Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Russia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Russia, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa580.html [accessed 13 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
 

A year of political turmoil and crisis culminated in elections for a new Russian Parliament and a concurrent referendum on a new constitution on December 12. Voters elected a Parliament, roughly divided among reformers, Communists, and extreme nationalists, which convened for the first time in mid-January. The majority of voters approved the Constitution providing for a strong executive branch of government.

The conflict between the legislative and executive branches, which characterized the political situation during 1992, continued until September 21 when President Boris Yeltsin disbanded the Congress of People's Deputies (CPD) elected in 1990 under the Soviet electoral system. After September 21, the President ruled by decree. The national referendum on April 25 had given President Yeltsin a strong vote of popular support but had not succeeded in resolving the constitutional crisis.

Initially refusing to accept its dissolution, the CPD voted to remove the President and named an alternate government, including "ministers" of interior, security, and defense who sought to exert command over the armed forces. The Government increasingly controlled public access to the so-called White House, where the CPD was meeting. After a 10-day standoff marked by bloody street clashes, demonstrators broke through the government security cordon on October 3 and rallied at the White House. Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoy and CPD Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov urged the demonstrators, some of whom were armed with automatic weapons, to attack the nearby mayor's offices and the Ostankino television facilities.

On October 4, army troops surrounded and assaulted the White House. Given opportunities to surrender, some 300 persons, including deputies and journalists, left the building peacefully. While some deputies were detained and released, Khasbulatov, Rutskoy, and the "ministers" of security, interior, and defense were arrested. Another group of armed militants remained in the building and battled government forces, including Interior Ministry troops, which attacked with tanks and armored personnel carriers. The number of persons who died in the violence of October 3-4 is disputed. Estimates in the press published in the immediate aftermath of the events ranged widely; they eventually settled on more than 100 persons reportedly killed at Ostankino and as many as 150 killed in the fighting at the White House. The official death toll was set at 147.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Committee for State Security (KGB) was broken into two organizations, the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the Ministry of Security. Internal security became the responsibility of the Ministry of Security. A presidential decree in December 1993 dissolved that Ministry and set up in its place a counterintelligence service under the direct control of the President. Laws passed in 1992 require them to respect human and civil rights, outline rules and procedures governing their activities and investigations, and establish presidential and legislative oversight over each agency's activities.

The Government in 1993 continued to pursue the transformation of a centrally controlled economy into a market-oriented system. Fiscal and monetary stabilization were the central issues. As the economy continued to adjust to market price mechanisms, the Government began efforts to rein in credit and deficit spending, paving the way for assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the rescheduling of Russia's official debt. Inflation continued at monthly rates of 20 to 25 percent for most of the year. Privatization continued rapidly, and the Government sold off over half the retail businesses and thousands of commercial and industrial firms. Closings of inefficient firms or bankruptcies were few, official unemployment remained low, and industrial output, which had fallen by about 50 percent from 1990 figures, began to level off.

Russia continued its progress on human rights during 1993, despite some temporary setbacks as a result of the October crisis. Freedom of speech, assembly, and association, other than during the October crisis, were largely respected. Soviet-era restrictions on freedom of religion and travel continued to be eased. The 1991 law on exit and entry is gradually being implemented, although some issues are unresolved. There are no known political prisoners in Russia.

Despite significant progress in recent years, Russia's overall human rights record is uneven, and some serious problems remain. On October 3, President Yeltsin declared a state of emergency in the capital. Several important human rights problems occurred during the state of emergency. Press freedoms were restricted, for example, by the introduction of temporary censorship. Restrictions on freedom of travel were imposed through enforcement of the "propiska" (residence permit) system against dark-complexioned people. This resulted in the expulsion from Moscow of thousands of people from the Caucasus and Central Asia.

In spite of legislation to foster greater judicial independence, the judiciary still reflects its Communist heritage in personnel and practice. It is not yet fully independent or empowered to act as a guarantor of human rights. Other human rights problems include harsh prison conditions; official discrimination against people from the Caucasus; societal discrimination against people from the Caucasus and Jews; societal discrimination and violence against women; and governmental pressures against independent labor unions.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings by Russian authorities in 1993. (See Section 1.g. for details of the political violence in Moscow on October 3-4.).

Politics in the northern Caucasus, however, was marked by considerable violence. In Chechnya, a journalist investigating corruption in the Chechen government was killed in April in the city of Grozny. Observers believe local authorities with criminal ties were responsible. In June forces loyal to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev fired on a crowd of protesters gathered in front of Grozny's city hall, killing 14 persons, including the democratically elected mayor of the city.

On August 1, Viktor Polyaichko, head of administration of the State of Emergency Zone in north Ossetia and Ingushetia, was assassinated. No persons have been charged in connection with this incident.

b. Disappearance

No political disappearances or abductions are known to have occurred in 1993. According to Ingush sources, several hundred of the 687 Ingush who reportedly disappeared as a result of fighting in north Ossetia in 1992 are still missing.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Russian Constitution specifically prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. However, some authorities still use force against persons in custody or under suspicion. Human rights organizations routinely receive credible complaints of police beatings during questioning or at the time of arrest. In one case, police told relatives of a victim that the injuries were caused by the person's trying to escape out of a second-floor window. Amnesty International was told by police that the injuries did not occur as described and that the injured victim was reportedly seen being wheeled out of the building into an ambulance. Human rights groups reported that the authorities took numerous persons into custody following the assault on the White House and beat and mistreated them.

Russian detention and incarceration practices remain harsh. Conditions in many prisons threaten the health and life of prisoners. Many prisoners continue to suffer from mental and physical abuse and mistreatment during interrogation, trial, and confinement, according to a wide variety of reliable sources. Excessive force by law enforcement personnel goes unpunished, and victims are rarely able to seek redress.

There are approximately 827,000 inmates in the Russian prison system, according to the Interior Ministry, and overcrowding is a significant problem. In Moscow, for example, three prisons designed to hold 8,500 inmates house 14,400 persons, according to prison officials. Prisoners ill with infectious diseases in some cases are not segregated from healthy prisoners.

Prisoners are frequently placed in unduly harsh punishment cells for violations of rules. No administrative process exists to ensure that prisoners are not arbitrarily or inappropriately sent to such cells. Changes in procedures instituted in 1992 limit the time a prisoner may be held in such cells to no more than 60 days during a year and a maximum of 15 days at a time. In labor camps, where prisoners live in barracks, prisoners may only be placed in cells for a maximum of 6 months per year.

Corrective institutions for women also house children. Like other Russian prisons, these institutions are marked by overcrowding and poor conditions. Pregnant women and mothers, while incarcerated, are entitled to better conditions and food than other prisoners. Few women inmates are believed to be aware of these rights and therefore do not always benefit from these entitlements.

The violent hazing of new recruits by other soldiers continued in 1993. Cruel and degrading treatment of military conscripts sometimes resulted in death. According to Ministry of Defense statistics, during the first 8 months of 1993, 1,222 servicemen died, of whom 25 percent reportedly committed suicide. The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers uses the number of suicides to illustrate the hazing problem. The Committee made some progress toward easing such treatment through direct contacts with military officials.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Persons may be detained arbitrarily and arrested without warrants. The Criminal Code requires that detainees be charged or released within 72 hours. Under the 1992 law on the procuracy, decisions on detention and custody are the responsibility of the procurator's office. Criminal Code amendments enacted in 1992 provide for court review of arrests and empower judges to order the release of those arrested pending trial. Detainees have the right to request a court evaluation of the legality of detention. If the court finds the detention illegal, the judge has the power to order an immediate release. Nonetheless, the judicial system is unable to cope with the increasing numbers of persons arrested for crimes. Thousands of persons are held for extended periods of time, often for more than a year, in pretrial detention, without judicial review.

Access to defense attorneys has improved. The new Constitution guarantees the right of a detainee to consult with a lawyer. However, authorities denied the attorneys for former CPD Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov and Vice President Rutskoy access to them during the initial days of their confinement. The attorneys and families of the accused were later granted access, as was the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Thousands of persons were detained during the weeks before and after the October 3-4 violence. Most, but not all, were released within the legally prescribed 72-hour detention period. Of those charged with criminal offenses, most remained in custody, though some were released under the legal provisions described above.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Government efforts to reform the legal and judicial systems had limited effect in 1993. Russian courts, which have long served as tools for enforcing state power, remain subject on occasion to political influence. In July the Supreme Soviet passed a law authorizing the phased introduction of trial by jury in nine regions beginning in November. Russian legal reformers hope that use of jury trials will spur the growth of a more open and fair adversarial courtroom procedure. The first jury trials were conducted in November and offered to defendants accused of murder and other capital crimes. A criminal defendant must be advised of his right to a jury trial by the investigator during the preliminary investigation. Defendants may choose to be tried before a judge and jury or, in accord with traditional criminal procedures, before a judge and two people's assessors. A defendant in a jury trial has the right to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In general, Russian judges are poorly trained and have little concept of a truly independent judiciary. The 1992 law on the status of judges began to have some positive effect on judicial morale. Monetary incentives attracted better candidates to entry-level judicial positions. Judicial wages increased by eight or nine times during 1993 and are now indexed to senior executive pay scales.

President Yeltsin suspended the Constitutional Court's activities on October 6, citing the Court's lack of impartiality in the events leading to the violence of October 3-4. Prior to the Court's suspension, each side in the political power struggle turned to the Court in the hope that the Court's decision would add to its legitimacy. The Court's most significant achievement during this turbulent period was to promote the notion of the judiciary's independence and authority, operating alongside the executive and legislative branches of government. The Constitution adopted in December envisages a prominent role for a Constitutional Court and an independent judiciary.

Criminal defendants are permitted by law to have an attorney represent them in court, and Russian courts routinely assign defense attorneys to defendants who cannot afford one. The criminal justice system continues to be based on the presumption of guilt, and defense attorneys operate within a system that remains biased against their clients. Russia's new Constitution provides for the presumption of innocence, but it remains to be seen whether and how this will work in practice. Lawyers are often unable to work with their clients during the early stages of an investigation and have only limited access to evidence developed by government prosecutors. Many believe that prosecutors feel confident in bringing weak cases to court because they enjoy numerous built-in procedural advantages over the defense. An overall conviction rate of better than 99 percent testifies to the limited ability of the defense to present an effective case. Russia has no system of plea bargaining.

In March the military collegium of the Supreme Court, handling the trial of those persons accused of plotting the August 1991 coup attempt, instituted procedures to regulate public attendance at the trial. More than a dozen news organizations were granted credentials to cover the proceedings. The court turned down a defense request in mid-October to allow more media representatives to attend the trial. The trial, which began in April, proceeded in fits and starts, with numerous procedural delays because of illness among the defendants or their attorneys. On one occasion, the court denied a defense petition to dismiss the government prosecution team. The defense alleged bias on the part of the Procurator General who had published a book on the coup based, in part, on the pretrial testimony of the defendants. The coup trial recessed again in December due to claims of illness by three defendants.

In June the Tatarstan supreme court sentenced Tatar national activist Zinnue Agliullin, chairman of the All-Tatar Public Center, to 2 years in prison under Articles 70 (which prohibits calls for the violent overthrow of the government and the constitutional order) and 79 (which prohibits "organization of mass disorder" and "armed resistance" to the authorities) of the Russian Federation Criminal Code. In October 1992, Agliullin publicly called for the "punishment" of the Tatarstan president for "betraying the interests of the Tatar people." Tatarstan authorities brought additional charges against Agliullin in August under special Tatar anticrime legislation, claiming that Agliullin owned a weapon allegedly found in his apartment at the time of his arrest. Agliullin alleged that the charges were politically motivated.

There are no known political prisoners in Russia. Hundreds of persons captured in connection with the October 3-4 events were held briefly and released. Those charged with crimes remain in custody.

Thousands of persons remain incarcerated for violating laws that prohibit a variety of commercial activities that are now legal and commonplace. One such "crime" was speculation, in which a person sells a commodity at a higher price than he or she paid for it.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The right to privacy is guaranteed by the Constitution. The splitting of the KGB in December 1991 and President Yeltsin's breakup of the Ministry of Security in December 1993 ended the security services' status as a "state within a state." The President's December decree calls for a trimming of personnel and bureaucratic structures devoted to domestic intelligence and places the internal security services under his direct control. In a December 22 news conference, he announced that police surveillance of the Russian people would now end and that the domestic intelligence service would perform only counterintelligence functions.

Authorities may search premises without a warrant but are obliged to obtain one within 24 hours after the search. In July President Yeltsin signed legislation that allowed warrantless searches with 24-hour notification in cases of terrorism or threats to national security. In spite of reforms that divided the KGB into two separate organs, electronic monitoring of residence is believed to continue, albeit at reduced levels. Foreign radio broadcasts were not jammed.

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts

A week prior to the violence of October 3-4, armed supporters of the disbanded Parliament, trying to take over a military communications facility in Moscow, killed one police officer and a civilian bystander. On October 3, responding to Vice President Rutskoy's exhortation from the balcony of the White House, hundreds of anti-Yeltsin demonstrators, some armed with automatic weapons, attacked the Moscow mayor's office and later the television facilities at Ostankino. More than 100 persons were reportedly killed in the fighting at Ostankino. The attackers suffered the majority of the casualties.

Police forces by themselves were unable to control the situation in Moscow. On October 4, the Government used the army to quash the rebellion. Approximately 1,700 troops, 10 tanks, and 20 armored personnel carriers were involved in the assault of the White House. Occupiers of the building were given opportunities to surrender before government forces opened fire. After some shelling by the tanks, the occupiers were given another opportunity to surrender. More than 300 persons left peacefully, but a number of the more militant supporters of Parliament remained in the building and battled government forces. Press estimates of the death toll range between 150 and 200 persons. Military casualties were light.

Russian troops are still in place in many of the republics of the former Soviet Union and are embroiled in a number of controversial conflicts, some involving the Russian minorities in the republics. (See the reports on Georgia, Moldova, and Tajikistan.)

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and press was widely respected during much of

1993. Newspapers and magazines, most of which are independent of the Government and some of which are privately owned, functioned unhindered. However, during the events of September-October, the Government restricted freedom of speech and press.

In March the executive and legislative branches issued conflicting decrees asserting control over the media. President Yeltsin issued a decree placing radio and television under his control. On March 28, the Parliament voted to disband the Government's Federal Information Center (FIC) and to put state radio and television under its own control. This battle for control of the media continued throughout the year, flaring up again on October 3 when supporters of the disbanded Parliament violently attacked the country's television broadcasting center. In a December decree, Yeltsin replaced the Information Ministry and the FIC with a new media apparatus in the presidential administration.

Following the Government's assault on the White House, it imposed strict censorship for 2 days. Authorities on October 3 confiscated film from journalists leaving the country at the airport. The newspapers Nezavisimaya Gazeta and Segodnya were published with blank spaces (or spaces labeled "censored") where three articles, to which government censors objected, would have appeared. Censors ceased work after the second day. However, the state of emergency empowered the Government to suspend provisions of the media law and to continue to hold publications "responsible" for the material they published after the lifting of censorship. The Government advised publications to consult with the Ministry of Information if doubts about articles or their content arose. The Government also pressured President Yeltsin's opponents to cancel a number of press conferences during the first week in October. It banned 15 newspapers and froze their bank accounts. In late October, the President gave assurances that the Government would respect freedom of the press. By November freedom of speech and press largely returned to its pre-September 21 status. Three of the banned publications, the full-fledged newspapers Pravda, Sovietskaya Rossiya, and Den (under the new name Zavtra) resumed publication.

Police reportedly beat more than 20 journalists attempting to cover the September/October events. Also in 1993, unidentified assailants in Moscow severely beat three Central Asian journalists covering their home region from Moscow. The journalists believe members of the security services from Tajikistan attacked them to intimidate them and force them to cease reporting on alleged government repression there.

The investigation of Vil Mirzayanov, arrested in November 1992 in connection with the publication of an article in the newspaper Moscow News about the existence of a chemical weapons plant in the capital, began in the spring. Mirzayanov was charged with revealing state secrets. During the pretrial investigation, the Ministry of Security in April called in for questioning the American correspondent resident in Moscow who broke the story in the United States. The American journalist answered the summons. The investigation was concluded in summer, and the trial was set to begin in January 1994.

Many publications in Russia suffer from acute financial problems which may affect their ability to function independently. The Government directly subsidizes more than 20 publications. Indirectly, the Government subsidizes publications by guaranteeing a percentage of their newsprint at controlled prices. Paper and ink are controlled by monopolies.

Television is a primary source of information for most Russians. The two Russian television companies, Ostankino and Russian State Television, transmit nationwide and to most of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The Russian Government owns both, but the degree of official supervision has varied. Following President Yeltsin's disbandment of the CPD on September 21, television coverage of politics was markedly biased in favor of the President. In late September, for example, the program "Krasny Kvadrat" was not allowed to air because the Chairman of the Constitutional Court was a guest. Less than a month later, the directors of Russian State Television announced that the show would no longer be broadcast at all. President Yeltsin ordered the program "600 Seconds" off the air on October 4. The Government had also sought to cancel the program in April.

On October 11, a new independent television news program appeared, anchored by a journalist who left Ostankino because of the Government's influence on content there. A December 22 edict by President Yeltsin provided a limited amount of time on Moscow television's Channel 8 to NTV, Independent Television.

Television studios at the oblast (province) level that were part of the central system during the Soviet era now operate more or less independently. They function as affiliates, opting to use programs from the national company and producing local news programming independently. Local authorities sometimes subject these affiliates to pressure.

All broadcasters and cable networks, both public and private, use foreign broadcast material. In addition to the Russian broadcasters, several joint venture cable companies now offer programming in Moscow.

In the second year of post-Soviet existence, the environment for academic freedom in Russia continued to improve. Russian scholars enjoyed unprecedented academic freedom. Virtually all institutions of higher learning, from universities to research institutes, enjoy increased autonomy. University rectors and department heads were selected in free and open elections. Curriculums and textbooks were revamped, and many institutions developed closer relations with Western universities. The entrenched academic nomenklatura establishment, tinged with much "old thinking," nonetheless continued to exert some influence through their control of resources and privileges. Educational institutions at all levels suffered from decreased levels of government funding and support. Many operate at subsistence levels.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Organizers of demonstrations must apply for permission to local authorities 10 days in advance, and officials must respond at least 5 days before the scheduled event. According to a presidential decree issued in May, requests for permission may be submitted no earlier than 15 days and no later than 10 days before the scheduled date. Participants in unauthorized demonstrations are subject to civil and criminal penalties, including fines, 15-day jail sentences, and stiffer punishment. In April the Government issued a decree banning demonstrations on Red Square and in its vicinity.

In the aftermath of the October assault on the White House, the Government temporarily banned all public demonstrations. The ban was lifted when the state of emergency expired on October 17.

During the year, there were many peaceful public demonstrations, but a number of events were marked by violence. Much of the violence occurred when anti-Yeltsin groups clashed with the authorities. In September demonstrators protesting President Yeltsin's disbandment of the CPD gathered daily in front of the White House where it was meeting. When the Government tightened security around the area and prevented demonstrators from rallying there, demonstrators clashed with the authorities in other parts of the city. Unable to get to the White House, the crowd gathered at a nearby metro station and blocked Moscow's ring road with commandeered vehicles. A senior policeman died when he was struck by a vehicle while assisting efforts to control a crowd.

May Day demonstrations by the National Salvation Front, Working Moscow, and the Communist Workers Party of Russia turned violent when protestors clashed with police after following an unauthorized route for their march. One policeman was killed in the melee.

Freedom of association is respected in practice. All public organizations must register their bylaws and the names of their leaders with the Ministry of Justice. Political parties must also present 5,000 signatures and pay a fee to register. The 1991 Soviet law on public organizations allows the formation of political parties and guarantees such organizations the right to propagate their views. The law also bans groups advocating violent change in the constitutional system or groups undermining public order. In the aftermath of the October 3-4 violence, the Government banned 10 organizations because of their alleged role in the events surrounding the violence.

Organizations registered with the Justice Ministry were allowed to present candidates for the December parliamentary elections. As of October 20, 126 organizations registered with the Ministry planned to take part in the elections. The Ministry suspended the registration of the 10 banned organizations, denying them the right to participate in the elections.

In April the Ministry of Justice launched an investigation into the activities of the Communist Workers Party of Russia in workplaces. Their activities were alleged to run counter to a 1991 Russian Federation decree "on the cessation of the activities of organizational structures of political parties and mass social movements in state bodies, institutions, and organizations of the Russian Federation." In February the Justice Ministry sought to ban a Russian Communist Party conference, citing (erroneously) the November 1992 Constitutional Court decision which reaffirmed the Communist Party's right to exist as a political organization. The conference nonetheless took place without hindrance.

Otherwise, hundreds of organizations, representing a wide political spectrum, functioned unhindered in 1993.

c. Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion continued to expand in 1992, and the visibility of religion increased dramatically. Religious services and other programs were televised throughout the year.

Official and unofficial religious groups held seminars, conferences, and revival meetings, frequently in public facilities. Public advertising of religious services, leafletting in subways and other parts of the city, and street proselytizing in major cities was common. The press extensively covered religious issues, including statements of religious leaders and Orthodox Church events. Missionaries from almost every world religion, as well as lesser known sects, are present in Russia, and an increasing number of such groups opened permanent offices.

Relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Government have grown closer in recent years. The Patriarch claims that the Church seeks no role in politics but has insisted that the Church act as a moral influence in Russian society. In March he appeared on national television to appeal for political reconciliation between the legislative and executive branches, while during the September/October crisis in Moscow he mediated negotiations between presidential and legislative representatives. In July the Orthodox Church prompted the legislature to pass a proposed new law which relied heavily on the Church's views and, if enacted, could have further strengthened the Church's already preeminent place among religious groups in Russia. The law would have required all non-Russian organizations to register with the Government before engaging in religious activity in Russia. After President Yeltsin vetoed the bill, the September 21 dissolution of the Congress of People's Deputies ended parliamentary efforts to pass the bill over his veto.

Bureaucratic obstacles to complete freedom of religion still exist due to the provision of the 1990 Soviet law on religion requiring religious groups of 10 adults or more to register with local authorities. Some groups view the requirement itself as contradicting their beliefs and therefore refuse to register. Although failure to register has not resulted in harassment, groups must register to acquire the status of a "juridical person" and to receive benefits, including access to the media and the right to establish their own schools, own property, and engage in social work. The registration process, therefore, allows for obstructionist tactics by local authorities, such as lost applications, endless reviews of applications, or denial of adequate facilities. This problem is most prevalent in cases of Protestants and the Russian Orthodox Free Church. Individual Russian Orthodox believers have prevented Pentecostals and other evangelical groups from meeting, particularly in the northern Caucasus and the Russian Far East. Violent attacks against non-Muslims by Muslim believers in Chechnya were also reported.

The number of clergy and places of worship in Russia is still inadequate for the population, but churches continued to open in record numbers. Seminaries and other institutions of clerical education continued to expand their enrollment, limited only by their financial resources. Bibles, icons, religious calendars, and memorabilia are on sale in street kiosks and stores in major cities. There are no restrictions on the importation of religious materials.

Young men who object to military duty because of their faith continued to be subject to prison terms. Legislation providing alternatives to military service for conscientious objectors was pending, but there will be no resolution until after the new legislative body convenes.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens were generally free to travel within the country. All adults are issued internal passports which must be carried during travel. Internal passports are also used to register with local authorities visits of more than 3 days, although this requirement is generally ignored by travelers not staying in hotels.

The right to choose one's place of residence, though guaranteed by law, continued to be restricted in practice. Under the propiska registration system, all citizens must register their place of residence. The system is enforced selectively and often targeted against those who are not Russian, primarily persons from the Caucasus and central Asia. Some officials called for abolition of the propiska system, stating that it infringes on the right of citizens to choose their place of residence. However, officials in major cities, especially Moscow, staunchly defended the system, predicting widespread crime and homelessness if it were abolished.

During the weeks prior to and following the October 3-4 violence, city authorities reportedly deported from Moscow more than 4,000 persons, most of whom were Caucasians or Central Asians, because they were not officially registered. Authorities in Moscow during that time also detained more than 20,000 persons for residency violations.

The new Constitution guarantees freedom of travel, including emigration. The May 1991 Soviet law on emigration officially came into force on January 1, 1993; however, actual implementation has been gradual. Under this law, exit permission and a formal invitation from abroad are no longer required of travelers who are not emigrating. Passport offices were overwhelmed by the flood of new applications, but despite administrative delays many thousands of Russian citizens traveled abroad during 1993.

Emigrants are no longer required to show an invitation from a first-degree relative and need only show an invitation from any relative abroad or permission to enter the country to which they are emigrating. The implementing resolution for the new law also annulled the 1967 decree under which emigrants to Israel were required to give up their Soviet citizenship. The new law, however, continues to restrict the emigration of persons with access to state secrets. Special travel regulations apply to some Russian scientists wishing to travel abroad temporarily.

A government commission headed by deputy Foreign Minister Lavrov was established in March to review emigration applications refused on secrecy grounds. The commission accepts individual appeals, contacts the government entity that has placed the secrecy restriction on the person, and gives the entity 2 weeks to respond. If no response is received within the 2 weeks, the restriction is automatically lifted. Persons also have the right to argue before the commission and to call expert witnesses to challenge the continued secrecy of the information in question. Since the commission began reviewing cases this summer, many secrecy cases have been overturned.

The 1991 law also retains the requirement for intending emigrants to obtain permission from close relatives in Russia. If would-be emigrants are unable to secure the permission, they may, theoretically, pursue a resolution of the problem in the courts. However, to date no Russian court has accepted such a case for review. The law also added a new emigration restriction on draft-age men who have not yet completed their obligatory military service.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Under the new Constitution, the Russian people, in principle, have the right to change their government. The President may be impeached by a vote of two-thirds of the Federation Council if the Duma by a two-thirds majority charges him with treason or another serious crime and if the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court confirm the charge. The President may not dissolve the Duma during the first year of its existence. It is still not certain, however, that the Russian people have the ability to change their government peacefully and democratically. The constitutional crisis between the executive and legislative branches, which began in 1992, continued throughout much of 1993, leading to the events of October 3-4 in Moscow. President Yeltsin was democratically elected to a 5-year term in 1991 with approximately 60 percent of the vote. On September 21, he disbanded the Russian legislature, last elected in 1990 under Soviet electoral rules. The legislature had repeatedly and arbitrarily blocked efforts to introduce democratic and free market reforms.

President Yeltsin called for elections to a new Parliament on December 12. A referendum on a new constitution was held concurrently. In a mixed majoritarian and proportional electoral system, Russian voters elected a 450-seat lower house called the Duma and an upper house consisting of 2 representatives from each of the country's 88 constituent administrative areas. (The Federation's 89th constituent member, Chechnya, refused to participate in the elections.) To qualify for the 225 proportional seats in the Duma, a party, electoral bloc, or political movement had to obtain 100,000 signatures of which no more than 15 percent could come from a single area. A group gained representation in the Duma if it received more than 5 percent of the total vote. This minimum percentage guarantees a group at least 11 seats. Candidates for the majority seats were elected from 225 electoral districts, each consisting of an average of 475,000 to 500,000 inhabitants. The new Parliament, split roughly four ways between reformers, nationalists, Communists, and independents, convened on January 11.

On April 25, in an attempt to resolve the conflict between the executive and legislative branches, the Yeltsin Government conducted a referendum on four questions: 1) confidence in the President; 2) confidence in his economic policies; 3) early presidential elections; and 4) early legislative elections. According to a Constitutional Court decision on referendum rules, a majority of votes by participants in the referendum would suffice for the first two questions to carry, while a majority of registered voters would suffice to carry the second two questions. The majority of participants voted "yes" on all four questions, but not in sufficient numbers, according to a decision of the Constitutional Court, to be legally binding on the questions of elections. The results strengthened the position of President Yeltsin but did not resolve the political impasse.

The Constitution provides for equal political rights for men and women, but women do not occupy many leading positions in politics and government. However, the "Women of Russia" bloc received around 8 percent in proportional balloting. Members of Russia's ethnic and religious minorities face no legal limitations on political participation.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Numerous nongovernmental human rights groups were active during the year. Amnesty International, Helsinki Watch, the Moscow Helsinki Group, Memorial, and the Center for Human Rights were the most prominent. They investigated and publicly commented on human rights issues; there were no reports of government interference in their activities. Financing remained a problem for many groups in light of Russia's difficult economic situation. Russian authorities encouraged international investigation of alleged human rights violations.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Human rights guarantees figure prominently in the new Constitution. It remains to be seen whether these guarantees will be respected. Both official and societal discrimination still exist.

For the majority of Russians, homosexuality is socially unacceptable behavior. Homosexuals are subject to violence and discrimination by police and civilians. Local police also continue surveillance of homosexuals and keep files on them.

Women

Women are entitled to the same legal rights as men, including the right to participate in all areas of social, political, and economic life. An extensive system of day-care and maternity leave allows women to retain employment after having children. The system has become less reliable, and in some cases reform has meant that the families must pay directly for child-care services. Women are well represented at many levels of the general economy. Nonetheless, women often are not paid the same as men for equal work and frequently are the first to be laid off as enterprises reduce staff. Positions of influence and prestige in both the Government and the economy are still disproportionately occupied by men.

Violence against women occurs, but its extent is unknown. Police often do not take an interest in cases of violence against women. According to a rape crisis center in Moscow started by a foreigner, some 16,000 rape cases throughout Russia were reported to the authorities in 1992. The real number is likely to be much higher but is not reflected in either official or nongovernmental records. Incidents often go unreported because of the belief that authorities will do little about the matter and because of the victim's own shame. In the case of spousal abuse, there are no specific legal provisions against wife beating, and legal recourse such as bringing charges of assault is seldom exercised in such cases. Interest in women's issues is only beginning to grow and is focused primarily on the effects of the transition to a market economy. The "Women of Russia" electoral bloc, which received 8 percent of the vote in the December 12 election, focused its campaign on the need for guaranteed health care, education, and social welfare.

Children

The new Constitution assigns the Government some responsibility for safeguarding the rights of children. While Article 38, section 2, notes that "concern for children and their upbringing are the equal right and duty of parents," section 1 stipulates that "maternity, childhood, and the family are under the State's protection." Article 39 guarantees " social security ... for the raising of children." Russia is a signatory of the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Russians from all political perspectives advocate a greater state role in safeguarding the welfare of children and all Russian citizens. The Government's efforts to develop an effective "social safety net," however, are severely hampered by economic problems.

Indigenous People

The State Committee for Development of the North, based in Moscow, is tasked with representing the interests of indigenous peoples. With only one full-time staff member, its influence is limited. Local committees have been formed in some areas to study and make recommendations regarding the preservation of the indigenous peoples' cultures. Indigenous leaders criticize these committees as lacking political influence. In September Russian authorities sponsored an international conference on the rights of indigenous peoples but drew relatively little participation from indigenous groups from Russia or abroad.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Discrimination against people from the Caucasus was most evident in the weeks around the October 3-4 violence. The Moscow authorities targeted persons with Caucasian features at checkpoints around Moscow and during the state of emergency ordered traffic police to stop all vehicles driven by "persons of Caucasus nationality." A spokesperson for the traffic police said that the purpose of these measures was to rid the city of all illegal residents, most of whom are from the Caucasus. The official noted that the order singled out those from the Caucasus because they are easy to identify by their "physiological and facial features." He also commented that "most of these people are thieves and robbers," responsible "for two-thirds of the crime" in Moscow. Human rights groups in Moscow criticized the discriminatory procedures under which thousands of persons were forced to leave the capital. However, the crackdown provoked little negative response from Muscovites, who blame much of the crime in the city on people from the Caucasus. Vendors and merchants in the capital's many markets and in city markets throughout Russia were also targets of discrimination. Concentrating on persons that looked like Caucasus residents, Moscow police forced many to halt their business, confiscated wares, and subjected the vendors and merchants to physical violence.

Following his arrest on October 4, former CPD Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov, who is himself a Chechen, refused to be represented by a Chechen lawyer. He said a lawyer from that part of Russia would not be able to mount an effective defense because of discrimination.

Religious Minorities

Anti-Semitism is no longer condoned by the Government. However, it continues to occur, its virulence varying by region. Jewish leaders called for greater assertiveness on the part of the central Government in combating anti- Semitism.

Anti-Semitism continues to exist among the people and is manifested in acts of vandalism and verbal assaults on persons who appear to be Jewish. A number of Jewish cemeteries were desecrated, and on occasion rocks were thrown through the windows of Jewish schools. In February the a high-ranking figure in the Russian Orthodox Church published an article in the newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta which asserted that the discredited "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" are a blueprint for Russia's political crisis.

The authorities at times have been unwilling to take action when anti-Semitic acts are committed. In the spring a group of persons gathered in front of Moscow's Choral Synagogue, shouted anti-Semitic slogans, and broke windows. Police refused calls for assistance from the temple's leaders. Later in the year, police refused to help a Jewish family regain its apartment in Moscow after "criminals" took it over when the family was out of the country.

In April the newspaper Pravda published a spurious article linking Hasidism to satanic cults and blood ritual murders. The newspaper later noted that the article contained unfounded assertions and apologized to its readers. Although as a rule the Russian Government does not respond to newspaper items, it called the article "destructive in its manner" and criticized it for inflaming "nationalist and religious dissension." On December 30, fire destroyed one of Moscow's three synagogues. The Jewish community believes, and the authorities suspect, that arson was the cause of the blaze.

The expression of anti-Semitism was particularly evident in politics. Street protestors opposed to President Yeltsin often referred to him as a Jew, and antigovernment graffiti often contained anti-Semitic imagery. Prior to the April referendum, the Communist Party of Russia distributed election flyers that criticized Yeltsin for having allowed Hasids to tread on the "holy stones of the Kremlin."

People with Disabilities

The new Constitution stipulates that all persons are equal before the law. It does not contain any specific prohibitions directed at discrimination against disabled persons. There is no known specific legislation that mandates accesibility for people with disabilities.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Russian Labor Code guarantees the right of workers to join trade unions. Unions are required to register with local authorities. Local authorities have historically used this requirement to impede the establishment of new unions. The primary obstacle to the exercise of this right has been the special position occupied by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), the successor to the Soviet-era All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions.

The FNPR has largely retained the privileges and control mechanisms of the old official union structure that existed in the Soviet era. For example, it retained exclusive control of the social insurance fund, from which it distributes worker benefits such as vacations and sick and disability pay, and has used these benefits to keep workers in the FNPR and to threaten those workers contemplating leaving the official unions.

Leaders of the free, democratic labor unions consider the FNPR's exclusive control of the social insurance fund the primary obstacle to the growth of democratic trade unions. In September, shortly after President Yeltsin dissolved the Congress of People's Deputies, FNPR Chairman Klochkov led the official unions into direct opposition to Yeltsin and called for massive strikes in support of Khasbulatov and Rutskoy. In response, the Government prepared to punish the FNPR. It took over the social insurance fund and threatened to ban the FNPR. The FNPR, however, forced Klochkov to resign and made peace with the Government. As a result, no further steps were taken against the FNPR. Moreover, although the social insurance fund remained under the nominal control of the Labor Ministry, no real changes were made in the operation or management of the fund. As a result, independent union members seeking benefits from the fund continue to face discrimination. The Government has invited the FNPR to take an active role in preparing new legislation for the fund.

Nominally, almost all of the Russian work force is organized. In the Soviet period, all workers were required to join the official trade unions. However, an increasing number of jobs are located in the private sector or in the informal economy, in which unions are much less active. The FNPR still claims to represent about 65 million of Russia's 72 million workers. However, labor officials and other observers estimate that it has lost a significant portion of its membership, perhaps as much as 30 percent. The membership of the independent unions and independent unionlike organizations probably does not exceed 3 million.

Labor unions in Russia are independent of the Government and political parties. The FNPR has a formal agreement of cooperation with the Civic Union, an alliance of centrist parties, and one of the free trade unions has ties with the Social Democratic Party of Russia.

The Labor Code recognizes the right of workers to strike. However, the law includes numerous restrictions on that right, prohibiting, for example, strikes for political reasons. The law permits strikes only after all other means of resolving a dispute have been exhausted. Strikes may be declared illegal if they pose a threat to people's lives or health or if the closing of a plant's operations might lead to severe consequences. Strikes are also prohibited in several sectors: railroads, city transport, civil aviation, communications, energy, and the defense industry.

Numerous strikes occurred in 1993; however, most were either short-term warning strikes or were settled quickly. Unlike in Western market economies, labor disputes are rarely directed against enterprise management. In fact, the FNPR and the management of large state-owned industries normally cooperate closely in pressing their demands against the Government. In early 1993, the FNPR and the Government formed a tripartite commission comprised of union, management, and government representatives to protect workers' rights and standard of living and avoid strikes and other labor disputes. This arrangement reduced the number of strikes in 1993. The FNPR withdrew from the commission in August and organized a series of strikes and other worker protests to pressure the Government to maintain subsidies to industries and increase workers' pay. The FNPR was only moderately successful and decided to suspend further strikes because of the political crisis in Moscow.

The Government did little to protect workers from management's retribution in the event of a strike. FNPR-affiliated union officials work in a close, subordinate relationship with enterprise management. As a result, FNPR-led strikes were usually approved in advance and supported by enterprise management. Free union members and leaders face threats and intimidation from enterprise management. Free union officials contend that these actions are often taken with the passive support of FNPR officials and local politicians.

During 1993, free union officials were increasingly aggressive in pressing their case in the Russian courts, with moderate success. For example, the Association of Trade Unions of Yekaterinburg has been very active in employing law students from the city's legal institute to assist member unions protect worker rights. The head of the Association says the poor state of the legal system is the primary hindrance to the protection of workers' rights.

Unions are permitted to form and join federations or confederations and may participate in international bodies. The Government designated the FNPR to represent Russian workers at the International Labor Organization (ILO) conference in 1993. The ILO Governing Body in 1993 addressed two freedom of association complaints against the Russian Federation, one of which was from the FNPR protesting a decision by local government bodies prohibiting wage check-offs for union dues. The ILO observed that government bodies should not interfere with check-off arrangements reached through collective bargaining between workers and employers but that such deductions should not infringe on the right of workers to belong to trade unions of their choosing.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

Collective bargaining is not widely practiced and still largely misunderstood by workers and enterprise directors because official unions, which include managers in their membership, continue their close, subordinate relationship with management. The tripartite commission reinforced this misunderstanding by perpetuating the process whereby official unions and enterprise managers spoke with a common voice, requesting subsidies, for example, from the Government.

Some free unions understand the importance of creating in Russia a system in which enterprise management is independent of labor and the Government and is held responsible for complying with the terms of contracts. Recently, as firms have become privatized, the courts have started to compel enterprises to comply with contracts.

Most wages continue to be set at the industry level by government agencies or in national tariff agreements negotiated in the Tripartite Commission. The Labor Code does not explicitly prohibit antiunion discrimination by employers. Such a prohibition is implied, however, in several sections of the Labor Code. The Government admits that under current law there is no mechanism for resolving labor disputes; it recently undertook, however, to establish in the Labor Ministry a service for the resolution of disputes. The legal basis for conflict resolution and the full establishment of the service were not expected until some time in 1994.

During 1993, the Government established a number of foreign enterprise zones. Worker rights are not more restrictive in these zones than elsewhere in the country.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Labor Code prohibits compulsory labor, and there are no known reports that it occurs. However, as in other areas of worker rights, the government apparatus for enforcing and overseeing compliance with labor laws either does not exist or is largely ineffective.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children.

The Labor Code does not permit the regular employment of children under the age of 16. In certain cases, children aged 14 and 15 may work in intern or apprenticeship programs. The Labor Code regulates the working conditions of children under the age of 18, including prohibiting dangerous work and nighttime and overtime work. Government enforcement is largely ineffective, but there is no evidence that this prohibition is violated in Russia. The responsibility for the protection of children in this area is shared by the Labor Ministry and the Ministry for Social Protection.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The legislature sets the minimum wage, which covers all workers. It is so low, however, that few workers actually receive such a low salary. Even the minimum pension is higher than the minimum wage. The minimum wage is insufficient to provide a decent living for a worker and family. Its primary purpose is to serve as a baseline for computing benefits, pensions, and some wage scales. The minimum wage is set quarterly. It was increased in July, for example, to just under $8 (7,740 rubles) per month at the then exchange rate. This is below the minimum pension of 14,000 rubles per month and the poverty line of about 20,000 rubles per month. In contrast, the average wage in September was $67 (about 80,000 rubles). A December 1 decree by President Yeltsin raised the minimum wage to $12.25 (14,620 rubles).

The Labor Code provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours, which includes at least one 24-hour rest period. The law requires premium pay for overtime work or work on holidays.

Russian law establishes minimum conditions of workplace safety and worker health, but these standards continue to be widely ignored, and no effective enforcement mechanism exists. Industrial deaths and injuries are very high, especially in heavy industries such as mining. The free unions have been in the forefront of efforts to improve safety and health conditions.

Search Refworld

Countries