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Law on human rights commissioner adopted by State Duma

27 March 2015

On 27 March, the State Duma adopted the draft federal constitutional law On Amendments to the Federal Constitutional Law On the Commissioner for Human Rights in 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 in the third reading.

The adopted amendments significantly extend powers of the federal and regional human rights commissioners, guarantee their independence, and are to ensure a unified order of implementation and protection of rights and freedoms in the country.

A specific order of appointment to and early dismissal of a candidate from the post of a regional commissioner has been established by the adopted draft laws. Thus, appointment of a candidate to the position of the commissioner for human rights in a constituent entity of the Russian Federation and his or her early dismissal shall be exercised following consultations with the federal human rights commissioner.

The federal commissioner is entitled to provide regional ombudspersons with organisational, legal, advisory and other assistance within his or her mandate, as well as to create a council of commissioners for human rights — as a consultative and advisory body — which is to include one commissioner from each federal district.

One of the most important improvements introduced by the law is the possibility of the federal and regional commissioners to speak one-on-one with convicts and inmates, provided that representatives of the penitentiary facility can see the conversing, but not hear them.

The same right will be given to the federal commissioner during his or her visits to centres of temporary accommodation or sojourn on the territory of Russia, as well as visits to special facilities.

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 commissioner is also entitled to an immediate reception related to his or her mandate issues by heads and other officials of state authorities in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, self-government bodies and other organisations vested by the federal law with some state or other public authorities and the right to administer penitentiary facilities.

The 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. These amendments will make it possible to coordinate the work of the officials and bodies protecting the rights of citizens in a given region.

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

In a similar way to the institute of the federal commissioner, the adopted draft federal law stipulates that a regional commissioner is not entitled to be a member of a political party or another public association pursuing political goals.

Besides, the draft law formulates certain limitations to the legal standing of the regional human rights commissioner aimed at increasing his or her authority and the guarantees of efficient protection of citizens’ rights. The commissioner in office can be neither a deputy of the State Duma or the Federation Council, nor a member of a legislative (representative) body of the federal constituent entity or a local self-government body, neither be in state or municipal service, nor perform other payable activities.

However, the draft law provides an exception allowing the commissioner to teach, exercise some academic or other creative activity. At the same time, such activity shall not be financed only from foreign sources, international or foreign organisations, by foreign residents or stateless persons, unless otherwise provided by international agreements of the Russian Federation or the law of the Russian Federation.

445 deputies voted for amendments to the federal constitutional law and 441 gave their votes for amendments to other laws.

For reference: the legal basis of the human rights commissioner’s institute in Russia was established by the Declaration of Human and Civil Rights and Freedoms of the Russian Federation as of 22 November 1991. The Federal Constitutional Law On the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation was adopted by the State Duma on 25 December 1996 and signed by the President of the Russian Federation on 26 February 1997. The law entered into force officially on 4 March 1997.

On 5 January 2015, President of the Russian Federation 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.

Elaboration and adoption of the draft laws have been caused by the need to close the gaps in the legal regulation of the human rights commissioner’s mandate and basic principles of the human rights commissioner’s activity in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

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