Martin Dewhirst on the Russian Penal System: Can Public Oversight Make Much Difference?

posted 25 Nov 2013, 00:31 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 25 Nov 2013, 00:57 ]
25 November 2013

Regular readers of Rights in Russia may remember an item in the issue for 11 November 2013 entitled ‘Human rights activists sound the alarm over Public Monitoring Commissions’. These Commissions (PMCs) were established by federal law No. 76 of 10 June 2008 and, according to an interview with Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the doyenne of Russian defenders of human rights, they are the first and so far the only ‘legislatively established instruments of public control over organs of state’. All the various ‘public councils’ are mere window-dressing (Novaya gazeta, No. 125, 8/11/2013, pp. 2-3). But who actually appoints the members of the PMCs? Not the federal ombudsman or the regional ombudsmen and their staff, but the Public Chamber in Moscow and its staff (for the most part highly and deliberately incompetent as well as biased, to judge from the article already published in Rights in Russia). Alekseyeva accuses those who finalise the selection of members of the PMCs of packing them with ‘veterans’ of the Federal Service for the Implementation of Punishments, the Procuracy and the police, which have their own ‘social/public organisations’ from which ‘volunteers’ to join the PMCs can legitimately be chosen. A fine example of this very ‘Soviet’ hypocrisy is provided in Novaya gazeta No. 123, 1/11/2013, p. 9, where Anton Tsvetkov, the chairman of the presidium of an organisation called ‘The Officers of Russia’ is said to be planning to replace Valery Borshchev, the long-standing, committed and very effective chairman of the Moscow PMC. The track records and achievements of these two men are amazingly different. [Read more]