On March 26, 2014 Saint Petersburg ombudsman A.Shishlov presented annual human rights report for 2013 to the deputies of the Saint Petersburg legislative assembly. Among other things report featured materials which were prepared by the city’s human rights organizations, including ADC “Memorial”. Mr. Shishlov paid substantial attention in his report to the problem of xenophobia in Saint Petersburg. He stressed the need to react strictly against all violent actions motivated by xenophobia (i.e. so called “Russian cleansings”, which took place in summer 2013), as well as the necessity to correctly qualify these actions not as hooliganism, but as pogroms motivated by hate. Ombudsman also spoke about violence aimed against LGBT persons, which, too, is usually qualified as mere hooliganism.
Ombudsman’s report stated with regret that the use of notion of “illegal immigrant”, as well as hate language in general became more widespread over the last year. Mr. Shishlov stressed that the “dangers” of labor immigration are in most cases exaggerated, which can be proven by crime statistics – immigrants commit twice as less crimes as local dwellers of Saint Petersburg. Ombudsman called on the legislators not to forget the lessons of history: blaming “ aliens” for all the troubles, xenophobia and hate always lead to catastrophes.
In his report Mr. Shishlov has also noted violations of civil and political rights, i.e. that people of Saint Petersburg are not able to implement their right for peaceful assembly (out of 452 requests for public meetings just 181, or mere 40%, were authorized by the city authorities last year). At the same time detentions of participants of public assemblies were often carried with violations of human rights.
Freedom of association was also often violated over the period of last year: non-governmental organizations were subjected to checks by the procurators, which, according to Mr. Shishlov, were in contradiction even with the procedural documents of the procurators’ office. Reports about violations in Saint Petersburg were incorporated into the appeal made by the ombudsman of the Russian Federation Vladimir Lukin to the Constitutional court of the Russian Federation. The court is also to present its ruling regarding the law on “foreign agents” in the near future.
Deputies of the legislative assembly had then posed questions to ombudsman. Some of these questions were openly provocative, but the presence of journalists and TV crews contributed to observation of decencies during the meeting and the chairman of the meeting reacted to open attacks on human rights defenders and “liberals” in a rather strict way. The notorious deputy Milonov asked ombudsman whether it was not a violation of the rights of the majority for the latter to be present at the public assemblies of “perverts” and “Banderovists” (supporters of Ukrainian nationalists – ed.). Mr. Shishlov responded that it was the duty of all people invested with authority to cultivate respect to law and justice and as a consequence of that not to participate in any actions that foster sentiments of a completely opposite nature, i.e. xenophobia and hate.