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Amendments to law on human rights commissioner adopted by State Duma in first reading

20 February 2015

On 20 February, the State Duma has adopted a package of amendments significantly extending powers of human rights commissioners at the federal and regional levels.

The amendments imply changing the Federal Constitutional Law On the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation and a range of others.

The adopted amendments significantly extend powers of the federal human rights commissioner concerning interaction with regional authorities, as well as empower the commissioner to provide regional ombudsmen with organisational, legal, advisory and other assistance within their competence.

In addition, having the amendments adopted enables the Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia to create a council of commissioners functioning as a consultative and advisory body, which is to include "a representative of each federal district".

The introduced changes make it possible for commissioners (both the federal and regional ones) to visit penitentiary facilities and centres of temporary accommodation for the persons petitioning for the refugee status, as well as to speak with the inmates and petitioners one-on-one.

The amendments to the Law On General Principles of Organisation of Legislative and Executive Authorities in Territorial Entities of the Russian Federation establish the order of appointment of regional human rights commissioners and a range of persons entitled to introduce a candidate for consideration of a legislative body of the entity.

According to the new regulations, the territorial entity’s bodies shall agree upon the candidate with the federal human rights commissioner.

Furthermore, the package of amendments consolidates the status of regional commissioners, determines the requirements to the candidate for the position, and regulates the order of interaction between regional commissioners and regional offices of some federal legislative bodies and organisations (establishments) of federal subordination.

Fore reference: on 5 January 2015, President of Russia Vladimir Putin introduced to the State Duma draft laws On Amendments to the Federal Constitutional Law On the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation and On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation to Improve the Work of Human Rights Commissioners prepared with the participation of Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia Ella Pamfilova. Earlier at the meeting with the President, Ms Pamfilova had highlighted the long-felt need to improve the work of the federal and regional commissioners at the legislative level.

440 deputies voted for amendments to the federal constitutional law and 444 gave their votes for amendments to other laws.

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