New Children’s Ombudsman Astakhov Outlines Wide Programme
Pavel Astakhov, in his role as the Russian President’s Representative for Children’s Rights, has given his first press conference at IA Interfax. Astakhov was appointed to this position on 30 December by the president, who had accepted the resignation of the first ombudsman Aleksey Golovan. In a speech lasting half an hour Astakhov outlined the main points he intends to follow in his new post: firstly, to create a branched system of representatives on human rights – not only in each federal okrug and region but also in individual localities and even educational establishments; secondly, to develop clear rules for children’s rights workers; thirdly, to monitor the activity of the total of 14 state authorities that deal with child protection. He stressed that within the scope of his powers he intended to deal strictly with the civil servants. As an example of ways of improving the work of the guardianship authorities, Astakhov stated that those employees who tolerated the abuse of children’s rights would be brought to court for negligence. Thus in the case of the Ageev family, where the adopted child was suffering, he considered that the civil servants in the guardianship authority should be answerable in court as well as the parents.
Proposing to rely on existing experience, both from Soviet times (juvenile affairs committees) and worldwide (such as juvenile courts), Astakhov considered it necessary to create a voluntary council on children’s rights, involving not only adults but also children. It was necessary to reform the system of children’s boarding schools, legislation to introduce fostering and the development of a national action plan for children in Russia. He also announced he intended to urge tighter sanctions for violence against children, to provide those leaving children’s homes with free accommodation and secure agreements for observing the rights of children born to parents from different countries.
Astakhov promised to start his active work with a visit to the USA as part of the work of the bilateral commission created during the meeting between Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama. He then planned to visit the regions of Russia by train, starting with Irkutsk, where there were the greatest number of alarming reports. He would not begin his visit seeing the bosses but would go first to railway stations and children’s homes.