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Beginning of the Meeting with Vladimir Lukin, the Ombudsman for Human Rights in the Russian Federation

February 13, 2008

Novo-Ogaryovo

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PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Have you submitted your report, Vladimir Petrovich?

HUMAN RIGHTS OMBUDSMAN VLADIMIR LUKIN: Not only the report, but also some proposals in which, incidentally, there are various special reports. It would be helpful if our colleagues could have a look at them.  It's an annual report, as required by the Constitution and established practice. I would just like to highlight a few items to which  the executive and legislative branches should pay particular attention.       

This year there have been fewer complaints. Last year there were about 30,000, and this year about 28. It would be premature to infer too much from this: maybe it was a special year, a pre-election year (MPs normally complain a lot), or maybe it's something else. But I would not say that this indicates a diminished interest in the Commission for Human Rights, because there are other figures as well.  About a third of the complaints (32 per cent) were accepted as eligible for consideration, the rest were simply not in our jurisdiction. Of the eligible complaints, approximately 13 per cent were resolved. We found positive solutions for them. If you compare this with the experience of international ombudsmen, it is a very good result. I would not rush to draw conclusions. But, in any case, it is clear that if this institution has a high profile, momentum and the support of the highest state authority, it will be able to better satisfy our citizens. Thats why we are requesting such a policy.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good.       

VLADIMIR LUKIN: I would like to draw your attention to certain features of these complaints. Their subject matter has changed when we compare them with last year's, when the majority involved social grievances. Now there are fewer complaints about social issues (they amount to one third of the total), and a relative increase in the number of complaints about abuses by the law enforcement and judicial systems. What exactly should one conclude from this? We can conclude that the situation in detention centres and in pre-trial detention centres remains difficult. It must be said that we have made a lot of progress this year. We have carried out various renovations in detention centres, and they have been improved, but we still need the cooperation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and their financial help in order to finish the job.

We have the same sort of complaints concerning prisons and penal colonies. I would like to point out that last year we had an unfortunate situation in penal colonies for juvenile offenders. As you know, there was rioting in a number of these facilities. We need to pay attention to the fact that these particular colonies are described as educational facilities. Of course, some of these young inmates are difficult to handle, but nevertheless the main focus there needs to be educating and training people. This is very important.

With regards to the judicial system, two issues in particular stood out. The first is the inadequate enforcement of court decisions. No one is happy that we are one of the leaders in numbers of complaints made to the European Court of Human Rights. 80 per cent of the European Court's judgements refer to the fact that the decisions of Russian courts have not been implemented. If we dramatically improve this aspect, then the general situation will improve and we won't be throwing money out the window. The second issue we want to draw to your attention is the problem of victims' rights. Our laws concerning the protection of the rights of victims are weak. Article 146 of the Criminal Code should specify that the victims should be identified from the very start of the criminal proceedings, if there are sufficient grounds to do so, and not in the last stages. A great deal follows from this: a lack of faith in the court and certain preconceptions. One result of this sentiment is the serious problem that we now have in our society, namely the issue of taking justice into one's own hands. This is a serious problem. One can understand these people: what has happened to them is a tragedy. On the other hand, it has now become so serious that people are settling their scores themselves, with «capital punishment». This is wrong. The way to resolve this situation is by giving more recognition and special attention to the victim, from the outset of the trial.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Obviously you're right, we should pay attention to this. Regarding recognition from the outset, we need to reflect and consult with specialists, because only a court of law can make such a decision. Therefore, the question arises: according to which case is the victim determined, according to which article? This requires special professional attention.

VLADIMIR LUKIN: We need a series of professional discussions to determine how to go about this.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You are absolutely right to draw our attention to this.


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