Note
modernisation would hardly be possible without European technologies
and the market.
128 The European Union and Russia co-operate on a number of key
international and regional issues including the Iranian nuclear
issue, the Middle East peace process, Afghanistan/Pakistan, European
security and the protracted conflicts in Georgia and the Republic
of Moldova, climate change, drug and human trafficking, organised
crime, counter-terrorism, and non-proliferation.
129 In recent years, economic issues have to a great extent eliminated
discussion on values. Since the beginning of the second mandate
of President Putin, the question of Russia’s democratic shortcomings
has been omitted from the Russian-European agenda. The follow-up
given to the consequences of the Russian-Georgian conflict has strengthened
the impression of priority being given by the European Union to
pragmatic interests over principles.
130 The recent reactions of some European leaders and the European
Parliament to the developments following the December 2011 parliamentary
elections leave room for hope that the question of democratic values
will again become an integral part of the political dialogue between
the European Union and Russia.
4.2 Russia and the Soviet successor
States; neighbours and “the near abroad”
131 As one of its accession commitments,
Russia agreed 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’”. In practice, the term “near
abroad” has been commonly used in Russia to refer to the 14 former
132 The understanding behind this commitment was that Russia should
not only denounce as wrong the concept of “near abroad”, but effectively
cease to treat some countries as zones of their special influence
with insufficient regard to their sovereignty and territorial integrity.
133 The Foreign Policy Concept and the National Security Concept
of the Russian Federation, adopted by presidential decrees respectively
in July 2008 and May 2009, include no reference to the concept of
134 However, in an interview given to the three main television
channels (Channel 1, Rossia and NTV) on 31 August 2008, in the wake
of the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent
States, President Medvedev outlined one of the principles guiding
his foreign policy in the following way: “[p]rotecting the lives
and dignity of our citizens, wherever they may be, is an unquestionable
priority for our country. Our foreign policy decisions will be based
on this need. We will also protect the interests of our business
community abroad. It should be clear to all that we will respond
to any aggressive acts committed against us. Finally, as is the
case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged
interests. These regions are home to countries with which we share
special historical relations and are bound together as friends and
good neighbours. We will pay particular attention to our work in
these regions and build friendly ties with these countries, our
close neighbours. These are the principles I will follow in carrying
out our foreign policy.”
135 In an interview with the Euronews television channel on 3
September 2008, President Medvedev reiterated this stand, saying:
“Russia, like any other State, has certain regions it will pay particular
attention to. These are regions of our privileged interests. We
are going to have special, cordial, long-term relations with the States
in these regions.”
136 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a letter published
in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza on
10 September 2008, stated that Russia had a geographical sphere
of “privileged interests” and he called on Poland and the rest of
Europe to recognise that “new reality”. Mr Lavrov stressed that
“[i]n conducting our foreign policy, we invariably observe principles
formulated by President Dmitri Medvedev, including paying particular
attention to regions where Russia has its privileged interests.
… We call on our partners to follow Russia's example and acknowledge
the new realities. We believe that the statements made by some countries' leaders
about Russia's 'imperialist' and 'revisionist' policies are completely
137 The term “privileged interests” is a new concept in the Russian
political discourse. Its precise meaning is unclear and it is not
obvious in which countries and regions these “privileged interests”
are to be found. Presumably, it applies to the former “near abroad”,
the States of the former Soviet Union.
138 This new policy doctrine was announced in the aftermath of
the use of the military force outside its own territory, in order
to achieve the forceful change of borders of another State, Georgia,
and the presidential decree of 26 August 2008, officially recognising
the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Subsequent deployment
of Russian troops in both breakaway regions has been criticised
by the international community, which called on Russia to reverse
these deployments and rescind the recognitions of independence.
This has not been done.
139 Russia continues to voice strong opposition to NATO enlargement
to Georgia and Ukraine. In 2008, the NATO summit in Bucharest had
to accept the position of several key European members and denied
Ukraine and Georgia accession to the Membership Action Plan. The
decision itself was well reasoned, as Ukraine was lacking internal
popular support to join NATO, while Georgia did not have peaceful
borders with all its neighbours. But to many observers, Russia had
been given back the de facto veto
power on further expansion of Euro-Atlantic institutions on the
territory of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
140 Cutting off or reducing energy supplies and, more generally,
economic pressure in relations with Ukraine and Belarus in particular,
but also other former Soviet republics, have been other distinctive
features of Russia’s foreign policy with some countries.
In this context, we would also like to recall the recommendationsNote
of the Venice Commission on
the amendments to the Federal Law on Defence submitted for opinion
by the Monitoring Committee. We urge the Russian authorities to
address the concerns with regard to the provisions concerning the
protection of a State’s citizens on the territory of a third State.
The Venice Commission finds them problematic, as such protection
is mainly the responsibility of this third State. If the latter
is unable to prevent genocide or ethnic cleansing, protection becomes
the responsibility of the international community, on the basis
of the relevant resolution of the United Nations Security Council.
The protection of own nationals cannot be used as a pretext for
military intervention and cannot have as a consequence the stationing
of troops in order to ensure the continued protection of the citizens
142 The Russian delegation points out that neither the Foreign
Policy Concept nor the National Security Concept of the Russian
Federation bears any reference to the concept of “near abroad”.
It considers that this commitment is fulfilled.
4.3 The war between Georgia
We recall here that the Assembly
adopted Resolutions 1633
, 1647 (2009) and 1683 (2009) with regard to the consequences
of the war between Georgia and Russia, presented by the Monitoring
Committee, which dealt with this question as a separate file. The
humanitarian questions are followed by the Committee on Migration,
Refugees and Displaced Persons, which has been at the origin of
We reaffirm all these adopted texts.
144 In relation to the international inquiry into the origins
and course of the war between Georgia and Russia, we refer to the
report of the International Independent Fact-Finding Mission on
the Conflict in Georgia, established by the European Union and led
by Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini. Ms Tagliavini participated in the hearing
organised by the Monitoring Committee in Paris in January 2011 and
she gave an exhaustive account of her findings.
145 We believe that the so-called Tagliavini report is the most
comprehensive and unbiased document on the circumstances and causes
of the war that it was possible to elaborate on the basis of declassified
and voluntarily given information by the parties involved. We invite
all those interested to consult this detailed and voluminous document.
It has to be stressed that both countries concerned have publicly
stated that they agree with most of the findings and conclusions
of the report. We consider that this report and the Assembly’s resolutions
146 We also recall the principled approach taken by the Assembly
that the recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia
by Russia, as well as subsequently by four other States (Nicaragua,
Venezuela, Nauru and Tuvalu), runs counter to international law
and the principle of territorial integrity, as well as the continuing
build-up of Russian military forces in the two breakaway regions.
147 The non-implementation of the above-mentioned resolutions
remains a matter for concern. The outstanding issues addressed to
Russia, including unrestricted access for international organisations, humanitarian
aid and for European Union monitors, as well as credible investigations
into alleged violations of human rights and international law, including
ethnic cleansing, have not been accomplished.
148 Georgia and Russia have held 20 rounds of talks in a bid to
settle differences. The so-called Geneva talks, co-chaired by the
European Union, the United Nations and the OSCE, involve a format
of two working groups and participants from Georgia, Russia and
the United States, as well as from Sukhumi and Tskhinvali. The first
working group is discussing security-related issues, the second
one humanitarian issues and, in particular, the return of refugees
and internally displaced persons (IDPs). They do not seem to be
advancing. The last round was held in June 2012, the next one is
foreseen for 3 October 2012.
149 Together with the rapporteurs on Georgia and the Chair of
the Monitoring Committee, we intend to carry out a fact-finding
visit to Moscow, Tbilisi, Sukhumi and Tskhinvali later this year.
We will present our conclusions in a separate report. We will therefore
not dwell on this subject in the present report.
4.4 Fulfilment of obligations
under the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE)
150 One of the commitments undertaken
by the Russian Federation upon accession concerns the fulfilment of
its obligations under the CFE Treaty signed in 1990. The previous
monitoring report of 2005 stated that “[t]he Russian Federation
is largely fulfilling its obligations under the original CFE Treaty,
which is the subject of its commitment to the Assembly”.
151 Since then, the situation has changed insofar as that on 13
July 2007, President Putin issued a decree intended to suspend Russia’s
observance of its treaty obligations, effective 150 days later,
stating that it was the result of “extraordinary circumstances …
which affect the security of the Russian Federation and require immediate
measures”. The suspension applies to the original CFE treaty, as
well as to the follow-up agreements, and in particular to the adapted
CFE treaty signed at the 1999 summit in Istanbul.
152 The Russian parliamentary delegation to the Parliamentary
Assembly has argued that, according to Article 1.d of the Statute
of the Council of Europe, “[m]atters relating to national defence
do not fall within the scope of the Council of Europe”, and in consequence
they have refused to discuss this question.
4.5 Withdrawal of Russian troops
from the Republic of Moldova
153 Upon accession to the Council
of Europe, Russia committed itself 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
154 Withdrawal of Russian forces from Transnistria has also been
an international obligation by Russia under the agreement on the
adaptation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty signed
by President Boris Yeltsin during the OSCE summit in Istanbul in
November 1999. According to this document, Russia undertook an obligation
to withdraw its forces from Transnistria by the end of 2002. However,
as we have indicated above, Russia suspended its observance of the
treaty in 2007.
155 On 21 June 1995, the agreement of 1994 between Russia and
the Republic of Moldova was submitted by President Yeltsin to the
State Duma for ratification. It was withdrawn by President Putin
on 11 March 2003.
156 Until now, Russia has failed to ratify the agreement of 21
October 1994, and Russian forces remain in the Transnistria region
of the Republic of Moldova against the wishes of the Moldovan Government
and in violation of Russia’s international commitments. Today, Russia
has 1 500 troops on Transnistrian territory. Most patrol jointly
with Moldovan and Transnistrian soldiers and Ukrainian military
observers. The rest stand guard around Soviet-era ammunition depots.
157 Russia also provides economic subsidies to bolster the pro-Russian
separatist regime in Transnistria despite repeated calls from the
European Union and the United States to refrain from doing so.
158 In 2008, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution
urging Russia to “respect its commitments which were taken at the
Istanbul OSCE Summit in 1999 and withdraw its illegal military presence from
the Transdnestrian region of Moldova in the nearest future”.
159 Russian leaders have sought to condition the withdrawal of
their troops on the resolution of Transnistria’s status. The Russian
Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigori Karasin, stated on 20 January 2010
that Russia would continue its peacekeeping mission in Transnistria
as long as it takes to reach a lasting solution to the separation crisis
in the eastern Moldovan region.
160 On a positive note, official normalisation talks, involving
negotiators from Russia, Transnistria, the Republic of Moldova,
Ukraine, the OSCE, and observers from the United States and the
European Union (the so-called 5+2 talks), resumed on 30 November
2011 in Vilnius, after a five-year suspension, then in Dublin on 28-29
February 2012 and in Vienna on 17-18 April 2012. During the latter,
the parties agreed on a number of procedural questions. They also
agreed on the fact that the accords reached by the parties must
define mechanisms for ensuring their implementation. This fits the
framework of the policy of small steps initiated recently.
161 In reference to this commitment, the Russian delegation has
again argued that, being a matter relating to national defence,
it does not fall within the scope of the Council of Europe.
In their comments to the preliminary draft report, the authorities
also referred to the statement by the Ministerial Council of the
OSCE, made during the meeting in Porto in December 2002, which they
called “a consensus” and which, according to them, confirmed the
Russian Federation’s obligation to complete the withdrawal of its
forces “subject to necessary conditions”.Note
4.6 The return of property and
cultural property to other Council of Europe member States
163 Upon accession, Russia committed
itself 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)”. Russia also
accepted 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”.
164 The Federal Law on Cultural Valuables Displaced to the USSR
as a result of World War II and Located on the Territory of the
Russian Federation underwent a very complicated legislative process:
adopted by the Duma in 1998, it was rejected by the Federation Council,
redrafted, adopted, vetoed by the president, sent to the Constitutional
Court. Following two Constitutional Court decisions, it was finally
readopted in 2000 with amendments, and again amended in 2004 and
165 The original law proclaimed all captured foreign cultural
objects, without distinction between art, archives or rare books,
to be military trophies and, as such, the property of the Russian
Federation. Following the Constitutional Court’s decision, the legislators
introduced an amendment stating that the cultural objects in question
are compensation for the losses of cultural treasures by the Soviet
Union during the war. Furthermore, they established an important
exception in order to recognise the right for claiming lost property
by countries, individuals and organisations (including religious
organisations) who themselves were victims of Nazism. The amended
law states that former proprietors falling under these categories
can demand the return of their property.
166 The law also provides a mechanism for creating a database
of all displaced cultural objects on Russian territory. So far,
the Ministry of Culture, responsible for the process, has identified
250 000 objects, 265 000 archive files and about 1.2 million rare
The database is available on the ministry’s websiteNote
people, organisations and governments to identify lost property
and to make claims for restitution under the law.
168 As regards negotiations on the return of archives, including
key documentation of military intelligence and government security
agencies, trade union records, files of Masonic lodges and Jewish
communities, and personal papers of prominent individuals, the bilateral
negotiations between the Russian Federation and the countries concerned
carried out under the terms of 1998 laws as amended have proven
to be much more successful than the return of art.
169 Since the adoption of the law, archives have been returned
to the following countries: Liechtenstein, Great Britain, France,
Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria. Moreover, 103 files of Masonic
records have been returned to Luxembourg, and the Rothschild family
papers to Vienna, as the first instance of a private family arrangement.
170 While most demands from west European countries have been
satisfied, many other captured foreign records, from eastern and
South-Eastern Europe as well as from Germany, still remain in Moscow.
171 Certainly, many countries which were part of the former communist
bloc had received a part of their captured archives during the years
of the Cold War. However, significant quantities of the records
of some of them still remain in Moscow.
172 In particular, negotiations for more general restitution of
Polish archival materials are still pending.
173 The Czech Republic and successor States to the former Yugoslavia
are another example.
174 Greece has been negotiating for over ten years for the return
of the records of the Thessalonica Sephardic Jewish Community, 90%
of whom perished in the Holocaust. The official claim was submitted
in 2008. In their comments to the preliminary draft report, the
authorities informed us that at the end of 2011, they had submitted
to Greece a proposal for an agreement concerning “mutual return
of documents”. So far, they have not received a reply.
In this context, we would like to recall Assembly Resolution 1205 (1999)
on looted Jewish cultural property.
Germany constitutes an exception as no return has been noted.
The return of German records is now prohibited by the 1998 law.Note
In contrast to archives, the return of works of art and rare
books has been much less successful, which can partly be explained
by a more difficult process of identification. For example, estimates
of the number of “trophy” books still remaining in Russia vary from
1.2 million (Russian Ministry of Culture) to 12 million.Note
178 Negotiations concerning the most famous art objects are conducted
in accordance with the 1998 law and some of them have reached a
conclusion. This is the case of the Sarospatac Library, consisting
of 134 volumes, which was returned to Hungary in 2005, and of four
fresco fragments returned to Ukraine in 2009. Another example is
a return of the stained-glass panels to Germany. At the same time,
however, the Romanian treasure (collection of valuable objects sent
by the Romanian Government to Russia for safe keeping during the
First World War) has not been returned and the Russian authorities
have refused to discuss this issue.
179 Furthermore, only about one thousand (out of the millions
captured) of trophy books have been returned since 1999. Among those
remaining in Russia, are 649 papyrus documents in Persian belonging
to the Austrian National Library. On the positive side, we can mention
the transfer of the book collection of Esterhazy Princes to Austria,
currently under way.
180 The Russian delegation considers the commitment on the return
of cultural property as fulfilled, referring to bilateral negotiations
However, one can observe a vehement anti-restitution sentiment
in Russian political circles and in the public at large as illustrated
by the debate in the media.Note
We do not consider this commitment as fulfilled.
5 Functioning of pluralist
5.1 Free and fair elections
182 As we have already indicated,
there have been four important nationwide elections in Russia since
the presentation of the last report in 2005, namely parliamentary
elections to the State Duma in 2007 and 2011, and the presidential
elections in 2008 and in 2012.
The elections to the State Duma held on 2 December 2007 were
considered by the Parliamentary Assembly observers “to a great extent
free in terms of a variety of voting options, but they were definitely
184 In their conclusions, the members of the ad hoc committee
pointed out that the cumulative effect of the amended electoral
legislation had hindered political pluralism in that this legislation
made it more difficult for new and smaller parties to compete effectively.
The prohibitively high 7% threshold for a party to be able to enter
the Duma, and the ban on parties forming electoral blocks, discouraged
the development of new political parties and more pluralistic parliamentary
representation. Political party registration rules were also put
into question. The process of registration of candidates was also
harshly criticised as being excessively bureaucratic and not neutral.
185 The report raised a number of concerns relating to the electoral
campaign and its financing, including the extensive abuse of administrative
resources and the massive State backing of United Russia, unequal access
to the media, the discouraging political environment and even alleged
harassment of the opposition forces. In conclusion, the observers
from the Assembly called on the Russian authorities to address all shortcomings
and deficiencies in time for the next elections.
186 The invitation to observe the elections which the Assembly
received initially limited the number of observers to 30 members.
However, in response to the pre-electoral mission’s request, the
Chairperson of the State Duma, Mr Gryzlov, agreed to increase the
number of Assembly observers to 55.
187 At the same time, the OSCE/ODIHR refused to send a long-term
observation mission because of the conditions set by the Russian
side (for example, reducing the number of observers from 450 to
70 and prohibiting Russian citizens from acting as observers). The
Assembly delegation co-operated closely with the observers from
the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
The presidential election, which took place a few months later,
on 2 March 2008, was also observed by the Parliamentary Assembly.
It concluded that the results of the election “were a reflection
of the will of an electorate whose democratic potential was, unfortunately,
189 The ad hoc committee highlighted that the presidential election,
which had more the character of a plebiscite, repeated most of the
flaws revealed during the Duma elections of December 2007. Regrettably, none
of the concerns formulated at that time had been addressed.
190 Concern was raised about candidate registration procedures,
which were considered to be too complicated and cumbersome, and
not sufficiently inclusive, in particular for independent candidates.
The legislation on campaign funding, abuse of administrative resources,
unequal access to the media – all these deficiencies put into question
the fairness of the election.
191 The observers from the Assembly strongly recommended that
the existing electoral legislation should be revised and modified
in close co-operation with experts from the Venice Commission. Furthermore,
they stressed the need for reforms to ensure independence of the
media, in particular by putting into place a genuinely independent
public broadcasting system that would be free of State influence
and control, and not subject to manipulation by other vested interests.
192 The ad hoc committee was composed of 30 members. It deplored
the absence in the field of its traditional election observation
partners, notably from the OSCE/ODIHR, who found it impossible to
deploy its long-term observation mission due to time constraints
imposed on it by the Russian CEC, as well as due to numerical limitations
in terms of observers. It therefore decided not to participate.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the Nordic Council decided not
to observe either. The European Parliament had not been invited.
193 Following the presidential election, the European Union presidency
issued a declaration regretting that the electoral process did not
allow for truly competitive elections. It found the lack of equal
media access for the opposition candidates of particular concern.
In the light of the above findings, and in the absence of
a full report on the monitoring of Russia, the Monitoring Committee
has systematically included in its annual progress reports a call
on the Russian authorities to address the shortcomings in the electoral
law and to seek legal advice from the Venice Commission.Note
195 We are aware that, in 2009 and 2010, on the initiative of
President Medvedev, the State Duma passed a number of federal laws
amending existing electoral procedures with a view to expanding
political pluralism and the representativeness of those elected.
196 In particular, electoral deposits as the requirement for registration
of electoral associations and candidates for elected office were
abolished. Furthermore, amendments to certain legislative acts of
the Russian Federation provided for the gradual reduction of the
number of voters’ signatures required for registration of candidates
and federal lists of candidates in the election of deputies to the
State Duma and for exemption from such collection of signatures
for political parties whose lists of candidates are entitled to allocation
of seats in State legislative (representative) bodies in not less
than one third of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.
197 As regards the question of the high electoral threshold, the
amendments introduced to the Federal Law on the Election of Deputies
of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation
provided for the granting of seats to the federal lists of candidates
that received less than 7% but not less than 5% of the total vote,
according to the following rule: the federal list which received
between 7% and 6% is allocated two seats in the Duma, and the list
which received less than 6% but not less than 5% is granted one
198 Moreover, in reply to criticism over the excessively high
threshold, the Central Election Commission drew our attention to
Article 82 of the above-mentioned law, which stipulates that allocation
of the seats to the lists which received over 7% of the vote requires
that there are not less than two such lists of candidates and that these
federal lists of candidates together received more than 60% of the
total vote. This means that, theoretically, it may happen that a
party which received even less than 5% of votes can be allocated
199 In regional level elections, under a proportional representation
system, the electoral threshold is set by the regional laws and
may not exceed the figure specified for federal level elections.
The number of electoral lists entering the local parliament may
not be less than two, and the electoral lists entitled to an allocation
of seats must have received together not less than 50% of the total
votes cast (regional legislators may set a higher percentage). According
to the amendments introduced in 2010, if the electoral threshold
set by the law of a constituent entity exceeds 5%, this same law
must provide for granting at least one seat to the lists of candidates
which win not less than 5% of the votes cast.
200 These provisions have been supplemented by an amendment to
the Federal Law on the General Principles of Organisation of State
Legislative and Executive Bodies, which provides that a parliamentary
group may consist of one deputy elected on a list of candidates
entitled to allocation of deputies’ seats which has received only
one seat. Such a deputy is also entitled to benefit from rights
which other political groups enjoy, such as proposing candidates
for posts within the legislative, speaking time and participation
in the work of different bodies.
The Russian authorities have justified the high threshold
by claiming that it was a necessary condition for maintaining a
stable political situation and preventing the fragmentation of parliament.
Before the threshold of 7% was introduced in 2003,Note
the political landscape
in Russia was made up of more than 150 political forces. In their
view, this was all the more important in Russia, where often the
influence of a minority’s views on society is far greater and more
significant than the actual support it receives. They also refer
to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case
of Yumak and Sadak v. Turkey
which rejected the applicant’s complaint against the excessively
high electoral threshold.Note
However, the Parliamentary Assembly’s position (and indeed
ours) in this respect is clear. It has been expressed on several
occasions, in particular in resolutions adopted following its debates
on the state of human rights and democracy in Europe.Note
Therefore, we were satisfied to hear
that the Duma adopted, in October 2011, an amendment to the electoral
law, lowering the threshold back to 5%. Regrettably, this change
was not in force in time for the parliamentary elections in December
2011, and will only enter into force on 1 January 2013. The representative
of President Medvedev in the parliament, Mr Garry Minkh, explained
this “delay” by the need to develop legislation for small parties.Note
203 A number of legislative amendments introduced in 2009 and
2010 apply to local and regional elections.
204 Amendments introduced to the federal law on political parties
and to the federal law on basic guarantees of electoral rights and
the right to participate in a referendum for citizens of the Russian
Federation allowed for the participation of non-governmental organisations
in local government elections. The principal aim of these amendments
was to establish new forms of participation by non-governmental
organisations by allowing them to nominate candidates in municipal
elections in co-operation with political parties, and thus to ensure
their representation in local government and other local government
205 Amendments to the law on voter representation in State legislative
(representative) bodies in the Russian Federation and exemption
from collection of voters’ signatures for political parties whose
lists of candidates have received deputies’ seats in State legislative
(representative) bodies in constituent entities of the Russian Federation,
provide that, in cases where the specified minimum percentage exceeded
5% of the number of votes cast, the law of the constituent entity
of the Russian Federation must provide for the transfer of deputies’
seats to lists of candidates which received less than the specified
minimum percentage, but not less than 5% of the votes cast, and
were not entitled to allocation of deputies’ seats. One deputy’s
seat is transferred to each such list of candidates. If the specified
minimum percentage is 5% or less of the votes cast, this provision
does not apply.
206 In elections to a legislative (representative) State body
in a constituent entity of the Russian Federation, as well as in
elections to local government bodies in the territory of that entity,
registration of a candidate list nominated by a political party
which is entitled to allocation of deputies’ seats or to whose candidate
list a deputy’s seat in that legislative (representative) State
body in a constituent entity of the Russian Federation is transferred,
do not require the collection of voters’ signatures. Regional sections
and other structural subdivisions of such a political party are
also exempt from collecting voters’ signatures if they nominate candidates
or candidate lists in these elections.
207 These political parties are granted free airtime on State
and municipal radio and television channels in the case of a relevant
208 Amendments to the federal law on guaranteeing the constitutional
rights of citizens of the Russian Federation to elect, and to be
elected to, local government bodies lowered the minimum age at which
a citizen can be elected as a deputy on a representative local government
body from 21 to 18 years. This minimum age was fixed at 21 on the
day of voting in the election of deputies of a legislative (representative)
State government body in a constituent entity of the Russian Federation.
209 Amendments to the federal law on basic guarantees of electoral
rights and the right to participate in a referendum for citizens
of the Russian Federation altered the procedure for the establishment
of municipal electoral boards. The representative body of a municipal
region, city district or intra-city area in a federal city appoints
half the total number of members of the municipal electoral board
on the basis of proposals received from the electoral board of the
constituent entity of the Russian Federation. The representative
body of a community appoints half the total number of members of
the community electoral board on the basis of proposals received
from the electoral board of the municipal region or territorial
210 Amendments to the federal law on basic guarantees of electoral
rights and the right to participate in a referendum for citizens
of the Russian Federation provided that the term for which State
bodies of constituent entities of the Russian Federation, local
government bodies and deputies in these bodies are elected, and
also the terms of office of those bodies and deputies in accordance
with the constitutions (statutes) of constituent entities of the
Russian Federation and the statutes of municipal bodies, may not
be less than two years.
211 Furthermore, a number of legislative amendments introduced
in the same period sought to improve the legal framework for electoral
212 Amendments to legislative acts of the Russian Federation on
elections and referenda regarding the provision of airtime and press
space for pre-election campaigning supplemented the federal law
on basic guarantees of electoral rights and the right to participate
in a referendum for citizens of the Russian Federation by a provision
whereby the law of a constituent entity of the Russian Federation
may provide that an electoral association, which nominated a list
of candidates prior to an election but received less than the number
of votes prescribed by that law and was not included in the allocation
of seats, or a candidate who was not elected and received less than
the number of votes prescribed by that law, is not entitled to free
airtime or to free press space. In this case, the number of votes
prescribed by the law of the constituent entity of the Russian Federation
may not exceed 3% of the number of votes cast.
213 We welcome these legislative changes, which aim at liberalising
the electoral legislation, as the improvement of the legislation
governing elections is crucial to ensure a truly democratic and
pluralist electoral process.
214 Given the fact that the legislative changes have already been
passed, we are nonetheless disappointed that the Russian authorities
chose not to co-operate with the European Commission for Democracy
through Law (Venice Commission) in the preparation of the texts,
as the commission could have offered the country its expertise.
To our regret, at no stage has the Venice Commission been asked
for its legal expertise on the amendments proposed.
215 While initiatives of the authorities are going in the right
direction, further improvements should be made in order to ensure
that the electoral system is genuinely pluralist. Regrettably, some
major concerns raised during the observation missions in 2007 and
2008 have not been addressed, and they were reiterated during the
216 The most recent parliamentary elections to the State Duma
took place on 4 December 2011. They were observed by 40 long-term
observers from the OSCE/ODIHR, as well as by a total of 325 short-term
observers from the OSCE/ODIHR, the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in the framework
of an International Election Observation Mission (IEOM).
As we have indicated above, already in their preliminary conclusions,
the international observers raised a number of very serious concerns
which were subsequently confirmed in the report on the observation
of parliamentary elections in the Russian Federation presented by
the ad hoc committee to the AssemblyNote
as well as in the final report prepared
by the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission.Note
218 Regrettably, all the stages of the electoral process were
marked by a range of violations of the electoral code. This was
amplified by the fact that the legal framework for parliamentary
elections is complex and confusing. Out of two major laws regulating
the parliamentary elections, the federal law on the fundamental guarantees
of electoral rights and rights of citizens of the Russian Federation
to participate in a referendum was amended 28 times between 2008
and 2011 alone, and the Federal Law on the Election of the Deputies
of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation,
17 times during the same period.
219 In accordance with the Russian legal procedure, amendments
are not integrated into the existing text but adopted as separate
laws. As a result, the legislation is overly complex and inconsistent,
to the detriment of precision and clarity and allowing for confusion
and abusive interpretation.
On several occasions, the Parliamentary Assembly has called
on the Russian authorities to draw up, in co-operation with the
Venice Commission, a unified electoral code.Note
issue has also been raised in our discussions, as co-rapporteurs,
with the Russian parliamentary delegation to the Assembly. As a
result, on 15 December 2011, on our initiative and with the agreement
of the Russian delegation, the Monitoring Committee sent the electoral
laws – along with four other federal laws raising concern – to the
Venice Commission for legal opinion.
In its opinion,Note
delivered in March 2012, the
Venice Commission confirmed that improvements to the legislation
applicable to State Duma elections are needed in order for it to
conform fully with international standards. It also recommended
its simplification and consolidation. It pointed to some outstanding
concerns which had also been identified by the election observers
and had fuelled, to a large extent, widespread mistrust in the electoral
222 The lack of neutrality of the Central Electoral Commission
is probably the most serious problem. The CEC is composed of 15
members, five of them appointed by the President of the Federation,
five by the State Duma and five by the Federation Council. As a
consequence, it is clearly dependent on the executive and the ruling
party. This is even more true for the 83 federal subject election
commissions (SECs), 2 746 territorial election commissions (TECs)
and over 95 000 precinct election commissions (PECs). The partiality
of the electoral commissions at all levels was well documented over
the whole electoral period. We will come back to this question below.
The Venice Commission recommended amending appointment procedures
in order to effectively ensure the electoral commissions’ independence
223 The transparency of the elections was reduced by a restriction
introduced to the law by an amendment in 2005: election observers
can only be appointed to polling stations by registered candidates
or by parties whose candidate lists are participating in the elections.
NGOs or associations are not entitled to register observers. This
is the reason why the Golos volunteers had to conduct election monitoring
as journalists working for the newspaper Grazhdanskij
224 The transparency of the vote on voting day was further reduced
by ambiguous provisions, which allowed for the rejection of observers
and even members of electoral commissions, using different pretexts,
by chairs of commissions. The Venice Commission recommended amending
the rules on election observers with a view to ensuring that they
are not interpreted in a restrictive way and avoiding any discrimination
between national and international observers. Moreover, it stressed
that non-partisan national observers should also be admitted and
election observation should be extended to the post-electoral process,
in conformity with international standards.
225 The run up period to the elections was marked by the convergence
of the State and the governing party. As a common practice, regional
and local administrative officials took part in the electoral campaign
in favour of the ruling party. Social and other campaigns sponsored
by the State were widely used for electoral purposes. The most striking
example is an electoral poster used by United Russia, which was
an almost exact copy of Moscow City election commission's posters.
The CEC, seized of a complaint by Yabloko and Just Russia, did not
find any violation.
226 At the same time, State organs reportedly interfered in the
activities of other parties. Allegedly, there were numerous cases
of unlawful confiscation of campaign materials and of pressure exerted
on local contractors engaged in the campaign. The Venice Commission
recommended the reconsideration of rules ensuring separation between
State and party with a view to ensuring their effectiveness.
227 The media did not respect the legislation in force, allowing
unlawful campaigning and allocating the opposition with disadvantageous
time slots. The Venice Commission recommended the establishment
of safeguards which would ensure equal access to the media.
228 Furthermore, the rules on the funding of electoral campaigns
should be reconsidered and some public financing should be envisaged.
229 Other issues of concern, which, in the opinion of the Venice
Commission, need to be addressed, include restrictions to the registration
of federal lists of candidates, in particular concerning the verification
of signatures, the issue of constituencies, the obstacles to the
registration of political parties (see the next chapter), the prohibition
of individual candidacies, the representation of women and minorities,
the provision prohibiting negative campaigning, and the rules on
230 On voting day, a large number of observers were reportedly
denied access to polling stations or hindered in their observation.
According to a report published by Golos, this concerned about 10%
of their observers. Furthermore, a large number of observers were
expelled from polling stations without any justification.
231 The major irregularities took place after the closure of the
polling stations, during and after the tabulation and included ballot
box stuffing and falsification of protocols. The latter was particularly
alarming. We were told during the post-election mission by the representatives
of Golos that they had as many as 700 copies of duly signed protocols
which contained different results from those published by the CEC.
232 The problem would have been perhaps less serious if the complaints
and appeals procedure was clear and properly observed, which unfortunately
was not the case. The ambiguity of legal provisions (for example, unclear
distinction between “application” and “complaint”), and the partiality
of some commissions (according to the report published by Golos,
76% of complaints submitted by their observers were rejected, and
23% were, contrary to the law, not noted in the protocol) resulted
in a lack of transparency of the whole complaint process.
233 No information on the total number of complaints filed with
electoral commissions during the electoral campaign and after voting
day is available. Public statements on the number of complaints
about the pre-electoral period and the voting day were confusing
and sometimes contradictory. The CEC did not appear to comply with
the legal requirement that all complaints be acted upon and responded
to in writing within five days. It did not publish all the complaints
on its website as required by the law. The entire process of resolving complaints
at the CEC lacked transparency and accountability and did not afford
complainants the right to an effective or timely remedy.
234 In a report released on 18 January 2012, the prosecutor general
announced that 3 000 cases of violation during the electoral period,
transmitted to him by the CEC, had been examined. They included
campaigning on the day of elections, exclusions from the electoral
lists, and one case of a regional prosecutor discovering a completed
protocol detailing election results the day before the elections
were held. Two criminal cases had been opened for falsification
and attempts to bribe voters and 95 people had been charged for
administrative violations. In our opinion, these figures remain
in contrast with those reported by the observers from Golos, Yabloko
and other parties.
235 According to the law, complaints could be also filed with
courts. However, a restrictive application of rules on admissibility
(for example, a complaint about the falsification of a protocol
could only be filed by one of its signatories which excluded the
intermediary of Golos) has to a great extent limited the role of
the courts. During the post-electoral mission, we were informed,
however, that a few hundred complaints had been filed with courts
by Yabloko, the Right Cause, the Communist Party and Golos following
236 We have also followed with great interest citizens' initiatives
aimed at observation of the presidential election.
237 The presidential election, as already indicated above, took
place on 4 March 2012. The Assembly sent an ad hoc committee which
acted as part of the International Election Observation Mission
which also included the election observation missions of the OSCE/ODIHR
and of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE. Some 40 long-term
observers were deployed throughout the country.
238 In order to address some other concerns formulated by observers
of the December parliamentary elections, and to improve the quality
of the process on voting day, the prime minister announced that
specific measures would be introduced on voting day including the
installation of webcams in polling stations and the introduction
of transparent ballot boxes.
However, the electoral legislation remained unchanged between
the parliamentary and presidential elections, and all major concerns
were not addressed. They were reflected again in the conclusions
of the observers.Note
240 In the light of the above considerations, we find that the
CEC's decision to deny the registration of Mr Yavlinsky did not
serve to increase the quality of the democratic process and political
pluralism in Russia. The requirement of collecting two million signatures
in at least half of the 83 subjects of the country within twenty
days is sufficiently challenging and should not be completed by
restrictive interpretations. As mentioned before, the rejection
of Mr Yavlinsky’s candidature was explained by the fact that 25%
of signatures were either copies or put on copied forms. We find
this argument highly controversial and we regret that it was used
to limit political pluralism.
241 We have already referred to the legislative proposals submitted
by President Medvedev to the Duma following his statement to the
joint chambers of the parliament on 21 December 2011. One of them
is the draft federal law on amendments to certain legislative acts
of the Russian Federation to exempt political parties from collecting
voter signatures at elections of deputies to the State Duma of the
Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, government authorities
in the federal constituent entities of the Russian Federation and
local governments, signed into law on 2 May 2012. Before its adoption,
only political parties represented in the State Duma and legislative
bodies of State power at various levels were exempted from collecting
voter signatures during elections at the corresponding level. The
new law stipulates that all registered political parties are exempted,
except for presidential elections. It also reduces the number of
signatures to be collected by self-nominated candidates. With regard
to candidates for the presidency, the number of required signatures
has been reduced from 2 million to 100 000.
242 It goes without saying that a fair and democratic election
requires more than just good legislation. The whole electoral process
should be genuinely competitive and give all the political players
the effective possibility of participating. That said, improvement
of the legislation governing elections is crucial to ensure a truly
democratic and pluralist electoral process.
5.2 Party pluralism
243 Until the beginning of 2012,
seven parties were registered in Russia. Four of them are represented
in the Duma: United Russia (the ruling party, 238 seats as compared
to 315 in the previous Duma), the Communist Party of the Russian
Federation (respectively 92 and 57 seats), the Liberal Democratic
Party of Russia (56 up from 40 seats) and Just Russia (64 up from
38 seats). The remaining three parties have no parliamentary representation.
They are: Patriots of Russia, the Russian United Democratic Party
Yabloko and Right Cause Party.
244 Between 2003 and April 2012, only two parties were registered
in Russia, namely Just Russia in 2003, and the Right Cause Party
in 2009. At the same time, as many as eight parties have been refused
registration by the Ministry of Justice. One party, the Russian
Republican Party, has been delegalised.
245 Whereas, in some cases, the refusal of registration by the
Ministry of Justice did not raise concern from civil society and
human rights defenders, as it followed practice in any democratic
State and complied with democratic standards, some others have been
highly controversial and widely criticised by civil society and
the international community.
246 This was particularly the case of the People’s Freedom Party
(PARNAS), an opposition movement co-headed by Mr Boris Nemtsov,
former deputy prime minister, Mr Mikhail Kasyanov, former prime
minister, Mr Vladimir Ryzhkov, former Duma deputy, and Mr Vladimir
Milov, former deputy energy minister. The party is severely critical
towards government policies. Its programme includes reverting the
presidential term to four years, the revision of the proceedings
of the former Yukos leader Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and revision of
the rules for registration of parties. According to the founders,
the party has branches in 53 of Russia’s 83 regions and more than
46 000 members, which means that it fulfils the minimum legal requirements
to qualify for a party. It had its founding conference on 13 December
2010, and it applied for registration on 23 May 2011. The Ministry
of Justice refused registration on 22 June 2011. This development
was even more worrying in the light of the forthcoming parliamentary
elections, as it prevented the party from running in the elections.
247 During our visit to Moscow, in July 2011, we met the deputy
minister of justice, Mr Lubimov, as well as directors of units directly
involved in the registration procedure. From the explanation that
we received from the officials, it appears that they followed strictly
the letter of the law on political parties. According to them, some of
the provisions of the statute of the Freedom Party did not comply
with the legislation in force. In particular, the party’s charter
did not provide for rotation of its leadership. Moreover, random
checks proved that a number of members of the party did not meet
some requirements (for example, had no permanent address), and some people
registered as party members were dead.
248 For his part, Mr Nemtsov argued that the membership of the
party largely exceeded the required 40 000 (there were 45 000 on
the lists out of which only 72 were invalid). Furthermore, according
to Mr Nemtsov, the charter clearly stipulates that, at regularly
scheduled party congresses, a vote will be held to determine party leadership.
Moreover, according to him, the text of the statute of his party
was copied from the statute of the United Russia Party (governing
party) (this last allegation was denied by the ministry).
This unfortunate decision was taken shortly after the judgment
of the European Court of Human Rights of 12 April 2011,Note
which had rebuked the
federal law on political parties, and ruled that the 2007 dissolution of
the opposition Republican Party of Russia had been unjustified.
The case concerned the party’s complaint of the authorities’ interference
with its internal functioning and its dissolution in 2007 by a court
decision. The European Court of Human Rights held that there had
been a violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association)
of the European Convention on Human Rights on account of the authorities’
refusal to amend information about the Republican Party in the State
register and on the party’s subsequent dissolution.
250 It was beyond any doubt for both of us that the federal law
on political parties should be reviewed. Unfortunately, the April
judgment of the Court did not explicitly provide for it. It was
not a pilot judgment and it did not include in its operational part
the requirement to change the law. This is why the Monitoring Committee, at
its meeting on 15 December 2011, on our initiative and with the
agreement of the Russian delegation, requested a legal expertise
on this law by the Venice Commission.
In its opinion,Note
delivered in March 2012, the
Venice Commission pointed to serious deficiencies of the law then
in force. According to the Venice Commission, the law, as it stood,
established important obstacles to the very existence of political
parties and was not in line with European standards and, particularly,
Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
252 The main concerns identified by the Venice Commission related
to the registration procedure of political parties and the internal
control of political parties by the State authorities. The Venice
Commission recommended that the minimum membership requirement should
be considerably lowered, the requirement on regional representation
should be reduced, if not abolished, and intrusive control mechanisms
in the context of initial registration should be reduced. Furthermore,
the parties should be able to control their own internal procedures,
with appeals to courts where appropriate. Any supervisory powers
and control of political parties should be given to an independent
authority and not to part of the executive branch in order to ensure transparency
and build institutional trust.
The only party which was successful in its registration process
in the run up to the December 2011 elections was the Right Cause
Party, which was created in 2009 from the merger of the Union of
Right Forces, Civil Force and Russia’s Democratic Party. According
to some, its inception was sanctioned by the Kremlin, which was
looking for a loyal party to unite liberal voters. Its founder,
Mr Leonid Gozman, described the party as a “political compromise
with the authorities”.Note
254 The difficulties faced by political parties in registering
for elections have effectively constrained political competition
in Russia, reduced the choice available to the electorate and created
real obstacles to political pluralism in the country.
255 Again, we acknowledge that, in 2009 and 2010, the authorities
took some measures to increase the pluralism of the system. We have
already mentioned, in the previous chapter, a number of laws aimed
to facilitate parties’ access to parliamentary elections.
256 These measures were supplemented by other legislative acts,
including amendments to the law on political parties, which provided
for a phased reduction in the minimum number of members required
for the creation and activities of a political party. Another law
proposed by the President of the Russian Federation and adopted
by the Duma, allows for the participation in a parliamentary debate
of a representative of parties which have no seats in the Duma at
least once a year (this provision also applies to regional assemblies).
Yet another law passed during this period, the federal law on guarantees
of equality for parliamentary parties in reports on their activities
in State public television and radio broadcasts, provides for equality
for parties in reports on their activities and also defines the
requirements imposed on Russian national and regional television
and radio programmes (broadcasts) when reporting on the activities
of political parties.
257 In reaction to the criticism following the parliamentary elections
of December 2011, the then president proposed amendments to the
federal law on political parties. They entered into force on 4 April
2012. The revised law reduced the number of members required for
the registration of a political party from 40 000 to 500 persons.
Furthermore, there are no requirements concerning the number of
members in the regional units. The law provides for the suspension
of the registration procedure for a period of three months in case
of non-compliance of the application with the procedural requirements;
after three months, the procedure is resumed.
258 As a result of the amendments to the law, as of 1 June 2012,
the Ministry of Justice was aware of the establishment of 172 organisational
committees and received nine applications for registration. Furthermore, the
ministry received notifications from five organisations which intended
to register as political parties.
259 In the framework of the execution of the Court’s judgment,
the ministry restored the registration of the Republican Party of
260 We have already mentioned, in the previous chapter, a law
exempting political parties from collecting signatures for legislative
261 We welcome these developments, which we consider extremely
important for the state of democracy in Russia. We regret, however,
that the Venice Commission was not consulted on the amendments and
that they have not addressed all the concerns formulated by the
latter and relating to the level of bureaucratic control on the
establishment and functioning of political parties.
262 When speaking of representative democracy, its good functioning
and the efficiency of the democratic process, one cannot avoid the
question of the opposition. Political pluralism is a cornerstone
of democracy and modern society and a source of political legitimacy.
263 Until the last parliamentary elections, the ruling party disposed
of a constitutional majority in the State Duma and, moreover, the
parliamentary opposition parties, with the exception of the Communist
Party, rarely challenged the government’s policies. This certainly
weakened parliamentary control over the executive.
264 It is a matter of concern that a large part of Russian opposition
remains outside the Duma and is not involved in the political dialogue.
Such a situation cannot be beneficial for the democratic system
as a whole.
265 While we welcome the openness for reforms declared by the
authorities, we have to point out that a meaningful progress in
this respect requires considerable improvements in the political
environment, which would allow the opposition forces to be genuinely
competitive in the electoral process and for the establishment of
a genuine multi-party system.
5.3 Separation of powers, checks
and balances system
266 Following the adoption by the
Duma in 2004 of the amendments to the Federal Law on the General Principles
of the Organisation of Legislative, Executive Bodies of the Subjects
of the Russian Federation and the Federal Law on the Basic Guarantees
of the Electoral Rights and the Right to Participate in a Referendum of
the Citizens of the Russian Federation, the composition of the upper
chamber of the parliament became to some extent determined by the
President of the Federation.
267 The upper house of the Russian Parliament – the Council of
the Federation – is composed of two representatives from each subject
of the Russian Federation: one from the legislative and one from
the executive regional body. Its main task is to monitor and control
the federal government and, in particular, the president.
268 Whereas before 2004, governors, who make up half of the membership
of the Council of Federation, had been elected in a direct popular
vote, following the adoption of the above-mentioned amendments,
it was the President of the Russian Federation who submitted a candidate
to the regional parliament, which might refuse the endorsement only
twice, following which the president had the right to dissolve the
regional parliament and appoint an interim head of the regional
executive (or to submit the candidature for a third time).
269 Furthermore, the president could dismiss governors before
the expiry of their term of office on a number of grounds, including
in cases of “losing the president’s trust” or “improper execution
of duties”. Needless to say, these provisions limited governors’
independence – and as a consequence, the independence of the upper
chamber of the parliament – considerably.
The Venice Commission has expressed serious concern over the
law under which half of the deputies of the legislative body are
appointed and may be dismissed by the president himself. In its
the Venice Commission
concluded that the adoption of the law necessitated a reform of
the composition of the Council of the Federation, in order to preserve
the principle of the separation of powers.
271 Over the whole period covered by the present report, the lower
chamber of the Russian Parliament, the Duma, has been dominated
by United Russia, the pro-presidential party, which enjoyed a two-thirds constitutional
majority until the recent elections. Moreover, two out of the three
remaining parties (Just Russia and the Liberal Democrats) regularly
vote with United Russia. The situation has not changed much since
the December elections, even if United Russia now has only a simple
272 Taking into account the serious concerns about the fairness
of successive parliamentary elections, this situation must raise
273 As we already indicated, on 16 January 2012, President Medvedev
submitted to the State Duma a draft federal law on general principles
of organisation of legislative and executive governmental authorities
of entities of the Russian Federation, re-introducing direct elections
of governors instead of appointment by the president, and we welcome
this development. The law entered into force on 1 June 2012.
274 We reiterate, however, our concern about the compliance of
the law with democratic standards, in particular with regard to
the question of possible presidential control over the list of candidates
running for election. According to the law, candidates are either
proposed by political parties or run as independent candidates.
The president may, at his own initiative, undertake consultations
with political parties and self-nominated candidates. Nomination
must be supported by 5% to 10% of deputies of representative bodies
of municipal districts before candidates’ names are put on electoral
275 As regards the question of independence of the judiciary,
we will tackle this problem in one of the following chapters.
5.4 Media pluralism
Media freedom remains a matter
of grave concern in Russia. It is seriously jeopardised by State
control of the broadcast media, limited diversity in the print media,
arbitrary use of an anti-extremism law and, above all, impunity
of acts of violence against journalists. The international press
freedom watchdog, Reporters without Borders, ranked Russia 140th
in a list of 178 countries in its 2010 press freedom index.Note
Russia came in lower than countries
like Ethiopia or Qatar.
There is a glaring lack of diversity in the broadcast media.
Since 2000, the government has established control over all national
broadcast outlets, by centralising, shutting down or nationalising
independent television and radio stations.Note
also maintains ownership of the largest radio stations, Radio Mayak
and Radio Rossyi, as well as news agencies, ITAR-TASS and RIA Novosti.
Just two radio stations, Ekho Moskvy and Radio Svoboda, have managed
to maintain their independence.
In the 2005 report on Russia, with a view to ensuring an independent
platform for a variety of political opinions, our predecessors called
for the creation of a genuine nationwide public television channel
under the responsibility of an independent public broadcaster in
strict conformity with relevant Council of Europe standards.Note
We consider that
this recommendation has not been followed up as the State-owned
Channel One cannot be considered as complying with these standards.
Similarly, our predecessors called for the creation of an
independent regulatory authority for the public broadcasting sector
in conformity with Council of Europe standards.Note
Broadcasting Council was indeed created in 2008, but its composition
and appointment and dismissal methods, which are largely dependent
on the executive, do not provide safeguards for its independence.
280 In their comments on the Monitoring Committee’s preliminary
draft report, the Russian authorities informed us that, on 12 April
2012, the president issued an Order on Public Television in the
Russian Federation, which provides for the creation of a new public
television channel. Furthermore, the order provides for the establishment
of a Board for Public Television, tasked with public control of
the public channel. The members of the board cannot be members of
the Council of Federation, deputies of the State Duma, members of
the Public Chamber (see paragraph 301), governmental officials at
any level or officials of municipal services. They will be nominated
by the Public Chamber and appointed by the president. We consider
this a positive development which may contribute to increased freedom
of expression in Russia and we will follow it closely.
281 As for the print media, just a few national newspapers, led
by Novaya Gazeta, maintain
their editorial independence and express opposition views, thus
ensuring a minimum of pluralism. However, pressure on independent
outlets remains considerable. There are reports of the selective
use of bureaucratic regulations, intimidation and harassment, and,
in some instances, politically motivated criminal investigations
against critical journalists.
At the local level, the situation is more varied. Some regions,
such as Perm, enjoy a relatively free media, while in other regions,
the media are entirely controlled by the local authorities or powerful
figures often linked to major energy or industrial groups. Bans
on the printing or distribution of the independent press are a common practice.Note
There is also a dynamic growth in electronic publications,
Russia’s Izvesti recently reported that the Collective Security
Treaty Organisation (CSTO) will monitor social networks to prevent
mass riots like the ones that recently occurred in Tunisia and Egypt.Note
The Russian Prosecutor, General Yuri Chaika, has emphasised
the importance of control over social networking services, “[i]t
would be reasonable both in the framework of the protection of citizens’
interests and in the framework of crime rise prevention”.Note
statement seems to suggest that he is not aware of the Council of
Europe Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No. 185).
285 Draft amendments to the Law on Protecting Children from Information
Causing Harm to their Health and Development, currently under consideration
in the Duma, raise some concern in the civil society. The draft revised
law, posted on the Duma website, provides for the creation of a
blacklist of Internet sites containing information banned for distribution.
Its authors claim that it aims to block sites containing pornography,
drug use and self-harm. The critics, however, fear abusive interpretation
and the introduction of censorship which would result in filtering
online content, including international search engines, as is done
in China. In a sign of protest, Wikipedia’s Russian language page
was shut down for twenty-four hours.
286 With the Internet rising in influence as the single most important
source of information (over 40% of Russian citizens use the Runnet),
the issue of online freedom of expression has become significantly
more relevant. The Internet has become a platform for political
and social mobilisation.
287 Online filtering and surveillance, as well as attacks on opposition
websites, even now are unfortunately common practice, well illustrated
by the problems encountered by Golos in December 2011.
288 Blocking websites is a practice widely used by the authorities,
mainly on a regional level, to control Internet content. In July
2010, a court in the Republic of Ingushetia required a local Internet
provider to block access to LiveJournal; in August 2010, a provider
in Tula temporarily blocked access to the independent portal “Tulskie
Pryaniki”. A provider in the city of Khimki blocked user access
to Ecmo.ru because it was hosting a petition calling for the Khimki
Mayor, Vladimir Strelchenko, to resign. There are more examples
of this method.
289 Cyberattacks are also on the increase, targeting above all
blogging platforms such as LiveJournal and the websites of independent
newspapers such as Novaya Gazeta.
The growing frequency of website blocking and attacks on bloggers
resulted in Russia being included in the Enemies of Internet report
that Reporters Without Borders released on 12 March 2011.
290 Like our predecessors in their 2005 report on Russia, we are
bound to conclude that the pluralism and the independence of media
in the Russian Federation are not sufficiently guaranteed and that
this situation has clear consequences on the functioning of democracy
in the country. However, we are hopeful that the creation of a new
public channel and a Public Board will contribute to an improvement
in the situation, which is to be followed.
291 We will come back to the question of freedom of expression
and the situation of journalists in Russia in the chapter on human
rights and freedoms.
5.5 Civil society
292 A mature, active and well-organised
civil society constitutes an important element for the functioning
of a democratic system and a lively democracy. It provides an essential
contribution to the system of democratic checks and balances.
293 Events following the recent elections demonstrate that there
is a strong civil society in Russia which allows for a lot of optimism
for the future of democracy in this country.
294 The Russian Federation Law on Non-Governmental Organisations
which came into effect in April 2006 contained several controversial
provisions criticised by national and international civil society.
In particular, provisions of this law require NGOs to file annual
reports on their activities as well as on their sources of funding.
Failure to do so, as well as violating the strict requirements and
conditions set out in this law, can lead to closure of the NGO in
question following the decision by a court.
295 The total number of NGOs in Russia is over 200 000. During
our visits to Russia, we had the opportunity to meet representatives
of many domestic and international non-governmental organisations,
and we were impressed by their commitment and contribution to democracy.
Some NGOs played an important role in the recent mobilisation of
Russian society, by gathering evidence of deficiencies and shortcomings
in the Russian political system, denouncing human rights violations
and offering legal advice to the victims. Golos, an organisation
specialised in election observation, contributed substantially to
revealing irregularities in the electoral process. The newly created
League of Citizens, aimed at observing the presidential elections, illustrates
well the role which civil society may play in democratisation of
296 In this context, we are very much concerned by the attempts
of the authorities to discredit some of the most respected domestic
and international NGOs by publicly accusing them, without foundation,
of acting on foreign instructions, serving foreign interests and
accepting foreign funding.
297 Particular concern is raised by the amendments to the Russian
NGO law, proposed by United Russia, which at the time of drafting
have already been adopted by the Duma and are pending adoption in
the Council of Federation, foreseen for the autumn. The draft law
obliges non-profit organisations receiving funds from abroad and
engaged in “political activity” (a term which is not clearly defined
and open to interpretation) to register as “foreign agents” and
imposes on them cumbersome bureaucratic reporting. The word “foreign agent”
in the Russian language has a negative connotation and the proposed
registration would stigmatise the majority of human rights NGOs
which receive foreign grants.
The draft provoked protests from many NGOs and the international
community. Ms Catherine Ashton, the High Representatives of the
European Union for Foreign Affairs, has expressed concern over the amendments
which, in her view, may limit space for a vibrant civil society
in the country.Note
The draft has also been
criticised by Mr Mikhail Fedotov, the Head of the Presidential Council
on Civil Society Development and Human Rights.
Undue pressure and intimidation are also common. At a press
conference on 31 January 2012, leaders of Golos spoke about open
intimidation, attempts to evict the organisation from its office,
“phone-tapping” and the breaking into its letter boxes ahead of
the presidential election.Note
300 The more general question of harassment, beatings and assassinations
of human rights defenders, including the murder of a famous activist,
Natalia Estemirova, and the accompanying climate of impunity, will be
treated in the chapter on the human rights situation. We will only
note here our grave concern that the list of murders is dramatically
long. In the majority of cases, the perpetrators have not been identified.
This situation is unacceptable and must change.
In 2005, the law adopted by the Duma established a Public
Chamber – a consultative body composed of representatives of NGOs,
partly appointed by the president, who, in turn, co-opt other NGO
representatives. The chamber is tasked with “conducting public examinations
of key State decisions and above all draft laws that concern prospects
for the country development of national significance”.Note
The Public Chamber is financed from
the federal budget.
302 During our visits, we met the Chair and the members of the
Public Chamber, but we still have difficulty in understanding the
logic behind the creation of this body, whose work – in our view
– overlaps those of an elected parliament.
303 Some NGOs criticised the creation of the Public Chamber, claiming
that it is designed as an instrument to shape and domesticate civil
5.6 Local and regional democracy
304 Upon accession, the Russian
Federation committed itself to sign and ratify the European Charter
of Local Self-Government (ETS No. 122), which it did in 1998.
In its last recommendation on local and regional democracy
in the Russian Federation,Note
adopted in 2010, the Congress of Local
and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, which monitors
the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government,
acknowledged the progress made by the Russian Government with regard
to legislative reforms concerning local and regional democracy and recognised
the advances made in co-operation with the associations of local
authorities, in implementing the legislation on local self-government
and new structures that derive from it, in modernising local and
regional government in the Russian Federation and in training local
administrators and local elected representatives to exercise their
306 At the same time, however, the Congress pointed to a number
of concerns. These included, inter alia, the
amendments concerning the dismissal of mayors, which may result
in preventing mayors from carrying out their elected mandates without
interference or political pressure from municipal councils.
307 The question of the appointment of governors, in force prior
to the adoption of a legislative proposal submitted by President
Medvedev at the end of December 2011, had also been a serious matter
of concern for the Congress, as it had been for the Parliamentary
Assembly. The President of the Congress welcomed President Medvedev’s
proposed reform in a statement published on 18 January 2012.
308 Insufficient legal safeguards to ensure that local authorities
are not subject to excessive levels of supervision by higher (regional)
authorities, as well as increasing intervention in the affairs of
local self-government by upper-level (regional) authorities, are
incompatible with the provision of the Charter regarding the principle
309 This is aggravated by unclear competencies of local authorities
and a large gap between their competencies and resources. Furthermore,
following the recent introduction of a new law, the scope of shared competencies
has been broadened which results in forced transfer of competencies
to the upper levels with the accompanying financial resources.
310 In June 2011, following the presidential instruction “on the
preparation of suggestions on distribution of powers between federal
executive authorities, executive authorities of entities of the
Russian Federation and local authorities”, a working group was established
with the task of elaborating legislative proposals in this respect.
The government is currently preparing draft legislation and holding
consultations with all stakeholders. We hope that the final draft
will take into account all the recommendations of the Congress.
311 The acute lack of financial resources of local authorities
to enable them to carry out the functions assigned to them by specific
legislation, which includes not only the insufficiency of financial
resources, but also the freedom to determine expenditure priorities,
the exercise of political choices and the determination of local
taxes and charges, makes them even more vulnerable to political
312 According to the information received from the Russian authorities,
the newly appointed president has instructed the government to come
up with legislative proposals aimed at increasing the financial
resources of local authorities and ensuring the stability of regional
budgets, before the end of 2012. For example, one of the measures
under consideration is to review social tax regimes with a view
to ensuring priority credit of receipts to local budgets.
313 The obligation to consult local authorities on all matters
concerning them directly is not always properly respected, in violation
of the European Charter of Local Self-Government (for example, in
Tula where the Tula Regional Parliament adopted legislation changing
the electoral system of municipal elections for cities of more than
400 000 inhabitants from a majority to a proportional system, without
any consultation with the Tula Municipal Council).
314 Corruption is one of the most important challenges faced by
local democracy in Russia. Although laws exist to control corruption,
especially with regard to conflict of interests, it is alleged that
the legislation is routinely circumvented. We will come back to
this question in the chapter dealing with the rule of law.
6 Rule of law
315 The Russian Federation has
made considerable progress in implementing Council of Europe recommendations
with regard to the modernisation of its judicial system in terms
of legislative work. There has been substantial legal reform in
Russia since the 1990s. However, important problems still subsist.
Lack of independence and the interconnected question of the
lack of confidence of the public in the judiciary are the main problems
in the Russian judicial system.Note
They have deep roots in the legal and
political culture, as in Soviet times judges were often seen not
as arbiters, but rather as defenders of the interests of the State.
These problems are obviously not easy to address.Note
One of the measures aimed at improving
the image of the judiciary was the adoption, in 2008, of the Law
on Access to Information about Activities of the Courts in the Russian
Federation, and the posting on the Supreme Court’s website of information
on progress in court proceedings.
317 The poor state of judicial independence is clearly facilitated
by a legislative and administrative framework that fails to protect
judges from undue influence by State or private interests. The way
the judiciary operates puts pressure on judges through a complex
system which is not always apparent or visible and includes not only
external pressure, but also internal mechanisms and bureaucracy.
These internal mechanisms have become more significant as
a result of the government’s drive to strengthen the powers of the
executive, known in Russia as “strengthening the vertical power”.
Political interference has increased under laws brought into force
in the wake of the Beslan siege, allegedly for “counter-terrorism”
purposes. The executive wields considerable power through the High
is intended to be a body of judicial self-governance controlling
the appointment, promotion and dismissals of judges.
319 The selection and appointment procedures are not transparent
and the lack of regulation or clear procedures and standards established
by the Collegia gives rise to the risk of abuse.
The power of court presidents to oppose the candidate (or
candidates) proposed by the High Qualification Collegium gives court
presidents broad power and a hardly justifiable competency, given
that the collegia are supposed to thoroughly examine each candidate,
assess exams and hold interviews.Note
Finally, the unchallengeable nature of the Russian Federation
President’s refusal of appointment, without the possibility of review
or the need to provide reasons, introduced in 2001, has considerably
weakened the selection procedure. Furthermore, no clear standards
with regard to the procedure at the presidential administration’s
office in charge of approving candidates have been established.
For instance, there is no time limit on the appointment. It has
to be pointed out that a significant percentage of recommended candidates
do not obtain the approval of the presidential administration.Note
their comments to the preliminary draft report, the Russian authorities
argued that the expression “significant percentage” is inaccurate
as only 4% of candidates were rejected by the president in 2009,
2% in 2010 and 1% in 2011. We consider, however, this interference
to be significant and unjustified.
This process, which may prevent someone regarded unfavourably
by the executive from joining the judiciary, runs contrary to Council
of Europe standards.Note
323 The independence of judges cannot be safeguarded without guaranteeing
their tenure in office. Unfortunately, in the Russian judicial system,
the tenure of judges is often not secured and they can be dismissed
in an arbitrary way. Under the Law on the Status of Judges, federal
judges are appointed for life. Justices of the peace (judges in
courts of the subjects of the Russian Federation), however, are
appointed for a period of five years, which is contrary to international
324 Until 2009, all the federal judges appointed for the first
time had to go through a probationary period of three years, which
was widely considered as an instrument for eliminating judges for
political or personal reasons. This mechanism was criticised by
President Medvedev at the Congress of Judges in 2008 and subsequently
The 2009 amendment to the law, while welcome, only addressed
one of the many questions which allow for the arbitrary or unfair
removal or disciplinary punishment of judges. Vague grounds for
disciplinary responsibility, which can be broadly interpreted and
abused, are used to put pressure on judges. In particular, the requirement
to avoid “anything which can undermine the authority of the judiciary”Note
be – and allegedly is – used to justify abusive dismissals, thus
jeopardising the independent and impartial work of judges.
This can be illustrated by the case of Judge Olga Kudeshkina,
who was dismissed following critical statements made concerning
the pressure to which she had been subjected with regard to a case
she was considering. She was accused of “undermining public confidence
that the judiciary in Russia is independent and impartial”. Judge
Kudeshkina won her case in the European Court of Human Rights,Note
but she has never been reinstated as a
judge. The Supreme Court, to which she appealed, confirmed the refusal
regardless of the Court’s judgment.
In a 2009 interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais
, Constitutional Court Judge
Vladimir Yaroslavtsev claimed that the presidential executive office
and security services had undermined judicial independence in Russia.
In October 2009, the Constitutional Court, in an unprecedented motion,
accused Mr Yaroslavtsev of “undermining the authority of the judiciary”
in violation of the judicial code and forced him to resign from
the Council of Judges.Note
328 Judge Anatoly Kononov, who has frequently dissented from decisions
taken by the majority of the court, in his interview to Sobesednik, supported Mr Yaroslavtsev,
claiming that there was no independent judiciary in Russia. Mr Kononov
was forced to step down from the Constitutional Court on 1 January
2010, seven years ahead of schedule.
329 Disciplinary proceedings can be initiated by court presidents,
giving rise to concerns regarding the impartiality of court presidents
and the objectivity of the information collected, especially because
the disciplinary bodies tend to follow the court presidents’ advice.
330 In 2010, a new body called the Disciplinary Judicial Presence
was created. It is a specialised federal court serving as a second
instance for decisions of qualification collegia on disciplinary
measures against judges. It remains to be seen to what extent it
will address the above concerns with regard to security of tenure. We
were informed by the Russian authorities that the amendments to
the Law on the Status of Judges, defining concrete criteria for
disciplinary proceedings, are under preparation.
331 Other inappropriate methods of influence on judges are numerous
and range from manipulation of promotions or benefits to applying
direct pressure on a judge regarding a specific case.
Court presidents enjoy overly broad powers, including a decisive
role in appointing judges, their promotion, remuneration and other
material benefits, as well as the launching of disciplinary proceedings against
judges. In the regional courts, court presidents decide on the reappointment
of justices of the peace. Allocation of cases by court presidents
is highly problematic, as cases are often assigned to certain judges
to achieve the required result or reassigned when judges do not
agree to rule in the way required.Note
with other excessive powers of court presidents, this practice creates
room for abuse.
333 Court presidents are appointed by the President of the Russian
Federation for a once renewable six-year term. Until 2009, the Constitutional
Court had been an exception to this rule, and its president was
elected by other judges, which beyond any doubt contributed to greater
independence of the court. However, following the 2009 amendment
to the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation,
a new system was introduced and the court president is now appointed
upon the recommendation of the President of the Russian Federation.
The system pressures judges to show loyalty to State bodies
or certain officials and to take into account political considerations.
Threats to judicial independence are reported to be particularly
acute in cases where powerful political or economic actors have
an interest in the outcome of a case. The most notorious examples are
the cases involving Yukos and Mr Mikhail Khodorkovsky.Note
335 Access to lawyers is regulated by the Federal Law on Lawyers,
which provides that the procedure of appointment of legal representatives
for indigent suspects should be established by the bar associations
of the entities of the Russian Federation, which would also be responsible
for this task. However, it seems that this provision is systematically
not implemented and, in practice, the lawyer is designated by an
336 Furthermore, the lawyer remains closely dependent on the investigator
who signs the document certifying that he was effectively present
during the investigation process. This document is a condition for receiving
remuneration by the State, and of course may be used as an additional
tool for exercising pressure. This practice should be changed and
legal guarantees should be introduced to ensure that the appointment and
work of lawyers remain under the responsibility of the bar associations
in order to eliminate any possible abuse.
337 More generally, the free legal aid system has not been effective
in practice. Our predecessors already drew attention to this problem
in the report presented in 2007. There are few or no defence attorneys
in remote areas of the country and, moreover, lawyers often try
to avoid accepting free of charge counselling. However, with a view
to remedying this highly unsatisfactory situation, in November 2011,
a new Federal Law on Free Legal Aid was passed. We hope that it
will have a positive impact.
338 The prosecutor general’s office (Prokuratura)
is the least reformed institution of the judicial system in Russia.
Upon accession to the Council of Europe, the Russian Federation
undertook to “introduce new law(s) in line with Council of Europe
standards … on the role, functioning and administration of the Prosecutor’s Office”.
Our predecessors, in 2002, while noting that some progress had been
achieved, stated that they expected the Russian authorities to complete
the reform of the prosecutor general’s office in accordance with Council
of Europe principles and commitments entered into. This question
was also extensively tackled by our predecessors in the last note
on Russia in 2007 and we invite all those interested to consult
it. The conclusions in 2003 of the then rapporteurs was that, since
2002, the reform process had come to a halt and meaningful reform
339 The main concerns identified by all our predecessors were
the excessive role played by the Prokuratura in
criminal cases and its general oversight function.
340 With regard to the former, it was a matter of serious concern
that, in criminal cases, courts seemed to be an extension of the
prosecutor general’s office. This was evidenced, inter alia, by the extremely low percentage
of acquittals (less than 1%) and a substantial disparity in acquittal
rates between cases involving juries (20%) and cases involving only
341 Judges who did not follow informal orders from the prosecutors
allegedly faced disciplinary proceedings on different grounds. This
may be illustrated by the case of Judge Kudeshkina, already mentioned
above, who was disqualified as a judge in 2003 after she refused
to rule as the Prokuratura had
requested in the case of Mr Pavel Zaitsev and publicly spoke out
about the pressure put on her.
These excessive prerogatives of the Prokuratura
deemed incompatible with Articles 5 and 6 of the Convention, as
well as with Recommendation Rec(2000)19 of the Committee of Ministers
of the Council of Europe on the role of public prosecution in the
criminal justice system and Recommendation
of the Assembly on the role of the public prosecutor’s
office in a democratic society governed by the rule of law.
343 Moreover, the fact that the Prokuratura was
at the same time responsible for the general supervision of all
law enforcement agencies, for investigating crimes, protecting victims
or citizens generally, for prosecuting offenders and for maintaining
legality in all court procedures was a cause for serious concern.
344 It is to be welcomed that the Russian authorities decided
to address this concern and, in September 2007, introduced the Federal
Law on the Prosecutor, which amended the Code of Criminal Procedure
and established a new body, the Investigative Committee, charged
with the pre-trial investigation.
345 Initially, the Investigative Committee was a part of the Prokuratura and its head was one
of the prosecutor’s deputies. However, he was appointed according
to the same procedure as the latter (by the Federal Council upon
the proposal of the president) and was not placed under his responsibility.
In January 2011, in a welcome revision of the law, the Investigative
Committee was separated from the Prokuratura and became
an independent structure.
346 The aim of the reform was to separate pre-trial investigation
and “legality oversight”. The pre-trial investigation into serious
and particularly serious crimes now falls within the exclusive jurisdiction
of the investigators of the Investigative Committee. The “legality
oversight” remains with the prosecutors. Other offences which do
not fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Investigative Committee
are still investigated by the Ministry of the Interior under the
close supervision of prosecutors. The latter give binding instructions
to the investigators.
347 The broad supervisory powers of the Prokuratura over
the executive and legislative branches, operational investigative
organs and administrative agencies are problematic. In general,
the scope of instruments with which the prosecutor’s office is entrusted
(for example, the power to issue an order to appear before the prosecutor
general to present explanations in relation to any matter which
is the subject of the prosecutor’s supervision or investigation)
is far too broad and it is not specified in what matters and in
what proceedings such orders are binding.
348 The Russian authorities have informed us that two new draft
laws on the Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation and on
the status of prosecutors in the Russian Federation are being prepared.
We hope that they will address the outstanding concerns outlined
349 Violations of the principle of legal certainty by the quashing
of final judicial decisions in the applicants’ favour through the
“supervisory review procedure” (nadzor),
provided by the Code of Civil Procedure, is another major systemic
problem. It is also the second most important source of repetitive
applications before the Strasbourg Court.
350 Reform of this procedure is absolutely essential for two reasons:
firstly, in order to ensure the legitimacy and credibility of the
entire Russian judicial system. This problem affects the efficiency
of the judicial system as a whole.
351 Secondly, the supervisory review does not constitute a remedy
to be exhausted prior to lodging an application with the European
Court of Human Rights. As a result, the vast majority of cases which
come to the Strasbourg Court have not been examined by the Russian
Supreme Court. In consequence, the latter does not have a chance
to redress a violation before it comes to Strasbourg. Therefore,
this problem is closely linked to the long-term effectiveness of
the Convention mechanism. In other words, the reform of this procedure
would reduce the flow of applications to the Court by providing
a remedy that has to be exhausted by Russian citizens before a complaint
can be lodged in Strasbourg (currently, Russian citizens may lodge
an application after the second level of jurisdiction).
352 In a statement published on 20 May 2011, the Secretary General
of the Council of Europe, Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, called for a reform
of the Russian legal system saying: “[m]any cases concerning Russia
before the Court are appeals to decisions taken by the regional
courts … In my view, a final national decision in a huge country
like Russia should be delivered by a supreme national judicial instance
at the federal level, be it a Supreme Court or the Constitutional
Court. I am pleased to say that Valery Zorkin, the President of
the Constitutional Court, supports my proposal and President Medvedev
has told me that it should be given serious consideration”. We fully
support the position of the Secretary General in this respect and
we hope to see the change in the Russian legal system in the near
353 The Russian authorities seem to be aware of the importance
of this problem. Since the Ryabykh judgment,
they have already implemented two reforms with a view to bringing
the procedure into line with the Convention requirements. The first
reform took place in 2002 with the adoption of the new Code of Civil Procedure.
The second reform was carried in 2007 notably in response to the
ruling of the Russian Constitutional Court of 5 February 2007. On
12 February 2008, this reform was supplemented by a decree of the
Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, in which
it provided lower courts with guidelines with a special emphasis
on the need to comply with the Convention requirements and in particular
with the principle of legal certainty.
In Martynets v. Russia,Note
European Court of Human Rights judged that these reforms were insufficient
to solve the problem. According to the Court, despite tangible changes
introduced by the above-mentioned reforms, the supervisory review
still could not be regarded as being compatible with the Convention.
In the meantime, the supervisory review procedure as provided
by the Code of Commercial Procedure was found to be in compliance
with the Convention.Note
356 A third reform of the Code of Civil Procedure was adopted
in December 2010 and aimed to introduce appeal courts in the system
of Russian courts of ordinary jurisdiction and thus to limit recourse
to supervisory review. The reform came into force on 1 January 2012
and has not yet been subject to assessment by the European Court
of Human Rights. However, it is doubtful that the reform will improve
the situation. Regrettably, the main shortcomings of the supervisory
procedure, as identified by the Court in its judgments, were not removed.
357 These main shortcomings include the multiplicity of instances
in which a judgment can be challenged after it becomes final, and,
linked to it, the problem of time limits. There are still three
instances in which a final judgment may be quashed, each time the
case is sent back for a new examination and each time a new decision
is issued, it may be challenged through the same three instances.
As a result, the starting point for the six-month limit for lodging
an application with the Court is unclear. Finally, the discretionary
powers of the President and of the Vice-President of the Supreme
Court remain unchanged: they both have the possibility to disagree
with the decision of a judge following the examination of a cassation
or a nadzor request.
358 The European Union-Council of Europe Joint Programme on the
Introduction of an Appeal Instance in the Russian Federation, currently
under way, aims to ensure, inter alia,
the establishment of clear and coherent channels of review of judicial
359 Non-enforcement of domestic judicial decisions is a major
systemic problem of the judicial system in Russia and the main source
of applications to the Strasbourg Court. In order to remedy the
situation, the Russian authorities introduced two new federal laws:
the Compensation Act and a federal law amending certain legislative
acts, which came into force on 4 May 2010.
This new remedy allows claims for compensation for extremely
lengthy judicial proceedings as well as delayed or non-enforcement
of domestic judgments delivered against the State. Furthermore,
the Russian authorities provided the Committee of Ministers with
numerous examples of judicial practice demonstrating the active
implementation of the reform, and with information on the adoption
of further measures to ensure the effectiveness of the new compensation
scheme, such as appropriate budgetary arrangements.Note
Despite this progress, the Court held in two recent judgmentsNote
the new legislation did not resolve the specific problem of failure
to enforce decisions ordering the provision of housing for servicemen
by the State in specific cases.
362 Conditions of detention on remand, in particular in pre-trial
detention centres, the excessive length and lack of relevant and
sufficient reasons for detention on remand, ill-treatment in police
custody and the lack of effective investigation, will be dealt with
in the next chapters devoted to the execution of the Court’s judgments and
human rights violations.
363 Corruption is a continuing widespread problem within the judiciary
in Russia. This has been publicly acknowledged on many occasions,
including at the highest levels of power, and numerous measures
have been introduced in order to combat it. However, in their comments
on the preliminary draft report of the Monitoring Committee, the
Russian authorities claim that corruption incidents among judges
are exceptionally rare as illustrated by the number of relevant
convictions: only three judges were convicted on charges related to
corruption in 2010 and 2011. In our opinion, taking into account
numerous reports on alleged corruption, this extremely low figure
is a real cause for concern. We will come back to this question
in the next chapter.
Corruption is a widespread
systemic phenomenon in the Russian Federation, which affects society
as a whole, including the public institutions in place to counteract
corruption. The polls held over recent years testify to its existence
in all public sectors, including the political level and the executive
branches at various levels, law enforcement bodies, the judicial
system, public procurement agencies, public health services, the education
system, housing and communal services.Note
365 Transparency International has persistently rated Russia as
one of the most corrupt nations in the world. According to the Corruption
Perception Index for 2011, Russia was ranked 143rd out of 183, with
a score of 2.4 out of 10.
Similarly, the OECD has reported on corruption in the Russian
bureaucracy, which is cited by foreign and domestic investors alike
as one of the principal obstacles to investment in Russia today.Note
The World Bank noted
that corruption in Russia has significantly grown in recent years,
both in terms of State capture and administrative corruption.Note
European Commission points out that corruption continues to be a
major problem in Russia.Note
367 The Russian authorities recognise that the level of corruption
in the country is inadmissibly high and that it not only poses a
danger to the functioning of the State institutions, but also has
a negative impact on business in general as it undermines competition
between market players for goods and services and makes the Russian
economy less attractive for foreign investment. They also acknowledge
that there is a link between corruption and organised crime, and
that corruption is a component of the “shadow economy”.
368 There is no doubt that the Russian authorities take these
problems seriously. Between 2005 and 2007, the Anti-Corruption Commission
of the State Duma co-operated closely with the Council of Europe
in the implementation of assistance programmes funded by the European
Union aimed at harmonisation of Russian legislation with the requirements
of the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (ETS
No. 173) and the United Nations Convention against Corruption, with
a view to ratifying both these instruments, which was finally done
The fight against corruption is recognised as a priority at
the highest political level. Shortly after taking office, in May
2008, President Medvedev signed a decree to set up a Presidential
Council on Counteracting Corruption, as the overall co-ordinating
body, and in July 2008, the president approved a National Anti-Corruption
Russia joined the Council of Europe’s Group of States against
Corruption (GRECO) on 1 February 2007, and became subject to its
monitoring mechanism. In the joint first and second round evaluation
report on the Russian Federation, adopted in December 2008,Note
raised a number of concerns and made 26 recommendations. Some of
them required fundamental measures, including the creation of a
clear basis for the national anti-corruption policy, far-reaching
legislative reforms and organisational changes in public administration,
law enforcement, the judiciary, as well as in relation to civil
The compliance report on the Russian Federation, adopted by
GRECO in December 2010,Note
to assess the measures taken
by the Russian authorities to comply with the recommendations, concluded
that the Russian Federation has implemented satisfactorily just
over a third of the 26 recommendations.
372 The outstanding concerns relate to the need for, firstly,
revision of the system of administrative and criminal procedures
in order to firmly establish that cases of corruption are to be
treated as criminal offences as a main rule, and, secondly, adoption
of the necessary legislative measures in order to establish liability
of legal persons for corruption offences and to provide effective,
proportionate and dissuasive sanctions in these cases, including
monetary sanctions, in compliance with the requirements of the Criminal
Law Convention on Corruption.
373 Given the immense task to accomplish all the remaining recommendations,
and the commitment of the Russian authorities to doing so, GRECO
will proceed to the next evaluation of progress in late 2012.
6.3 Execution of judgments of
the European Court of Human Rights
Since the accession of the
Russian Federation to the European Convention on Human Rights, the
Court has delivered in total 1 119 judgments in respect of Russia,Note
which more than 1 045 found at least one violation of the Convention,
primarily of Article 6 (right to a fair trial), Article 1 of Protocol
No. 1 (protection of property) and Article 5 (right to liberty and
security). As of 31 March 2012, a total of 37 850 applications were pending
before the Court; this figure accounted for over 25% of the total
of pending cases.
375 According to Article 46 of the European Convention on Human
Rights, it is the Committee of Ministers which supervises the execution
of Court judgments. There were 1 087 cases concerning the Russian Federation
pending before the Committee of Ministers and awaiting execution
on 31 December 2011. Out of this figure, 953 were clone cases. In
our opinion, both the Parliamentary Assembly and the State Duma
have an important role to play in this respect and they should actively
contribute to progress in the implementation of the judgments.
The Assembly’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
prepares periodic reports on the implementation of judgments of
the Court in all Council of Europe member States. The most recent
one was presented to the Assembly in January 2011.Note
It raised a number of major structural
problems in the Russian legal system which had led to worrying delays
377 Without interfering in the competence of the Committee on
Legal Affairs and Human Rights, we would like to draw attention
to some concerns raised in the report, as they are directly linked
to the process of the monitoring of obligations and commitments
and fall under our mandate. In this way, we also wish to highlight the
importance the Assembly attaches to the question of execution of
378 Over 90% of all cases concerning the Russian Federation awaiting
execution before the Committee of Ministers are clone cases relating
to the major systemic problems which have been described in the
chapter on the judiciary in the present report.
Non-enforcement of domestic judicial decisions is one of the
most important systemic problems which is at the origin of numerous
clone cases. In 2002, the Court found a violation of the Convention
on account of non-enforcement of a domestic judicial decision granting
social benefits to a Chernobyl victim.Note
In January 2009, the
Court, facing the constantly increasing flow of similar applications,
delivered a pilot judgment in the case of the same Chernobyl victim.Note
mentioned in the previous chapter, on 4 May 2010, the State Duma adopted
amendments to the Civil Code aimed at remedying the situation. It
should be undoubtedly seen as a positive step, although, as mentioned
in the previous chapter, some concerns still remain.
Violation of the principle of legal certainty on account of
the quashing of final judicial decisions through the “supervisory
review procedure” (nadzor
is another major systemic problem. The first Court judgment was adopted
in 2003 on this matter:Note
then a huge number of clone cases have appeared. Here again, we invite
the readers to consult the previous chapter for more detailed information.
Unacceptable conditions of detention on remand, in particular
in pre-trial detention centres, as well as the excessive length
of, and lack of relevant and sufficient reasons for, detention on
remand, constitute the next systemic problem of the Russian legal
system. The first judgment in this respect, adopted in 2002,Note
lack of space and appropriate conditions (including lack of private
toilet facilities, ventilation problems, lack of access to natural
light and basic sanitation). Since then, a huge number of clone
cases have been lodged with the Court.
382 The group of Kalashnikov includes
71 cases currently under Committee of Ministers’ supervision. In
all of them, the Court found that the poor pre-trial detention conditions,
and in particular the severe overcrowding and unsanitary environment,
amounted to degrading treatment. We would like to underscore, however,
that the main problem lies in the unnecessary use of detention on
remand which results in overcrowding. This systemic issue is caused
by, inter alia, inappropriate
judicial practice (non-compliance with time limits set by domestic law,
failure to address specific circumstances of cases, failure to use
alternative preventive measures). A further 61 cases concern unlawful
detention, excessive length and insufficient grounds for extending
detention on remand.
383 In January 2012, the Court delivered a pilot judgment in the
case of Ananyev and Others v. Russia,
in which it found that inadequate conditions of detention were a
recurrent structural problem in Russia resulting in a malfunctioning
of its penitentiary system, with insufficient legal and administrative
384 The Russian authorities are aware of the problem and are trying
to remedy it. We have been provided with extensive statistical data
illustrating a significant decrease in the number of persons detained
on remand (decrease of 29.5% between 2006 and 2012). Furthermore,
in December 2011, amendments to the Criminal Code aimed to reduce
the number of persons concerned by a punitive measure in the form
of detention. Last but not least, the Federal Programme on the Development
of the Penitentiary System in the Russian Federation for 2007-2016
aims at the improvement of conditions of detention. According to
the authorities, tangible progress may be noted in this respect.
Ill-treatment in police custody and lack of an effective investigation
in this respect constitute another systemic problem. The first Court
judgment was delivered in 2006:Note
there have been 33 other similar judgments. In February 2011, a
new law on the police was adopted. Regrettably, the reform does
not seem to address important issues, such as safeguards in police
custody (notification of custody to a third party, right to a lawyer,
right to a medical doctor). Also, the CPT reports, which might provide
useful guidance to the Russian authorities on all these issues,
remain confidential. The Mikheyev
also demonstrates the lack, in Russian criminal legislation, of
appropriate tools to combat impunity. For instance, no such criminal
offence as torture seems to exist. In the chapter concerning the
abuses by the police forces, we will refer to the most recent measures
introduced with a view to fighting impunity in the Russian police
The action of the security forces in the Chechen Republic
also remains one of the main causes for applications. Since 2007,
the Court has delivered a large number of judgments in the context
of actions of the Russian security forces in the Chechen Republic
between 1999 and 2003.Note
concern unlawful killings, unacknowledged detention, disappearances,
torture, destruction of property, lack of effective investigations
as well as of effective domestic remedies.
387 These judgments have had little impact on the Russian Federation,
as complaints continue to flood in. Almost 100 were lodged in 2009
alone concerning the North Caucasus (mainly Chechnya). The Committee
of Ministers has consistently urged the Russian authorities to improve
the legal and regulatory framework governing the anti-terrorist
activities of security forces, to ensure accountability of perpetrators
and to provide domestic remedies for victims. In its Interim Resolution
CM/ResDH(2011)292, adopted in November 2011, the Committee of Ministers
criticised the lack of decisive progress in domestic investigations
with regard to human rights violations identified in the Court's
judgments, even if facts and key elements had been established with sufficient
On 14 May 2012, the Russian authorities provided information
on the interim resolution. There have been some positive developments,
such as the establishment of a regulatory framework for domestic investigations,
including a Special Investigative Unit, in April 2009, to investigate
particularly serious crimes that have given rise to applications
The prosecutor has also taken on
a greater “supervisory role” by putting emphasis on the integration
of standards of the European Convention on Human Rights in Russian domestic
law, and the process appears to be more victim-oriented in terms
of access to the procedure. However, the impact of these measures
on the pending investigations remains unclear; so far only one case has
Other cases of concern with regard to the execution of judgments
include the risk of ill-treatment in cases of extradition and disregard
of Court interim measures under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court,Note
and the violation of the freedom
of assembly and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.Note
last issue will be dealt with in the chapter on freedom of assembly.
Two recent judgments relate directly to Russia’s commitment
“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”.Note
In both cases, the Court found
disproportionate restriction of the applicants’ liberty of movement
due to the authorities’ denial of their right to travel abroad for private
purposes for several years on the sole ground that they had had
access to classified information (“State secrets”) during their
professional career. Those unqualified restrictions were based on
the Act on the Procedure for Entering and Leaving the Russian Federation.
391 Both applicants received passports following the Court’s decision.
With regard to the fulfilment of the commitment entered upon accession,
the authorities created, in 2004, an Inter-Agency Commission on
the Protection of State Secrets and tasked it with the preparation
of appropriate draft legislation which would bring Russian law into
line with Council of Europe standards. The commission presented
draft laws in 2007. Regrettably, since then, no progress has been
noted in this respect.
392 We would like to express our concern here at some worrying
signs and public statements by Russian senior officials directly
connected to Russia’s observation of commitments and obligations
entered upon admission to the Council of Europe. The Head of the
Constitutional Court, Mr Valery Zorkin, has spoken of the “threat
to Russian sovereignty” posed by the rulings of the Court and even
of the possibility of withdrawing from the Council of Europe. In
Switzerland, we are used to hearing such declarations by conservative
politicians, but we are very astonished to hear it from the Head
of the Constitutional Court.
393 In their comments on our preliminary draft report, the Russian
authorities indicated that the above quotations were taken out of
context. According to them, the whole statement of Mr Zorkin at
the XIIth International Forum for Constitutional Justice read as
follows: “[w]e granted the authority of making jurisdiction to the
European Court. But if Russia wants, we can cancel the contract.
I would not like the Constitutional Court to face the European Court
of Human Rights in such a way as to encourage those in Russia who
want to use any pretext to close the door”. If we misunderstood
Mr Zorkin’s public statement, we are the first to acknowledge our
mistake and express our satisfaction.
394 In June 2011, a former Deputy Chairman of the Council of Federation,
Mr Alexander Torshin, submitted a draft law allowing Russia’s Constitutional
Court to block decisions of the Court. The draft was subsequently withdrawn,
but the mere fact that it was submitted is already disturbing.
7 Human rights and fundamental
7.1 Abolition of the death penalty
395 The most outstanding concern
in this category of commitments is, in our view, the non-ratification
of Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights on
the abolition of the death penalty in time of peace. Upon accession,
Russia agreed to sign it within one year, ratify it within three
years and to put into place a moratorium on executions with effect
from the day of accession.
396 Protocol No. 6 was signed by Russia on 28 February 1996, and
submitted by the government to the State Duma for ratification on
6 August 1999. In the meantime, on 16 May 1996, Presidential Decree
No. 724 on the phased reduction in the use of the death penalty
in connection with Russia joining the Council of Europe was issued.
A de facto moratorium on the
death penalty was established in August 1996, and it was confirmed by
the decision of the Constitutional Court on 2 February 1999. On
19 November 2009, the Constitutional Court ruled that the death
penalty could not be imposed in the Russian Federation because of
its international commitments.
397 This Constitutional Court ruling, unlimited in time, cannot
be perceived as just a mere technical extension of the moratorium.
It is an important step on the way to legal endorsement of the abolition
of the death penalty. Ratification of Protocol No. 6, however, is
398 During our visits, we raised this question with a number of
interlocutors, in particular in the State Duma. Every time, we heard
that public opinion in Russia is not ready to accept the formal
abolition of the death penalty, mainly due to the seriousness of
terrorist threats in the country. As a consequence, the attempt
to have the protocol ratified in the Duma might turn out to be counterproductive.
399 In our view, however, this explanation does not justify the
lack of progress towards compliance with this important commitment.
In most Council of Europe member States, the majority of public
opinion had originally been in favour of the death penalty, and
it was the task and duty of the political class to influence this
attitude and change it. It implied educational and informative work,
required public debates and open discussions, but it had proved
to be successful in 46 countries. We do not see any reason why Russia
should remain an exception.
7.2 The right to life and the
fight against impunity
400 The overall situation with
regard to human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia is worrying.
Major concerns in this area have already been mentioned in the chapter
on the implementation of the judgments of the European Court of
401 The violations of the core human right – the right to life
and personal integrity – are of particular gravity.
Following the debate of a report on the human rights situation
in the North Caucasus, by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human
the Assembly firmly condemned the
attacks by armed groups and persistent human rights violations,
including killings, abductions and torture, which continue to affect
the civilian population.
Impunity for abuses and murders prevailing in the region is
of utmost concern, in particular when law enforcement bodies are
responsible for violations. We invite our readers to consult the
above-mentioned report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human
Rights for a detailed account of this dramatic situation. We also draw
attention to the most recent report by Mr Thomas Hammarberg, former
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, on the human rights
situation in the North Caucasus, following his visit to the Russian Federation
in May 2011.Note
The question of abuses
by law enforcement agencies will be examined in the next chapter
of the present report.
404 Alarming reports are also contained in a document entitled
“The circle of injustice. Security operations and human rights violations
in Ingushetia”, which has just been published by Amnesty International.
405 To date, the European Court of Human Rights has issued over
150 judgments holding Russia responsible for having failed to protect
the lives of applicants’ relatives in Chechnya and it has harshly
criticised the authorities for non-compliance with earlier judgments
in this respect.
For example, on 2 December 2010, the Court ruled in the case
of Abuyeva and Others v. RussiaNote
the federal military bombardment of the village of Katyr-Yurt in
Chechnya, in which 29 relatives of applicants had died. The Court
found a further violation of the right to life as the domestic investigation
into the events was grossly ineffective, despite an earlier judgment
on the same events, in which Russia was
urged to establish responsibility for the killings. The applicants
were awarded 1.72 million euros in damages.
407 Russia’s failure to fully implement the judgments of the Court
on applications from Chechnya contributes to the climate of impunity
both in the republic and in the North Caucasus region as a whole.
Russia co-operates with the Court by paying out the required monetary
compensation to the victims but fails to conduct an effective investigation
and hold the actual perpetrators to account, even in cases where
their identity is known. Furthermore, the authorities do not take
measures to prevent similar abuses from reoccurring. New complaints from
Chechnya and similar cases from Dagestan and Ingushetia continue
to be lodged with the Court.
408 While the overall security situation in North Caucasus is
volatile and the whole population suffers from it, certain categories
of people, such as human rights defenders, lawyers, activists and
independent journalists, are particularly exposed.
409 In the last few months alone, three cases of murder have been
documented: in December 2011, Mr Ganzhimurad Kamalov, the publisher
of a leading independent weekly in Dagestan, was murdered; in January
2012, Mr Umar Saidmagomedov, a lawyer, and another local resident,
Mr Rasul Kurbanov, were killed by law enforcement officials in Dagestan.
410 According to statistics gathered by the Committee for Protection
of Journalists (CPJ), the North Caucasus region continues to be
one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. This
is also the case with regard to the work of human rights defenders
and lawyers. Despite numerous promises by the Russian leadership
to create normal working conditions for activists and journalists
in the region, targeted killings and physical attacks have not been
411 Unfortunately, these kinds of targeted assaults are not limited
to the North Caucasus. Killings and beatings of prominent figures
of civil society, journalists and lawyers are one of the most serious
human rights concerns throughout Russia.
Since 2006, when the assassination of Ms Anna Politkovskaya,
journalist and well-known human rights activist, drew attention
to the gravity of the situation in Russia, a number of human rights
defenders, journalists and human rights lawyers have been attacked
and severely beaten or murdered. Only the murders of lawyer Mr Stanislav
Markelov and journalist Ms Anastasia Barburova have been successfully
investigated and the perpetrators convicted.Note
Other cases, including the
abduction and murder of human rights defender Natalia Estemirova,
the brutal beatings of Kommersant Daily
Oleg Kashin, or editor-in-chief of the newspaper Khiminskaya Pravda
, Mikhail Beketov,
413 In addition to these high-profile cases, a number of unknown
activists or lawyers are subjected to violence. For example, Mr Konstantin
Fetisov, a peaceful protester against the planned construction of
a highway through Khimki forest near Moscow, was assaulted in November
2010 by unknown men and seriously injured.
414 Another example is the case of Ms Elena Lavina, a Russian
lawyer representing Mikhail Khodorkovsky in the appeal procedure,
who was attacked and beaten in the street on 11 May 2011.
According to Human Rights Watch, activists in various Russian
cities were attacked by unidentified people in the period between
the December 2011 parliamentary elections and the presidential election
of 4 March 2012. Moreover, on 24 March 2012, there was an arson
attempt on the office of the NGO Group of Free People in Nizhny
Novgorod. These and other cases are documented in the report on
“The situation of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member
presented by the Legal Affairs Committee,
to which we draw your attention.
416 Abuses by the police force are dealt with in the next chapter.
417 Racially motivated violence also remains a serious problem.
According to data from the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis,
in 2010 alone, 37 people died as a result of hate crimes. Preliminary
data for the year 2011, gathered by SOVA, show that, in racist or
neo-Nazi attacks, at least 20 people were killed and 130 injured
across 34 regions of the Russian Federation. Additionally, six individuals
received death threats. Moscow continues to lead in violent incidents,
with seven killed and 28 injured in 2011, ahead of the Moscow region
and St Petersburg. The main targets of racist attacks continue to
be individuals from former Soviet Central Asia.
7.3 Abuses by law enforcement
418 There are numerous reported
cases of abuses by law enforcement bodies, particularly by the police, including
violence, excessive use of force, ill-treatment in custody and deplorable
conditions of detention. The lack of proper investigation and impunity
is a systemic problem. Criminal prosecution of critics of the authorities, human
rights lawyers and defenders, activists and journalists is another
As already mentioned in the previous chapter, the beginning
of 2012 was marked by the killing of a lawyer, Mr Umar Saidmagomedov,
and a local resident, Mr Rasul Kurbanov, by law enforcement officials
in Dagestan. According to the official police report, police officers
stopped a car with two men in it and during the control, Mr Kurbanov
opened fire. The police started shooting in response, killing both
men. However, according to the Memorial Human Rights Center claim,
based on witness reports, both men were gunned down outside Mr Kurbanov’s
house in a premeditated execution by the police officers and then
their bodies and Mr Kurbanov’s car were moved in order to fake a
allegations must be fully and impartially investigated.
420 In March 2012, public opinion was shocked to learn the details
of the death of a detainee in a detention centre in Kazan (Tatarstan),
following torture by the police.
421 The most worrying situation prevails in the North Caucasus,
where law enforcement officials are accused of numerous human rights
violations, including unlawful detention, torture, and in some cases
extrajudicial executions. There is a lack of effective investigations
and subsequent accountability.
422 Journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers are a frequent
target of law enforcement agencies. In 2010, in Dagestan alone,
Human Rights Watch documented five incidents of physical attacks
on lawyers by police or investigation officials. In November 2010,
one of the bar associations in Dagestan went on a month-long protest
strike, demanding investigation of the abuses against lawyers. The
authorities pledged to look into the reports on alleged abuses but,
regrettably, none of the lawyers’ complaints was effectively investigated
423 The case of Ms Sapiyat Magomedova, a prominent local human
rights lawyer, who represents victims in very sensitive cases, including
allegations of torture in custody by the police, is a good example
of a common pattern of abuse by law enforcement agencies and their
impunity in the North Caucasus. In 2010, she was beaten by the police
at the police station and she filed a complaint. Since then, she
has been repeatedly approached by the investigators who tried to
convince her to withdraw her complaint, but she refused. In 2011, she
was charged with two criminal offences: using violence against State
officials and insulting police officers on duty. If she is convicted,
she faces up to five years in prison and the revocation of her law
Arbitrary detention and unjustified interference by police
is another common practice and may be illustrated by the recently
reported case of a staff member of the Joint Mobile Group of Russian
NGOs in Chechnya.Note
425 Independent journalists also experience arbitrary actions
by the law enforcement agencies. For example, journalists and the
chief editor of the independent newspaper Chernovik in
Dagestan have been the targets of harassment and threats including
through criminal prosecution on charges of extremism and insulting State
officials. They were acquitted by the court in 2011 only after a
long legal battle.
426 But such concerns are unfortunately not limited to the Northern
Caucasus. Activists from other regions of Russia also face serious
problems. For example, in February 2010, authorities in Novorossiysk
held Vadim Karastelev, a human rights advocate, for seven days of
administrative arrest for organising a demonstration. The day after
Karastelov’s release, unknown assailants brutally beat him, causing
serious injuries. The police investigation was ineffective.
In May 2010, Alexei Sokolov, a prisoners’ rights advocate
from Ekaterinburg, was sentenced to five years in prison following
theft and robbery charges, which appear to be in retaliation for
428 In another emblematic case, already mentioned in the previous
chapter, the organisers of an international civil society gathering,
which was held as a side event to the June 2011 European Union-Russia summit
in Nizhny Novgorod, faced numerous threats and harassment by the
local law enforcement agencies. The Deputy Director of the Nizhny
Novgorod Committee against Torture was detained and prevented from participating
in the event. No effective investigation followed her complaint
to the authorities.
Reports of torture and other forms of ill-treatment by law
enforcement officials, often allegedly with the purpose of extracting
confessions or money, remain widespread throughout the country.Note
430 Detainees frequently report unlawful disciplinary punishments
and the denial of necessary medical care. The notorious cases of
Mr Magnitsky and Ms Trifonova, and the continuous impunity of those
guilty of their deaths, illustrate the gravity of the problem well.
Again, we draw the readers’ attention to the report of the Legal Affairs
Committee on this subject.
431 Poor conditions of detention and pre-trial detention centres
which do not meet basic sanitary and humanitarian standards, with
insufficient access to medical services, constitute another serious
problem. We were shocked to hear from Mr Nemtsov that, following
his arrest on 31 December 2010, he had been kept for forty-eight
hours in a room without a window, light or a bed.
432 The Russian authorities are aware of the problem. In 2006,
the Federal Programme on the Development of the Penitentiary System
in the Russian Federation for 2007-2016 was adopted. In October
2010, the government approved the Concept of the Development of
the Penitentiary System of the Russian Federation till 2020, which
is now being implemented.
433 The Russian Federation ratified the Council of Europe Convention
for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment (ETS No. 126) in 1998. Out of 17 CPT reports on the
visits to the Russian Federation, only one (on the visit which took
place in 2001) became public. During our visits, we repeatedly asked
the relevant authorities to authorise the publication of the last
2010 CPT report on Russia. We were assured that the positive decision
in this respect had already been taken. So far, the report has unfortunately
not been published.
434 Excessive use of force by police officers against peaceful
demonstrators is another concern. We will come back to this question
when we deal with the violations of freedom of assembly in reference
to Article 31 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and
the demonstrations and protests in the immediate aftermath of the
December elections. But the problem is not limited to political
demonstrations. On 8 May 2011, about 200 people assembled in the
town of Khimki for a peaceful gathering against a motorway project.
The rally was suddenly and violently dispersed by riot police, who
hit and kicked the protesters and dragged them onto a police bus.
Many people were injured. Two activists who were detained were allegedly
beaten in detention; they reported the beating to the duty officer
at the station, but no effective investigation followed.
435 We received information from the Russian authorities that
the investigation in this respect is under way and several criminal
cases against police agents have been initiated. Furthermore, there
have been a number of disciplinary proceedings.
436 The excessive use of force by the police during the Gay Parade
in Moscow in May 2011, which resulted in 17 cases of injuries among
peaceful demonstrators, is another illustration of this problem.
437 Corruption and collusion between police, investigators and
prosecutors are widely perceived as undermining the effectiveness
of investigations and obstructing prosecutions. This increases the
impression of the lack of independence of judges, which is another
438 However, to a certain extent the legislation itself is conducive
to abuse. In particular, the Laws on the Police, on the Federal
Security Service (FSB), and on Extremism raise concern among national
and international civil society.
439 The amendments to the law on the FSB, adopted in 2010, allow
the special services to issue warnings to individuals, organisations
and media outlets if they decide that their activities are extremist
or potentially extremist. The individuals or organisations concerned
are then obliged to cease these activities. Given the ambiguous
definition of extremism in the relevant law, these amendments open
the way to arbitrary interpretation and abuses. Concrete examples
of these abuses are given in the chapter on freedom of expression
and freedom of conscience and religion.
In its opinion on the Law on the FSB,Note
delivered in June 2012, the
Venice Commission observed that the law should contain an explicit
requirement to duly respect the principles of necessity and proportionality and
to provide for effective remedies. In particular, according to the
Venice Commission, it is necessary to establish mechanisms to prevent
political abuse. Agencies must be subject to legal external control,
which is not the case at present. Furthermore, as regards the preventive
measures and the issue of official warnings, the Venice Commission
observes that they may be used in an arbitrary manner, thus risking
having an undue chilling effect on the exercise of fundamental rights
Furthermore, in its opinion on the federal law on combating
delivered in June 2012, the
Venice Commission states clearly that the law is problematic on
account of its broad and imprecise wording, particularly insofar
as the basic notions such as the definition of “extremism”, “extremist
action”, “extremist organisations” or “extremist materials” are
concerned, it gives too wide a discretion in its interpretation
and application, thus leading to arbitrariness. In the view of the
Venice Commission, the activities defined by the law as extremist
and enabling the authorities to issue preventive and corrective
measures do not all contain an element of violence and are not defined
with sufficient precision to allow an individual to regulate his
or her conduct or the activities of the organisation so as to avoid
the application of such measures. Finally, the specific instruments
the law provides for in order to counter extremism – the written
warnings and notices – and the related punitive measures (ban on
the activities of the organisation, closure of media outlets) raise
problems in the light of the freedom of association and the freedom
of expression and need to be amended.
442 Following widespread criticism of police abuse, including
from within law enforcement agencies, the government presented a
new draft law on the police. The draft law was widely discussed
in the country, and for the first time in the history of Russia,
public recommendations regarding the content of the bill were sought by
legislators. Despite that, the Federal Law on Police, which entered
into force in 2011, was criticised by human rights organisations
for having failed to introduce effective mechanisms to make law
enforcement officials accountable for abuses and human rights violations.
We regret very much that the Venice Commission was not asked for
a legal opinion on the draft during the legislative process.
443 As we have already mentioned in the chapter on the judiciary,
in a move intended to increase the independence of criminal investigations,
the government announced in September 2010 that the Investigative Committee
would be transformed, as of 2011, into an independent investigative
body. It would be answerable directly to the president and removed
from the control of the prosecutor general’s office. The committee
was originally created in 2007 in order to separate investigative
and prosecutorial functions.
444 Widespread concern over deaths in custody resulting from denial
of adequate medical care have led to changes in the law governing
445 Furthermore, house arrest and restrictions on the use of pre-trial
detention were introduced for people suspected of economic crimes.
446 During our visits, we were provided with information and statistics
on the procedures, investigations and sanctions (disciplinary proceedings,
court charges) imposed on law enforcement agents found guilty of
abuses. However, the problem is far from being resolved and it requires
further firm measures aimed at increasing the transparency and accountability
of law enforcement agents.
447 In reaction to the tragic death of the detainee in Kazan,
the Head of the Investigative Committee issued, on 18 April 2012,
an order on additional measures on the organisation of investigation
of crimes committed by the representatives of the law enforcement
forces. The order provides for the establishment of a special division
in the Investigative Committee tasked with the investigation of
police abuses. It is to be seen to what extent this measure will
448 However, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights
and practice in other member States demonstrate that, in order to
effectively prevent abuses by the police, three major safeguards
are necessary: any person apprehended by the police should have
a right to immediately inform a third party of their choice about
their situation, and have access to a lawyer and to a medical doctor
upon request. Furthermore, the legislation should provide for the
obligation imposed on the police agents to inform the person deprived
of their liberty of the above rights without any delay, and to immediately
record the fact of deprivation of liberty. The current Russian legislation
does not contain these safeguards and this should be remedied.
449 Furthermore, the Russian criminal legislation does not contain
specific provision under which torture or ill-treatment may be prosecuted.
As a rule, such acts are prosecuted under other offences, such as
“exceeding official authority” or “infliction of bodily harm”.
450 The prevention of abuses and the strengthening of the police
officers’ accountability should go hand in hand with the development
of modern methods of investigation and questioning in order to limit
to the maximum any possible risk of torture or ill-treatment. These
may include such tools as comprehensive and computerised custody
records and detailed recording of interviews and wide use of different
forensic techniques. The improvement of initial and in-service professional
training of police officers is also required. For example, the adoption
of a Code of Ethics for the police has been instrumental in changing
the attitudes of police officers in certain countries.
7.4 The case of the death of
451 Mr Sergei Magnitsky was a young
Russian lawyer working for Russia’s largest foreign investor, the Hermitage
Fund. In 2007, he began investigating allegations of abuse involving
senior Russian officials and organised crime. He discovered wide-scale
tax fraud amounting to US$230 million sanctioned by officials, and filed
a number of complaints. His testimony implicated the police, the
judiciary, tax officials, bankers and members of organised crime.
452 On 24 November 2008, Mr Sergei Magnitsky was arrested on trumped-up
charges of tax evasion by the same police officers against whom
he had testified. He was detained for almost a year without trial.
According to his statements in the court hearings and the official
case files, during his detention he was subjected to steadily worsening
conditions and inadequate medical care, in an effort to force him
to testify falsely against his employers.
453 On 16 November 2009, eight days before expiry of the one-year
limit during which he could be held without a trial, he was brutally
beaten and left in an isolation cell without medical attention,
where he subsequently died. These facts were confirmed by President
Medvedev’s Council of Human Rights on 5 July 2011.
454 The prison officials attributed his death to a “rupture of
the abdominal membrane”, and later to a heart attack, and the authorities
refused to open a criminal investigation. It was only twenty months
after his tragic death, on President Medvedev’s order, that a criminal
probe into his case was opened. This official inquiry was arbitrarily
narrow, alleging solely “unintentional medical negligence”, ignoring
evidence of a deliberate conspiracy to exert pressure on Mr Magnitsky.
The investigators showed a biased approach and a blatant disregard
for basic legal standards for investigations involving alleged corruption
and organised crime, as illustrated by the numerous shortcomings
which characterised it.
455 Furthermore, the conclusions from two independent domestic
investigations, carried out by the Moscow Public Oversight Commission
and the Presidential Human Rights Council, have been dismissed by
State bodies and have not resulted in prosecutions.
456 Criminal cases on negligence charges were opened against two
doctors from the pre-trial detention centre where Mr Magnitsky died.
However, so far nobody has been brought to justice or been charged
for Mr Magnitsky’s death. The ongoing investigation has been extended
12 times over the last two and a half years.
In April 2012, Russian prosecutors announced that they had
closed the criminal case on negligence charges against one of the
doctors at the pre-trial detention centre where Mr Magnitsky had
died because the statute of limitations had expired. Another prison
doctor is the only official still facing charges over Mr Magnitsky’s
458 In 2010, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs announced
that Mr Magnitsky was the main suspect in organising the theft on
which he was reporting. In an unprecedented move, the general prosecutor’s
office decided to try lawyer Magnitsky posthumously and reopened
the case on the same charges that President Medvedev’s Human Rights
Council had found to be fabricated by officials with a conflict
The international community has on many occasions called on
the Russian authorities to conduct a genuine investigation and prosecute
and punish all those responsible for Mr Magnitsky’s death. In mid-2011, the
US administration decided to place a visa ban on approximately 60
Russian officials linked to the death. The European Parliament has
called for an European Union-wide visa ban on the Russian officials
involved in this tragic event. The Parliamentary Assembly condemned
the ongoing impunity of the perpetrators in Resolution 1891 (2012)
on the situation of human rights defenders in Council
of Europe member States.
460 On 24 May 2012, we addressed a number of questions to the
Russian parliamentary delegation with regard to the concerns surrounding
Mr Magnitsky’s death. Regrettably, the replies did not go beyond
referring to the usual official position of the Russian authorities,
such as those set out in the results of official investigations
and court decisions, and we do not consider them to be satisfactory.
461 As long as those responsible for Mr Magnitsky’s death have
not been brought to justice, this case will be a tragic illustration
of the impunity and lack of independence of the Russian judiciary.
7.5 Freedom of expression
462 Freedom of expression is highly
problematic in Russia. We described in one of the previous chapters the
situation of the media, characterised by State control of the broadcast
media, limited diversity in the print media, arbitrary use of the
anti-extremism law and, above all, violence against journalists
and impunity of the perpetrators.
463 The insecurity of journalists remains a real threat to press
freedom in Russia. Cases of targeted physical assault on well-known
journalists, as well as continued failure to carry out credible
and effective investigations and to punish those responsible for
beatings and killings of journalists, is believed to force many
to exercise self-censorship.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), as
many as 22 journalists were killed in targeted killings between
1991 and 2009. By way of comparison, the figures for other countries
in the same period are: France: 0; Germany: 0; Italy: 0; and the
United Kingdom: 1.Note
465 Russia ranks eighth in the Committee to Protect Journalists’
Impunity Index, a list of countries in which journalists are killed
regularly and whose governments fail to punish the perpetrators.
Since 1999 at only three trials for work-related killings were the
perpetrators convicted: for the 1998 murder of Larisa Yudina; the
2003 killing of Ivan Sukhomlin; and for the fatal beating received
by Igor Domnikov in May 2000.
The murder of Ms Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist well known
for her criticism of the Kremlin, who was gunned down on 7 October
2006, and the failure, so far, to elucidate all the circumstances
of this case and punish those responsible, creates a climate of
impunity and fear. It is true that, recently, there have been some encouraging
developments in the investigation,Note
but the question of identifying
the masterminds still remains open and it will require a great deal
of courage on the part of the police and judicial authorities.
467 The number of recorded targeted acts of violence against journalists
without a fatal outcome amounts to over 100 during the same period.
Law enforcement agencies have investigated over 70 of these attacks
(some have not been reported and anyway the police are only obliged
to investigate the most serious physical assaults). The investigations
were usually halted due to lack of progress. In total, four assaults
in this period reached the courts. Two led to convictions of the
perpetrators but not of the purported instigators.
468 Threats against journalists and media outlets constitute the
most insidious form of intimidation.
469 With the Internet’s rising influence as the single most important
source of information (over 40% of Russian citizens use the Runnet),
the issue of online freedom of expression has become significantly
more relevant. Here again, serious concerns are raised by the attempts
of the authorities to develop online filtering and surveillance.
Bloggers are the victims of lawsuits and prosecutions, often under
the vague interpretation of the “anti-extremism” law, which was
amended in July 2007.
470 There have reportedly been numerous cases of different kinds
of harassment of bloggers – judicial and other – aimed at intimidating
especially those who are critical of the authorities or speak out
on sensitive topics.
471 Furthermore, freedom of expression for human rights defenders,
lawyers and civil society activists remains limited. The conviction,
in May 2011, of the couple responsible for the double murder of
human rights lawyer Mr Stanislav Markelov, and journalist Ms Anastasia
Barburova has been the first and only significant step against the
climate of impunity prevailing in Russia.
472 With the exception of the murder of Mr Stanislav Markelov
and Ms Anastasia Barburova, no other killings of well-known human
rights activists – Natalia Estemirova, Maksharip Aushev, Zarema
Sadulava or Alik Dzhabrailov, to mention only those assaulted during
the last two years – have been brought to a conclusive end and resulted
in the conviction of the perpetrators. Human rights defenders and
civil society activists are also frequently subjected to intimidation,
administrative harassment and physical attacks.
473 To our great regret, in mid-July 2012, the Duma passed two
controversial laws which have a direct influence on the freedom
of expression: firstly, a controversial law on criminalisation of
defamation. The law reintroduces slander as a criminal offence and
envisages fines of up to 5 million roubles (US$152 000). It rolls back
the former President Medvedev’s reform that decriminalised libel
in December 2011 and made it an administrative offence. This law
goes counter to democratic standards and vests increased powers
in the authorities to silence its critics. Secondly, the law on
the Internet (Act on Information), which, according to many, may
have negative effects and lead to the establishment of censorship.
The Russian-language Wikipedia took its content offline for a day
ahead of the vote claiming that the law “could lead to the creation
of extra-judicial censorship of the entire Internet in Russia”.
7.6 Freedom of assembly
474 The right to freedom of assembly
– which is crucial to supporting pluralism and democracy – remains problematic
in Russia. This right is enshrined in Article 31 of the Constitution,
and regulated by the Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Assemblies,
Rallies, Demonstrations, Marches and Picketing (law on assemblies),
which was amended in December 2010. Even if the general normative
framework complies in principle with European standards, the interpretation
of certain ambiguous provisions by the authorities raises justified
475 The law provides for a notification procedure which obliges
the organisers to inform the authorities about their intention to
hold a meeting. The provision does not oblige them to seek authorisation.
However, the ambiguity of this provision allows the authorities
to promulgate decisions and regulations which put restrictions on
the freedom of the assembly: change of venue, for example.
The Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful AssemblyNote
that the organiser of an assembly should not be compelled or coerced
either to accept whatever alternatives the authorities propose or
to negotiate about key aspects, such as the time or place of a planned
However, one of the provisions of the federal law which has
often been applied is the prohibition of the holding of assemblies
if the organisers disagree with the local authorities “motivated”
proposals to change the venue or time of the assembly.Note
The Venice Commission, in its opinion on the Federal Law on
Assemblies, Meetings, Demonstrations, Marches and Picketing,Note
adopted in March 2012, recommended
the revision of the regime of prior notification. The grounds for
restrictions of assemblies should be narrowed to allow application
of the principle of proportionality; spontaneous assemblies should
be allowed as long as they are peaceful; the obligations of organisers
should be reduced. It also stressed that court decisions in case
of appeal should be delivered before the planned demonstration.
479 It is clear from the above opinion that it would be advisable
to review the legal framework with a view to including effective,
foreseeable and clearly defined procedures for the resolution of
any disagreements which may arise in the context of the notification.
We are therefore seriously concerned about the adoption of a new law
which further restricts the freedom of assembly. We have already
mentioned the so-called “protest bill”, adopted on 6 May 2012, which
considerably raises fines for the organisation of, and participation
in, unsanctioned rallies. In the case of possible restrictive implementation
of this law, people might be sanctioned for walking with white ribbons
in the streets or calling for protests on the Internet. The adoption
of the law has raised much criticism both in Russia and abroad.
This piece of legislation does not comply with Council of Europe
standards and we sincerely hope that the Russian authorities will
reconsider it with a view to amending it.
480 The authorities refuse authorisations and police frequently
disperse – sometimes using unnecessary or excessive force – public
rallies held by civil society activists and the political opposition,
despite compliance of the organisers with the notification procedure
envisaged in the law. Police arbitrarily arrest and detain demonstrators
who are frequently sentenced to administrative punishment.
481 Another concern relates to the sanctions and penalties imposed
after assemblies. There are numerous allegations that the right
to a fair trial is not observed. The European Court of Human Rights
has on several occasions found that subsequent sanctions have constituted
disproportionate interference with the right to the freedom of assembly
482 Despite these difficulties, rallies in support of the freedom
of assembly have been held by the opposition in major Russian cities
on the 31st of months with that many days, symbolising Article 31
of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees the right to peaceful
assembly. They have often been brutally dispersed by the police
and some political activists have been detained. The means used
against the demonstrators and the justification for detention seem
highly controversial. For example, the rally on 31 December 2010,
which, although authorised, resulted in the arrest of approximately
120 protesters including some leading opposition figures like Mr Nemtsov,
Mr Ilia Iashin and Mr Konstantin Kosiakin, who were sentenced, on
2 January 2011, to fifteen, five and ten days of administrative
detention respectively on charges of “disobeying police instructions”,
despite eyewitness reports that they had not obstructed police officers.
483 Since late 2010, when a new Mayor of Moscow was appointed,
some rallies have been authorised. This positive change has been
confirmed recently in the post-electoral period, and we welcome
it. Unfortunately, in other Russian cities, rallies have more often
484 The authorities should ensure that law enforcement officials
at all levels respect and protect the right to freedom of assembly
and act lawfully in the context of such events. Appropriate training
in the policing of public assemblies, incorporating human rights
principles, should be provided on a regular basis for such officials.
485 They should also be accountable for any illegal acts committed
during the assembly. A number of measures aimed at remedying this
situation might be recommended: for example, members of law enforcement
forces should wear clear and visible identification signs during
their action. Moreover, information and statistics about unlawful
acts by law enforcement officials during assemblies should be gathered
and made available.
486 Furthermore, there is no provision in the current legislation
regarding spontaneous assemblies. The right to organise such meetings
is important in cases when delay might weaken the message. This
was particularly clear in the weeks following the December 2011
Gay parades are systematically banned. In September 2010,
the European Court of Human Rights unanimously held that the Russian
Federation had acted illegally in banning the Gay Rights demonstrations
in 2006, 2007 and 2008. It said that Russia must legalise the event
planned for 20 May 2011.Note
The Russian authorities
went on to defy this ruling and, on 18 May 2011, 18 peaceful demonstrators
were arrested and attacked. One was admitted to hospital. This problem
is part of the broader issue of discrimination of LGBT (lesbian,
gay, bisexual, and transgender) people.
488 In the interview which Mr Gross gave to the Russian Press,
in his capacity as the former Assembly rapporteur on the LGBT rights,
he stressed that Russia must comply with Court decisions and that
the banning of the Moscow Gay Pride was contrary to the European
Convention on Human Rights. He also criticised the statement by
the Mayor of Moscow, Mr Sergey Sobyanin, that “Moscow does not need
gay parades”. “I am very disappointed that the new mayor inherits
the policy on Gay Pride Parades which was held by the previous mayor.
Mr Yuri Luzhkov had his flaws – he was not a democratic mayor and
has been associated with corruption. I really do not understand
why the new mayor is so against Gay Pride Parades,” the rapporteur
489 Moscow’s human rights ombudsman, Mr Alexander Muzykantsky,
announced, on 25 April 2011, that he would prepare a report on the
violations by the Russian authorities of the freedom to hold demonstrations.
490 On 9 September 2011, the former Council of Europe Commissioner
for Human Rights, Mr Thomas Hammarberg, sent a letter to the Government
of the Russian Federation in which he expressed his concerns about
the hindrances to freedom of assembly.
491 In their reply of 30 September 2011, which is available on
the Commissioner’s website, the Russian authorities commented on
the issues raised in the letter and gave information on some measures
taken to improve the situation.
7.7 Freedom of conscience and
492 Upon accession, Russia committed
itself to introducing new laws in line with Council of Europe standards,
in particular on freedom of religion. The Federal Law on Freedom
of Conscience and Religious Associations was adopted in 1997. It
has been criticised, both within the country and outside, on the
grounds that it disregards the principle of equality of religions.
493 The 1997 law is very complex and contains many ambiguous provisions.
It creates various categories of religious communities with differing
levels of legal status and privileges. The subsequent decisions
of the Constitutional Court in 1999, 2000 and 2002 partially improved
the situation, limiting the basis for application of different criteria,
but the situation is still not fully satisfactory.
494 In the previous report on Russia, in 2005, the co-rapporteurs
urged the Russian authorities to revise the law, in particular to
eliminate the discriminatory provisions hindering the registration
of new religious organisations, simplify the registration procedures,
and grant more rights to unregistered religious groups. This has
unfortunately not been done.
A number of confessions and religious organisations, including
Mormons and the Krishna Consciousness Society, have encountered
problems with registration.Note
496 In their comments on the preliminary draft report of the Monitoring
Committee, the authorities insisted that there has been a clear
decrease in the percentage of refusals by the State to register
religious organisations: between 2008 and 2011, it fell from 5.5%
Moreover, we have been told that the Federal Law on Counteracting
Extremist Activities (Extremism Law), adopted in 2002,Note
been misused as a tool against the activities of certain religions,
particularly Jehovah's Witnesses, a large community of 162 000 people
in Russia. This misuse has dramatically increased since the introduction
of amendments to the law in 2006.
498 In the original law, extremism was partly defined as “incitement
to social, racial, national or religious discord, associated with
violence or calls to violence”. The 2006 amendment removed the phrase
“associated with violence or calls to violence”. Article 1 of the
law defines extremism as: “activity conducted by social or religious
associations or other organisations or the media or individuals
that involve the planning, organisation, preparation, and carrying
out of actions with the following objectives: Incitement to social,
racial, national or religious discord; Propagandising exclusivity,
superiority or inferiority of a person on the grounds of his social, racial,
national, or religious standing or his language or attitude to religion”.
This ambiguous definition of “extremism” allows for arbitrary action
by the law enforcement agencies.
499 As a consequence, 68 religious publications of the Jehovah's
Witnesses, including the Bible for children, have been included
on the Federal List of Extremist Materials issued by the Ministry
500 Individual members of this community are being criminally
charged for “incitement to hatred or enmity and denigration of human
dignity” or for allegedly distributing “extremist” literature on
the grounds of Articles 282 and 282.1 of the Criminal Code. To date,
10 criminal investigations have been opened against Jehovah's Witnesses.
501 Members of the community have also been found guilty of violations
of Articles 13.21, 20.2 and 20.29 of the Administrative Code for
alleged distribution of religious periodicals without a permit,
holding religious meetings without informing the authorities and
alleged storage of religious publications deemed to be extremist materials
for alleged distribution.
502 The recently amended Federal Law on the FSB gives the investigators
numerous tools to invade the private lives of individual members,
harass and intimidate them on the pretext of gathering evidence.
Since December 2009, there have been over 1 000 incidents of assaults,
arson attacks, police detentions, searches and seizure of literature,
and raids on private homes and places of worship. Websites of Jehovah's
Witnesses in various cities have been cyber attacked.
503 In 2010, by decision of the Federal Service for Oversight
of Communications, Information Technologies and Mass Communication,
the distribution licence for the main English language magazine
of the Jehovah's Witnesses was revoked. By the same decision, the
magazine cannot even be imported into the country.
504 On 10 June 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled
that the liquidation and ban on the activities of the Moscow Community
of Jehovah's Witnesses in 2004 was unlawful. Since then, however,
the community has not been able to re-register, despite repeated
505 We were presented with a long list of well-documented cases
of violations of freedom of religion with regard to Jehovah's Witnesses.
506 We find this situation unacceptable, which was the main reason
behind our initiative to send the above-mentioned Federal Law on
Extremism, as amended in 2006, to the Venice Commission for opinion.
We hope that the Venice Commission's guidance will contribute to
remedying the current violations.
507 In a most worrying development, on 31 May 2012, 17 Jehovah’s
Witnesses in Taganrog were charged with organising and participating
in a criminal activity merely for practising their faith. The trial
is expected to take place in the near future. A ruling to initiate
a criminal case on the basis of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code
(organising the activity of an extremist organisation) was rendered
on 5 August 2009 and it followed the decision of the Rostov Regional
Court to liquidate the local religious organisation as an extremist
organisation and to declare as extremist materials 34 of their religious
508 Russia also undertook to return, without delay, the property
of religious institutions. The law on handing over to the religious
organisations property owned by the State or municipalities was
adopted by the State Duma in November 2010. We note with satisfaction
that most of the property used for religious services has been returned.
We were able to confirm this at our meetings with representatives
of different confessions in Moscow and in Kazan.
7.8 Alternative military service
509 Upon accession, Russia undertook
to adopt a law on alternative military service. This was done in
510 In their report on Russia presented in 2005, our predecessors
heavily criticised this law, concluding that it was incompatible
with European standards and did not offer a fair alternative for
young draftees. They stressed that, in their opinion, the commitment
in this respect was not fulfilled and pointed out that the formal adoption
of a law cannot automatically stand for compliance with obligations
and commitments. We fully share this view.
511 Resolution 1455
on the honouring of obligations and commitments by the
Russian Federation called on the Russian authorities to revise the
law on alternative military service with a view to “changing its disproportionate
character and bringing it in line with European practice”.
512 Regrettably, this has not been done. The Russian delegation,
for its part, considers the commitment fulfilled. To justify its
position, it refers to statistics: according to the Ministry of
Defence, as many as 5 388 applications for alternative military
service were submitted between 2004 and 2010; 4 072, in other words 80.5%,
7.9 Protection of minorities,
xenophobia and racial intolerance
Upon accession to the Council
of Europe, Russia undertook to introduce new laws in line with Council of
Europe standards for the protection of national minorities, to sign
and ratify, within a year from the time of accession, the European
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (ETS
No. 157); to conduct its policy towards minorities on the principles
set forth in Assembly Recommendation
on an additional protocol on the rights of minorities
to the European Convention on Human Rights, and to incorporate these
principles into the legal and administrative system and practice
of the country. Russia also committed itself to signing and ratifying,
within a year from the time of accession, the European Charter for Regional
or Minority Languages (ETS No. 148).
Russia is a multi-ethnic State with over 100 nationalities.
According to the 2010 population census, the Russian population
is made up of: Russians, 80.9%; Tatars, 3.9%; Ukrainians, 1.4%,
Bashkir, 1.1%; Chuvash, 1.1%; Chechens, 1%; and others, 10.6% including
Finno-Ugric people, whose situation is considered to be a matter
of concern by the Assembly.Note
515 The Russian Federation ratified the Framework Convention for
the Protection of National Minorities on 18 June 1998. The last
resolution of the Committee of Ministers containing recommendations
for improvement of the implementation process dates back to May
2007. The third periodic report by the Russian authorities was presented
in 2010, and the third opinion of the Advisory Committee was adopted
in February 2012.
516 While noting overall progress in the implementation of the
Framework Convention, it points to a number of areas of concern,
in particular as regards the implementation of existing federal
guarantees regarding minority protection, the lack of comprehensive
anti-discrimination legislation offering effective remedies for victims
of discrimination and continuing problems concerning access to residency
registration and citizenship for persons belonging to national minorities,
which results in difficulties in the implementation of their economic, social
and civil rights.
517 There is an alarming increase in the number of racially motivated
violent assaults. The reluctance of law enforcement officials and
prosecuting authorities to acknowledge the racially and nationalist
motivation of these crimes is a matter of concern. Furthermore,
incitement to hate has become more common and too often remains
518 Regrettably, there have been setbacks related to minority
participation in public life, including the abrogation of federal
provisions allowing quotas for the participation of indigenous peoples
in regional legislatures. In their comments on the preliminary draft
report, the authorities drew our attention to the fact that the
participation of representatives of minorities is exercised principally
by their membership of and work in expert advisory bodies affiliated
to State and local authorities. In particular, they are members
of the Expert Advisory Council affiliated to the Inter-Agency Task
Force on Inter-Ethnic Relations. Furthermore, on 7 May 2012, the
President Putin issued a decree on ensuring inter-ethnic concord.
A Council on Inter-Ethnic Relations is foreseen under the responsibility
of the president.
519 The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages was
signed by the Russian Federation in 2001 but it has never been submitted
for ratification. During our last visit, we were told that the procedure
is under way and the ratification should be accomplished in the
near future. We urge here the members of the Duma – as we did during
our meetings in Moscow – to accomplish this task without delay,
especially since this question does not seem to be problematic.
Indeed, during our visit in Kazan, we had an opportunity to speak to
different language communities present in the Republic of Tatarstan,
and we could establish that the overall situation with regard to
minority languages is satisfactory.
520 The most recent report of the European Commission against
Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) was published in 2006 (it was adopted
in December 2005). It gave evidence of specific concerns regarding
the escalation of racist violence, the spread of racist statements
and publications, racist discourse in politics, and racial discrimination
in the system of residence registration. The next visit and report
of ECRI are foreseen for this year.
7.10 The ombudsman institutions
521 Upon accession, Russia committed
itself to adopting a law on the office of the commissioner for human rights.
The Federal Law on the Ombudsman in the Russian Federation was adopted
522 The ombudsperson is independent from the executive and elected
by the Duma for a five-year period. Since 2004, the post has been
occupied by our former colleague from the Parliamentary Assembly,
Mr Vladimir Lukin.
523 The ombudsperson examines complaints on abuses of individuals'
freedom and rights, takes measures to rectify the violations, offers
recommendations on the compliance of national legislation with international
law, and prepares annual reports on his department's activities
for the president, the parliament, the government, the prosecutor
general and the highest courts. In 2011, the ombudsman’s office
received over 54 000 individual or group complaints.
524 While we are truly impressed by the devotion and commitment
of the present ombudsperson and his staff, we have to admit that
the overall impact of their activities on the human rights situation
in the Russian Federation is limited and focused on individual cases.
525 According to the law, every subject of the Russian Federation
may also elect their own ombudsperson. During our visit in Kazan,
we met the Ombudsperson for Tatarstan, Ms Saria Saburskaya, and
were informed about her activities.
7.11 The Presidential Council
on Civil Society Development and Human Rights
The Presidential Human Rights
an advisory body established in 2004, which is responsible for preparing
recommendations for the president on key human rights issues. It
is composed of 27 representatives of major NGOs.
527 The council has taken position on many important and sensitive
issues, proving its independence and impartiality. It has prepared
reports on the death of Mr Sergey Magnitsky, pointing to the responsibility
of the prison guards, and on the imprisonment of Mr Mikhail Khodorkovsky,
concluding that the investigation should be reviewed.
528 Most recently, on 24 December 2011, the council called on
the Head of the Central Election Commission to step down.
529 The reports of the Presidential Human Rights Council are public
and they are published on its website. However, they are not binding
in any way, and their influence is very limited.
530 Regrettably, in June 2012, following the announcement of a
change in appointment of the council’s members, 13 of the 27 members,
including the famous human rights defender Ms Ludmila Alexeeva resigned. They
said that they feared that the council would lose its independence
from the authorities. On 22 June 2012, Mr Mikhail Fedotov said that,
as of the following month, Russian non-governmental and other civil
society groups would be able to nominate their candidates on the
council’s official website and the president would select and appoint
new members from among these candidates.
531 This decision, along with recently adopted new laws, increases
our concern with regard to the intentions of the authorities and
the future of democracy in Russia.
532 The overall state of democracy
in Russia raises concern and progress in the fulfilment of the country’s obligations
and commitments is slow. In this report, we have pointed to numerous
problems in all areas of our interest, namely pluralist democracy,
the rule of law and human rights, both at the level of legislation
and its implementation. Russia should increase its efforts and advance
more quickly on the way to democratisation.
533 A matter of particular concern over the reporting period was
the restrictive political climate, which was harmful for a meaningful
political dialogue and the free expression of public opinion.
534 This restrictive political environment was also detrimental
to the electoral process, which, together with the shortcomings
and deficiencies of the electoral legislation and electoral administration,
fuelled heavy criticism of the recent parliamentary and presidential
535 Concerns with regard to the independence of the judicial system
are closely linked to other concerns related to the rule of law,
human rights violations and the impunity of police forces.
536 As rapporteurs on the monitoring of Russia’s obligations and
commitments, we have been charged with the particularly difficult
task of assessing the democratic progress in a country which seems
to be at a crossroads, confronted with the choice of its own future.
Indeed, at the time of drafting the present conclusions (July 2012),
it is difficult to predict in which direction Russia will go.
537 The mass demonstrations which followed the parliamentary elections
of December 2011 created a new political situation in the Russian
Federation. After more than a decade of rule by one political force
enjoying a comfortable majority in the parliament and the support
of the population, which allowed it to consolidate its power, sometimes
at the expense of democratic principles, the moment came when the
population demanded more openness and inclusiveness of the political
538 The political stability and economic prosperity of the early
2000s, which replaced the chaotic situation and economic difficulties
of the 1990s, was no longer sufficiently satisfying for the population’s
ambitions and expectations. The Russian population, often considered
as politically passive and favouring strong authoritarian power,
has, all of a sudden, demonstrated its democratic expectations and
539 This mass mobilisation has not been limited to big cities
or specific categories of the population: the whole country was
concerned and all population groups from all political backgrounds
were represented in the demonstrations. This has created a window
of opportunity for the ruling force which might result in a liberalisation
of the system.
540 A number of legislative reforms initiated by the former president,
Dmitri Medvedev, and signed into law, including changes in the electoral
law, direct elections of governors and amended rules for registration
of political parties, seemed to confirm a sincere wish to liberalise
the system. The public announcement by the newly elected president,
Vladimir Putin, of his intention to broaden political dialogue,
by including the extra-parliamentary opposition, seemed to confirm
this positive direction.
541 However, the declared openness of the authorities for change
is too often contradicted by acts. As we mentioned in the introduction,
the recently adopted restrictive laws, in particular the so-called
“protest bill”, the re-criminalisation of defamation, the law on
the Internet or the amendments to the law on NGOs constitute a step
backwards and bring into question the intentions of the ruling forces.
542 The legal expertise of the Venice Commission demonstrates
that a number of laws, crucial for the democratic environment in
Russia, raise concern as to their compliance with democratic standards.
We hope that the Russian authorities will take into account the
Venice Commission’s recommendations and will address them without
delay. In the meantime, the existing legislation governing basic
freedoms should be applied in a less restrictive manner.
543 We also call on the Russian authorities to use the Venice
Commission’s expertise when preparing the new legislation.
544 We believe that the coming months will be very important for
the democratic future of Russia. Once again, we recall that it is
in the best interests of the ruling forces to listen to public opinion
and let it be expressed freely. Respect for freedom of expression,
freedom of assembly and freedom of association is essential for
a truly democratic process.
545 We are aware of the frustration of the Russian authorities
with regard to the duration of the monitoring procedure. It results
from the conviction that a considerable legislative effort in fulfilling
commitments has been accomplished and that the country should move
to a post-monitoring dialogue. We have witnessed this frustration
and, indeed, lack of comprehension, at many meetings during our
546 However, we are convinced that the conditions have not been
met for closing the monitoring procedure. We have raised a number
of concerns in the present report. We have discussed these concerns
frankly and directly with the Russian authorities. The outstanding
problems, including elections, freedom of expression, freedom of
assembly and human rights, must be resolved before the question
of the closing of the monitoring procedure may be considered.
547 Furthermore, the above-mentioned restrictive laws adopted
in recent months bring into question the genuine intentions of the
authorities and their declared will to democratise the country.
Therefore we recommend to the Assembly to continue the monitoring
548 We will follow the situation closely. We will continue our
political dialogue with the authorities and we are determined not
to exceed the deadlines foreseen in the monitoring procedure and
present our next report before the end of our mandate in January