Igor Averkiev: On the office of human rights ombudsperson and human rights in Perm Region

posted 6 Nov 2017, 06:44 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Nov 2017, 06:56 ]

26 October 2017

By Igor Averkiev, executive director, and expert, the Perm Civic Chamber 

This translation is an extract from an original text to be found at: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source Online-journal «7х7»]

[...] The office of human rights ombudsperson is without question an anachronism in today’s Russia. The formal duties of the ombudsperson are in direct contradiction with Vladimir Putin’s regime of personal power. But the contradiction or conflict has been easily resolved in favour of the Kremlin by the appropriate choice of incumbents. Very few people of a humanitarian bent put themselves forward for the job and, among those that did, very few, literally the rare individual, have managed to maintain their humanitarian outlook and some kind of symbolic independence. Tatyana Margolina was one of the last of these ‘woolly mammoths.’ 

One way or another, the institution of human rights ombudsperson, like many other state institutions in our country, is not quite what it claims to be. The office of ombudsperson for human rights in any Russian region (even in the Perm Region) is less concerned with the defence of human rights than it is with the population’s social rights or, more precisely, with acting as a body overseeing social rights – a social-rights procuracy without a procurator’s powers. In fact, a pathetic institution. It cannot be said that ‘a social-rights procurator without powers’ is an especially bad thing (sometimes it can help unhappy people looking for someone to defend them). What is obnoxious is that it is yet another example of a large lie by the state: Vladimir Putin’s political regime uses the ombudspersons, not as they were intended, but rather to perform the function of glossing the domestic and foreign image of an authoritarian-populist state.

To begin with, the Russian human rights ombudspersons fail (and the majority do not even try) to defend basic human rights – civil (personal) rights and political freedoms. In Perm, until relatively recently, the situation could be described as somewhat better given, on the one hand, a long tradition of ‘competent and constructive cooperation’ between the Perm civic organizations and the authorities and, on the other, the personal qualities of the outgoing ombudsperson for human rights, Tatyana Margolina. However this ‘somewhat better situation’ only resulted in individual, small human rights successes which themselves had no effect upon the federal and Perm authorities’ overall strategy which consists of distorting, marginalizing and, when necessary, trampling on citizens’ individual and political rights. No ombudsperson can play a serious part in resolving the fundamental and significant human rights’ problems in the Perm Region: 

· End the unspoken prohibition of holding mass civic demonstrations in the centre of Perm and in other population centres in the region [...]

· Restore the freedom of speech on local TV channels […] 

· Stop the already almost wholesale practice of the senseless and criminal prosecution of citizens (primarily of teenagers) for the innocent reposting of forbidden material on social networks […]

· Lower the filters for municipal elections […] 

· Stop the attempts by the Transneft and Lukoil corporations to force bona fide owners to lose their homes without compensation […] 

· And much else […]

Translated by Mary McAuley