The Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation is preparing to meet V. Putin
The last meeting was held on the 18th. October. 'The Council must concentrate on the most pressing, difficult and fundamental questions affecting civil institutions', declares its president Ella Pamfilova.
One of these issues, according to the Council's members, must be the problem of incitement to race hatred. This year radical law-enforcement movements have gathered pace. Over the next few days, therefore, the Council will prepare a statement for the relevant authorities.
A no less important question, in the view of Council members, has become the practical application of the new laws on non-profit making organisations (NPO's). Even though the period for the submission of the relevant documentation to the Federal Registration Department expired on the 18th. October, only 80 institutions of the several hundred foreign HPO's successfully re-registered, noted the president of the independent legal advisory board, Mara Polyakova. Documents were returned to whomsoever failed to submit them on time; some institutions preferred not to register but to draft new papers.
The biggest problem with respect to the re-registration of foreign NPO's is the requirement regarding the provision of biographical particulars on their founders, observed M. Polyakova. Since the majority of the organisations were founded many years ago, it is extremely difficult to update this information.
The main objection raised by the Russian Registration Department against NPO's is their name. This is the essential point, maintains a law-enforcement officer: in the case of many organisations the title appears to be both vacuous and misleading, giving the impression that some professional activity is being pursued. Moreover, often young employees of the Registration Department, although inadequately defined under the law, file unfounded claims, and the NPO naturally forms the impression that this is done intentionally. The president of the Centre for human rights and the development of democracy, Yuri Djibladze, observed that from the beginning of October the FRS has begun to take more vigorous action and the NPO registration procedure now takes two-three days. However, foreign NPO's whose re-registration has been refused are not allowed to leave Russia and are obliged to halt their activities until receipt of the relevant documentation. Despite the evident advantages accruing from the work performed by the FRS, the departmental employees strike a mainly negative and suspicious attitude towards NPO's, especially towards law enforcement bodies. It is therefore very important to establish a dialogue, observed Y. Djibladze, and begin work on finalising our proposals with respect to amending the law in order to rectify any shortcomings and so help to create a favourable climate for the proper functioning of a civil society.
The director of the Centre for co-operation on the reform of criminal justice, Valery Abramkin, spoke of the increasing social tension in places of incarceration. The prison system is again becoming closed and shuttered, the sentences are lengthening, infringements of the prisoners' rights are growing in both frequency and cruelty, work and social rehabilitation programmes are ineffectual. However, according to a law-enforcement officer, the state apportions sufficient means for the maintenance and upkeep of prisoners, and over recent years charity work has mushroomed.
The Head Department of the Penitentiary, together with the army, is one of the basic sources of violence, notes the executive director of the All-Russia Public Movement 'For Human Rights', Leo Ponomarev. Only on the basis of concrete evidence as to the use of violence can one legitimately speak of the existence of 40 torture brigades in Russia. In actual fact, the number is at least two-three times higher, estimates L. Ponomarev. His suggestion to create a quick reaction unit, to act as a cohesive force in cases where prisoners were suffering, was supported by many Council members.
Djibladze recalled the recent ban on a visit by a UN lecturer on matters of torture and other forms of inhuman degradation, Manfred Novak. Russian officials denied him confidential meetings with prisoners inter alia, although this is permitted in almost every other country. Members of the meeting also discussed a number of questions: the persecution and oppression of peoples (including the former citizens of Georgia), the infringement in Moscow of the right to hold meetings, to stage pickets, to hold demonstrations and to sell alcohol and spirits etc.