MOSCOW, August 23 (Itar-Tass) — Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said he does not regard Russia as a totalitarian or authoritarian country.
"They have it wrong when saying our country is totalitarian or authoritarian. We have the press and the public opinion," he underscored at a news conference on Thursday, "yet we're far from being perfect. If the human rights situation were good, I'd resign the next day."
Lukin drew attention to the fact that of all the complaints forwarded to him, just 4 percent concern violation of citizens' political rights. "This does not mean however, that they're unimportant," he went on to say.
Speaking about the probe into the case over mass disturbances during the so-called March of the Millions in Moscow on May 6, the ombudsman stated that he stuck to his opinion that the disturbances there did not happen in the manner as described by the law. In his view, both protesters and police committed violations. "Hopefully, the court will give its assessment to it," he said.
Lukin denounced the actions by the Pussy Riot punk group but stated that it was "a misdemeanor, not an offense."
European countries apply the administrative procedure in such cases. "I’m' hoping the next court will have a more careful review of the case," the ombudsman added. He reminded that the ombudsman has the right to challenge court rulings and that he might resort to this right.
According to Lukin, the case has not only legal consequences.
"The poisoned substance of intolerance is spreading in our society ever more. It's typical and even fashionable not to discuss problems but to attack each other," he said.
In this connection, the ombudsman said he was categorically opposed the initiative to create the so-called Orthodox vigilante groups. "It's an awful initiative - creating faith-based vigilante groups," Lukin said.
He expressed concern over the law on the nongovernment organizations - "foreign agents." "I'm worried because of the phrase "foreign agents," to which our historical connotation lends a negative sense, nearly equaling them to enemies of the people," Lukin explained, "I’m also concerned over the fact that the checks /rules and timeframes/ which were set six months before the law and suited everybody, were amended the tough way.
As for the fines for violations of the rallies regulations, Lukin reminded that as before, the organizers have to notify the authorities: "Our position is clear: except the places where rallies are banned by law, they can be held wherever the organizers wish, while the authorities have to sign /coordinate/ it or offer clear and solid arguments why it /the rally/ cannot be held at the designated venue and time, and when it can be held at his venue and at this time."
Lukin noted that the complaints over human rights violations often come from representatives of small faiths.
"The authorities are more reluctant to allocate them prayer rooms or land plots for buildings," he said. Meanwhile, the police have shown the trend to check ancient religious texts for the words that stimulate acts of terror. As an example, he cited the Bhagavat Gita book trial. "A trial against Hindus took place in Tomsk, it rattled India and led to complications. It is necessary to fight terrorism by combating the plans of terrorist attacks, not ancient texts," he stated.
Lukin said he objected to the idea to create the offices of ombudspersons in various branches, such as the office for children's rights, business persons' rights, etc.
"The ombudsman should be independent from the executive bodies, and they are appointed by the president. Presidential appointments of the ombudsman's aides in this or that sector would be more logical. The Russian institution of ombudsman has been listed in group A by UN decision, i.e. it conforms to all the UN criteria," Lukin said.
It is now popular to voice the idea of ombudsman for a new sector. Imaging a girl of 16 or 17, a disabled person with a small child, who needs housing. And here there come ombudspersons for children, women, disabled persons, and housing problems. They will make a 10-percent input to service the woman's rights, and invest 90 percent of their effort to obtain office space and administration.
At the same time, Lukin supported the institution of regional ombudspersons who he said should have local representatives of their own.