President Vladimir Putin last week introduced a bill greenlighting Russia’s exit from the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM), the world’s most comprehensive legally binding treaty devoted to safeguarding the rights of minority groups.
Russia is home to representatives of as many as 193 ethnic groups who speak at least 270 languages and dialects, according to official statistics. Experts and activists have long warned that Russia’s increasingly discriminatory policies threaten this vast cultural and linguistic diversity.
Though yet to be approved by Russia’s parliament and signed into law by Putin, the denunciation of the FCNM appears to be yet another step on the country’s path toward greater international isolation. But what does it really mean for the country and its minority communities?
…“Realizing the rights of minorities is a complex task that can be approached in different ways,” said Stefania Kulaeva, a human rights defender and expert at the Brussels-based Anti-Discrimination Center (ADC) Memorial. “This convention provides detailed answers to related questions and specific recommendations of the Advisory Committee were always useful in helping to resolve complex issues.”
Unlike the European Convention on Human Rights, FCNM does not have a mechanism for receiving individual complaints about violations of its provisions and remains primarily a “consulting instrument” for governments aiming to fully realize the rights of its minorities, according to Kulaeva.
Stefania Kulaeva of ADC Memorial, too, told The Moscow Times that Russia’s denunciation of the convention was “very much predictable.”
“Russia exited the European Convention on Human Rights and can now bring back capital punishment. Judging by this catastrophic move…this is yet another logical step,” she said.
“Now there are more problems in Russia than ever before. Russia is inflating chauvinistic nationalism and the rights of national minorities are curtailed severely,” said Kulaeva of ADC Memorial.
Kulaeva, who provided shadow reports to the FCNM Advisory Committee in the past, believes that Russia’s exit from the convention is a “distressing” development due to the mere fact that human rights defenders will no longer be able to voice their concerns in Strasbourg and consult the Council of Europe on key issues.
This sentiment was echoed by Yana Tannagasheva, an indigenous Shor activist and human rights defender from Siberia who was among the authors of the 2017 report on violation of the rights of indigenous Shor and Teleut peoples presented to the FCNM Advisory Committee.
“Russia doesn’t follow any principles [of the convention] and essentially hasn’t for several years,” Tannagasheva told The Moscow Times.
“But this is one of the few legal documents that safeguard the rights of national minorities. Of course, this [decision] will have a negative impact on our peoples.”
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