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RF president meets regional ombudsmen

August 17, 2012, 13:19 UTC+3

Putin supported the idea to legislatively oblige officials to respond to their appeals and make the institute of human right commissioners mandatory for all regions

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MOSCOW, August 17 (Itar-Tass) — Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting with the regional ombudsmen on Thursday supported the idea to legislatively oblige officials to respond to their appeals and make the institute of human right commissioners mandatory for all regions. The RF president also did not rule out the possibility of ombudsmen’s participation in the judges’ qualification boards. Human rights activists believe that the proposed measures will make this institute more effective.

The RF president recalled that only 66 regions out of 83 have the commissioners for human rights, the Kommersant daily writes. “I do not want to take a dig at anybody, don’t want to blame anyone, but still, apparently, somebody does not really want to have such an institution that is independent from the regional government and generally not dependent on anybody,” Putin said. He proposed to “come up with the initiative to the State Duma” to make the ombudsman institute mandatory for each subject of the Russian Federation.

The Commissioner for Human Rights in Dagestan Ummupazil Omarova reported that “more than a third” of received complaints are related to judicial proceedings: she proposed “to consider, if possible, the participation of ombudsmen in the Qualification Boards of Judges.” Vladimir Putin said that he “sees no contraindications” to this.

Commissioner for Human Rights of the Nizhny Novgorod Region Vasily Olnev proposed to consider a bill drafted by him that will “minimize the number of illegal criminal sentences”; the president agreed.

Vladimir Putin for his part suggested that the ombudsmen consider formulating ideas that could consolidate Russian society. “During the Soviet period, there were many not very good things, but also good things were invented. For example, there was such a notion as “the Soviet people - a new historical entity of people,” the president recalled. “If someone offers something similar in the new conditions - that would be great.” In addition, the RF president stressed that the work of the ombudsman should be “placed outside the political process.”

The head of the Russian Presidential Council on Human Rights, Mikhail Fedotov, is confident that the measures proposed by the president will make the work of the regional ombudsman “much more effective.” “It is necessary to make the system of protection of human rights the same everywhere, as it currently turns out that in some regions human rights are better protected than in others,” Fedotov told the Kommersant daily.

The Novye Izvestia newspaper quotes Russia’s Commissioner for Human Rights Vladimir Lukin, who said that his regional colleagues often lack the authority to protect the population. This is due to the fact that the range of capacity of human rights commissioners in regions is limited to the municipal and regional level, and they cannot get to the federal level. And because of this such structures as the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) or the Defense Ministry are beyond the control of the ombudsmen, although 60 percent of submitted complaints are about them.

The ombudsmen institute is not noticeable – it is not often remembered, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes. Meanwhile, in the West it is an influential institution, whose opinion is heeded.

Member of the scientific council of the Moscow Carnegie Centre Nikolai Petrov explained to the publication the difference in the status of the national and Western ombudsmen institutions. “The ombudsman’s normal work should result in the improvement of laws and system decisions should be made. First of all, this is not an attempt to save a particular victim, but a desire to assess the problems and offer systemic remedies. The question now arises: how effective is the activity of Vladimir Lukin in this regard? Or is his work the work of a fireman? Maybe – that of a theatrical fireman that demonstrates the government’s attention to these issues?”

Head of the legislation improvement and legal information department of the RF Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights Alexander Pushkin said that he could not remember over the past five years event a single case when proposals of the Federal Commissioner for Human Rights were promoted into legislative initiatives. “We raised the question of the exclusion of criminal responsibility for defamation, as insult and minor injuries belong to the same sphere. Today, however, the article on defamation has again been returned to the RF Criminal Code...” Pushkin complains.

Instead of introducing political competition and renewing the government every five years, the newspaper quoted political analyst Igor Bunin, “we are looking for some kind of makeshift ombudsmen, who run on business, but in reality cannot do anything.” “So, the business ombudsman has appeared which first thing said: ‘Let’s release Khodorkovsky.’ And immediately someone clamps down on him. After which he stated that he had not put forward this idea at all. If the decision is taken by the ruler, what kind of ombudsmen can we have?”

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