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President signed legislative amendments to improve work of human rights commissioners in Russia

06 April 2015

On 6 April, the President of Russia signed the Federal Constitutional Law On the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation and the Federal Law On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation to Improve the Work of Human Rights Commissioners.

The adopted legislative amendments will make it possible to establish a more independent character of the human rights commissioner’s institute and create unified legal conditions for the work of state human rights bodies, which will finally facilitate effective protection of citizens’ rights.

The federal constitutional law is aimed at increasing the coordinating role of the human rights commissioner in Russia in interaction with the state bodies and officials ensuring human and civil rights in constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

The federal commissioner is entitled to provide them with organisational, legal, advisory and other assistance within his or her competence, and to create a council of commissioners functioning as a consultative and advisory body, which is to include a representative of each federal district from among the commissioners of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

The federal constitutional law establishes additional requirements to the human rights commissioner in the Russian Federation as to a person occupying a state position in the Russian Federation. Particularly, he or she is not entitled to have a citizenship of another country or a residence permit or another document confirming the right of a Russian citizen to reside on the territory of a foreign country.

The amendments to the Federal Law On General Principles Governing the Organisation of Legislative (Representative) and Executive Bodies of State Power in the Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation determine the basics of the human rights commissioner’s status in a constituent entity of the Russian Federation. Thus, a regional commissioner is independent from any state bodies and officials when executing his or her powers. The order of appointment (election) to the position and dismissal therefrom is established, as well as the basic requirements to the candidates are defined, and some limitations and prohibitions upon execution of powers by the commissioner are introduced.

The changes introduced to the Federal Law On Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation make it possible for the federal commissioner to visit accommodation centres for refugees and displaced persons, as well as to speak with the people one-on-one, in the conditions making it possible for an administration’s representative to see the speakers but not hear them. The same provisions concerning human rights commissioners in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation are included in the Criminal Penitentiary Code of the Russian Federation and the Russian law On Establishments and Bodies Executing Penal Punishment in the Form of Deprivation of Liberty.

It is for the first time when regional commissioners are entitled to visit freely certain territorial bodies of the federal executive authorities, to request and receive the data, documents and materials required to consider a complaint concerning a decision or action (inaction) of such bodies. In addition, to receive explanations from organisations under federal control, to conduct inspection of activities of some competent state bodies, officials and civil servants, independently or jointly with them.

The federal law stipulates an option for vesting human rights commissioners in the federal constituent entities with the functions of the commissioner for children’s rights, the rights of indigenous minorities and other official positions in charge of protecting the rights of citizens in a constituent entity of the Russian Federation. These amendments also make it possible to coordinate the work of the said commissioners in a given region.

For reference: improvement of the legislation has been caused by the need to close the gaps in the legal regulation of the Russian federal human rights commissioner’s mandate and basic principles of the human rights commissioners activity in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

The federal law and the federal constitutional law were adopted by the State Duma on 27 March 2015 and approved by the Council of Federation on 1 April 2015.

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