High Commissioner addressed Conference dedicated to 20th anniversary of Greek Ombudsman Institute

21 February 2019
High Commissioner addressed Conference dedicated to 20th anniversary of Greek Ombudsman Institute

On February 21, in Athens, High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation Tatiana Moskalkova participated in the conference dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Greek Ombudsman Institute.

We are gathered here today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Greek Ombudsman Institute. First of all, let me congratulate Mr. Pottakis for organization of the conference at such a high level.

I would like to highlight, that Greece is a cradle not only of the civilization, but also of the concept/notion of human rights. It is the very place, where ancient Greek philosophers Socrates, Platon, Aristotel, Protagor made a significant contribution to the formation of the view of human rights. They were first, who offered the system of the philosophical and legal views on justice, equality, natural law and the supreme value/worth of the human person.

The widespread statement «The man is the measure of all things» is at the core of the contemporary understanding of human rights. And today the institution of the Greek Ombudsman continues to maintain the highest legal and ethical traditions, which were established many years ago.

The relations between Russia and Greece are built on developed treaty-law base, which consists of more than 50 current agreements and continues to improve. There have been established strong links not only between the Presidents of both countries, but between the parliamentarians on different international fora.

The humanitarian cooperation is also widely developed. In 2018 the bilateral year of tourism was realized. Thus, in 2017 more than 850 thousand Russian citizens visited Greece, in the first half of 2018 the number reached 300 persons.

The interaction between Russian and Greek Ombudspersons has a special nature as well. A new impulse was given by signing a bilateral memorandum on cooperation between two institution in Moscow in November last year leading the quality of relations to the new level, which would help to raise the effectiveness of provision the assistance to the citizens of both countries.

The human rights diplomacy is of a significant importance, because it helps to solve the problems of concrete citizens bypassing bureaucracy and formalism.

This is very important for us, since due to different assessments, around half a million of our compatriots live in Greece now, which is 5 percent of the Greek population. The Russian-speaking community is of the most numerous. There are about 40 thousand Russian citizens.

In 2018 in Russia, there were more than 35 thousand Greek citizens, who can always count on prompt assistance from our side (reside permanently/tourists) due to our Memorandum.

Today we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the institution of Greek Ombudsman, which is as old as the institution of the Russian Ombudsperson. We should note, that during that time the Greek Ombudsman has got respect and has been recognized both within the country from the part of citizens and authorities, and on international arena as an independent human rights institution.

The activity of the Greek Ombudsman, as in Russia, is being realized in accordance with the Constitution and the special law, which define the mandate, main functions and methods of work, as well as the structure of the institution.

As the Russian Ombudswoman, I am mostly interested in the progressive experience of the Greek Ombudsman, which we can implement in our activities. I would like to highlight, that there are interesting forms of activities, which we would definitely adopt in our work.

Particularly, of special interest is the function of mediator, which is granted to the Greek Ombudsman by the law, when you are able to address the problem, raised in the complaint.
The critical importance has the competence to restore the citizens’ rights, violated not only by the state authorities, but also by the legal entities, private enterprises.

Moreover, the Greek Ombudsman is vested with the mandate of national preventive mechanism and of national equality body. These are very important issues for Russia nowadays as well.
During last 20 years, the institution of the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation has gained unique experience of human rights promotion and protection, which we are ready to share with our colleagues.

Only in 2018, due to the efforts of the Russian human rights institution and the commissioners for human rights in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation rights of more than 200 thousand Russian and foreign citizens were restored.

Using modern technology tools, we began to conduct face-to-face meetings with citizens, who are far away, by video-conference.

Within legal education, we started extensive work on the preparation of educational human rights standards and programs for pupils, future specialists, bachelors and masters.

We continue the Master program called "International human rights protection", which was developed with assistance from the OHCHR. The methodological novelty has been the launch of Comprehensive lesson on human rights, which only last year attended more than 6.5 million pupils.

Another experience of regional commissioners is connected with FIFA World Cup and we are ready to share it. Together with OHCHR, we launched a large-scale campaign on prevention racism in sport, including conduction of thematic conferences and round-tables with participation of representatives of law-enforcement bodies.

Russian regional commissioners from those cities, where the games took place, were included in the Organizational committees and got the right to react promptly on possible violations of rights of the citizens and fans.

In our Office we opened a hotline in Russian, English and Spanish languages, which worked 24 hours a day during the whole world cup. The special group of staff members was established to provide assistance to the fans. For example, we visited penitentiary facilities to meet and assist foreign citizens, who were detained because of the commission of offence. We helped those citizens to establish contacts with the embassies, provided them with interpreters, warm clothes and informed their relatives about incidents happened.

The whole event was organized on a very high level, which was proved by the feedback from organizers, fans and sportsmen.

I hope that exchange of experience in those areas would help us to implement new methods in our work.

I would like to mention, that the development of human rights democracy in cooperation with other ombudsmen has already given us good results and helped to restore rights of almost 200 Russian citizens being abroad.

I was requested by the Russian woman to assist in returning her nephew, who had been involved in the road accident and then got to one of the Erevan hospitals in critical condition. Due to our cooperation with the Armenian Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan the ban on leaving Armenia was lifted and the man was able to come back to Russian.

On 30th October 2018, as a result of cooperation between the Commissioner, the state authorities of Russia and Ukraine and the European Ombudsman Institution the sailors of the Russian vessel NORD were able to return to the Russian Crimea. The release of the sailors, who were illegally detained by the Ukrainian authorities for more than half a year, became the first step to establish the humanitarian cooperation with the Ukrainian side.

I hope that together with the Greek Ombudsman we will be able to assist our citizens, facing difficulties abroad.

Analyzing the modern context of the human rights protection, we should honestly say that we are undergoing a very difficult and alarming historical step. Against the background of the world crisis nowadays the new challenges and difficulties have emerged.

There are challenges of general nature, such as politicization of human rights, globalization, mindlessness, low level of responsibility of the officials, low level of the responsibility for the safety of life on earth; and of private nature, such as illegal migration, gap between rich and poor people, terrorism and extremism, territorial and inter-ethnic conflicts, cyberattacks, illegal prisons, violence and cruelty.

In my opinion, the implementation of SDGs, which serve as the benchmark for achieving the well-being, can help in addressing those problems.

During many decades the world community has been trying to develop criteria for assessing the level of human rights protection, which would help to define the level of security of the civilization space, as well as to figure out the scientific basis for the improvement of the situation and, of course, to prevent grave violations of human rights.

The indicators of the sustainable development could help in identifying the ways for solving this problem. Human rights indicators are integral part of the common goals and targets, which are formulated in Agenda for sustainable development, adopted in 2015 by 183 countries, including Russia. This document declared 17 global goals and 169 targets, among which are: elimination of hunger and poverty, reducing inequality between men and women, provision of access to justice and others.

I firmly believe that only constructive cooperation, free from politicized discussions and views, including within such fora as today, could contribute to strengthening of trust, developing unified approached for our common problem — promotion and protection of human rights in the world.

I wish all of us interesting and fruitful work and discussions!

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