Appeal to the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation

posted 17 Nov 2010, 06:00 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Nov 2010, 06:05 ]
Source: (info), 16/11/10

· Human Rights Defenders · Prisoners

We, the representatives of human rights organizations, are outraged by the intentional destruction of the system of public oversight, a system that, established by Federal Law No. 76 of 10 June 2008 “On Public Oversight for the Protection of Human Rights in Places of Detention and Assistance to Persons in Places of Detention,” had only just begun to function effectively.

Now the “second wave” of Public Oversight Commissions (POCs) are being formed that will work without rotation for the next three years. On the basis of the results of the Commissions’ first two years work there is a need to improve the law and raise the effectiveness of public oversight - for example, by providing reimbursement for transportation costs incurred by commission members. Instead of this we see an attempt to turn public oversight into a decorative function, devoid of real content.

Using the inadequacies of the law, law enforcement agencies all over Russia, that should be the object of public scrutiny, are trying through the regional public chambers and councils to seize or destroy the POCs, striking from their lists active and energetic human rights defenders, and filling their places with nominees of veterans' organizations, the unions of professional security guards, law enforcement assistance foundations, and so on.

Thus we see that in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District and the Baikal Region it has in general proved impossible to establish POCs. In these regions it has not been possible to find people who are not only willing to work for free, but who are able to pay out of their own pockets their travel expenses to penal colonies and back. Interest in public oversight was shown only by the organization Veterans of the Ministry of the Interior of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, that nominated two of their representatives to join a POC that had the legal minimum number of members (five).

It may be that in the Komi Republic no POC will be set up due to the fact that the documents of candidates for the second commission to be convened, sent via courier service DHL, were simply lost in Moscow, a fact that was directly stated by representatives of the Public Chamber. We see this as deliberate sabotage of the system of public oversight in a very important region with a large number of penal colonies, taking into account the fact that all the "lost" documents were sent by local human rights defenders.

Membership of the POC in St. Petersburg is being chosen with flagrant violations. V. Yu. Matus, the chair of the Leningrad Region POC, who has been recommended as a member, plans to combine membership of both St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region POCs for at least nine more months. At the same time candidates to the St. Petersburg POC from non-profits who are actually working with prisoners have been rejected in favour of representatives of the St. Petersburg Law and Order Foundation.

The Public Chamber Commission refused on purely formal grounds to recommend for membership of the Nizhny Novgorod Region POC the human rights defenders Aleksandr Tutubalin, Anton Prismotrov and Galina Lebedeva - one of the best Russian experts in the field of public oversight of military units. The list goes on. The situation is similar in almost all regions.

A natural result of this process became the situation in Tatarstan, where it was decided to combine public oversight with corporate PR. The outcome has been that the Public Chamber of the Republic recommended seven representatives of law-enforcement agencies as members of the Republic’s POC, among whom a certain Larisa Rascheskova stands out most vividly. Ms. Rascheskova works as press spokesperson for the Criminal Police Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Tatarstan, and plans to combine this office with public oversight in the Republic’s POC. It is difficult to conceive how one can receive one’s pay for improving the image of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, while at the same time identifying irregularities in its work.

In some cases, such attacks on the integrity of the POCs are technically legitimate, and contradict only the spirit of the law on public oversight. However, in others, such as the process by which the Working Group of the Public Chamber selected candidates for the Moscow POC, there have been clear violations of the law. Unknown individuals presented the Working Group with provocative and defamatory information about supposed administrative penalties imposed for disorderly conduct and disobeying the lawful demands of a police officer on two current members of the city’s POC, Mikhail Kriger and Ivan Ninenko, whom the Working Group had recommended as members for the new POC. On this basis, the two were excluded from the list for approval by the Public Chamber. Mikhail Kriger had proved himself to be a very active member of Moscow City POC, consistently and without stint, at any time of day or night, at the ready to protect the rights of people in places of detention.

We urge the responsible authorities to remember that the spirit and meaning of public oversight is to protect the rights of persons deprived of liberty, and not to secure the representation of law enforcement agencies in the public commissions that are intended to exercise oversight over them. We urge that prominent and effective human rights defenders, specializing in the protection of persons deprived of their liberty, should be appointed members of the POCs.

We urge members of the Public Chamber not to follow the lead of those who lobby the interests of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Federal Penitentiary Service in trying to prevent the setting up of an effective system of public oversight. We call for the appointment of Mikhail Kriger and Ivan Ninenko as members of the Moscow city POC, as recommended by the Public Council.

If you wish to add your signature to this appeal, send an e-mail to:; indicating your first name, patronymic and family name, and organization. In the subject line please state: "Appeal to the Public Chamber."

Orlov, Oleg, chair of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, on behalf of the Memorial Human Rights Centre
Svetova, Zoya Feliksovna, member of the Public Oversight Commission of the City of Moscow
Karetnikova Anna Georgievna, member of the Public Oversight Commission of the City of Moscow
Zboroshenko, Nikolai
Kriger, Mikhail Aleksandrovich, member of the Public Oversight Commission of the City of Moscow
Davidis, Sergei Konstantinovich, on behalf of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners
Ikhlov, Evgeny Vitalievich, Movement For Human Rights
Krivenko Sergei Vladimirovich, member of the Public Oversight Commission of the City of Moscow
Dzhibladze, Yuri Dzhuansherovich, president, Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights
Ponomarev, Lev Aleksandrovich, executive director of the Movement For Human Rights, executive director of the Foundation For Prisoners' Rights
Chernyi, Ernst Isaakovich, secretary, Public Committee for the Defence of Scientists
Father Yakunin, Gleb, Committee for the Defence of Freedom of Conscience 
Gannushkina, Svetlana Alekseevna, on behalf of the Civic Assistance Committee