UN HRC: Civil and political rights of vulnerable groups should be protected by Russian laws

The UN Human Rights Committee (UN HRC) has taken into account recommendations of ADC “Memorial” in its criticism of the situation with observation of civil and political rights in the Russian Federation.

The UN Human Rights Committee has considered the seventh periodic report of the Russian Federation on implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and adopted a series of important recommendations, which are obligatory for fulfillment by the Russian Federation. ADC “Memorial” had earlier presented its alternative report to the Committee, which had described violations of right of vulnerable groups, including ethnic minorities (Roma, Crimean ethnic communities, indigenous Arctic ethnic groups), migrants and LGBTI activists.

On April 2, 2015 the Committee issued its recommendations, which dealt with the problems described in the report to the UN HRC presented by ADC “Memorial”.

The Committee condemned manifestations of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism as well as hate crimes perpetrated by extremist groups, including neo-Nazis and Cossack patrols. The Committee called on the Russian state authorities to effectively investigate these crimes and properly qualify them. In its report ADC “Memorial” presented examples of adopting double standards, when persons guilty of organizing anti-immigrant pogroms had not been charged with administrative violations, while the participants of peaceful civil protests had been severely repressed.

According to the Committee’s recommendations, Russian legislation concerning peaceful protests, freedom of assembly, association and free expression of opinions should be amended. Defamation should be decriminalized, the law on NGOs, which are considered “foreign agents”, should be amended or abolished altogether, as well as the laws on “blasphemy” and state treason. The Committee condemned persecution of participants of peaceful protests, including that on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow in 2012, and called to promptly investigate all cases of violence, excessive use of force by law enforcement officers, arbitrary arrests and detention of peaceful protesters, and to punish those responsible.

The Committee called on the Russian state authorities to immediately stop the practice of racial profiling by law enforcement officers targeting visual minorities – Roma, persons originating from the Caucasus, Central Asia and Africa.

The Committee expressed its concerns regarding cases of refoulement of those seeking asylum and protection to other states where there were substantial grounds for believing that he/she would be at real risk for their lives (ADC “Memorial” devoted considerable attention to this topic in its report to the Committee). The Committee called on the Russian Federation to provide for safety of these people and insisted on the need for Russia to fulfill its obligations before international human rights bodies, including the Committee and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

A considerably portion of Committee’s recommendations was devoted to overcoming gender discrimination and discrimination based on the grounds of sexual orientation. The Committee recommended to abolish the infamous law “on propaganda of homosexuality”, not to persecute defenders of the rights of minorities and to exclude transgender identity, bi-gender identity, asexuality and cross-dressing from the list of medical conditions constituting contra-indications to driving.

The Committee pointed out the continued underrepresentation of women in decision-making positions in political and public life and recommended to adopt measures aimed to achieve equitable representation of women in the state bodies, to combat patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes on the roles and responsibilities of women and to finally adopt legislation against domestic violence.

UN HRC condemned the practice of collective punishment in the Chechen Republic, which included damage or destruction of property and forced expulsion of relatives and suspected supporters of alleged terrorists.

The Committee paid special attention to the situation with violation of rights of indigenous peoples and called on the Russian state authorities to guarantee their rights to their lands and natural resources and to adopt measures to effectively protect them from adverse affects by the state development projects and extractive industries operations.

Finally, important recommendations were adopted by the Committee regarding the situation in Crimea. These included demand to investigate all allegations of serious human rights violations and crimes on the part of “Crimean self-defense” forces, to guarantee freedom from any discrimination to ethnic minorities in Crimea, including Crimean Tatars, to provide free access to information, freedom of religion and belief and freedom in expressing their opinions.