02 October 2012, 23:00

Open appeal of Russian human rights organizations to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen,

We, the undersigned representatives of Russian human rights organizations, have carefully studied the draft resolution of the PACE "On Fulfilment by the Russian Federation of Its Commitments to the Council of Europe", prepared by the Monitoring Committee.

The draft contains a lot of useful and accurate recommendations addressed to the authorities of our country. However, a number of inaccuracies, erroneous qualifications of events and facts can negate the possible positive effect of the resolution.

Along with a completely adequate evaluation of the far-reaching non-democratic changes in Russian legislation and law enforcement practice, we were surprised to find in the draft an expression of satisfaction with the dynamics of the situation! This satisfaction is associated both with a legislative package proposed by former President Medvedev and with mass demonstrations of protest (points 3, 4, 10 and 24 of the draft resolution).

We do not understand how this optimistic conclusion could be possible. Obviously, the anti-democratic steps taken by the Russian authorities in recent months are systemic and have already led to a qualitative change of the situation in the country, putting Russia among the authoritarian police regimes.

The measures, noted in the report of the Monitoring Committee and draft resolution, aimed to return to democratic possibilities, made in the Russian Federation (points 4 and 10 of the draft resolution), which look efficient at first glance, can hardly be regarded as sincere and adequate - they rather look like an imitation. It is important that this was reflected in the final document.

Let us try to justify this assertion.

For example, the return of direct election of heads of the executive power in the regions, advertised as a success of liberal reforms (point 10 of the draft resolution), immediately loses its democratic potential, since at the same time the so-called "municipal filter" is introduced - a requirement to a candidate to ensure support of a definite, very high percentage of municipal deputies. Given the ruling party's control over the majority in municipal assemblies, this requirement is surely cutting oppositional candidates off from the election. And now we see how it works in the regions, where elections of governors have been appointed.

Furthermore, another imitation was the reduction of the threshold of the membership of a party from 50,000 down to 500 in order to get registered, and introduction of the easier way for the parties to nominate candidates. The introduced ban to form electoral blocs, combined with the preservation of the 5-percent barrier at parliamentary elections and the demand of mandatory - under the threat of deprivation of registration - participation of parties in elections are virtually depriving the really oppositional parties of any chance to get into the parliament.

Thirdly, it is totally unclear why the powerful surge of protests related to the refusal of the public to agree with the mass falsification of elections and expansion of politically motivated persecutions (point 3 of the draft resolution) is interpreted as an advance towards the democratic society.

Fourthly, it is absolutely unclear why the draft resolution says nothing about the fact that the main Russian mass media - both state-owned and those belonging to the monopolies, which are close to the authorities, - are used as the machine of state propaganda, including for slandering the opposition, human rights and other non-governmental organization? Why the draft is silent about persecutions for political reasons, the pressure on civil society, the use for this purpose of falsified criminal cases, and about the arbitrary and expanded application of the anti-extremist legislation.

And, finally, while noting serious human rights violations in Ingushetia and Dagestan (point 15), the draft resolution is completely ignoring the situation in the Chechen Republic. However, since the adoption in 2010 of the PACE Resolution No. 1738, which expressed extreme concern about gross and systematic violations of human rights in Chechnya, no change for the better has happened there.

The draft resolution overlooks the humiliated and powerless position of women in Chechnya, although information to this end is contained in the reports of human rights organizations and other documents available to the authors during the preparation of the report and draft resolution.

We hereby urge you to amend the text of the draft resolution by noting, on the one hand, the systemic anti-democratic actions of the Russian authorities, and, on the other hand, the imitative character of liberalization of political legislation.

We believe that the annoying flaws of the monitoring report and the draft resolution of the PACE, based on the above report, had been caused by the fact that in preparation of the report, its co-authors failed - for some unknown reasons - to meet activists of the Russian civil society.

Lyudmila Alekseeva, Chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Valery Borschov, a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Yuri Vdovin, the human rights organization "Civil Control"
Svetlana Gannushkina, the Committee "Civil Assistance"
Oleg Orlov, a member of the Board of the Human Rights Centre "Memorial"
Sergey Kovalyov, Chairman of the Public Commission for Studying the Heritage of Academician Andrei Sakharov
Lev Ponomaryov, the Russian Movement "For Human Rights"
Lilia Shibanova, the Association of voters' rights "GOLOS"
Yury Shmidt, a lawyer and a member of the Human Rights Council of St Petersburg

September 26, 2012

Source: the International Society "Memorial"

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