The Human Rights Center of Memorial is a non-governmental, non-profit organization based in Moscow devoted to investigating and publicizing human rights abuses and educating the public about proposed remedies to alleviate human rights problems.
The information which the staff of the Human Rights Center of Memorial has obtained as a result of its field investigations and from others sources enable us to state that in a number of situations, the Russian Federation is egregiously violating its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The Russian Federation is only inadequately implementing CERD, and is not taking the necessary measures envisioned in the Convention, which, under current conditions, in fact could realistically be implemented.
The Human Rights Center of Memorial has prepared comments on the Russian Federation's compliance with CERD, organized according to Articles 1-7 of the Convention.
Article 1, par. 1
It must be noted that "racial discrimination" in the sense of Art. 1, part. 1 of CERD is understood as direct discrimination, that is, the result of making distinctions on the basis of race, ethnicity, or origin. However, for Russia, what is more significant are actual or potential situations of deliberate exclusion or restriction aimed against persons who belong to racial (or ethnic) minorities, but a discrimination that is practiced on the basis of other distinctions -- as a rule, related to place of residence and language. We will leave aside in this instance the problems of so-called "structural inequality," or unintentional institutionalized discrimination, and wish to note that "deliberate indirect discrimination," practiced in certain instances by government agencies, create the very problems that CERD was designed to resolve.
Article 1, par. 2
It is necessary to note the severe problems created by the arbitrary refusal of the executive agencies of government, contrary to the federal Law On Citizenship in the Russian Federation of 1991, to recognize Russian citizenship for several categories of former citizens of the USSR, who, on the basis of race, are distinct from the ethnic majority of the Russian population (see below).
The following point is also significant: according to Art. 62, par. 3 of the Russian Federation Constitution, foreign citizens and persons without citizenship in the Russian Federation enjoy rights and bear responsibilities on an equal basis with the citizens of the Russian Federation, except for cases established by federal law or an international treaty. Meanwhile in some respects (right to free travel and free choice of place of residence, employment) there have not been adopted any respective federal laws, and restrictions of the rights of freedoms of aliens, who legally stay and reside within the country, are being established contrary to the Constitution by the Decrees of the President, Acts of the Government and by regional authorities. This uncertainty concerning exceptions creates in practice a premise for discriminatory behavior by government officials, who restrict the rights of certain persons on the basis of their race.
Article 1, par. 4
In the political and academic discourse of Russia, the terms "indigenous small-in-number peoples" (which is close to the concept of an aboriginal population) and "minor ethnic communities" (a concept not clearly defined either in law or in theoretical debates) are used to describe categories of persons who require special protective measures.
Article 2, par. 1
In a number of situations, it can be stated that Russia has violated the obligations undertaken within the framework of Art. 2, par. 1 of CERD.
Art. 2, par. 1, a
Non-recognition of Russian Citizenship, Despite Federal Law, of Categories of Former USSR Citizens
Several groups of citizens of the former USSR who are clearly distinguishable on the basis of ethnicity, who were forced migrants to the territory of Russia before the collapse of the Soviet Union, due to the arbitrary refusal of regional authorities, have not received registration permits known in Russian as propiski (registration by place of residence), and consequently are not recognized by the authorities as citizens of the Russian Federation (RF). According to Art. 13, part 1, of the 1991 RF Law On Citizenship in the Russian Federation of 1991 "citizens of the Russian Federation are recognized as all citizens of the former USSR who permanently resided on the territory of the Russian Federation on the day this Law goes into effect, if, in the course of one year after this date they do not state their intention to refuse citizenship in the Russian Federation." Neither the Law of the RF "On Citizenship in the Russian Federation", nor regulations which determine the procedure for obtaining and registering Russian citizenship (Decrees of the RF President No. 386 of April 10, 1991 and No. 2299 of December 12, 1993, and the Interior Ministry Order No. 330 of June 30, 1994) do not equate "permanent residence" with the presence of a "permanent registration permit" or "registration by place of residence." According to Art. 20 of the RF Civil Code, the place of permanent resident is the place of actual residence, that is, where a person permanently or primarily resides. Nevertheless, in their operations, government agencies, primarily the Interior Ministry offices, de facto equate the concepts of "permanent residence" with "the presence of registration by place of residence"; moreover, the granting of such registration is virtually, contrary to federal law, a matter of official discretion. The situation is a vicious circle: the absence of a propiska (a residence permit) is the basis for non-recognition of Russian citizenship, and the non-recognition of citizenship is used as a pretext to refuse residential registration (essentially permission to reside in a given place), upon which is predicated the opportunity to enjoy the majority of rights and liberties in practice.
The following groups are included in the category of persons whose citizenship has been unrecognized despite federal law: 1) Meskhetian Turks (Meskhi) who were forced to migrate from Uzbekistan in 1989-1990 to Krasnodar Territory and the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic in the Russian Federation -- more than 14,000 people; 2) some of the Kurds from Armenia and Azerbaijan who sought refuge in Russia (in Krasnodar Territory and the Republic of Adygey in the RF in 1988-1990 -- from 2,000-4,000; 3) some of the Armenians who fled Azerbaijan from 1988-1990 (in Moscow, Moscow Region, Krasnodar and Stavropol Territories and Rostov Region) about 50,000 people; 4) some of the Ossetian refugees who fled from Georgia in 1990-1991 (now in the Republic of Northern Ossetia--Alaniya in the RF) -- from 30,000-40,000 persons.
Thus, the situation does not fit the exception contained in Art. 1, par. 3 of CERD, since this case it is a question not of a statute in the national legislation which concerns national affiliation, citizenship, or naturalization, but about a policy in practice, which is a violation of federal law and is discriminatory on the basis of racial distinction.
Display of Racism in the Activities of Law-Enforcement Agencies
Discriminatory behavior of employees of these bodies, especially the police, has become a common practice in most RF subjects and has the most extreme forms in large cities (Moscow, St. Petersburg) and in some southern regions (Krasnodar and Stavropol krais, Rostov Oblast). It manifests itself in selective and disproportionately frequent detentions of persons belonging to the so-called «visual» minorities (that is, persons with a distinctive anthropological type, mainly natives of the Caucasus and Central Asia), as well as in unlawful and unprovoked use of violence toward detainees, extortion of money, arbitrary and disproportionately frequent searches of residential premises occupied by members of these minorities or offices of the companies owned by them, arbitrary seizure of their personal property or goods in which they trade. In the course of check-ups and detentions, such persons are often treated in a manner humiliating to their human and national dignity. This practice is partly facilitated and provoked by the fact that since the early 1990s, the authorities of a large share of RF subjects have introduced complicated procedures for registration at the place of sojourn. The institution of "registration by the place of temporary stay," noted in the Statute on the Passport System in the USSR of 1974, was confirmed by the 1993 federal Law on the Right of the Citizen to Freedom of Movement and Choice of Residence . The mechanism for its enforcement was established by a Decree of the Government of the RF No. 713 of July 17, 1995, Interior Ministry Order No. 393 of October 23, 1995, and Interior Ministry Instruction No. 980 of November 19, 1995. The checking of personal identification documents is conducted by six offices within the Interior Ministry. A uniform registration procedure is non-existent, and in different territories, this procedure is defined by the regional administration or by the local branches of the Ministry for Internal Affairs. As a result, a large share of persons who live temporarily outside the regions of their permanent residence find themselves in the category of violators of local rules and are subject to penalties For example in Moscow, according to information from the Chief Directorate for the Interior, in the first five months alone of 1997 the documents of approximately 1.5 million people were checked, and of these, more than half were "violators." All of these persons were subjected to fines (Itogi, February 5, 10, 1998, p. 11). Undoubtedly an incentive for such document checks is the opportunity to extract a bribe or simply take money from detainees. The disproportionate amount of attention paid to the minorities and discriminatory behavior towards them is often provoked by the idea that the natives of the Caucasian region are crime-prone; this idea is circulated on the initiative of the regional authorities and heads of the bodies under the Ministry for Internal Affairs.
Discrimination in Connection With Restriction of the Rights to Free Choice of Residence
See section relating to Art. 5, par. d, I.
Situation of Meskhetian Turks in Krasnodar Territory and Kabardino-Balkaria Republic
Meskhi are a Turkish-language speaking Muslim nation deported in 1944 from Southern Georgia to the republics of Central Asia; about 290,000 such Turks live within the borders of the former USSR. From 1989-1990, after ethnic clashes, about 90,000 Meskhi were forced to leave Uzbekistan. About 60,000 of them sought refuge in the Russian Federation (at that time, one of the Union republics), and of these, more than 12,000 fled to Krasnodar Territory and about 400-700 went to the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic (KBR).
The regional authorities of Krasnodar Territory and KBR refused to grant to the Turks residence permission (propiska in the Soviet period, or permanent registration since 1993) and, respectively, deprived them of the basic civil, political and social rights. Dwellings, which they had purchased after coming to Krasnodar Territory in 1989-1990, haven't been officially approved because of special ban. Consequently, the Meskhetians, like other persons who do not have permanent registration are not officially recognized as Russian citizens contrary to the Russian Law on Citizenship of 1991, which does not equate permanent residence with permanent registration while the Meskhetians permanently and legally resided on the Russian territory at the dissolution of the Soviet Union and didn't declined Russian citizenship. They are not allowed to be employed on permanent basis. They actually cannot receive or restore (in case of loss or damage) personal documents (like passports or drivers licenses). Their marriages are not being officially registered and recognized. The Meskhetians are completely deprived of any access to the system of social security and public medical service. They cannot get education higher than of a secondary level.
The situation in Krasnodar Territory is different from that in the KBR in that the Meskhetian Turks within Krasnodar Territory in 1992 were selected as a distinct formal category, subjected to special discriminatory policies, pursued by the regional authorities. On 24 April, 1996 Krasnodar Territory's Regional Legislature adopted Decree No.291-P, according to which adult Meskhetians were obliged to pass each 3 months through a special registration procedure, receive certificates of residence and to pay for it (according to the item 2. of the Decree) a fare at amount of the officially established minimal wages (83 400 rubles, or app. 15 USD, which is a tangible sum for the Meskhetians). Those certificates allowed Meskhetians to re-register their vehicles for the corresponding period and to be employed on a short-term basis (not more than 2 months). Item 2. directly contradicted the Federal Law "On Customs" of 1991. In May 1997 the Krasnodar regional public prosecutor lodged protest against item 2. of the Decree No.291-P and the regional legislature abrogated it. Since June according to the instructions, given by the regional Department of the Interior, the local authorities started to register Meskhetians as persons coming for a short stay from the countries of CIS (though they permanently stay at Krasnodar Territory for 9 years) for the term of 45 days and to levy a payment for one registration at an amount of 187 650 RUR (app. 33 USD) per person. The vehicles are to be re-registered for the corresponding period.
The new registration regime for Meskhetian Turks in Summer 1997 led to new penalties and other sanctions. The authorities have stopped the process of drawing up passports for young people, which had formally started in February, 1995. The Meskhetians cannot get a number of certificates from the local authorities. In all of these cases the officials use as a pretext lack of the temporal registration for 45 days. At some enterprises Turks cannot get their wages until they bring certificates of temporal registration. Dozens of Turks have been dismissed from several enterprises in Krymsk and Abinsk districts (raions), for instance, 19 workers (mostly women) were discharged in July-September from the 'Kuban' agricultural firm at Varenikovskaya settlement in Krymsk district. The same firm didn't rent arable lands to Turkish lessees for 1997. The Meskhetians are being fined more and more often by police and even by the traffic police for the lack of registration. Massive checks of 'passport regime' including searches of dwellings have also become more frequent at the resent months. There are a few cases of detains and short-term (up to 9 days) imprisonment of the Turks living in Krymsk district. Officials at the regional as well as at the district level admit, that these policies are aimed at stimulating Turkish migration out of the Krasnodar territory.
Opposition on the part of the North Ossetian authorities in the Chechen-Ingush conflict zone to the return of refugees Ingushs to the territory of Prigorodnyi Raion
Since the armed clashes between Ingushs and Ossetians within Prigorodny raion of the North Ossetia that took place in October-November 1992, there have been no serious advances in dealing with the issue of Ingush forced migrants . The authorities of Alania have not provided conditions required for more than 40 000 Ingush forced migrants' return to the places of their former residence and in fact opposed the return of those who tried to do so at their own risk, alleging they were unable to guarantee these people's safety. The authorities of the republic directly connived at mass-scale actions to block the roads so as to prevent forced migrants' return to their old homes. In the few towns in which Ingushs had stayed or to which they later returned, life is made hard for them: they find themselves jobless, and have to exist in conditions of blockade. They are shot at, and their homes are set on fire. As a result, Ingush families are forced to leave the territory of Prigorodnyi Raion for a second time.
The data disposed in the Fourteenth periodic report of Russian Federation addressed to CERD dated 22 April 1997 (CERD/C/299/Add.15, 28 July 1997), in Article 52, par. «Ñ» iii does not reflect the real situation. As mentioned in this document, more than 10,000 Ingushs have returned to settlements in the Progoroodny district, meanwhile their overwhelming majority actually reside on the territory of the settlement Mayskoye, which is situated on the borderland with Ingushetia and really under control of the Ingush administration. These persons are still deprived of permanent dwelling and employment. The general official figure of 10,413 returned Ingushs also includes more than 1000 persons, who have official residence registration in the settlement of Kartsa, biut actually do not reside there. The real process of return concerns only the settlements of Chermen and Dachnoye, but there the Ingushs live under the conditions of blockade and without any stable garantees of security.
Privileges granted by the authorities of some North Caucasian republics (Adygeia, Kabardino-Balkaria) to the new arrivals belonging to the so-called «titular nationalities» as regards the right of permanent residence in the territories of these republics, while seriously limiting this right for the persons of other ethnic origins.
Normative documents define the privileged category as «compatriots» (Resolution of the Parliament of Kabardino-Balkaria «On Some Measures Aimed at Regulating Migration in the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic», #17-P-P of May 5, 1994); there is division on the basis of the ethnic characteristic.
Art. 10 of the Constitution of the Republic of Adygeia gives the right of return to the «historical motherland» to representatives of the Adyg diaspora, natives of Adygeia and their descendants, and emigrants from Adygeia regardless of their ethnic origin. Under the President's Decree #100 of June 17, 1996, in the case of return, aliens and stateless persons of Adyg ethnic origin have a number of privileges. The Law «On Repatriation of Members of the Adyg Diaspora» is being drafted. In the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, the limitations on the right to permanent residence there introduced by the Parliament Resolution #17-Ï-Ï of May 5, 1994 (see above) do not extend to the «compatriots», who are regarded as persons belonging to the «titular nationalities».
The Law «On Migration» of the Republic of North Ossetia - Alania of November 10, 1996 introduces the concept of «compatriots» and gives this category of persons a number of privileges.
Discrimination on Ethnic Grounds in Granting the Status of Refugee or Displaced Persons
In the fall of 1992, as a result of fighting in Abkhazia, at least 30,000 people were forced to leave this republic. Up to 5,000 persons were also evacuated from Sukhumi in October 1993. Russia was for them the country of first refuge. If Russians and Abkhazians virtually all obtained the status of forced migrants, the majority of Armenians and virtually all ethnic Georgians were refused this status. At the present time, according to various estimates, there are 17,000 to 21,000 ethnic Georgians in Krasnodar Territory who were forced to flee Abkhazia, of these, up to 11,000 who went to Sochi. With the exception of a few dozen people, they are denied any legal status or registration by place of residence, and consequently, all fundamental civil and social rights. These people are not being given the opportunity to obtain legal status not only in Krasnodar Territory but in other major cities and regional centers.
Article 2, par. 1, b
Support by Federal Authorities of the Policy of the Krasnodar Territory Authorities Regarding Meskhetian Turks
In the situation described in the section regarding Art. 2, par. 1 (a) of CERD, and with regard to the situation of the Meskhetian Turks in Krasnodar Territory, federal agencies, in particular the Administration of the RF President, the Prosecutor General's Office, the Interior Ministry, the Ministry on Nationalities and Federation Relations, take a position which signifies open support for the migration and nationalities policies of the Krasnodar Territory authorities. As reported by ITAR-TASS newsagency on November 24, 1997, Vladimir Bauer, Deputy Minister on the Affairs on Nationalities and Federative Relations stated that «...next year, we shall begin to resettle the Meskhetian Turks who form a compact community in Krasnodar Krai without official authorization. Their stay there is regarded as temporary.»
The Complicity of Government Agencies of Stavropol Territory in Discriminatory Actions of Local Self-Government and Economic Directors Regarding Dargin and Chechen Minorities
Stavropol Territory officials do not take any measures to improve the situation of the Dargin and Chechen minorities in the eastern and northern territories of the region. Persons who are members of these minorities are mainly occupied in sheep-herding and live in scattered, small huts which are separated from each by great distances. After the onset of the economic crisis in Russia, sheep-herding became an unprofitable enterprise in this region, and the heads of large [government] economic entities are trying to eliminate it. In order to economize on the social infrastructure, they are making efforts to eliminate shepherds' huts in various ways (turning off the electricity, cutting off fuel deliveries), and thus force the shepherds to return to Dagestan or Chechnya. One of the ways to place pressure on them is to close boarding schools for children, and stop bussing the children to the schools. The closing of the boarding schools has been underway since 1994 at the initiative of local officials. Study in boarding schools or regular bussing to the schools was the only means for the children of shepherds to obtain an education, and at the present time more than 50 percent of these children are thus deprived of access to education.
Official Support to the Cossack movement
The bulk of the incidents involving violence against minorities or humiliating behavior towards them is associated with the activities of organizations which refer to themselves as «Cossacks», are advocating the revival of the social group that existed before 1917, and are pressing for special and group rights for the members of this movement. In a number of regions, Cossacks have been granted the right to take part in actions undertaken by the law enforcement bodies, and their representatives have been introduced into the power structures. Cossack organizations managed to get their representatives elected to the legislative assemblies of Krasnodar and Stavropol terrotories. There and in Rostov Region, encouraged by the regional and federal authorities, Cossacks set up armed formations and appropriate some powers. They usually advocate radical nationalistic views and voice hostility towards many minorities, above all, natives of the Transcaucasus and the North Caucasus. In Krasnodar and Stavropol Territories, Cossacks are demanding that the regional authorities restrict these persons' rights or deport them. Cossack units conduct (both together with the police and separately) searches and check-ups of documents at people's homes and in the streets and markets, detain people in the streets, search cars. These actions are often accompanied by threats and violence against persons belonging to a minority.
In a number of cases, violence on the basis of ethnic origins assumed a mass scale. Since 1991, Cossack organizations of Rostov and Volgograd oblasts and Krasnodar and Stavropol krais have undertaken attempts to force dozens of Armenian, Turkish and Chechen households from these territories. In early July 1994, a Cossack skhod (meeting) in the village of Krasnyi Kut (Veselovo Raion, Rostov Region), passed a decision on the banishment of Meskhetian Turks, and 21 families were forced to temporarily leave the village. In June 1995, after a terrorist act staged by Shamil Basaev in Budennovsk a residents' meeting convened by Cossacks passed a decision to banish 36 Chechen families to the Chechen Republic. On November 12, 1995, at Homestead Armyanskii (Armenian) 12 men (Kurds and Turks) were publicly flogged, and one house was raided. On July 29, 1997, a village meeting in Vinogradny (Krymsk Raion, Krasnodar Territory) passed a decision to evict two households (Jemilovs and Alievs, Moslems but not Meskhetian Turks). In February 1997, on the decision of a Cossack meeting, four Avar families were forcibly evicted from their homes in Izobilny district, Stavropol Territory. Acts of violence against Armenians were undertaken in July and August 1997 in a number of towns and raions of Krasnodar Territory.
Despite the extremist and nationalist sentiments of many leaders and rank-and-file members of the Cossack formations, and despite the frequency of their extremist actions, federal and regional authorities have provided various support for them, have turned over to them various functions of authority and are trying to integrate them into the system of the government. Presidential Decree No. 835, "On the Government Registry of Cossack Communities in the Russian Federation, dated August 9, 1995, approved an official registry of Cossack organizations which have obtained a semi-governmental status. By Presidential Decree No. 67 dated January 20, 1996, a Chief Directorate of Cossack Troops was created in the Administration of the President, that is, under the President of the Russian Federation. By Presidential Decrees Nos. 563 and 564 of April 16, 1996 and No. 667 of June 8, 1996, members of the Cossack communities were granted a number of privileges. A number of regional formations of Cossacks were legalized by Presidential Decrees No. 95-97 from February 12, 1997, Nos. 611-613 of June 17, 1997. The President's representative in the State Duma of the RF (the parliament) in the spring and summer of 1997 supported the passage of a Law on Cossacks, which would legalize the self-organized militarized formations of the Cossacks (the Law was passed by the State Duma in June 1997, but rejected by the Soviet of the Federation, the upper house). Cossack organizations in a number of regions receive direct and indirect financial support from government agencies. Interior Ministry Directive No. 1/2899 of June 28, 1994, "On the Participation of the Cossacks in Maintaining Public Order" and a joint directive of the Interior Ministry and the Chief Directorate of the Cossack Troops under the RF President dated January 5, 1997, No. 1/127 "On the Interaction of Members of Cossack Communities, Included in the State Registry of Cossack Communities in the RF, With Interior Ministry Agencies," served as the formal basis for recruiting members of Cossack organizations into the police force. In a number of regions, Cossack organizations have obtained the right to conduct joint operations with law-enforcement agencies also on the basis of regional governmental regulations (for example, see the Resolutions of the Chief of Administration of the Krasnodar Territory No. 220, "On Extreme Measures to Combat Crime," dated April 19, 1994.)
Refusal of the law enforcement bodies to give equal protection to persons subjected to violence by extremist groups
In cases like those described above, when Cossack organizations performed acts of violence against non-Slavs, the law enforcement bodies either refrained from penalizing the guilty parties under the procedures established by the law, or brought to account only a few of them. After people were beaten up at Homestead Armyanskii (November 1995, Krymsk district, Krasnodar Territory), only one person was charged, although several dozens took part in the raid, but after the interference of the Governor of Krasnodar Territory even he was released after the court announced its decision in 1996. The Administration, the Department for Internal Affairs, and the Public Prosecutor's Office of Stavropol Territory did not perceive corpus delicti in the eviction of Chechens from their homes in Tersky Village in June 1995 (according to the official version, the Chechens left of their own free will). The local self-government of Tersky Village and governmental administration of Budennovsk district until the Fall 1997 prevented settling of five Chechen families which tried to return back to their former places of permanent residence. The same reaction was displayed by the authorities of Krasnodar Territory to the eviction of four Azerbaijani and Crimean Tatar households from Vinogradny Homestead, Krymsk district, under the threat of beating and arson after the town meeting (it took place on July 29, 1997).
Article 2, no. 1 (c)
In all the situations enumerated in the section of the report related to pars. 1(a) and 1(b) of Art. 2 of CERD, federal government agencies do not take the necessary measures to review all laws or regulations which could cause racial discrimination or make it permanent. Although the Russian Federation Constitutional Court, in a number of instances, challenged the discretionary nature of registration by the place of residence and place of settlement, established by Government Resolution No. 713 of July 17, 1995 and other regional regulations, this did not lead to a change in the existing practice. The Presidential Administration, the RF Government, the Prosecutor General's Office and the RF Ministry of Justice do not take measures to abolish regional regulations creating the situations described in the sections related to pars. 1(a) and 1(b) of Article 2. The Interior Ministry, the Prosecutor General's Office and the Federal Migration Service do not take measures so that their territorial subdivisions are governed by the statutes of federal law, and not regional acts contradicting the Constitution and federal law. Federal agencies have not taken the initiative to abolish the institution of "registration by place of temporary stay" provoking discriminatory behavior by law-enforcement agents.
Federal government agencies also are not taking any measures to change the situation for Koreans, who were forcibly deported from Korea to Sakhalin Island by the Japanese authorities before and during World War II, and who, after 1945, and until the present time, have not received legal status in the USSR or the RF, which would enable them to enjoy basic rights and liberties. At the present time in Sakhalin Region there are more than 35,000 Koreans who are viewed by authorities as persons without citizenship. They are denied all political rights and restricted in a whole range of civil and social rights: the right to freedom of movement, the right to leave one's country, the right to association, the right to free choice of work, and the right to own property.
Federal agencies have taken only partial measures to resolve the problem of former citizens of the USSR, not recognized in violation of the RF citizenship law, but these measures only underscored the racially discriminatory nature of the non-recognition of citizenship. The problem was partially resolved by President Decree No. 2007 of October 24, 1994, "On Several Matters of Implementation of the Law of the Russian Federation `On Citizenship in the Russian Federation.'" On the basis of this act, under Art. 13, par. 1 of the Law on Citizenship, former citizens of the Soviet-era Russian Republic (RSFSR) could be recognized as citizens if they had returned to Russia before the citizenship law went into effect (that is before February 6, 1992) but did not have proof of citizenship in the form of [official] recognition (that is, in practice, a resident permit at the moment the citizenship law went into force). Although the citizenship law includes the conception of the possibility of obtaining citizenship in the form of recognition or in the form of registration (a simplified form of naturalization) for all citizens of the former USSR regardless of the ethnic affiliation, the Decree resolved a certain law-enforcement problem which various groups of former Soviet citizens had in common, but which only former residents of Russia, the overwhelming majority of whom were ethnic Russians, and left outside of the purview significant groups of persons who were mainly non-Slavic in origin.
The federal government did not take measures to restore the rights of citizens of the former USSR, violated due to the fact that they were not granted permanent residence permits (permission to reside in a given place) after the abolition of regulations from the Soviet period which had restricted these rights.
Article 2, par. 2
Article 69 of the Russian Federation Constitution guarantees the right of indigenous small-in-number peoples, and Article 72, par. "m" imposes jointly on the federation and its subjects [components] obligations to "defend the traditional habitats and traditional way of life of the minor ethnic communities." In the legal and practical sense, these questions are really not regulated at the federal level. A draft federal law on the bases for a legal status for the indigenous minority peoples was four times approved from 1993-1997 by the highest legislative body of the land, but not signed by the President. At the present time the draft is being worked on in the Committee on Nationalities Affairs in the State Duma. Further drafting of a federal law on minority ethnic communities is not planned.
Article 4, a
Article 29 of the RF Constitution, which proclaims freedom of thought and speech, also contains a prohibition on "propaganda or agitation inciting social, racial, national or religious hatred and enmity." Article 13 which enshrines the concept of ideological diversity, a multi-party system and equality for all civic associations under the law, prohibits "the creation and activity of civic associations whose purposes or actions are aimed at violent change of the foundations of the Constitutional order and the violation of the integrity of the Russian Federation, the undermining of the security of the state, the creation of armed formations, the incitement of social, racial, national and religious enmity." An analogous formulation is contained in Article 16 of the RF Law On Civic Associations which went into effect May 2, 1995. The limits of the restriction on the freedom of speech consistent with Constitutional norms are contained in the Law on the Mass Media passed back in December 1991 (with subsequent amendments). For violation of the existing laws, offenders are subject to various forms of liability from disciplinary actoins to criminal prosecution.
Participation in a racist organization prohibited by law is not a criminal offense as such under Russian criminal law. Under Art. 208 of the Criminal Code, citizens of the RF can be prosecuted for participating in an "illegal armed formation." However the concept of "illegal armed formation" appears extremely non-functional, and the defintion for "illegal armed formation" is not contained in Russia law.
Article 282 of the Criminal Code provides criminal punishment for "actions aimed at inciting national, racial or religious enmity, humiliation of national dignity, and also the propaganda of exceptionalism, superiority or inferiority of citizens on the basis of their affiliation to religion, nationality, or origin." From the perspective of a number of human rights organizations, including Memorial, this formulation creates an opportunity for an expanded interpretation of the objective side of the crime, restrictions on the freedom of speech, and abuse. Such actions as incitement to discrimination and providing any aid for racist activity is not formulated and is not defined by Russian criminal law as a criminal offense.
Article 4 (b)
Acting on the territory of the Russian Federation are hundreds of radical nationalistic groups and organizations preaching ethnic superiority and ethnic xenophobia, especially towards Jews, Transcaucasian and North Caucasian nationalities, and Central Asians. Aggressive propaganda of a racist and extreme-nationalist type is characteristic for such organizations as Russian National Unity (RNE) led by A. Barkashov; the Russian Party headed by V. Miloserdov; the Popular National Party (NNP) led by A. Ivanov-Sukharevsky; the National-Republic Party of Russia (NRPR) led by N. Lysenko and the National-Republican Party of Russia (NRPR) of Yu. Belyaev.
Some of them (Party of Russian National Unity, etc.) set up armed formations. There is information about the participation of the members of these organizations in distinct acts of violence against minorities. In particular, in early June 1997 in Moscow, members of an unidentified extremist organization attacked a tent camp of Central Asian Roma, as a result of which a child was killed, and several people sustained severe bodily injuries. A criminal case opened on the basis of the attack was twice closed (the second time by the Moscow City Prosecutor's Office due to the failure to identify persons who could be prosecuted for the crime.) In 1997, three members of the RNE murdered an Armenian, and all three were released on their own recognizance with a signed statement that they would not leave the city (Diagnos, 1997, #2, November, p.4).
Organized radical nationalistic groups distribute racist, anti-Semite and anti-Caucasian printed matters. Some mass media outlets, especially regional newspapers published in the south of Russia, print materials holding individual population groups, especially natives of the Caucasus, collectively guilty of the growth of crime and deterioration of the economic situation, and demanding that their rights be limited.
The weakness of Russia's own law is one of the main reasons for the lax resistance to extremism in Russia. The Law on Mass Media, Article 4, prohibits "abuse of the freedom of speech," that is, propaganda of these very ideas of violence, the incitement of enmity and so on. Article 16 prescribes a mechanism for making sanctions against publications which violate the requirements of Article 4. Stopping the operation of a mass media outlet against the will of its founder is possible only through a judicial procedure. The "registrating agency" can appeal to the court with a suit only after repeated violation by a publication of Article 4 of the Law on the Media in the course of 12 months, for which at least two written warnings have been made. As a rule, the publication so charged then contests each of these warnings in court; consequently, until a decision is made on these disputes a suit about closing a publication cannot be reviewed. But even when, finally, it would seem, a suit can be reviewed, new problems suddenly arise. For example, it turns out that the respondent no longer exists, that is, a newspaper starts coming out under a different name, although it has the same editorial board and founders, the same address, and the same journalists writing the same kind of articles. Once there was a newspaper called Den' [Day], then it changed its name to Zavtra [Tomorrow]. Once there was Otechestvo, then there was Nashe Otechestvo.
But even in those rare cases when the case finally does come to court, the civil procedure in Russia gives respondents unlimited opportunities to drag out the review of the suit, by refusing to appear in court, or making frivolous petitions demanding new evidence, and so on.
There are even more greater obstacles to shutting down extremist civic groups. Articles 41-45 of chapter V of the Law on Civic Associations regulates the activity of civic organizations for violating the law of the Russian Federation, including halting the activity of an association and disbanding it. Both suspending a group and disbanding it are only conducted through a judicial procedure after repeated written warnings, "if these warnings were not contested in court through the established legal procedure and not declared unsubstantiated under the law by a court." Article 23 of the same law states that if a group's charter violates the Constitution and the statutes in Article 16 of the Law on Civic Associations, there are possible grounds for the state to refuse to register the organization as a civic organization. Many years of practice have shown that no civic association has tried to include in its charter forms of activity prohibited by the RF Constitution and federal laws, which of course did not prevent such groups from engaging in such activity anyway.
Article 4 (c)
Racist Rhetoric of Government Officials
The most radical nationalist rhetoric aimed at ethnic minorities, especially non-Slavs and persons of "Caucasian" origin (Armenians, Turks, Kurds, Assyrians, Jews) is used by the authorities of Krasnodar Territory, and in particular, Governor Nikolai Kondratenko. Under Art. 2, par. 1 of the new edition of the Charter of Krasnodar Territory passed by the Territory Legislative Assembly on July 4, 1997, «Krasnodar Krai is the historical territory where the Kuban Cossacks came into being, a place where the Russian people has always lived. This circumstance shall be taken into consideration when forming the bodies of state authority and local self-government, and in the course of their activities». Resolution #130 issued by the Krasnodar Krai Administration head «On Facts of Serious Violation of RF Laws and Normative Acts of Krasnodar Krai Regulating Population Registration, the Procedure of Land Use and Construction in the City of Sochi» (April 11, 1997), the city administration was directly accused of granting permanent registration and Russian citizenship, as well as registering marriages of ethnic Non-Slavs - mostly Armenians and Georgians.
Article 5 (b)
See sections regarding Article 2, par. 1(b) and Article 4(c).
Article 5 (c)
In the republics that are members of the Russian Federation, just as in other subjects [components] of the federation, there are regimes with clearly-articulated authoritarian tendencies, under which the selection and appointment of top officials are the privilege of a small group of people at the apex of the system of the executive branch. These same people control the elections, including the system for nominating candidates and guaranteeing candidates access to the mass media. Since the ruling elites in the republics are used as a basis for the very legitimacy of the idea of "national statehood" and "republic sovereignty," people are selected on the basis of loyalty to the guiding ideas and personally to the highest leaders. Moreover, the principles still persist of selecting people on the basis of whether they are relatives or from the same area. That leads to a drastic reduction in opportunities for people who are not members of the "titular" nationalities, so that they are barred from taking prestigious or responsible positions. For example, the ethnic Adygey make up no more than 20 percent of the population of the Republic of Adygey, but make up more than 70 percent of the members of the republican parliament and government. In the Republic of Bashkortostan, ethnic Bashkirs make up 22 percent of the population, but about half of the members of parliament and a majority of the member of government.
Article 5 (d)(I)
Discrimination based restrictions of the right to free travel.
In many RF regions, the regional authorities violate the RF Constitution, federal laws and the country's international obligations by introducing restrictions on registration at the place of permanent residence. The application of these measures, which constitute a serious limitation of rights as regards the place of residence, often differs depending on the person's ethnic belonging. This is clear, first, from the activities of the so-called migration control commissions at town and raion administrations of Krasnodar and Stavropol krais, which pass decisions on the granting of the right of permanent residence. There is no full and reliable statistics, but many cases are known when local administration employees admitted that the chief goal of migration control bodies is to prevent an inflow of «other-ethnic» population. The basic rights of the forced migrants who failed to acquire permanent registration were seriously restricted. There is good reason to believe that in practice, the application of restrictions and coercive measures on the grounds of absence of permanent registration is selective and depends on the ethnic characteristic.
Article 5 (d)(IV)
The marriages of persons who do not have registration of a place of residence, contrary to the law, are not officially registered given that refusals to grant registration are primarily encountered by persons who belong to ethnic minorities. In Krasnodar Territory, Resolution No. 172 of the Chief of Administration, "On Certain Matters Concerning the Registration of Marriages in Krasnodar Territory" from December 28, 1991, establishes a discretionary procedure for marriages between residents of the territory and persons who have come from outside the Russian Federation. Resolution No. 389, "On Restriction of Registration of the Dissolution of Marriage for Certain Categories in Krasnodar Territory," from August 24, 1992, also regulates such divorces (see the texts in Russian original are available at the Memorial Human Rights Centre). In both cases the chiefs of administrations of the respective districts or cities must provide permission. All known cases of refusal concern only persons who belong to minority groups (Armenians, Georgians, Kurds, and Turks) (a sample of one documented official refusal in the Russian original is available at the Memorial Human Rights Centre).
Article 5(e) I, II, IV, V (section on obtaining education above the secondary level)
The rights enumerated for citizens of the Russian Federation who have permanent registration of their place of residence pertain to Article 5. Since, in a number of instances (see the section on Article 2, par 1[a]) refusal to register a person's residence is discriminatory on the basis of ethnicity, the same can be said about the restriction of the above-enumerated rights.
Neither the federal nor the regional authorities view the issue of preventing discrimination as a priority. The philosophy of «nationalities policy» rests on the concept of «regulation of ethnic relations», that is, the main reference point is administrative expediency. Seen as the chief object of «nationalities policy» are ethnic groups and population categories, and as the target of this policy - regulation of relations among groups with a view to preventing conflicts.
The anti-discriminatory statute Article 19, par. 2 of the Constitution is reproduced in local legislation but only at the level of general declarations. There is no special anti-discriminatory legislation in the country, nor acts that contain any definition of direct or indirect discrimination and a lit of measures which could be taken under court order to restore the violated rights of citizens.
Theoretically, civil rights can be protected by court (Arts. 11 of the Civil Code), in particular by the ways of recognition of a right, restoration of a violated right, recognition of an act issues by a state body or by local self-government contradicting the law etc. The law protects non-material wealth including personal dignity, right to free move, habeas corpus (Art. 150 of the Civil Code). Arts. 151-152 of the Code envisage the possibility of obtaining compensation for moral damage and protecting human honor and dignity. RF citizens may use the 1993 Law on complaints against unlawful actions on the part of officials and bodies of authority, and, in theory, can get their rights restored in cases of «isolated» discrimination. But actually his mechanism for preventing or stopping discrimination is hardly ever used, particularly, because of the lack of anti-discriminatory legislation.
The country has no special anti-discriminatory law, anti-discriminatory programs, or programs in the field of providing equal opportunities. The drafting and adoption of anti-discriminatory law is not planned by the RF State Duma of the 2nd convocation (1996 - 1999). On March 23, 1995, the RF President signed a decree «On Measures to Ensure Coordinated Actions of State Authority Bodies in the Struggle Against the Manifestations of Fascism and Other Forms of Political Extremism in the Russian Federation», but it was never enforced. The analogous law has not been adopted by the State Duma.
There are no special agencies, either at the federal level, nor at the level of the subjects of the federation, which can address the problems of preventing discrimination. In principle, the Ministry of Nationalities and Federative Relations does not become involved in matters of discrimination, nor do analogous local offices at the level of the subjects of the federation.
The need for such measures are declared at various levels, but to date, no substantive steps have been taken. It must be noted that broadcasting of the national or federal television stations as well as the regional stations do not reflect the multi-racial and multi-ethnic nature of society.
Translated from the Russian by the International League for Human Rights