U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Russia

RUSSIA   Russia has been undergoing a profound political, economic, and social transformation since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Institutions and democratic practices are evolving but not fully developed. The Constitution approved by voters in 1993 provides for a democratic government founded on three branches of power with checks and balances: the Presidency and the Government, headed by the Prime Minister; a bicameral legislature, or Federal Assembly, consisting of the State Duma and the Federation Council; and the courts. Suspended in 1993, the Constitutional Court again heard cases in 1995, among them a challenge to the constitutionality of the President's decrees regarding the use of federal military forces in the Republic of Chechnya. For the first time in Russian history, the second consecutive multiparty democratic parliamentary elections took place in December. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), the Federal Security Service (FSB), and the Procuracy are responsible for law enforcement; the MVD also oversees the prison system. A new law gave the FSB broad law enforcement functions, including fighting crime and corruption, in addition to its previous security and counterintelligence tasks. The law enhances the FSB's powers; however, its human rights provisions are unclear, and it provides for only limited oversight of the FSB. In addition, as part of the Russian Government's effort to fight organized crime, a new law on operative searches and seizures granted a number of internal security agencies the right to engage in a variety of clandestine activities, also with limited oversight. No cases in which this law has been used against critics have yet been documented, although the potential for misuse exists. At the same time, however, some Russian human rights and environmental activists complained of harassment by the FSB and other internal security agencies. Some members of the security forces continued to commit human rights abuses. This was a pivotal year in Russia's difficult transition from a centrally planned to a stable, market economy. Over 73 percent of enterprises, comprising 75 percent of the industrial work force and producing 85 percent of manufacturing output, are privatized. After 4 years of large annual declines in gross domestic product (GDP) and industrial production, the economy is showing tentative signs of stabilizing. The fall in real GDP has slowed considerablyÚÚdown 4 percent in the first half of 1995 over the same period in 1994ÚÚand overall industrial production effectively stopped falling in the summer of 1994. Inflation has been declining since the beginning of 1995, in line with the Government's commitment to noninflationary financing of the federal deficit. Unemployment has remained steady over the same period, with the number of unemployed and underemployed estimated at 13 percent of the labor force. However, real wages continue to decline, and roughly 30 percent of the population now live below the poverty line. The Government's human rights record continued to be uneven, with reversals and worsening in some areas, most notably in the conduct of the war in Chechnya. Domestic and foreign human rights groups documented numerous killings and serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in the Republic of Chechnya by both Russian military and Chechen separatist forces. Violations committed by Russian military forces occurred on a much greater scale than those of the Chechen separatists. Russian troops invaded the Republic of Chechnya on December 11, 1994, in order to prevent Chechnya's effort to secede from the Russian Federation. The origins of the conflict are complex. The immediate roots of this crisis go back to 1991, when Chechnya declared its independence. But relations between Russia and the people of Chechnya have long been contentious, dating to the period of Russian expansion in the Caucasus in the 19th Century. The indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force in Chechnya by Russian troops resulted in thousands to tens of thousands of civilians killed, and some 500,000 people displaced. These actions were in conflict with a number of Russia's international obligations, including those concerning the protection of civilian noncombatants. In addition, American humanitarian aid expert and outspoken Chechen War critic Fred Cuny disappeared, and his body had not been recovered by year's end. The Chechen conflict sparked a major debate over accountability in government decisionmaking and the Government's commitment to the rights of its citizens and international norms. The Constitutional Court found President Yeltsin's deployment of military forces in Chechnya without parliamentary approval to be constitutional. However, the Court ruled that international law was binding on both government and rebel forces, although neither was in compliance with Protocol II Additional of the Geneva Conventions, specifically with the provision that every effort must be made to avoid causing damage to civilians and their property. The Court also ruled that victims of human rights violations had legal recourse. As the conflict in Chechnya continued, police and other security forces in various parts of Russia increased their practice of targeting citizens from the Caucasus region for arbitrary searches and detention on the pretext of maintaining public safety. The media functioned unhindered, with a few notable exceptions, and represented a wide range of opinion. For the most part, the media operated freely in reporting on the Chechen conflict despite government pressure and heavy-handed treatment by Russian troops in the war zone. The Constitutional Court found the Government's efforts to ban certain journalists from the war zone unconstitutional. While journalists were permitted back into the war zone, pressures against them continued. In addition, the prosecutor's office opened investigations against some journalists, based on their reporting on Chechnya, on charges of having spread propaganda in the service of terrorists. With some exceptions, nongovernmental organizations freely documented and reported on human rights abuses. However, the Parliament's dismissal of Sergey Kovalev as Parliamentary Ombudsman for Human Rights for his condemnation of the conduct of the war in Chechnya undermined official human rights monitoring. Kovalev resigned as Chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Commission in January 1996, publicly accusing the President of backtracking on human rights. According to Russian and foreign human rights groups, several prison inmates died after having been tortured by members of the security forces or as a result of inferior sanitary conditions and medical care. In the military, the practice of "dedovshchina," or the violent hazing of younger soldiers continued. The Mothers' Rights Organization estimated that approximately 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers died from abuse or commited suicide. The Constitution outlines an extensive underpinning of legal protections and institutional support for the observance and enforcement of human rights. However, several important pieces of legislation designed to provide the implementing mechanisms for human rights provisions had not yet been approved by Parliament by year's end. Furthermore, the impetus for legal reform weakened. Judicial reform did not advance very far, and the judiciary remained subject to executive and military influence. Jury trials were only available in 9 of 89 regions. A large case backlog, trial delays, and lengthy pretrial detention remained problems. There are no laws on domestic violence although violence against women remains a problem.

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 known political killings by agents of the Government. However, some detainees died after beatings by security officials, others died due to harsh conditions in detention facilities and the lack or inadequacy of medical care (see Section 1.c.). Several people died while being detained by police for questioning or while being held in pretrial detention centers (SIZO's, the Russian acronym for investigative isolation centers) as investigations were carried out. The prosecutor's office in Saransk's Leninskiy district instituted criminal proceedings against a policeman for premeditated murder in the case of the death of 19-year-old Oleg Igonin while he was being held for questioning. In a July report to the United Nations, the Moscow Center for Prison Reform (MCPR) called pretrial detention centers (SIZO's) "places that threaten all of us. SIZO's are a serious threat to public security." It is difficult to determine exactly how many citizens who were detained or incarcerated died in custody. Prison reform organizations and human rights groups are only now beginning to collect information from the regions. The Moscow Human Rights Research Center, an umbrella organization for several Moscow-based human rights groups, reported that in 1994, 417 detainees in pretrial detention died, 184 of those in facilities in the Moscow area. The report also notes that "there is serious basis to presume that these reported numbers are substantially lower than reality." Some died as a result of the lack or inadequacy of medical care. Others died from injuries suffered as a result of beatings. The data for 1995 are not yet available. The MCPR and the President's Human Rights Commission, formerly led by Sergey Kovalev, charged that prison guards and other security personnel, who are sometimes brought to prisons to assist with controlling inmates, are seldom rebuked or reprimanded for excessive use of force. However, charges of abuse were filed against some correction facility directors and officers. Sergey Grigoryants, a vocal critic of the Russian security services, charged that he and his family have been the targets of reprisals, and that the FSB had a hand in his son's death in January and an attack on Grigoryants himself in March. Investigative agencies reportedly have not interviewed the only witness to the murder of Grigoryants' son. The full facts in this case have been difficult to establish. There were several high profile murders involving members of Russia's financial elite and other prominent figures. It is unclear whether any of these killings was politically motivated, and most appear linked to organized crime or business disputes. By year's end, no arrests were made in approximately 60 cases of murder for all of 1995 involving prominent bankers or businessmen, or in the case of the murder of journalist and television executive Vladislav Listyev. Members of Parliament and candidates were also murder victims. The motive for most of these killings is also unclear. In early 1995, Sergei Skorochkin was murdered, apparently in revenge for having killed an organized crime leader in 1994. During the December Duma election, candidates murdered included Mikhail Lezhnev (an entrepreneur from Chelyabinsk) and Duma Deputy Sergei Markidonov. Markidonov, who was killed in November, was the fourth Duma Deputy to be killed during the 2-year term of the Duma, according to the Moscow Times. Russian attacks were responsible for the deaths of thousands to tens of thousands of civilian residents of Chechnya, and Russian forces were credibly reported to have summarily executed Chechens. Foreign and Russian journalists covering the military conflict in Chechnya alleged that Russian forces fired upon and threatened them. The Glasnost Defense Foundation reported that 14 journalists died in Chechnya. Natalia Aliakina, a journalist for the German weekly magazine Focus, was killed in Chechnya in June by a Russian soldier. She and her husband had stopped at a checkpoint when they were fired upon by the soldier. The soldier has since been detained on murder charges. Chechen rebels also killed civilians, most notably during the raid on the town of Budennovsk in southern Russia. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki reported that Chechen forces admitted to having summarily executed Russian pilots and at least eight other Russian military detainees (see Section 1.g.). The case of the 1994 murder of investigative reporter Dmitriy Kholodov remained open, although no one has yet been arrested (see 1994 report). The investigation into the murder of Aleksandr Men, a Russian Orthodox priest murdered 5 years ago, was reopened in August (see 1990 and 1991 reports). The administration of capital punishment raised some procedural and humanitarian concerns. Official statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs show that 20 people were executed in 1995, but reliable sources suggest that the number was higher. Human rights organizations claim that cases involving the death penalty are shrouded in secrecy and are still governed by procedures defined by the Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1982. The Code of Criminal Procedures requires that those accused of crimes carrying a possible death sentence be afforded a jury trial, if they want one. However, jury trials are available in only 9 of 89 regions. The Constitution also gives those sentenced to death the right to appeal to the President for clemency. However, with limited access to legal representation, these appeals often are not made, and when they do occur, are usually refused. The MCPR has alleged that prisoners awaiting appeals of death sentences are often denied adequate food and medical attention.

b. Disappearance

Human Rights Watch and the OSCE have documented several instances in which Ministry of Internal Affairs forces in Chechnya abducted civilian noncombatants as well as Chechen separatist soldiers. According to government statistics, government forces detained 1,308 Chechen noncombatants without arrest warrants in the period up to June 30. Of that number, the Government admits to still holding 141. The Government claims that the others have been released, but documenting these statements has been difficult. Many Chechens have appealed to the OSCE and human rights groups for help in locating relatives whom federal authorities claim to have released. Chechen separatist forces also engaged in hostage-taking, most notably in Budennovsk. Most of the Russians apparently have been released, although it is estimated that Chechen forces continue to hold approximately 60 to 70 Russians. American relief expert and outspoken Chechen War critic Fred Cuny disappeared in Chechnya in April. It is unclear what actually happened, but many different sources have reported that at some point he was held by Chechen fighters. An extensive effort was mounted to locate Cuny. Some Russian officials made spurious accusations of ties between Cuny and U.S. intelligence or Chechen leader Dudayev. Cuny's family members finally discontinued the search, based on their belief that Cuny was dead. Cuny's relatives criticized the governments of the Republic of Chechnya and especially the Russian Federation for inadequate cooperation during the search. Police logged an increasing number of reports about the disappearances of Russian citizens, particularly young men. Most were attributed to criminal foul play rather than to any political motivations.

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

The Constitution prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. However, Russian prisoners' rights groups have documented cases in which members of the security forces torture and beat detainees and prisoners. The law "On the Detention of Those Suspected or Accused of Committing Crimes" was approved by the Duma on June 21. The law establishes mechanisms intended to prevent violations of the rights of individuals in pretrial detention. The law also states that inmates must be provided with adequate space, food, and medical attention. Nevertheless, the authorities do not ensure that these provisions are respected. The Society for Penitentiary Institutions and the MCPR have amassed a large volume of documentation, through oral interviews with prisoners and suspects' and prisoners' letters to families, on the use of torture against persons held in pretrial detention facilities throughout Russia. The MCPR has documented many cases of torture. One such method is referred to as the "elephant" torture. A gas mask is put on the suspect. The flow of oxygen is restricted or cut off until a suspect agrees to confess. The prosecutor's office in Saransk's Leninskiy district instituted criminal proceedings for premeditated murder against a police officer in the case of the death of 19-year old Oleg Igonin, who had a heart attack and died while being subjected to the elephant torture in July. The MCPR also reports many cases in which suspects have had the soles of their feet beaten. There are allegations that sometimes outside guards are brought in to rough-up suspects in pretrial detention centers in order to "keep them in line." Two Turkmen dissidents, who were arrested in Russia for activities against the Government in Turkmenistan, claimed that they were beaten while in pretrial detention. Their cases were dropped in January due to lack of evidence, and both are now living in Sweden. The Society for the Guardianship of Penitentiary Institutions has amassed considerable evidence of rape in prison by guards and by other inmates. The systematic abuse of psychiatry as a form of punishment has declined dramatically from Soviet-era practice. However, the Independent Psychiatric Association continues to document isolated cases in which sane persons are committed to psychiatric institutions after running afoul of local authorities. In February Valeriy Pashin was committed to a mental hospital in Tambov by order of the Tambov prosecutor; the order followed a reported series of property disputes between Pashin and the prosecutor. Pashin spent a month in the psychiatric institution, until a court threw out the decision and ordered Pashin freed following an outcry from Pashin's family and friends. Domestic and international human rights organizations have compiled a substantial number of credible accounts of torture and other cruel and inhuman or degrading punishment of Chechens by Russian military and internal forces. These abuses include beatings of combatants as well as of unarmed civilians suspected of involvement with, or support for, the secessionist Chechen rebels. Human Rights Watch has also collected testimony from civilians in Chechnya on cases of the use of rape by Russian military and internal forces as a form of punishment against residents of villages which are believed to support separatist forces. There have also been well-founded reports of Chechen militants engaging in torture or degrading punishment against Russians. Conditions in detention centers are harsh and, at times, life threatening. Severe overcrowding, the failure to expand capacity, the Government's lack of sufficient funds for the care and feeding of inmates, inadequate supervision by law enforcement and correctional facility personnel, and the lack of individual or institutional accountability for violations, all contributed to continued substandard conditions. In a report to the United Nations, the MCPR called the conditions in pretrial detention centers "torture." The law mandates a space of 2.5 square meters per detainee. However, the average space for persons in pretrial detention centers dropped to 1.6 square meters, 0.9 square meters in urban areas. Men and women are separated, but juveniles are routinely detained with adults charged with serious crimes. In Moscow pretrial detention facilities with spaces for 88,100 detainees housed over 250,000. In other large cities, such as Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, facilities house an average of twice the number of inmates they are intended to hold. Human rights groups report that suspects can be detained in such facilities for up to 18 months while an investigation is being conducted, and then even longer while they await court sessions. In comparison, conditions in prisons are better. However, in 1994 the MVD received only 87 percent of its funds allocated by the federal budget. As a result, it is estimated that prisons were able in fact to provide only 60 to 70 percent of the daily food rations they envisioned providing and only 15 to 20 percent of needed medications and medical care. Prisoners and detainees must rely on families to provide them with extra food and routine medicines. Health and sanitation standards in pretrial detention facilities and prisons themselves declined in 1995. The overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in penal facilities are directly linked to insufficient funding of the operations by the MVD, and present a grave danger to detainees. Tuberculosis is perhaps the biggest health problem. The MCPR has certified rates of tuberculosis 17 times higher in prison than in the free population, and death rates of those infected with tuberculosis in prison of 10 times higher than those outside. The MCPR chronicled the deaths in July of 11 people in a pretrial detention center in Novokuznetsk who perished when temperatures in crowded cells rose to over 110 degrees, and inmates were denied water. In August two inmates in Perm also died in a cramped pretrial detention facility in hot weather without water. The MCPR has documented many cases of inmates who died because they were not given adequate medical assistance for grave illnesses, despite complaints about these illnesses to prison authorities for long periods before their deaths. For example, Konstantin Vedeneyev was denied medical attention until he was transferred from Butyrka prison to Matrosskaya Tishina prison (which has better medical facilities) only 2 days before he died of tuberculosis. Prison reform has not yet been implemented. Prisons are centrally administered from Moscow, although reforms envision transferring control to regional officials. At present, regional prison and detention facilities often receive only a percentage of the funds allocated to them, and then usually behind schedule. Guards are frequently not paid for months, and they usually have little training before coming on duty. Increasingly, employees of detention and prison facilities are quitting for higher and more regularly paid positions in the private sector, leaving prison jobs unfilled. This adds to the burden of those employees left behind, increasing their concerns for personal safety on the job and contributing to incidents of abuse. However, in 1995 the MVD and MCPR set up a training program for new officers coming on duty to educate them on human rights standards and legal norms. Prisoners involved in national security cases are detained in special prisons. In cases involving charges of espionage or treason, access is very limited or completely restricted. Family access to those detained in pretrial facilities is usually not allowed, while for those in prisons it varies by institution and depends on the prison administration. Some prisons have accommodations for overnight visits of family members if they have traveled far to see a prisoner. Prisoner monitors are allowed access to prisons, provided that they have prior approval to visit from the Central Directorate for the Execution of Punishment (GUIN). A Duma committee is charged with investigating and monitoring conditions in prison and pretrial detention facilities. The Commission for Prison Reform to the President and the Commission for Judicial Reform to the President also monitor prison conditions and have prepared recommendations and legislation for reform. However, due to opposition by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, these efforts have made little progress. Moscow human rights groups make frequent visits to the prisons in the Moscow area, but they do not have the resources and do not yet have the network across the country to investigate conditions in all 89 regions. The practice of dedovshchina, the violent hazing of new recruits in the military, continued. This practice includes various forms of physical and mental abuse, including the use of recruits as personal servants of more senior soldiers. The criminal investigation unit of the Ministry of Defense reported that 423 soldiers committed suicide in the Russian army in 1994 and that an additional 2,500 died as a result of "criminal incidents." The Mothers' Rights Foundation and the Soldiers' Mothers Committee believe that many of those who committed suicide were driven to do so by violent hazing or, indeed, that they did not take their own lives but rather died from abuse. Although the Mothers' Rights Foundation did not have complete figures for 1995, the group estimated that approximately 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers died from abuse or committed suicide. These organizations have compiled evidence on individual suicide and hazing deaths and have tried to help the families of soldiers who died under such circumstances apply to the Government for compensation. Officers of the armed forces continue to permit, even encourage, dedovshchina. The national military leadership apparently made no moves to implement training and education programs systematically to combat dedovshchina, nor has the concept of a military police force advanced much past the discussion phase. Hazing of Jehovah's Witnesses in the military was reported. After being forcibly inducted into military service, three members of a Jehovah's Witness congregation from the Murmansk area were beaten severely and denied food and water. Court martial charges have been brought against some soldiers who refused to participate in military training; others have simply been dismissed. Others, after months of beatings and abuse, were declared "medically unfit" and discharged. The Soldiers' Mothers Committee estimates that 25,000 men annually dodge the military draft. There were reports of some instances of forced labor. There have been documented cases of soldiers being sent to perform work for private citizens or organizations.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution states that the arrest, taking into custody, and detention of persons suspected of crimes are permitted only by judicial decision. The Criminal Procedures Code currently in force gives prosecutors, not judges, the authority to order the arrest of a suspect. Although the Constitution provides for transferring that power to judicial authorities, the President first approved and then later vetoed legislation for a new criminal procedures code implementing this provision. A criminal suspect can be detained up to 48 hours without a warrant if police have reason to believe the person has just committed a crime or if he is a danger to others. The suspect must be arraigned before a judge within 72 hours of being taken into custody if the crime for which the person is being detained is punishable by at least 18 months in prison. The draft criminal procedure code requires that suspects be informed of charges and gives a suspect the right to a hearing before a judge, at which time he can challenge the grounds of the arrest. However, the President's 1994 decree on combating organized crime, which is still in force, allows law enforcement authorities to detain persons suspected of ties to organized crime for up to 30 days without charge and without access to a lawyer. Authorities employed this decree extensively during the year. Bail is provided for in the law but is seldom granted. Detainees have the right to have an attorney present during questioning following arrest and throughout proceedings up to and including arraignment. 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 immediate release. However, most citizens are not aware of their rights and rarely exercise them. Police often detain persons without judicial permission beyond the 48-hour time period, and the constitutional right to judicial review of detention within 48 hours of arrest is frequently ignored. Russian human rights monitors have documented evidence from interviews with detainees that the few who are aware of their rights and complain of violations are subjected to beatings. Nevertheless, about one in six cases of arrest is now appealed to the courts, and judges release one in six of these on grounds of insufficient evidence or breach of procedure. While in pretrial detention, a suspect is under the jurisdiction of the prosecutor's office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Criminal Code requires the prosecutor's office to conclude the investigation within 2 months. However, investigations are seldom completed in that time, and prosecutors can ask for extensions of up to 18 months. After the investigation has been completed, the suspect is transferred from MVD to the jurisdiction of the court system. The law does not stipulate a time frame during which a suspect must be brought to trial. Given the backlog of cases, suspects often wait a long time for a case to be brought to trial. Indeed, suspects frequently serve the length of their sentence while awaiting trial in detention facilities. The Constitution and the draft criminal procedures code provide for the court to appoint a lawyer if a suspect cannot afford one. The Society for Guardianship of Penitentiary Institutions is often called upon by judges to provide legal assistance for suspects facing charges and trial without any representation. This Society operates primarily in Moscow, although it uses its connections throughout Russia to appeal to legal professionals to take on cases of the indigent. However, in many cases the indigent receive little assistance, because local governments lack sufficient funds to pay for trial attorneys for them. Some human rights activists believe that the authorities have arrested some people on false pretexts for expressing views critical of the Government, and in particular, for voicing criticism of the security services. Viktor Orekhov, a former KGB officer who assisted dissidents under the Soviet regime, was arrested on charges of illegally possessing a firearm soon after he made unflattering remarks about his former boss, now the FSB chief of intelligence for the Moscow region, in an article. Within a matter of weeks Orekhov had been tried, convicted, and sentenced to 3 years in prison at hard labor. This sentence was subsequently reduced to 1 year. Noting the speed with which he was tried and sentenced in the usually slow court system, Orekhov alleged that he was targeted for retribution by the security services because of his human rights work. There were a number of procedural flaws and mishandling of evidence marred his trial. The FSB's influence and interest in the case was extensively reported in the domestic and foreign press. In addition, former KGB Major Vladimir Kazantsev was arrested on August 21 after he gave an interview to the Moscow News newspaper in which he described purchases by the KGB's central directorate for security of illegal eavesdropping devices from foreign firms. At year's end, Kazantsev had been released from custody, but the case continued to be investigated. Family members often are not informed of charges and sometimes are not permitted to visit relatives in custody. Hamat Kurbanov, the Moscow representative of the Chechen government, was arrested in his home at 1:00 a.m. on June 17 by four plainclothes police officers who had no warrant or legal basis for making the arrest. Kurbanov was subsequently told that he would be charged with treason and crimes against the State. Only after he had been in custody for 10 days was his wife able to find out where and on what charges he was being detained. He was later released. No charges had been filed by year's end. The MCPR reported that, as of December 31, 701,400 persons convicted of crimes were confined to the penal system. As of December 31, the MVD's Central Directorate for Carrying out Punishment reported that 295,000 peopleÚÚas compared with 250,000 in 1994ÚÚwere being held as suspects in crimes in 168 pretrial detention centers, which were built to hold 88,100 people. Of that number, 4,750 suspects, who had not yet been tried or awaited appeal of their convictions, were being held in prisons. Furthermore, of the 295,000, the Central Directorate reported that 39,500 people were being detained on charges of violating public order and had been detained for more than 30 days under President Yeltsin's crime decree. The average period of detention was 9 to 10 months. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for 743 correctional labor institutions, 168 pretrial detention facilities, and 13 prisons. In addition, the MVD maintains 60 educational labor colonies for juveniles. The Ministry of Education is attempting to certify that schooling is indeed provided in all of these institutions in place of the current system of trade and handicraft production. The Government does not use forced exile.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary. While the judiciary is far from independent, it is starting to act more like an independent judiciary. Judges still remain subject to influence from executive or military security forces. In addition, judges in practice are totally dependent on the Ministry of Justice for court infrastructure and financial support and on local authorities for their housing. The judiciary consists of three branches: the regular court system, with the Supreme Court at its apex, the arbitration court system, over which the High Court of Arbitration presides; and the Constitutional Court as a single body with no courts under it. The Constitutional Court functioned until the fall of 1993, when President Yeltsin suspended it (see 1993 report). The Court then remained inoperative due to the Government's inability to fill remaining vacancies. Following the Federation Council's confirmation of all of the President's nominees, the Court was finally reestablished in early 1995, and it ruled on politically sensitive issues related to the war in Chechnya (see Sections 1.g. and 2.a.). It displayed some independence and is beginning to assume a more active role in the judicial system. Disputes between business entities are tried in the system of courts of arbitration, which consists of lower level courts and the High Court of Arbitration. There are 82 courts of arbitration with over 2,000 judges. These courts hear over 300,000 cases per year. If a party to a civil suit is a private citizen, the dispute must be handled by a court of general jurisdiction. Throughout Russia there are about 14,000 judges in approximately 2,500 courts of general jurisdiction at various levels. The vast majority of litigation is heard by these regular courts. Apart from the arbitration courts, there are no courts of special jurisdiction to handle domestic relations or probate disputes. Within the regular court system most cases are heard in the peoples' court. This form of judicial proceeding functions everywhere. As trial courts of general jurisdiction, the people's courts handle over 90 percent of civil and criminal cases. Only a limited category of cases involving the most serious crimes falls directly under the original jurisdiction of the next level of courtsÚÚthe oblast (regional) court. Serious cases, such as those involving murder, can be tried by one of several different methods: a case can be heard by (1) the judge and a panel of "people's assessors;" (2) a judge alone; or (3) a jury, but only in those regions where jury trials have been authorized. A decision of lower courts can be appealed through intermediate courts up to the Supreme Court. All higher courts have discretionary trial jurisdiction. Direct appeal (referred to as cassation) to a higher court is not the only way for a party to challenge a trial court decision. The law provides citizens with the right to appeal to higher courts even when the time limits prescribed for cassation review have expired. This right can be exercised by a person duly convicted and serving a sentence, as well as by another person who wishes to proceed on behalf of such an inmate. Access to government information and evidence in a case depends on the charges against the defendant. In some cases involving espionage or treason, only those defense lawyers who have the necessary security clearances are allowed to work on cases and review evidence against clients. Often this means that the defendant may not be able to retain the lawyer he wishes, but rather a lawyer appointed or suggested by the court. Under secrecy law provisions, the lawyer must forfeit his or her right to travel abroad for up to 5 years and may also be subject to having mail and telephone monitoring by the FSB. Prosecutors, like the courts, are organized into offices at the district, regional, and federation levels. They are ultimately responsible to the Prosecutor General, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Federation Council. Apart from regions where adversarial jury trials have been introduced, prosecutors remain very influential in the conduct of court proceedings. Prosecutors supervise criminal investigations, which are usually conducted by the MVD. Prosecutors also conduct investigations for serious crimes, e.g., murder. The Procuracy, unlike in the United States, is an investigative body. In the 80 regions where juries have not yet been introduced, criminal procedures are still weighted heavily in favor of the prosecution. For example, the constitutionally mandated presumption of innocence is often disregarded, and defendants are expected to prove their innocence rather than prosecutors proving guilt. Moreover, rates of conviction remain above 99 percent, as opposed to the 16-percent acquittal rate among juries. JudgesÚÚfearing that an outright acquittal will result in a prosecutorial appealÚÚfrequently send cases back to the prosecutor for "additional investigation." This greatly increases defendants' time spent in pretrial detention. The right to an attorney during pretrial questioning is often overlooked. Many defendants recant testimony given in pretrial questioning, stating that they were denied access to an attorney or that they were threatened or beaten and only said what they thought the authorities wanted to hear (up to a full confession) so that the abuse would stop. Nevertheless, Russian human rights monitors have documented cases in which convictions were obtained on the basis of the original, illegal testimony (after the defendant refuted that testimony in court), and even in the absence of other proof of guilt. Criminal defendants, and prosecutors in nonjury trials, have the right of appeal. In practice, however, superior courts lack the authority to overturn decisions of a lower court and may only mandate that the case be retried. The lower court can retry the case on the same evidence, reach the same decision, andÚÚsince there is no legal limit to the number of appealsÚÚthe dissatisfied party can appeal again. The system, however, is heavily weighted against appeals because (1) the prosecution and the courts have a vested interest in clearing the backlog of cases, and (2) defendants prefer prisons, where better conditions prevail, over pretrial detention centers (see Sections 1.c. and 1.d.). Since 1993 adversarial jury trials have been introduced in 9 out of 89 regions. In 1995, 376 jury trials were held in the 9 regions in which they are sanctioned. Verdicts were handed down in 257 of these, which involved 419 people; 338 were found guilty, 81 were found innocent. The 119 cases that were not decided were remanded back to the prosecutor's office for more investigation, which is not supposed to happen under the jury trial law. In the first 6 months of 1995, 529,055 criminal cases were opened; in 410,703 of these a sentence was handed down. Some 530,027 people were convicted; 2,484 others were acquitted; 47,413 cases were sent back to the prosecutor for further investigation. In August the case of Viktor Orekhov (see Section 1.d.) focused attention on the possibility that agencies outside the judicial system, particularly the security services, were exerting influence on certain cases. In a high profile case, Vil Mirzayanov, an employee who exposed information on the illegal production of chemical weapons in Russia and won a civil case against the Ministry of Defense in February, faced a Ministry of Defense countersuit. However, the countersuit was dropped in March, and Mirzayanov left the country the same month (see 1994 report). The case of Fridrikh Gilshteyn demonstrated continuing problems with judicial procedure. In May 1992, officers from the local militia station allegedly broke into Mr. Gilshteyn's apartment, beat him, and arrested him. In November 1992, Mr. Gilshteyn was charged with an armed attack on a drunken man. He was arrested in March 1993 and sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment. In August 1993, he was sent to a labor camp 400 kilometers from Moscow. He was subsequently freed by the court in February 1995 and emigrated from Russia. The case of Semyon Livshits, a Jewish naval officer who had applied to emigrate to Israel, also highlighted problems of judicial procedure. His appeal was finally heard in late August after months of postponements by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court. The military court upheld Livshits' conviction but reduced his sentence from 10 to 6 years, 5 of which he has already served in a labor prison near Vladivostok. Livshits' lawyer is working to secure his release before Livshits serves out the final year of his sentence (see 1994 report). There are few reports of political prisoners.

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

The Constitution states that officials can enter a private residence only in cases prescribed by federal law or on the basis of a judicial decision. It permits the Government to monitor correspondence, telephone conversations, and other means of communication only with court orders. It prohibits the collection, storage, utilization, and dissemination of information about a person's private life without his consent. The implementing legislation necessary to bring these provisions into effect has not yet been passed. New laws on the Federal Security Service and on operative searches and seizures significantly strengthened the legal powers of the FSB and other internal security agencies. The April 3 law on the FSB provides it with broad law enforcement functionsÚÚfighting crime and corruptionÚÚin addition to its previous security and counter-intelligence tasks. The law details the circumstances under which FSB agents may enter a private residence, office, or other premises without prior judicial approval. There must be either sufficient grounds to believe that a crime is in progress or has been committed or a belief that the welfare of citizens is endangered. In such cases, the FSB must notify the Prosecutor within 24 hours of the entry. Despite the expansion of the FSB's powers, the law provides for only limited oversight and contains unclear human rights provisions. The law vests the Procurator General with the power to oversee the FSB's activities. However, it denies such oversight authority in the areas of informants, organization, tactics, methods, and means of implementation. The role of the Parliament is limited to that of monitoring the FSB. The August 12 law on operative searches and seizures granted to seven internal security agencies, including the FSB, the right to engage in a variety of clandestine activities, some of which could be carried out in the absence of prior judicial approval. The law does bring the use of wiretaps and searches and seizures into conformity with the Constitution by introducing, for the first time in Russia, a requirement that wiretaps in criminal cases be approved by a judge rather than a prosecutor. However, although this approval could be given after the fact in some cases, some human rights experts believe that the Constitution requires prior judicial approval in certain instances. Government officials can still conduct wiretaps in criminal investigations without court review, but evidence obtained in this fashion would not be admissable in court. The August law permits agents to open mail, tap telephones, monitor other forms of communication, and enter a private residence without a court order in cases of emergency that may lead to the commission of a serious crime or if Russia's political, military, economic, or environmental security is threatened. In these cases, a judge must be notified within 24 hours of the action. Within 48 hours of the start of such an action, the agency must either receive a court order permitting it or end it. The law does not define what would constitute either a case of emergency or the term "security." As is the case with the FSB law, oversight is weak. Information concerning the organization, tactics, methods and means of investigations is off limits to the prosecutor. Similarly, the role of the Parliament is limited. Human rights groups charge that the FSB is stepping up harassment of domestic critics and certain other groups. For example, in December FSB agents confiscated material on human rights abuses in Chechnya from a group of Russian human rights activists on their way to an international meeting (see Section 4 and the cases of Sergay Grigoryants and Viktor Orekhov described in Sections 1.a. and 1.d.). In addition, the FSB accused the Norwegian environmental Bellona Foundation of collecting state secrets on Russia's Northern Fleet in October. The group had been gathering material for a second report on the Fleet's nuclear waste. The FSB raided the group's Murmansk office, confiscating all material on the Fleet's nuclear waste sites as well as computers and video cameras, interrogated researchers working on the study, and searched many of their homes. Others cooperating with Bellona in Murmansk, St. Petersburg, and Severodbinsk also were interrogated and subject to apartment searches. According to the Moscow Times, the Bellona Director asserted that the FSB's objective seemed to be to intimidate Russians from working with the foundation.

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

Russia continued its brutal military campaign against the secessionist Republic of Chechnya, which it launched in December 1994. Russian forces used indiscriminate and disproportionate force during the destruction of most of Chechnya's main city, Groznyy, and in attacks on other Chechen towns and villages. According to press reports, there were up to 4,000 detonations an hour at the height of the winter campaign against Groznyy. After federal forces captured several major cities and towns in the Chechen Republic, Chechen fighters employed guerrilla and terrorist tactics against forces of the Ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs, as well as against Russian civilians in the town of Budennovsk. There is no official figure for civilian deaths, but unofficial estimates range from the thousands to the tens of thousands. The Government has reported that 2,000 federal soldiers were killed and 6,000 wounded during the military operation. Violations of international humanitarian law and human rights by government forces included: the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of military force; the inhumane treatment of noncombatants; arbitrary detention; beatings; the torture or summary execution of Chechens at "filtration" (detention) centers, the largest of which functioned at a meat processing plant near Groznyy; and harassment and attacks on journalists in the war zone. Credible sources reported severe mistreatment of Chechen prisoners by Russian defense and internal security forces. In April credible sources also reported that many Chechen prisoners, all of whom Russian authorities allegedly presented as soldiers but amongst whom it was believed were many civilians, had been beaten by Russian authorities. Although humanitarian organizations suceeded in providing relief supplies throughout most of the year, government forces at times obstructed the delivery of these materials. Government forces also hindered the provision of medical assistance to injured combatants and noncombatants alike. The worst violations of international humanitarian law and human rights were reportedly committed by the "kontraktniki," nonconscripted Russian citizens paid by the Russian army. "Kontraktniki" are accused of being the group most likely responsible for having committed the civilian massacre at Samashki. According to the Russian human rights group Memorial, Russian forces killed 103 civilians in Samashki in early April in retaliation for the village's support for Chechen separatists. The Memorial report indicated that no fewer than 18 persons were killed in artillery bombardment; 5 were killed as a result of shots fired from armored vehickles; 6 were shot by Russian snipers; at least 30 were killed inside their homes, either from gunfire at close range or as a result of grenades being thrown into homes; at least 2 Samashki residents were reported to have been executed by Russian officers while in filtration camps; others were set on fire by Russian forces. The youngest killed was 15 years old; the oldest 103. A Duma commission is investigating the massacre, but the commission head has rejected allegations that a massacre or gross violations of human rights took place there. Chechen violations of international humanitarian law and human rights included taking civilians hostage, killing civilians, and using civilians as shields to attain military goals during the June raid on the town of Budennovsk. Approximately 100 civilians were killed during the hostage-taking and raid. Human Rights Watch reported that Chechen forces admitted to summarily executing Russian pilots and at least eight other Russian military detainees (see Section 1.a.) The Constitutional Court ruled that international law was binding on both government and rebel forces, although neither was in compliance with Protocol II Additional of the Geneva Conventions, specifically with the provision that every effort must be made to avoid causing damage to civilians and their property. The Court further ruled that victims of human rights violations had legal recourse, in accordance with the Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The international community and human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) repeatedly called upon both parties to respect the rights of both civilian noncombatants and detainees provided for in international humanitarian law and the OSCE Code of Conduct and to hold human rights violators accountable. The OSCE Permanent Council expressed deep concern over the disproportionate use of force by the Russian Armed Forces; deplored the serious violations of human rights before and after the outbreak of the current crisis; called for the full respect of international humanitarian law in the region; for human rights violators to be brought to justice; and the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to all in need. The OSCE also emphasized the need for an immediate cease-fire and for the International Committee of the Red Cross to be given unhindered access to all detainees. In April the OSCE sent a mission to Chechnya to promote human rights observance and a peaceful settlement to the dispute. NGO's such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Russia's Memorial, issued reports based on travel to the region detailing human rights violations, particularly the treatment of Chechens and other local residents, by Russian soldiers. Four government agencies are investigating human rights violations in Chechnya: the State Duma Investigatory Commission on the Causes and Conditions of the Emergence of the Crisis in the Chechen Republic (the Duma Commission); the Ministry of Justice's temporary Commission Observing the Implementation of the Constitutional Rights and Freedoms of Citizens in the Process of the Restoration of Constitutional Order on the Territory of the Chechen Republic (Ministry of Justice Commission); the Military Procuracy of the Russian Federation; and the Interregional Military Procuracy of the Northern Caucasus. In addition to the massive loss of life, the Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) reports that 380,000 people have fled from Chechnya since the conflict began. International observers have put the number as high as 500,000. The FMS calculates that from 200,000 to 250,000 displaced people are expected to return. While the FMS has announced that it will compensate people for destroyed apartments and most living space, it is unclear whether ethnic Russians will return to the war-ravaged republic. Many Chechens are living with relatives in surrounding areas; whether or not they will return is unknown. International observers report that legal institutions have ceased completely to function, and there is no authority to ensure the enforcement of Russian law and the provisions of the Constitution in Chechnya. On July 30, the Government and forces loyal to Chechen president Dudayev signed a military protocol calling for a cease-fire, the disarming of rebel formations, the withdrawal of most federal troops, and the exchange of prisoners. Implementation of the protocol was slow and came to a halt in the fall, following the assassination attempt on General Romanov, former commander of the federal forces in Chechnya. SporadicÚÚand at times heavyÚÚfighting continues. In late 1995, the Russian government announced elections to replace the Moscow-backed government that assumed power after Dudayev was driven from Groznyy. Prominent human rights organizations called for cancellation of the December 17 elections in Chechnya due to the conditions in the region, which they described as a virtual state of emergency. They warned that the results of the elections would lack credibility and predicted that the elections would exacerbate preexisting tensions and prevent political reconciliation. The OSCE Assistance Group (AG) temporarily departed Groznyy rather than monitor elections that they judged could not be "free and fair." Dokur Zavgayev won the elections, but there were widespread allegations of fraud and manipulation of the results.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of mass information and the "right of each person to seek, receive, pass on, produce, and disseminate information freely by any legal method." Although the Russian Federation Government still retained various potential levers over the media, including publication licensing, access to printing presses, access to newsprint, and distribution, the print mediaÚÚmost of which are independent of the Government and many of which are privately ownedÚÚfunctioned, with exceptions, relatively unhindered and represented a wide range of opinions. Also, small, private radio stations continued to proliferate, and independent and semi-independent television throughout the country continued to multiply. Nevertheless, reports of government pressure on selected media increased, especially in relation to the conflict in Chechnya. In May the Fourth Congress of the Russian Union of Journalists, representing 60,000 journalists nationwide, reported that "political, economic, and administrative pressure on media organizations and individual journalists in Russia has been increasing." The Union also noted that "one of the most important achievements of the press today is the fact that the political spectrum is represented" in both the print and broadcast media. The Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF), a media watchdog organization, reported over 450 cases of violations of journalists' rights during 1995, of which 60 percent were related to the conflict in Chechnya. This was a 150 percent increase over the same period during the previous year, although the increase may be due in part to better reporting. In Chechnya the Glasnost Defense Foundation reported 371 incidents against 267 journalists; 14 journalists died in Chechnya. The GDF reported some 200 incidents unrelated to Chechnya that included: murders and other suspicious deaths of journalists (30 percent); restricting access to sources or news sites by authorities at different levels (18 percent); financial restraints leading to the cancellation of broadcasts or individual issues of publications, or even the complete closure of publications (15 percent); prosecutions of journalists because of their reports (14 percent); robberies and destruction of journalists' equipment, including the firebombing of newspaper offices in Tomsk (9 percent); and other types of interference by authorities, including intimidation of sources (8 percent) and outright censorship (6 percent). During the summer, a criminal case was initiated by the regional government against Arsenyevskie Vestiye, a newspaper in the Primorskiy region, for reprinting a 1994 report on human rights violations in the region. In the Chechen conflict, both Russian and foreign journalists reported that the Russian army subjected them to detentions, beatings, and sniper attacks. Other reports of abuses by the Russian army cited destruction of video and audio equipment and exposed tapes, censorship of completed reports, and interference in reaching the zones of conflict. The Government established a special committee to urge the media to project official government war information, although this effort was generally ineffective. In addition, the Government attempted to revoke the accreditation of certain journalists working in the war zone without a court order as required by a 1991 law on mass media. In a case involving government actions in Chechnya, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Government's efforts to evict critical journalists from Chechnya without a valid court ruling were illegal. The ruling reaffirmed the constitutional right to free information and guarantee of court protection of rights and freedoms. As a result of this ruling, journalists were permitted back into the area of conflict. However, the pressures against them continued. The Government did not launch a serious crackdown against the television networks for their coverage of the Chechen war. The independent network, NTV, and, to a lesser extent, the state-owned television and radio (now known as Russian Public Television), continued to broadcast frank reports on the conduct of the military campaign, largely without direct interference. However, Russian State Television head Oleg Poptsov charged that he was nearly fired, and that government officials attempted to intimidate him due to the station's independent coverage of the war. The Government did institute a criminal investigation of an NTV reporter for having interviewed Shamil Basayev, the Chechen who led the attack on Budennovsk. In July the General Prosecutor launched criminal proceedings against the satiric puppet show "Kukly" on NTV, charging the show's producers with "public and premeditated humiliation" of high state officials, including President Yeltsin, by depicting them "in an insulting manner." The Kukly case was subsequently dropped. Outside the large media markets of Moscow and St. Petersburg, regional media continued to be subject to varying degrees of pressure from authorities and dominant industries. Regional officials cited unpaid debts as a pretext for closing some newspapers that were also critical of regional governments. Many media organizations were liable to pressure because they occupied city-owned premises or received subsidies from local and regional governments. In towns dominated by single industrial enterprises, the leaders of that enterprise had sufficient power to suppress investigative reporting and discussion of embarrassing topics, such as environmental pollution or privatization schemes benefiting management. In these circumstances, some journalists said they practiced self-censorship. Despite a ruling by the Presidential Judicial Chamber in favor of the regional newspaper Luberetskaya Pravda, local authorities took over the paper and hired an entirely new staff. In the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, local authorities closed the independent television station TV S.E.T. in August after it broadcast programs critical of the regional administration. Perilous finances caused some independent media to accept government and private subsidies. The sudden withdrawal of financial subsidies at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union continued to bedevil the print media. In a replay of a similar effort in 1994, the Federation Council rejected a law passed by the Duma on state support for the media, which would have replaced most of the media subsidies now in the state budgetÚÚ89 billion rubles in 1995 compared with 237 billion rubles the previous yearÚÚwith an expanded package of tax breaks. There are also reports that investigative journalists were subjected to intimidation and pressure by emerging private business and financial interests.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to assemble freely, and the Government respects this right in practice. Organizations must obtain permits in order to hold public meetings. The application process must begin between 5 and 10 days before the scheduled event. Citizens freely and actively protested government decisions and actions. Permits to demonstrate were readily granted to opponents and to supporters of the Government. However, in August police broke up two antinuclear rallies organized by the Moscow chapter of Greenpeace for lacking appropriate demonstration permits. Videotapes being made at the scene of a Red Square rally were confiscated and erased by police. A rally in front of the French Embassy was also dispersed. 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. Organizations registered with the Ministry of Justice were allowed to present candidates in the December elections. The law and the Constitution ban the participation in elections of those organizations which profess anticonstitutional themes or activities. During the campaign preceding the December elections, the Ministry of Justice closely monitored the statements and activities of all parties to limit the propagation of extremist views.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. In December 1990, the Soviet Government enacted a law on religious freedom designed to put all religions on an equal basis. While it posed some obstacles to complete freedom of religion, it forbade government interference in religion and enacted simple registration requirements for religious groups. The enactment of the 1990 law was followed by a "boom" in religious life, both in traditional and nontraditional forms. The religious boom that has occurred since 1990, in part due to the presence of well-financed foreign missionaries, has disturbed many sectors of Russian society, particularly nationalists and those in the Russian Orthodox Church, some representatives of which indicated that they wished to limit the activities of foreign religious groups; however, President Yeltsin opposes such control. In 1995 a new law on religion was considered by the Parliament, but it had not been approved by year's end. The draft emphasizes "regulation" and "control" of religious groups, as opposed to freedom. According to the U.S. Helsinki Commission, an increasing number of local and provincial governments are issuing restrictive laws and decrees that violate the provisions of the 1990 Law on Religion. Foreign religious groups are usually the target, and reportedly the measures are surprisingly similar. These decrees often include provisions that violate the right of an individual to talk and write freely about his or her religion. These harsh laws are not always enforced, but the potential exists for them to be used to restrict the activities of religious minorities. There were reports that Jehovah's Witnesses were forcibly inducted into the military and suffered hazing, including beatings and confinement without food or water. Although Jews and Muslims continue to encounter prejudice, they have not been inhibited by the Government in the free practice of their religion. Synagogues, churches, and mosques have been returned to communities to be used for religious services. However, for some religious communities the return of property confiscated by the Communist regime remains an issue. According to the U.S. Helsinki Commission, several churches continue to encounter problems in the return of church properties. The Moscow Anglican Church and Moscow's Immaculate Conception Catholic Church have not been able to occupy fully buildings that were forcibly taken from their congregations by the Communist government. Throughout Russia all religious faiths are attempting to regain nationalized property through legal measures. Most synagogues have been returned; some Roman Catholic Churches are still in the process of being handed back to congregations; the Anglican Church in Moscow may soon again become the property of that community.

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

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to freely choose their place of residence. However, the Government severely restricts this right. Citizens are generally free to travel within Russia. All adults are issued internal passports which they must carry while traveling and use to register visits of more than 10 days with local authorities. Travelers not staying in hotels usually ignore this requirement. Citizens must obtain "propiskas" (residence permits) to live and work in a specific area. Tens of thousands of ethnic Russians, citizens of former Soviet Republics who have decided to move to Russia, often face great difficulty with the cost of obtaining these propiskas. The leaders (and citizens) of Moscow and other big cities staunchly defend retaining these permits as necessary in order to control crime and keep crowded urban areas from attracting more inhabitants. The cost of a propiska is often beyond the financial means of most migrants or refugees, who usually do not register. However, those without propiskas are not eligible for social or health services, nor can they send their children to school. Moreover, former Presidential Human Rights Commissioner Sergey Kovalev, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, and others charged that law enforcement officials use the propiska system as a means to discriminate mainly against people from the Caucusus. Laws on the propiska system were declared illegal. However, in practice, cities maintained systems which controlled the movement of people. Since many ethnic Russians tend to assume that a great deal of crime is committed by darker-skinned peoples, such peoples are the target of checks and searches more often than lighter-skinned peoples. Discrimination occurs against darker-skinned peoples in larger cities throughout Russia, but especially in the biggest cities where they are concentrated, like Moscow. On July 17, the Council of Ministers issued a decree entitled "On Ratification of Rules of Registration" by which local authorities may refuse to register an individual for temporary or permanent residence based on certain conditions which include "unsuitable housing conditions, objections from family members, and other conditions envisioned by Russian law." The decree, which has the force of law, requires that citizens register if they intend to remain in a locality more than 10 days on vacation or business. It states that "only in cases of serious illness of the temporarily registered citizens or their relatives, or in other circumstances preventing the citizen from leaving the place of temporary residence, may the period of stay be extended." Former Russian Human Rights Commissioner Sergey Kovalev and Human Rights Watch condemned this decree as an infringement upon the freedom of movement which allows the possibility of arbitrary enforcement by corrupt local authorities. The Government issues two distinct types of passports, one for foreign travel and one for foreign emigration. If a citizen has had access to classified material, police and intelligence service approval is necessary to receive a passport for foreign travel. It is often difficult for such persons to get a passport within 5 years of having left their former work. Persons denied foreign passports can appeal the decision to a commission chaired by the Deputy Foreign Minister. The commission meets monthly and has been able to resolve a great many of these cases. In 1995, 289 passports were issued as a result of reviews of cases by the Ivanov Commission, and between 200 and 250 persons are awaiting emigration passports. Between 5,000 and 6,000 are awaiting passports for travel because they at one point were privy to secret information or worked in the defense or security sectors. Russian law allows for travel and emmigration passports to be withheld, but the Ivanov Commission's reviews allow for citizens to appeal restrictions. The Constitution provides all citizens with the right to emigrate. It does not restrict the emigration of citizens to any country and does not prohibit those who have left Russia from returning. Several "poor relative" cases (i.e., situations in which permission to emigrate is refused until they have received the approval of certain close relativesÚÚan approval which often means a cash settlement) were resolved during the year. Some refugees who have sought haven in Russia, such as Kurds, have left the country because of the difficulties they encountered in securing the propiskas necessary to live in urban areas. Others, including Tariel Broyev, director of the International Kurdish Cultural Center in Moscow and his brother Revas, who are of Georgian origin, have alleged that they were harassed by the police and therefore have left. Although Russia is a party to the 1951 U.N. Protocol on Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, and does allow refugees the right of first asylum, most refugees do not want to remain in Russia. Third country nationals apply to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for processing. A large number of workers and students from Africa and Asia, who came to work in accordance with treaties between their countries and the former Soviet Union, remain in Russia. The Government has not deported them but encourages their return home. There are reports that UNHCR officers have been barred from entering the transit area of Sheremetyevo II airport in Moscow. Only the UNHCR Office Representative and his deputy have diplomatic credentials; other UNHCR officials, including protection officers, do not. Airport officials have said that they can allow access to the transit area only to accredited diplomats, even though until the fall of 1995 protection officers did have access. Denial of access to UNHCR officials to the airport areas contradicts the agreement between UNHCR and the Russian Federation. UNHCR officers reportedly witnessed the deportations of dozens of asylum seekers, some to the countries from which they had fled and where upon return they faced a well-founded fear of persecution. This may have prompted the Russian government to deny access to UNHCR officials. Significant numbers of ethnic Russians continue to arrive from parts of the former Soviet Union. The Federal Migration Service reported that 1,146,000 ethnic Russians moved to Russia in 1994, primarily from central Asian and Baltic states. FMS does have a small program in place to assist these people, but they are basically on their own. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has a substantial program in place to aid Russians who leave parts of the former Soviet Union and come to Russia. A presidential decree offering Russian citizenship to citizens of the former Soviet Union who return to Russia was scheduled to expire on February 6. However, it was extended until December 31, 2000. The decree allows people to apply either abroad or in Russia. However, in order to apply within Russia, one must present a propiska.

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

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government at both the federation and regional levels. They have exercised this right in practice over the past 4 years. Several regional elections were held during the year. Citizens voted on December 17 in parliamentary elections, which domestic and international observers declared to be free and fair. However, no international observers monitored the elections in Chechnya, due to concerns about the preelection conditions (see Section 1.g.) Throughout the campaign, access to the mass media was inhibited only by parties' ability to pay. The Federal Assembly consists of two chambers. The lower chamber, or the Duma, consists of 450 deputies, half elected in single mandate constituencies, half by party lists. In the December parliamentary elections, 43 political blocs appeared on the ballot. The upper chamber, the Federation Council, was elected in December 1993. In September President Yeltsin issued a decree stating that the Council would be composed of the heads of administration and legislative leaders of each of Russia's 89 regions. A law delineating this composition was passed by the Duma in December. The decree entered into full force at the end of the term of the Council elected in December 1993. President Yeltsin was elected to a 5-year term in 1991. The Constitution provides the President and the Prime Minister with substantial powers, which they used in the absence of effective opposition from the Parliament and courts. Presidential elections are scheduled to be held in June 1996, for a 4-year term. Most regional leaders have been appointed by President Yeltsin rather than being chosen in popular elections. The heads of 21 ethnic republics have been elected, as well as the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg and 20 other subjects of the Russian Federation. Thus, by year's end 43 of 89 heads of subjects of the Russian Federation had been elected. The Constitution does not limit the political activity of any societal group, including women. The political bloc "Women of Russia" holds 8 percent of the seats in the Duma. A total of 39 of the Duma's 450 deputies are women. Some members of religious and national minorities hold positions of leadership at the local, regional, and national level, including as deputies in the Duma.

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

Many Russian human rights groups operate relatively freely. Most are headquartered in Moscow and have branches throughout the country. Some of the more prominent domestic human rights organizations are the Moscow Center for Prison Reform, the Society for the Guardianship of Penitentiary Institutions, the Glasnost Fund Memorial, the Moscow Research Center for Human Rights, the Soldiers' Mothers' Committee, and the Mothers' Rights Foundation. Most groups investigated and publicly commented on human rights issues generally without government interference or restrictions. However, the Glasnost fund, and others monitoring internal security agencies have encountered problems, such as beatings as well as other abuses (see Sections 1.a. and 1.d.). In addition, government authorities confiscated documents on human rights violations committed during the Chechen conflict from a Russian nongovernmental delegation in December. According to the Director of Customs at the airport, the officials were FSB agents. The participants eventually got through airport security and attended the meeting in Stockholm. They were prohibited from taking with them certain materials. However, those materials had already been sent abroad. International human rights organizations function generally unrestricted. However, Human Rights Watch reported that Russian forces denied it access to the northern Caucusus region three times and that Russian soldiers detained two of the organization's representatives in Groznyy and confiscated tapes of interviews with witnesses to human rights abuses. In addition, Russian forces at times denied international organizations access to towns, including Samashki and Gudermes, immediately after capturing them. The Russian Government agreed to permit the OSCE to investigate human rights abuses in Chechnya in keeping with the Assistance Group's mandate. OSCE observers have investigated some human rights violations and brought the information to the attention of OSCE authorities in Vienna. However, there has been little follow up on this information. The President's Commission on Human Rights, formerly chaired by Sergey Kovalev, focused its attention on human rights questions in Chechnya. A Member of Parliament, Sergey Kovalev also served as Russia's Human Rights Ombudsman. He was dismissed from that post in March by deputies who were angered by his critical comments about the conduct of the war in Chechnya. In August aides to the President reportedly prepared a decree dismissing Kovalev as Chairman of the presidential Human Rights Commission and transforming the unit into a "complaint letter department." Kovalev had been criticized for referring to the President as a "constitutional criminal" during testimony before the Constitutional Court on Chechnya. President Yeltsin did not sign the decree. In January 1996, Kovalev resigned from the Commission, publicly releasing a critical letter accusing President Yeltsin of backtracking on human rights. Shortly thereafter, the President's Human Rights Commission issued a critical report on the status of human rights in Russia for 1994 and 1995.

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

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, language, social status, or other circumstances. However, both official and societal discrimination still exist. Some nongovernmental groups attempted to incite violence against other political or societal groups. Self-proclaimed Fascist Aleksey Vedenkin was arrested in February after threatening to shoot Human Rights Commission Chairman Sergey Kovalev and others opposed to the war in Chechnya. Vedenkin was to be tried on the basis of the anti-Fascist decree approved by President Yeltsin in 1994, but he was released when the President, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, granted amnesty to those charged with certain categories of crime. Some groups attempted to stir up hatred against Jews, peoples from the Caucasus, and Roma (Gypsies), who were most frequently singled out for verbal or physical abuse by fellow citizens. Russian and foreign human rights organizations have recorded information on attacks against, and maltreatment of, homosexual prisoners throughout Russia in violation of international norms. Homosexual prisoners are segregated from heterosexual prisoners and, regardless of the charges or crimes on which they have been detained or convicted, are housed with persons accused of sex crimes. In such an environment, human rights organizations assert, they are ostracized by the rest of the prison population and subject to further abuse.


According to government statistics, 15,000 women were killed by their husbands in 1994. The Ministry of Internal Affairs recorded 54,000 cases of spousal abuse in 1994, a figure which most nongovernmental observers, such as the Center for Gender Studies, regard as conservative. Figures for 1995 were not yet available. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, violence against women in Russia is on the rise. Domestic violence is widespread and largely unreported. According to most observers, police are reluctant to intervene in such cases, which they reportedly view as internal family matters. There are no laws on domestic violence, and there are no official statistics concerning rape or physical abuse of women. Women often do not report such crimes. Hospitals and members of the medical profession readily provide assistance to women who have been assaulted. However, some doctors are reluctant to become involved in trying to ascertain the details of a sexual assault, fearing that they will be required to spend long periods of time in court. There is credible evidence that women encounter considerable discrimination in employment, and that they are often the last hired and the first to be fired. According to Human Rights Watch, women account for 90 percent of worker layoffs. Human Rights Watch accused the Government of participating in discriminatory actions against women, contending that, as the direct employer or contractor of companies doing the direct hiring, the Government must enforce employment laws on women; however, the Government seldom enforces these laws. Employers prefer to hire men and save on maternity and child care costs and avoid the perceived unreliability that accompanies the hiring of women with small children. On the other hand, women comprise the majority of teachers and librarians and appear to be strongly represented within city administrations.


The Constitution assigns the Government some responsibility for safeguarding the rights of children. The Kovalev commission has drawn up a comprehensive program in defense of children's rights which it intends to present to the Parliament. However, for the most part abuse of children and the situation of such groups as orphans and children and juveniles in pretrial detention facilities received little societal attention. The Russian Association of Orphanages reported that the condition of orphans in post-Soviet era Russia worsened due to financial constraints on the federal budget and the lack of a charitable tradition in Russia. There is no pattern of societal abuse directed at children. The State endeavors to provide, within its reduced means, for the welfare of children. The most vulnerable group of children in society are orphans and the mentally retarded, who are often given up by their parents to state-run institutions. The plight of these children received considerable media attention in 1995. Abuses of children in such institutions have been well documented. Human rights groups strongly believe that the treatment of children in detention facilities appears to violate international norms. The well-being of children in institutions for the disabled also suffered due to government budget constraints.

People with Disabilities

The Constitution does not directly address the issue of discrimination against disabled persons. The Society for the Defense of Invalids is working to broaden public awareness and understanding of issues concerning people with disabilities. Although laws exist which prohibit discrimination, the Government has not enforced them. The meager resources the Government devotes to assisting disabled persons is provided to veterans of World War II and other military conflicts. Special institutions exist for children with various disabilities. However, as the Society for the Defense of Invalids has observed, "Russian society, like Soviet society before it, places value only on what a person can do, build, or earn, which excludes the disabled." The Government does not mandate access to buildings for the disabled anywhere in the Russian Federation.

Indigenous People

The State Committee for the Development of the North, based in Moscow, is tasked with representing and advocating the interests of indigenous people. With only a small staff, its influence is limited. Local communities have been formed in some areas to study and make recommendations regarding the preservation of the culture of indigenous people. People such as the Buryats in Siberia, the Tatar and Bashkiri in the Urals, the peoples of the north, including the Enver, Tafarli, and Chukchi, and others have worked actively to preserve and develop their cultures, as well as the economic resources of their regions. Most believe that they are treated equally with ethnic Russians within the Russian Federation. Roma (Gypsies) and peoples from the Caucasus, especially Chechnya, however, face particular problems and discrimination and have been subjected to verbal and physical abuse (see Section 1.g. for discussion of the war in Chechnya). Since 1993 discrimination against people from the Caucasus and Central Asia increased concurrently with new measures at both the federal and local levels to combat crime. With wide public support, law enforcement authorities targeted people with dark complexions for harassment, arrest, and deportations from urban centers during periods of domestic crisis. This trend continued in 1995. Human Rights Watch reported that law enforcement agents in Moscow "routinely detained, intimidated and extorted money from and beat people of color, mainly people from the Caucasus and Central Asia..." Following the beginning of the military conflict in Chechnya, noted the group, "detention and harassment of ethnic Chechens in Moscow became more frequent and more brutal." Former Human Rights Commissioner Sergey Kovalev Human Rights Watch and charged that the propiska system disproportionately discriminated against people from the Caucasus area.

Religious Minorities

Muslims, who comprise approximately 10 percent of Russia's population, continue to encounter societal prejudices and antagonism. Jews in Russia continue to encounter some forms of societal discrimination. There have been no reports that Jews were hindered in the practice of their religion. However, anti-Semitic themes continued to figure prominently in extremist publications and some Russian politicians made anti-Semitic remarks. President Yeltsin's anti-Fascist decree of July and his commitment to prosecute political extremists whose activities violated the Constitution were viewed initially by some members of Jewish communities as positive developments. However, this decree apparently has not been used or enforced. American representatives of Jehovah's Witnesses congregations in Russia reported that the Channel 5 television station in St. Petersburg aired libelous stories about their religion and its practices in Russia. They charged that such stories about "foreign" religions were encouraged by local leaders of the Orthodox Church. Members of the Russian branch of the Japanese Aum Shinri Kyo cult reported societal harassment after the cult was implicated in a Tokyo subway gas attack. In April a Moscow court froze the cult's assets. The cult's Moscow organization was sued by the Youth Defense Committee, a public organization which has taken on the case, for torture, extortion and abuse of civil rights. The case was pending at year's end. In certain areas of the country other religions, including Buddhism, various Christian faiths, and shamanism are practiced in accord with minority traditions.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The law provides workers with the rights to join or form trade unions, and some 50 to 55 million workers (over 70 percent of the work force) are nominally organized. However, this number includes members of the successor organization to the official Communist unions, which are themselves organized as the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR). The numerical dominance of FNPR, its continued control over the extensive property and real estate of its predecessor, and its still substantial role in the distribution of social benefits, function as practical constraints to the right to freedom of association. Moreover, almost all of the official unions include management as part of the bargaining unit. In practice, the leaders of FNPR unions tend to remain dependent on enterprise managers or local political elites. FNPR uses the leverage it has as the guardian of social benefits, including health care and vacation facilities, to dissuade workers from joining independent unions. Labor market analysts cite polls showing that the majority of workers either do not know that they belong to a union at all, or belong solely because they believe that they would not be covered by social insurance or receive other benefits if they did not pay dues to the official union. On the national level, trade unions exist independently of the Government, political parties, and other political forces. The independent, or "free," labor unions supported a wide variety of political blocs in the December parliamentary elections. Political parties do not control or interfere in the function of any of the trade unions. At the national level, even the FNPR plays a very independent political role. On the regional and local levels, FNPR unions are often closely associated with lower-level political bosses. Unions may freely form federationsÚÚtwo new national groupings of independent trade unions came into existence during the yearÚÚand affiliate with international labor bodies.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

While collective bargaining is protected under the law, its practice is limited by the frequent refusal of enterprise management to negotiate with independent labor unions. For example, the general director of a provincial aerospace factory told labor unionists that he would not bargain with an independent union even though it had met all registration requirements. Significant antiunion discrimination by management exists, although labor law theoretically prohibits such discrimination. Government policy and an economy rapidly adapting to the free market have forced enormous reductions in workers employed in large industrial enterprises (which were staffed according to Soviet precepts). In this environment, enterprise managers (with the encouragement of FNPR unionists) easily find ways to ensure that independent union activists are among the first affected by large-scale layoffs and the last included in retraining programs or rehired, according to analysts who follow organized labor. In some instances, factory management has tried to pressure the Government to declare industrial action illegal or has simply fired strike leaders. The judicial system has reversed a number of such decisions over the past year and has generally improved its record in defending worker rights. For example, in January, a Samara oblast court ordered the reinstatement of some 40 workers fired from the VAZ auto works in November 1994 for participating in a strike sponsored by a small independent trade union. Factory management claimed that the job action was not a strike but an illegal work stoppage. Union leaders reported that the court later went a step further, ordering that an activist who had been given an unfavorable work assignment after the strike be returned to his original duties. There have been no reports of constraints on worker rights in Russia's several export processing zones (EPZ's).

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Labor Code prohibits forced or compulsory labor. However, some observers believe that government enforcement of this provision is ineffective. There were limited reports of army recruits being forced to serve as personal servants of more senior soldiers (see Section 1.c.).

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Code bans regular employment for children under the age of 16. In certain cases, children 14 or 15 years of age may work in internship 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. However, growth in entrepreneurial manufacturing and trading, and in the informal economy, has led to the employment of more children under the age of 14 in recent years. These child workers usually sell consumer goods, such as magazines and cigarettes, on the streets or in kiosks. Their entrance into the labor force reflects the straitened economic conditions in which many families live. This pressure and the deterioration of the educational system create a gap between child labor legislation and reality.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The monthly minimum wage at the end of 1995 was roughly $12.87 (60,500 rubles). While this figure clearly does not constitute a living wage under prevailing conditions, very few people receive the official minimum. At the same time, much of the population continues to reside in low-rent or subsidized housing, and receive various social services from enterprises or municipalities. The official minimum wage is primarily a benchmark figure for calculating university stipends, old age pensions, civil service wages, and a host of other social benefits. Nonpayment of wages is the primary reason for the vast majority of strikes. Wage arrears are a potential cause of social unrest over the next few years and a matter of concern for the Government. For example, the settlement of coal strikes in Rostov Oblast (in February) and Primorskiy Kray (in May) over wages owed to miners in the state-supported coal sector required the attention of then First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoliy Chubays. Russian labor experts believe that wage arrears amount to a violation of International Labor Organization standards on acceptable conditions of work. The Labor Code provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours, with at least one 24-hour rest period. The law requires premium pay for overtime work or work on holidays. The law establishes minimum conditions of workplace safety and worker health, but these standards are not effectively enforced. In factories, workers wear little protective equipment, enterprises store hazardous materials in open areas, and smoking is permitted near containers of flammable substances. The Labor Code does establish workers' right to remove themselves from hazardous or life-threatening work situations without endangering their continued employment. Coal miners in the northern settlement, Vorkuta, won reinstatement to their jobs through the local court system after one such refusal. Nevertheless, the right to a safe and healthy work environment remains under pressure in an economic environment where industry is shrinking and unemployment is a constant fear.  

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