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Draft laws to improve work of Human Rights Commissioner in Russia submitted by President to State Duma

05 January 2015

Pursuant to Article 84 of the Constitution, Vladimir Putin submitted to the State Duma draft federal constitutional law On Amendments to the Federal Constitutional Law On Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation and the draft federal law On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation to Improve the Work of Human Rights Commissioners.

Explanatory note to the draft laws

The draft laws are aimed at improving the work of the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, hereinafter as the Commissioner, and human rights commissioners in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

The draft federal constitutional law broadens the rights of the Commissioner as regards interaction with state bodies and officials responsible for ensuring the protection of citizens’ rights and freedoms in Russian federal constituent entities. In order to increase the role and significance of human rights commissioners in Russian regions, the Commissioner is given the right to provide them with organisational, legal, informational and other support within his/her competence. The Commissioner is also given the right to create a council of human rights commissioners, which is to include a representative from each federal district.

In addition, the draft federal constitutional law states that the Commissioner, as an individual holding a state office in the Russian Federation, cannot be a citizen of another nation, nor hold a residency permit or other document providing the right of permanent residency to a Russian Federation citizen in a foreign state.

The draft federal law amends the Federal Law On the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation, specifying the Commissioner’s right to visit temporary housing centres for refugees, internally displaced persons or individuals receiving temporary asylum in the Russian Federation, as well as visiting special institutions. The Commissioner is also given the right to speak with individuals there alone, allowing representatives from the temporary housing centre or special institution to see but not hear them. A similar regulation for the Commissioner and human rights commissioners in the federal constituent entities is included in the Penal Code of the Russian Federation and the Russian Federation Law On Institutions and Agencies Executing Criminal Penalties in the Form of Imprisonment.

Amendments are also made to the Federal Law On General Principles of Organising Legislative (Representative) and Executive Bodies of State Power in the Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation. These amendments determine the status of human rights commissioners in the federal constituent entities. Thus, it states that the Constitution (the Charter) of a federal constituent entity may appoint the post of a commissioner for human rights in the constituent entity, which is to be independent from any state bodies or officials in exercising his/her powers. The regional human rights commissioner is appointed (elected) and dismissed by legislative (representative) bodies of a constituent entity of the Russian Federation.

The law determines basic requirements for candidacy, introduces restrictions and prohibitions in exercising the regional commissioner’s powers. Thus, a regional human rights commissioner cannot be a member of a political party or other public association pursuing political aims.

Besides, the law determines the circle of officials and state power bodies entitled to propose to the legislative (representative) body of the constituent entity a candidature for the regional human rights commissioner. It is also established that before considering the candidature, the legislative (representative) body and the higher official of the constituent entity shall agree it upon with the Commissioner.

In case a regional human rights commissioner fails to comply with the requirements, restrictions and prohibitions, his/her powers may terminate early. At the same time, the legislative (representative) body of the constituent entity shall preliminary consult the Commissioner.

The amendments stipulate an option for vesting human rights commissioners in the federal constituent entities with the functions of commissioner for the rights of indigenous minorities and other official positions in charge of protecting the rights of citizens within the given constituent entity of the Russian Federation. Another option to coordinate the work of the officials and bodies protecting the rights of citizens is also stipulated.

When considering complaints, a regional human rights commissioner is authorised to exercise corresponding powers in relation to the territorial bodies of some federal executive authorities, as well as establishments and organisations of federal subordination.

It is provided that the work of the human rights commissioner and his/her office in a constituent entity of the Russian Federation shall be financed using budget assignments from the constituent entity’s budget.

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