President Changes Structure of Human Rights Council

12 February 2013 

Source: (info)

A presidium is to appear in the structure of the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights. The relevant decree was signed by Vladimir Putin and the presidium will be formed by the end of February, the head of the Council on Human Rights, Mikhail Fedotov, told Interfax.

He expressed hope that the changes to the regulations would be adopted at the Council on Human Rights meeting scheduled for 18 February. "We urgently need to make new regulations for the Council, since the current regulations need revision," Fedotov explained. As notes, the regulations of the Council on Human Rights currently in force were adopted in principle in July 2011, but were never officially approved.

According to the decree, a presidium will be created "to resolve current issues related to the Council's activities". It will suggest topics to be discussed at meetings of the Council and look at issues related to the implementation of decisions as well as information and analysis and expert evaluations. The presidium will consist of the heads of working groups, of which there are presently 19 in the Council, and members of the presidium will rotate every six months. It will be headed by three co-chairs, including the chair of the Council on Human Rights as an ex officio co-chair.

The make-up of the Council on Human Rights was confirmed by Putin on 12 November and included 39 new members. In the same decree, 15 people were officially excluded from the body of the Council who had refused to work on it. In this way, the membership of the Council was expanded considerably. It had previously included 38 people. At the first meeting of the new Council, Putin included the director of the NGO Bureau of Human Rights, Aleksandr Brod. He was put forward as a candidate member of the Council on Human Rights, but did not make it onto the voters' list. As a sign of protest, he declared a hunger strike on 2 September lasting six and a half days. At the present time, the Council on Human Rights consists of 63 members.

The proposal to create a presidium on the Council on Human Rights was introduced by Putin at the same meeting. At that time, Fedotov did not agree with the President, declaring that it would lead to an "unnecessary bureaucratisation" of activities. Putin met with Fedotov shortly before the publication of the list of Council members. At the meeting, Putin suggested increasing the number of members on the Council by including everyone who came first, second and third in the Internet vote's 13 nominations. It had been originally assumed that Putin would be presented with a list of 39 candidates, from which he would select applicants for the 13 vacant seats on the Council.

The Internet vote to select candidates for the Council on Human Rights took place in September 2012. Eighty-three people were candidates in the vote to become part of the advisory body, selected from 190 applicants by a working group of the Council with the participation of representatives of the Presidential Administration. Many well-known human rights defenders refused to work on the Council, including Liudmila Alekseeva, Valentin Gefter, Boris Pustyntsev, Igor Iurgens, Aleksandr Auzan, Aleksei Simonov, Leonid Radzikhovsky, Elena Panfilova and Svetlana Gannushkina. They disagreed with the new system of forming the Council on the basis of the results of an Internet vote. According to Alekseeva, "a council formed in that way will not be viable, it will have an “at your service” attitude."