807th meeting – 11 September 2002
Current political Questions
a. Activities for the development and consolidation of democratic stability
- Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
- Bosnia and Herzegovina:
- Russian Federation
1. took note of the synopsis of the GR-EDS meeting held on 6 September 2002 (document
2. invited the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to accede to the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (ETS No. 173);
3. instructed the Secretariat to submit to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia the questionnaire on money-laundering prepared by the CDPC;
4. agreed to resume consideration of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s request to be invited to accede to the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime (ETS No. 141) following the reception by the Secretariat of the answers to this questionnaire;
5. agreed to resume consideration of the draft reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1554 on the functioning of democratic institutions in Moldova at their 808th meeting (18 September 2002) with a view to its adoption before the 4th part session of the Parliamentary Assembly (23-27 September 2002);
6. adopted the following reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1553 on the honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation :
“1. The Committee of Ministers refers to the Parliamentary Assembly’s Recommendation 1553 (2002) on honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation and welcomes the significant efforts made by this member state towards honouring the obligations and commitments it had accepted upon accession to the Council of Europe on 28 February 1996 (paragraph 2 of Recommendation 1553 and paragraphs 1 to 7 of Resolution 1277(2002) to which Recommendation 1553 refers).
2. As regards specific aspects of the Russian Federation’s obligations as a member state of the Council of Europe, to which the Assembly draws particular attention (paragraphs 2 to 5 of Recommendation 1553 and paragraph 8 of Resolution 1277) and for which further action is required, the Committee of Ministers wishes to inform the Parliamentary Assembly of the following:
3. As regards the resolution of the conflict in the Chechen Republic the Committee of Ministers reiterates “the need to seek a political solution as a matter of urgency with due regard for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation” (final communiqué of the 107th session of the Committee of Ministers November 2000). Furthermore the Committee of Ministers notes the Parliamentary Assembly's position on this issue (see para. 4 of Recommendation 1553). As indicated in its previous reply to the Assembly's Recommendation 1548 (2002), the Committee of Ministers continues to encourage the Russian authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure that the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights are fully respected in the Chechen Republic, and that all violators of these rights without exception are held accountable without further delay.
4. The Committee of Ministers expresses its satisfaction that an agreement has been reached with the Russian authorities regarding continued Council of Europe presence in the Chechen Republic which envisages new tasks for the Council of Europe staff providing consultative expertise to the Office of the newly appointed Special representative of the President of the Russian Federation for ensuring Human Rights and Civil Rights and Freedoms in the Chechen Republic, Mr Sultygov. In the context of this enlarged mandate, the Council of Europe may provide assistance :
- in the training of civil servants, elected representatives and officials, staff of law enforcement agencies, judges, prosecutors and lawyers
- in restoring the education system in the Chechen Republic (in cooperation with UNESCO),
- the psychological rehabilitation of women and children
- in expertise on legislation of the Chechen Republic.
Assistance to the Council for the protection of Human rights, the Consultative Council attached to the Head of Administration and the Public Consultative Council set up by the Joint Working Group on Chechnya is also considered, provided the necessary resources can be mobilised.
The Committee of Ministers also welcomes the ongoing activities of the European Committee on Prevention of Torture (CPT) in relation to the Chechen Republic.
5. As regards freedom and impartiality of the media (paragraph 2 in fine and paragraph 5 (ii) of Recommendation 1553), the Committee of Ministers recalls that, in the context of its thematic monitoring procedure, specific action is being undertaken, notably through visits to member states by experts appointed by the Secretary General (see Reply of the Committee of Ministers to Assembly Recommendation 1536 (2001). Further to a visit by experts to the Russian Federation in 2000, a new visit took place this year and a (confidential) report has been prepared, including recommendations to both the Russian authorities and the Council of Europe on measures to be taken to intensify co-operation activities in the field of freedom of the media and of information, in order to support pluralism and independence of the media.
6. As regards co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Russian Federation in other areas (sub-paragraphs 5 (i) and (ii) of Recommendation 1533 and paragraph 8 of Resolution 1277), the Committee of Ministers notes that, this co-operation serves a twofold objective: fulfilling the obligations and commitments undertaken when joining the Council of Europe and contributing to further develop and strengthen democratic structures and processes at all levels in the country. Since 1996, co-operation programmes are enhanced in the context of a partnership with the European Commission through successive Joint Programmes which provide additional resources and political value to the activities. At present three Joint Programmes are operational in the Russian Federation (Russia V/North Caucasus and Moscow School of Political Studies). Discussions are underway to conclude additional EC/Council of Europe joint programmes.
i. With regard in particular to human rights protection and compatibility of the Russian legislation with the European Convention on Human Rights, following an overall compatibility study, completed in October 1998, a number of more specific expert appraisals have been carried out (draft law on the bar, law on basic principles for the prevention of juvenile offenders, the law on militia, etc.) In this context, the Committee of Ministers welcomes the adoption of the federal law on alternative service. It also noted that a Joint Working Group on the Russian law on the fight against terrorism just completed a report on the compatibility of the law with ECHR standards.
ii. Moreover, a sustained effort is undertaken to inform and train Russian judges and the legal community at large, on the European Convention on Human Rights and the case-law of the Strasbourg Court with a view to improving national implementation of the Convention.
iii. The institution of the Russian Federation Commissioner for Human Rights has also largely benefited from active co-operation with the Council of Europe. Within the framework of a Joint Programme with the European Commission, the Council of Europe has done much to promote the creation and development of regional ombudsmen in 75 of the 89 Subjects of the Federation. A Russian-language website on non-judicial means of human rights protection issues was created in 2001. Furthermore, the Council of Europe is supporting the activities of the Association of Regional Parliamentary Ombudsmen of the Russian Federation through round tables with foreign experts to promote exchange of good practices.
iv. In the light also of its Declaration “For a European Death Penalty-Free Area” of November 2000, the Committee of Ministers, while recognising that the official moratorium on executions, introduced in the Russian Federation in 1996, is respected and thus de facto abolition is achieved, firmly expects further progress in the near future towards de jure abolition of the death penalty and ratification of Protocol No. 6 to the ECHR. The Committee of Ministers wishes to inform the Assembly that it has decided to discuss the question of abolition of death penalty at six-month intervals until de jure abolition in all member states. In this respect, it shares the Assembly’s concerns following the vote in the State Duma of 15 February 2002 asking President Putin to re-introduce the death penalty (see Resolution 1277 (2002), paragraph 8(ii) ). However, the Committee of Ministers welcomed President Putin’s firm position opposing the lifting of the moratorium on capital punishment. It should also be mentioned that the Council of Europe has been working closely with the Clemency Commission of the Russian Federation until the end of 2001, when the Commission was substituted by 89 regional clemency commissions. Following this reform, the Council of Europe has given its support to a three-day workshop "Pardon, Amnesty, Execution of Judgments, Death Penalty" which took place in Vladimir on 18-20 March 2002. Support will also be provided towards a first annual all-Russian meeting of the heads (predsedateli) of all 89 regional clemency commissions, to be held in December 2002. A range of other campaign-type activities, including dissemination of various materials in the Russian language, are being supported.
v. To assist the Russian Federation in preparing the ratification of the Revised European Social Charter (signed in 2000), extensive activities have taken place regularly since 1997, both in Moscow and in the regions, involving parliamentarians, officials of the ministries concerned, civil society and academics. An in-depth compatibility study, conducted in 2001, is being updated following the introduction of new legislation, in particular the new Labour Code and the legislation on the reform of pensions. The next step to prepare for the ratification would be the selection by the Russian authorities of the provisions of the Revised Charter that they will be bound by.
vi. The rule of law has been boosted with Council of Europe support in reviewing numerous pieces of draft legislation, such as the Code of criminal procedure, the Code of administrative procedure, the Code of commercial procedure, the law on the status of foreign nationals, and the law on nationality. Since 2000, the Council of Europe has been involved in the creation of the Academy of Justice of the Supreme Court to make it a comprehensive training structure for judges, based on the principles of independence of the judiciary and respect of the rule of law. In 2000-2001, the Council of Europe has been working closely with two Commissions established by President Putin and chaired by the Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, Mr. Dmitri Kozak, on a number of specific aspects of legal and judicial reform. This co-operation led to the adoption by the Duma of a set of laws introducing a major reform of the judicial system at the end of 2001. Regrettably, co-operation with the Prosecutor General’s Office has slowed down since 2001 and currently the implementation of co-operation activities encounters some difficulties (including efforts to develop training programmes). In January 2002 the Russian Federation joined the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) as a full member. The Constitutional Court closely co-operates with the Venice Commission.
vii. The Council of Europe has worked on reform of the prison system with the Russian authorities in a mixed Steering Group since 1995. A first major reform concerned the transfer of competence for Prison Administration to the Ministry of Justice. The question of prison overcrowding dominates current activities of legal co-operation in the Russian Federation and a number of seminars have been organised in the last years on this theme. Co-operation between the Russian authorities and the CPT, which to date has carried out nine visits to the Russian Federation, is another important means of promoting the reform of the prison system in that country.
viii. Since 1997, working with the Ministry of Interior, and in particular with the Police training Academy, co-operation on police training issues has been very fruitful. The Council of Europe has carried out seminars on a) training of police officers, b) relations between the police and the public, c) combating organised crime. Training courses for Russian police officers in various member states were organised and courses were held at the Council of Europe for officers from the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Furthermore, a ‘train-the-trainers’ programme has recently been developed aimed at human rights training for the police throughout the Russian Federation.
ix. Since 2001, in the fight against corruption, much work has also been done to enhance the protection of witnesses and prevent corruption in financial enquiries. A new programme on anti-money laundering measures in the Russian Federation is expected to start before the end of 2002 with the support of the European Commission. Negociations are underway to define the details of this programme whose overall objectives would be to improve the system of anti-money laundering measures in the Russian Federation, including the strengthening the Financial Monitoring Committee (FMC), to enhance the capacities of the criminal justice system in successfully investigating and prosecuting money laundering offences, and to provide assistance to the relevant bodies of the financial sector in meeting their obligations for the prevention of money laundering and for their cooperation with the FMC.
x. The Russian Federation has taken a very active part in the Multidisciplinary Group on international action against terrorism (GM-T).
7. As regards specific co-operation activities relating to the division of competencies between various levels of public authorities in the Russian Federation (sub-paragraph 5 (iii) of Recommendation 1553), the Committee of Ministers notes that one of the topics dealt with in the framework of the programme on Federalism – which has been one of the political priorities of assistance and co-operation activities since the very beginning of relations between the Council of Europe and the Russian Federation – concerned precisely the legislative set-up of relations, including division of competencies, between the Federation, the subjects of the Federation and the bodies of local self-government. Moreover, in 2002, a number of meetings have been held between experts of the Council of Europe and of the Russian Commission “on the concepts of demarcation of competences between the different administrative levels in the Russian Federation”, set-up in June 2001 by President Putin and chaired by the Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, Mr. Dmitri Kozak (see also above para. 5.vi). The final comments of the Council of Europe experts on the concepts have been forwarded to the Russian authorities during a meeting held on 3-4 June 2002 in Strasbourg. The next stage of co-operation with the Russian Commission will concern expertise on a number of draft laws in the areas of competence of the various levels of public authorities, including the law on local self-government.
8. As regards the question of withdrawal of Russian forces from the Transdniestrian region of Moldova (sub-paragraph 5(iv) of Recommendation 1553), the Committee of Ministers shares the Assembly’s expectation that such withdrawal be completed by the deadline of 31 December 2002, with the assistance of both the Republic of Moldova and the OSCE.
9. As regards the return of diplomatic property transferred to the Soviet Union 1940 (sub-paragraph 5(v) of Recommendation 1553), the Committee of Ministers refers to its reply on Assembly Recommendation 1392 (1998) “on former Embassies of the Baltic states on the territory of some Council of Europe member states” and takes note of the latest developments on this matter. It reiterates its call to the states concerned to bring negotiations on this matter to a positive result in the shortest possible time. On the issue of compensation of those persons deported from the Baltic States in 1940 the Committee of Ministers was informed of the Act on Rehabilitation of Political Repressions adopted on 18 October 1991 (N° 1761 I).
10. The Committee of Ministers seizes the opportunity to provide the Parliamentary Assembly with additional information on other aspects of the cooperation programmes with the Russian Federation :
i. Co-operation in the health field, focussed on the combat against tuberculosis (in particular in prisons) as well as more generally the improvement of the quality of health service delivery. As regards drugs, the Russian Federation joined the Pompidou Group in 1999 and work has been undertaken to assist in the development of an effective reporting network, training teachers on preventing drug abuse, training health professionals on treatment and care, and supporting anti-trafficking measures.
ii. Co-operation in the field of education started with the Soviet Union accession to the European Cultural Convention in 1991. The Council of Europe supported the development of the law of the Russian Federation on higher education of 1996, and its implementation. Beginning in 1997, it has also co-operated closely with the Ministry of Education in the development of a broad concept or programme of reform of the educational system. Following the recent adoption by the Government of the “Concept of Modernisation of the Education System of the Russian Federation for the period up to 2010”, an International Strategic Experts’ Group has been established by the Council of Europe (in co-operation with the World Bank) to provide support to the Ministry of Education for the successful implementation of this ambitious reform plan. The Council of Europe has also provided its support and expertise in several areas of curriculum reform.
iii In the field of cultural heritage, the Council of Europe is co-operating with the Russian authorities with a view to defining and implementing a Federal policy for the revitalisation and rehabilitation of small and medium sized historic towns. A pilot project has been launched in the city of Rostov Veliky. More generally, as regards cultural policy, priority is given to the decentralisation of policies in order to promote more democratic decision making processes (including as regards financial and fiscal matters). Regarding the return of cultural property, the Council of Europe had, in 2000, disseminated “Guidelines for the protection of the movable heritage” to assist countries in reforming their legislation and policy in this field. The “Guidelines” identified a few simple principles upon which the restitution procedure should be based.
iv. As part of the Council of Europe’s work to improve the situation of vulnerable groups in Russia (social cohesion), a programme entitled STAART (Strategic Training for the Advancement of At Risk Teens) was implemented in Sverdlovsk Oblast in 2000-2002. It focussed on two penal colonies for boys convicted of criminal offences and one remand home for girls awaiting trial, and achieved a major change in culture, philosophy and practice of the staff of the institutions introducing a broader social work and childcare approach with particular concern for the social reintegration of the young people when they leave the colonies. Conceived as a pilot project, STAART should subsequently be applied more widely within the region of Ural (and possibly other parts of the Russian Federation). Furthermore, activities have also been launched for improving the situation of vulnerable groups, access to social protection and social security coverage in line with the standards of the European Code of Social security.
v. As regards civil society, the Council of Europe is developing co-operation with a number of non-governmental organisations in the Russian Federation, in particular to develop democratic culture and human rights awareness among the population. For several years, the Council of Europe has worked closely with NGOs in Russia to enhance their capacities in monitoring and reporting on human rights situation and understanding of human rights, as well as improving the use of international mechanisms in the area of human rights protection. In this context, the activities of the 10 regional Human Rights Library Centres, established with the support of the Council of Europe in different regions of Russia, also deserve to be mentioned; in contact with the local legal community, they develop various projects to promote human rights awareness (production of material, moot court competitions, training of lawyers etc.). A project deserves particular attention : the Moscow School of Political Studies which over the last 10 years has contributed to the political training of thousands of parliamentarians, local elected representatives and staff, journalists, businessmen, NGO activities, etc. The Moscow School of Political studies served as a model for similar initiatives in other Council of Europe member states.
vi. The Council of Europe has paid particular attention to the question of dissemination of information throughout the Russian Federation and established its first Information and Documentation Centre (IDC) in Moscow in 1993. Three regional IDCs were set up in 1998 and 1999 in Yekaterinburg, Saratov and St Petersburg. The Moscow Centre was involved in the preparation and broadcasting of a series of radio and TV programmes and together the four Centres have also published a review (in Russian and English) on Russia and the Council of Europe.
11. In conclusion, the Committee of Ministers believes that co-operation between the Russian Federation and the Council of Europe, both before and after accession, has essentially influenced the country’s democratic development in many sectors. The Committee of Ministers intends to pursue and intensify this co-operation with the Russian authorities in order to assist them in fulfilling the remaining commitments undertaken when joining the Organisation and to make further progress in the consolidation of democratic institutions and processes in the Russian Federation.”
7. took note of the letters sent by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers to the Presidents of Moldova and of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as they appear at Appendices 7 and 8 to the present volume of Decisions.