The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this morning concluded its consideration of the fifteenth to seventeenth periodic reports of the Russian Federation after hearing a delegation say that the Government was cooperating with international human rights organizations.
Responding to questions raised by Committee Experts, the members of the Russian delegation said, among other things, that the Russian authorities had never refused to cooperate with international organizations dealing with displaced Chechens. They added that there had not been any serious complaints lodged by displaced persons who were living in the northern Caucasus.
Committee Expert Patrick Thornberry, who acted as country rapporteur to the reports of the Russian Federation, thanked the members of the delegation for their extensive response to the questions raised. The Committee would appreciate the "distillation" of the information in the census concerning the ethnic composition of the population in the next report, he said, adding that the Chechen situation, as well as the issues of the Roma and the Menshketians, had been discussed.
Also participating in the debate were Committee Experts Tang Chengyuan, Agha Shahi, Patricia Nozipho January-Bardill, Mahmoud Aboul-Nasr, Jose A. Lindgren Alves, Kurt Herndl, Regis de Gouttes, Ion Diaconu and Morten Kjaerum.
The Committee will release its concluding observations and recommendations on the reports of the Russian Federation towards the end of its current three-week session, which will end on 21 March.
The Russian Federation is among the 167 States parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and as such it should submit periodic reports to the Committee on its efforts to fight racial discrimination.
When the Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m., it is scheduled to take up the sixth to fifteenth periodic reports of Fiji (CERD/C/429/Add.1).
Remarks by Experts
The members of the Committee continued to raise questions and make remarks on the contents of the Russian reports. An Expert said that extremism of all sorts should be controlled as the Russian authorities had done. It was also important to accelerate the political process in Chechnya. A political solution was the best way to resolve the problem in Chechnya where terrorist activities were being carried out. Only a handful individuals were involved in the separatist activities while the majority of the people were leading normal lives.
Quoting non-governmental organizations, another Expert said that acts of discrimination were being committed against individuals of Chechen origin. Chechens and Meshketian Turks were the people most discriminated against among the 176 nationalities of the Russian Federation. Because of the denial of citizenship to the Meshketians, they were not able to enjoy their right to a nationality. Also, the Roma were discriminated against because of their life style.
An Expert drew the attention of the delegation to the Committee's General Recommendation 25 on the gender-related dimension of racial discrimination. The Russian Federation should deal with the issue in its next periodic report.
Another Expert was of the opinion that there was an alarming tendency in the West and the United States to link the activities of some organizations to terrorism. The Russian Federation should stop all acts committed against Mosques and other worship centres.
Response of Russian Federation
The members of the Russian Delegation responded to the numerous questions raised by the Experts of the Committee. They said, among other things, that the Russian Federation was undergoing a transitional period. A number of laws had been adopted. The country was also huge with many nationalities.
In October last year a census had been carried out which showed that the number of nationalities was more than 176, the delegation said.
At least 11 ministries had participated in the preparation of the reports under consideration by the Committee, the delegation said. A number of non-governmental organizations dealing with racial discrimination had also participated in the work. The Russian authorities had found the role of NGOs to be vital for the promotion and protection of human rights.
There were a number of centres for the promotion of the culture and languages of different nationalities in Moscow, the delegation said. The children of those nationalities received education in their respective mother tongues.
About the situation of the displaced Chechens, the delegation said that there had not been any serious complaints from the displaced persons in the north Caucasus. The Russian Federation had never refused to cooperate with international organizations dealing with displaced persons. Two special rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights were scheduled to visit Chechnya in 2003. The Islamic Relief Organization had visited the region this year, as had other similar organizations.
There were a number of special bodies dealing with racial discrimination, including the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, the delegation said. Any form of racial discrimination was also banned by law, and the labour law dealt with the issue extensively.
If a person suffered from any form of discrimination, they could be rehabilitated and could receive compensation for the damage he or she had been subjected to, the delegation said. The perpetrators of the act of discrimination were also prosecuted for their crimes.
There were some cases of hooliganism, distribution of pamphlets and other aggressions related to racial discrimination in Moscow, the delegation said. The authorities continued to fight such phenomenon through various measures, including steps to disband organizations implicated in acts of racial discrimination. Newspapers disseminating racial hatred had been closed down.
Since 1992, there had been a moratorium on the application of the death penalty, the delegation said. The majority of Russians supported the maintenance of the death penalty provision.
The 500,000 inhabitants of the Chechen Republic would participate in the forthcoming referendum, the delegation said. Those in the diaspora also had the right to participate in the referendum if they considered themselves as inhabitants of the region. Displaced persons living in camps could also vote after expressing their wishes to do so. The referendum would be the best opportunity for the Chechens to express their opinion. The draft constitution to be adopted by the referendum would allow Chechnya to assume sovereignty within the Russian Federation.
More than 1 million requests for rehabilitation had been received from people who suffered reprisals between 1991 and 1993 because of their national origins, the delegation said. The authorities had delivered compensation to those who had suffered from such repression.
The Cossacks were one of the repressed nationalities of the Russian Federation, the delegation said. Their repression started back during the Soviet period. Those people had a distinct ethno-cultural character and had lived as frontier people for years.
The Government of the Russian Federation had done some work last year for its Gypsy citizens and it was currently stepping up work to protect them, the delegation said. Gypsies were Russian citizens and held Russian passports.
Fifty thousand Meshketian Turks had been granted Russian citizenship and few remained without any status, the delegation said. The majority of those who were left without citizenship had expressed the wish to return to their ancestral origins. The authorities were reviewing their cases on an individual basis.
The Russian Federation was attempting to achieve international standards for its migration standards, the delegation said. Since 1991, the number of citizens leaving and entering the country had been high. In the last three years, the number of illegal migrants had sharply increased, with three out of every four migrants being illegal.
The Russian Orthodox Church was collaborating with Muslim organizations and they were working jointly to fight racial discrimination and to work for the benefit of the society, the delegation said. Terrorism had no religion and it was wrong to associate a religious or ethnic organization with terrorism without any evidence.
PATRICK THORNBERRY, the Committee Expert who acted as country rapporteur to the reports of the Russian Federation, thanked the members of the delegation for their extensive response to the questions raised by the Committee's Experts. The Committee would appreciate the "distillation" of information on the census concerning the ethnic composition of the population in the next report. The Chechen situation, in addition to the issues of the Roma and the Menshketians, had been discussed. Those nationalities should avail themselves of their rights under international law.
Mr. Thornberry said that all could learn from the dialogue concerning the complexity of ethnic issues. The Committee had been enlightened by the information provided to it by the members of the delegation.