Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination discusses anti-discrimination efforts of Russia with civil society

GENEVA (31 July 2017) – The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this afternoon held an informal meeting with civil society representatives from the Russian Federation, whose report will be considered this week.

In her opening remarks, Anastasia Crickley, Committee Chairperson, welcomed civil society representatives from the Russian Federation and underlined the importance of a dialogue between the experts and civil society.

Throughout the discussion, numerous civil society representatives presented the issues that they were working on, and the issues they considered as major challenges.  While some thought that the Russian Federation fared well in terms of racial discrimination, compared to many other countries in the world, others felt that numerous challenges lay ahead.  Those included the measures the Government was implementing to curb the acts of extremism, which some members of the civil society thought were not genuine and therefore not effective, as they were rather used to crackdown against political opponents.  The definition of extremism was still too vague and too broad, as was the language of the new articles of the law introduced to fight incitement to hatred and neo-Nazism, which allowed their obvious misuse.  Serious concern was raised regarding the rights of indigenous minority peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East, the Roma minority, and the Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainians in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, all of whom were facing systemic and institutional discrimination.

Speaking in the discussion were Sova Centre, Citizen’s Watch, ADC Memorial, Crimea Centre, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (joint statement), Revival of Kazas, European Center for Democracy Development, World Russian Peoples Council and a representative of the indigenous Shor People.

Ms. Crickley, in her closing remarks, thanked representatives of civil society from Russia for their presentations and contributions to the discussion.

ADC Memorial drew the attention of the Committee on the situation of Roma in Russia who still faced structural discrimination.  Most of the Roma lived in dense settlements since 1956 due to a law adopted at the time.  Rather than finding a comprehensive situation to the issue of settlements, the Government reacted by shutting off gas supply, declaring homes to be illegally built, expulsing residents, and other such measures.  The Government denied segregation in schools, however separate schools and classrooms remained widespread across the country.  Combined with open xenophobia and racism, were attempts for taking Roma children away from their families, because parents were unable to pay for electricity bills.  The Committee should urge Russia to legalize homes and plots of lands of the Roma, stop activities such as police operations disconnecting their homes from gas supplies, and stop the segregation of Roma children in schools.

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