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Statement by Konstantin Dolgov, Russian Foreign Ministry's Special Representative for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, at PACE International Conference “Human Rights and Foreign Policy”

(Turin, December 13, 2012)



2381-17-12-2012

    Dear colleagues!

    The Russian Federation pays utmost attention to the promotion of human rights. Fundamental human rights norms and standards are guaranteed by the Constitution of our country. Russia is a party to basic international agreements and conventions on human rights. We carefully analyze the Russian legislation and prepare recommendations concerning its improvement and bringing it into line with principles and norms of international law.

    At the same time, our country has never hidden from constructive criticism on humanitarian and human rights issues. We believe that for the good of our society it is necessary to keep striving for improvement.

    However, the way human rights matters are used by some of our international partners against Russia can hardly satisfy us, as it would hardly satisfy anyone in a similar situation. Some members of the international community are trying to take full control of the human rights agenda while they do not have, frankly speaking, any right to do so. As a result of their efforts, we are witnessing a rapid politicization of human rights as they turn into a leverage and tool of the promotion of these countries’ selfish interests.

    On December 5 a report on the human rights situation in the European Union was released. That document based on reliable information from reputable international and national sources put together pieces of extensive factual data on many problems, including systemic, the international community is facing now in the promotion of human rights. The report has reaffirmed our conclusion that no country is perfect as far as human rights promotion is concerned.

    The situation in the European Union in the sphere of the protection of human rights is far from perfect. A lot of respected human rights activists and international human rights associations are reporting that in recent years the situation in EU Member States as far as the protection of human rights, freedoms and democratic standards is concerned has deteriorated.

    It is very alarming and not understandable that certain EU countries, though verbally supporting the international human rights norms and standards, decide not to assume responsibilities even under basic multilateral treaties on human rights. And if they do assume such responsibilities, these are often accompanied by strange neutralizing reservations.

    In this context, it becomes clear that the existing system of protection of human rights and freedoms in the EU is not flawless. Neither the EU judicial mechanisms, the EU ombudsman who receives complaints about the activities of supranational institutions, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights acting as a consultant for the EU institutions, nor the newly created post of the EU Special Representative for human rights do not cover all the systemic challenges in the area of human rights faced by the European Union.

    Neither at the institutional, nor at the legislative level one of the most sensitive spheres of the EU control has been fully developed, i.e. continuous supranational monitoring within the EU of cases involving violations of fundamental rights and freedoms by certain Member States. There is a total lack of tools of active response by the EU institutions and of prosecution of those responsible.

    As shown by the 2011 Report on the Application of the Charter by the European Commission, the main efforts of the EU institutions are directed towards taking into account "European values and constitutional heritage" when elaborating EU legislation. The approach of the EU institutions towards monitoring its implementation by Member States is rather formal; they virtually ignore the real situation in the EU. Moreover, the governing bodies of the European Union show indulgence, to say the least, towards violations of human rights by Member States. For example, the European Commission demonstrates persistent reluctance to interfere in the situation regarding large-scale violations of the rights of the Russian-speaking population of Latvia and Estonia under the pretext that it does not have the necessary powers.

    The situation regarding the rights of the Russian-speaking population of Latvia and Estonia is absolutely intolerable, as well as the failure to find a solution to a shameful problem of the so-called non-citizens. Our European partners often reaffirm the need to protect the rights of minorities. Is the situation for the Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic States not a flagrant violation of the rights of the minorities? Latvian and Estonian authorities deliberately deprive Russian-speaking population of citizenship. For example, non-citizens in Latvia constitute 15 percent of the population. In the largest Latvian cities such as Riga, Daugavpils and Liepaja non-citizens constitute more than half of the population. In Estonia 10 percent of the population are non-citizens.

    Moreover, despite numerous recommendations of international and human rights organizations, the authorities of those countries create conditions for the self-reproduction of the non-citizenship phenomenon.

    Russian-speaking minorities in Latvia still face dozens of restrictions on rights, including such fundamental rights as the right to vote and stand for election. We intend to keep this issue under review in the context of the upcoming European Parliament Elections in 2014. We expect that the EU will finally start work on voting rights for the Russian-speaking population of Latvia who were denied citizenship. About 50 restrictions are connected to positions that non-citizens are not eligible for, namely public, municipal, judicial and prosecutorial ones. Furthermore, they are deprived of the right to establish political parties and to conclude real estate transactions without approval from the local authorities. Whereas they are magnanimously granted the right to pay taxes, which they do without fail.

    In October 2011, the government of Latvia approved the notorious Document on the Guidelines of National Identity and Society Integration that is, as a matter of fact, an official programme of Riga aimed at full and unconditional assimilation of the Russian-speaking population. It also hypocritically refers to adherence to the European democratic values which, according to Latvia, do not include the discrimination of national minorities.

    The government of Estonia is aimed at full elimination of education in the Russian language. The proclaimed ten year plan aimed at the development of the education system for 2011-2020 does not envisage education in state schools in some other language, except for Estonian. And, by the way, it contradicts the current Estonian legislation.

    Policy line of the Baltic States aimed at equalization of the Soviet and the Nazi regimes, glorification of the Nazis and their local supporters, raises concern as well. It is a powerful factor of the increasing extremist sentiments, nationalism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, racial and religious intolerance in society.

    For instance, with the connivance and even direct support of the official authorities, the veterans of SS and SD divisions and other Nazi followers regularly march in the streets of Riga and thereby dishonour the memory of millions, including the Europeans who died at the hands of the fascists. Such encouraging of neo-Nazi ideas propaganda gives rise to great concern, primarily with regard to prospects that younger generations of these countries will face.

    The ongoing attempts in some EU States to practically rewrite the decisions of the Nuremburg Tribunal are outrageous. In our opinion, it is a stark challenge to the whole system of the international law and a flagrant breach of obligations under a number of fundamental international treaties and conventions.

    The refusal of the EU countries, including Great Britain and France, the former anti-Nazi Allies in World War II, to support resolution “Inadmissibility of Certain Practices That Contribute to Fuelling Contemporary Forms of Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance” which is approved every year by the UN General Assembly at the Russian initiative has caused particular concern and confusion.

    At present, our partners are talking much about the so called Magnitsky case. We have repeatedly given necessary explanations concerning the comprehensive measures taken in Russia to eliminate problems in the penitentiary system. It feels like our partners are not very much interested in this. Specific facts do not attract their interest. But if we speak about specific facts and confirmed evidence, let us recall what is happening in Europe.

    Some of EU Member States have participated in the notorious CIA program under which persons suspected of having taken part in terrorist activities were arrested, moved to "secret prisons" and incarcerated. Such actions are a blatant violation of fundamental international obligations in the human rights sphere, primarily, those on a total prohibition of torture.

    Neither the EU Member States, where official investigations are closed without any explanation of reasons, dragged out or are not conducted at all, nor the EU institutions, which plead absence of competence when it comes to the internal competence of Member States, are showing zeal.

    The report of the Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales regarding the quality of confinement in Wandsworth, one of the major prisons in Great Britain, was published in August 2011. The report noted numerous abuses of prisoners’ rights, including the lack of access to elementary hygiene. Each month there were up to 32 cases of self-mutilations among prisoners of this penal facility; from January 2010 to February 2011, there were registered 11 deaths, including 4 suicides.

    It is not just a one case, as serious prison concerns are reported in many EU countries.

    The current austerity and tax consolidation measures have had negative repercussions with regard to the democratic processes and social rights of citizens across the EU. In a number of the EU countries, public protests against the government’s attempts to deprive citizens of their social gains have been harshly suppressed.

    According to the survey of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights on anti-Semitism in the EU countries that was made public in the European Parliament in June 2012, the number of offences and crimes against the Jewish Diaspora in the EU has increased considerably over the last ten years. The average incidence of anti-Semitism in France and the United Kingdom is one case per day, while in the FRG it is three cases per day. The issue is complicated as no supranational institution of the EU keeps a constant and precise record of crimes committed on the grounds of anti-Semitism. There is usually no such practice at the national level either (with the exception of the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden).

    In addition to that, we are witnessing a continuous growth of xenophobia, racism, aggressive nationalism and hate crime rates in the EU Member States. To give an example, I would like to mention the creation of anti-immigrant websites in Belgium and the Netherlands. The EU efforts aimed at countering those trends are clearly insufficient and often limited to moral condemnation of such actions expressed by some of the EU officials. In this context, Belgium, Greece, Spain, Poland and Estonia have not yet submitted to the European Commission information on the implementation of the EU Council Framework Decision of 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law, although time for taking the necessary legislative measures expired in late 2010.

    According to the report "Money, Politics, Power: Corruption Risks in Europe", released by the NGO Transparency Intentional in June 2012, none of the surveyed EU countries (the analysis was carried out in 23 of the 27 EU Member States) has an impeccable reputation with respect to its anti-corruption efforts. In 20 countries, not just the lack of public discussion of the adopted laws, but the existence of serious obstacles for citizens in getting access to information about the proposed bills was noted.

    Russia attaches fundamental importance to the protection of human rights and makes consistent efforts in this area. We counteract any forms of neo-Nazism, aggressive nationalism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. We are convinced that problems should unite us rather than divide. We are open to mutually beneficial and efficient cooperation with our international partners in the area of human rights. Our successful cooperation in this area may provide extra opportunities for closer interaction and harmonious development of our social and economic systems. This is what the foreign policy of the Russian Federation is aimed at.

    Thank you.