Draft changes to role of Federal Ombudsman

The President submits Bills to the State Duma to improve the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights


12.01.2015, Moscow

Under these Bills submitted to the State Duma, the Federal Ombudsman may have the right to take part in agreeing a list of candidates for regional human rights commissioners. There is also a proposal for establishing a Commissioner for Human Rights Council.

Questions on strengthening the status of the office of the Human Rights Commissioner were discussed at a meeting of the Federal Ombudsman, Ella Pamfilova, and Vladimir Putin. During their talks, Pamfilova asked for the President’s support for amendments to the Commissioners law. Relevant Bills aimed at improving the office of the Human Rights Commissioner had earlier been submitted by Putin to the Lower House of Parliament. Bills are sent for consideration to the Duma Committee on Constitutional Law and State Building.

The Federal Ombudsman will have the right to provide “organisational, legal, information and other assistance” to regional commissioners, according to the Bills’ Explanatory Note. There’s also a proposal to set up a Commissioner for Human Rights Council, which would include “one representative from each Federal district from the human rights commissioners in Russia”.

If the Bills are passed, Federation authorities will have to coordinate the list of candidates for regional commissioners with the Federal Ombudsman. The amendments provide the opportunity to impose functions of the Commissioners for Children’s and Indigenous People’s Rights and “other officials authorised to protect the rights of citizens within Russia on regional Ombudsmen, as well as the opportunity of coordinating the activities of officials and agencies involved in protecting citizens’ human rights.”

Similar measures will be introduced when necessary “with emphasis on a particular line of work”, explained Ella Pamfilova in an interview with Kommersant, emphasising that protecting the rights of the citizen is at the heart of the Commissioner of Human Right’s work. The proposed amendments will make “the system of State protection more effective”, she added. In due course, it may be possible to start work on a new framework law for regional commissioners.

“Laying down basic principles, even under Federation constitutional law, is only possible as part of a regulatory framework. The second step is the development and adoption of specific regulatory/legal acts to improve the work of our State human rights activists”, Novie Izvestia quoted Pamfilova as saying.

Raising the status of regional ombudsmen is vital, according to Valery Borshchev, former head of the Metropolitan Public Monitoring Commission and human rights activist. “If all’s well at Federal Ombudsman level, the same cannot be said for regional commissioners. There, we have candidates who, as a rule, are looked on favourably by local authorities”, Novie Izvestia reported Borshchev as saying.

The Bills submitted by Vladimir Putin propose that the Federal Ombudsman cannot be a foreign national, nor have a residence or any other type of document that “confirms the right of permanent residence of a Russian citizen on the territory of another state”, and that regional commissioners shall not have the right to be members of a political party or other civil association that pursues political goals”.

Author: Georgy Ivanushkin


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