Statement by Members of the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights

Source: (Author), 07/09/10

· Human Rights Defenders

A month has passed since Ella Pamfilova resigned as chair of the Council, something we continue to regret, since it had been as a result of her efforts that the Council was set up. Ella Pamfilova was its real leader and achieved a great deal in terms of defending the public interest and establishing dialogue between society and government.

Since her resignation there has been a marked surge of interest in the Council in the media, the work of the Council has been discussed and evaluated in many publications, along with its achievements and failures and, of course, the reasons for the resignation of its chair. This latter issue is unlikely to need further discussion - Ella Pamfilova herself has explained the reasons for her resignation in numerous and detailed interviews in the media (including Echo of Moscow,Sobesednik, and Novaya Gazeta).

We want to emphasize that, despite the resignation of the chair, the Council continues to work. Problems that have been at the centre of public attention in recent years have been, and remain, issues on which members of the Council continue to work: the fate of Khimki Forest, changes to the Forest Law Code and police reform (as well as other issues related to civil society and human rights, such as military reform, amendments to the law on NGOs, combating corruption and the situation in the North Caucasus).

It should be remembered that the issue of Khimki Forest was first raised by the Council in 2007, and that since 2009 the Council has raised the issues of legislation of forests, and the reform of the forest sector (issues which lay at the basis of the recent major tragedy of the forest fires). Since the beginning of this year several of our colleagues have been working on the issue of police reform. Working groups, composed of members of the Council, are preparing new proposals on these issues, as well as materials for the upcoming meeting with the President of the Russian Federation on the strategically important issues of judicial reform, policy on the family and child welfare, and also the de-Stalinization of the public consciousness.

We intend to discuss all these issues and draft papers at a working meeting of the members of the Council on 14 September. We shall of course be ready to talk about the results of this meeting to the media.

It is difficult for the Council to function without a chair. In this situation, we can do no more than prepare assessments and materials, but we can neither conduct an effective dialogue with public authorities, nor bring our decisions forward for review and secure decisions on them. We believe that these limitations on the Council’s effectiveness complicate not only our work. They can weaken the position of the President, depriving him of an independent source of information and an important channel of communication with civil society, which may contribute to the rise of misunderstandings between the authorities and society. That is why we expect the President to make a decision on appointing a new chair of the Council in the near future.

Svetlana Aivazova;
Ludmila Alekseeva ;
Lev Ambinder;
Aleksandr Auzan;
Svetlana Gannushkina;
Valentin Gefter ;
Aleksei Golovan;
Yury Dzhibladze;
Kirill Kabanov;
Sergei Karaganov;
Sergei Krivenko;
Yaroslav Kuzminov;
Ida Kuklina;
Fedor Lukianov;
Tatiana Maleva;
Elena Nikolaeva;
Dmitry Oreshkin;
Elena Panfilova;
Mara Polyakova;
Boris Pustyntsev;
Aleksei Pushkov;
Aleksei Simonov;
Svetlana Sorokina;
Mikhail Fedotov ;
Sergei Tsyplenkov;
Gary Chmykhov;
Igor Jurgens;
Irina Yasina.