Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner satisfied with his visit to Russia

Russia has always been very sensitive to reports on a human rights situation prepared by PACE

Russia is hoping to unsettle the routine of its regular opponents at the European Union by snatching the opportunity from their hands so that they will stop criticizing Russia for human rights violations on a regular basis. Both the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Alvaro Gil-Robles and the Russian President Vladimir Putin seem to be quite happy about the results of Mr. Gil-Robles' visit to Russia that took place last week.

Mr. Putin promised to thoroughly consider the conclusions of the latest report on human right in Russia that was delivered by Mr. Gil-Robles. He said that Russia would be able to file a request to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the removal of human right monitoring if his recommendations were properly taken as guidelines by the Russian authorities. Mr. Gil-Robles seemed to be apparently pleased at the fact that the Russian authorities had unexpectedly taken a closer look at his voluminous report based on the results of two inspections conducted in the year 2004. Although President Putin called parts of the document far too critical, he agreed that the report was unbiased. Mr. Putin promised that the Russian government would not only address the issue, it “will take action to change the situation.”

Russia has always been very sensitive to reports on a human rights situation prepared by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The reports normally contained criticism of the Russian authorities' actions in Chechnya. The latest report was made public on April 20th. The report is not an exception to the rule. It says that the disappearance of dozens of innocent people in Chechnya is an unacceptable situation to the EU. However, the author also draws attention to the acts of “inhuman brutality” committed by Chechen separatists during the school siege in Beslan last September.

Perhaps the Kremlin changed its stance on the EU's criticism following the change of approach to the issue within the EU. We could also recall Mr. Gil-Robles' remarks about the request for maximum objectivity President Putin made in the past. The Russian authorities also used a new tactic while holding talks with the Commissioner for Human Rights. Russia's ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and the chairwoman of President's Council for promotion of civil institutions and human rights Ella Pamfilova took part in the talks.

During the talks President Putin and the Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Gil-Robles wasted no time and quickly agreed that steps should be taken to ensure full independence of the Russian judiciary. Mr. Putin mostly used slogans while making his point. On the contrary, Mr. Gil-Robles cited the notorious Ulman case as a specific example of the problem. “I am shocked by the decision on the case handed down by the Rostov court, and I hope that the Russian judiciary will interfere to correct it,” said he to the journalists after the meeting.

The reason why the official Russian human rights officials were made part of  the talks seems obvious. They meant to assure the EU visitor that the Russian authorities would follow “his constructive recommendations.” 

“We already took out all the recommendations from the report and forwarded them to all ministries concerned,” said Mrs. Pamfilova who was charged with monitoring the implementation of Mr. Gil-Robles' recommendations.

She promised to press the ministries for feedback. The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe seem to have bought into the assurance. In any case, he told the journalists that he had full support of the Russian authorities while preparing the report. After the latest meetings in Moscow, he had no doubts that his recommendations were being taken into consideration.

On the photo: Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Alvaro Gil-Robles

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Author`s name Olga Savka