«The Russian Federation has a centralized political system, with power concentrated in a president and a prime minister, a weak multiparty political ...»
The law provides for the appointment of an attorney free of charge if a suspect cannot afford one; however, this provision was often ignored in practice. The high cost of competent legal service means lower-income defendants often lacked competent representation. There were few defense attorneys in remote areas of the country. Public centers, staffed on a part-time basis by lawyers, continue to offer free advice on legal rights and recourse under the law; however, they are not permitted to handle individual cases. The federal government funded a limited experimental system of legal assistance for indigent persons in 10 regions.
Political Prisoners and Detainees RUSSIA
Authorities selectively detained and prosecuted members of the political opposition. On December 31, during a Strategy 31 demonstration for the right of freedom of assembly, authorities arrested opposition figures Boris Nemtsov, Ilya Yashin Eduard Limonov, Vladimir Tor, and Konstantin Kosyakin. Charges ranged from failure to comply with a police directive to hooliganism.
Human rights organizations and activists also identified the following individuals during the year as political prisoners: Aleksey Sokolov, Igor Sutyagin, Zara Murtazaliyeva, Valentin Danilov, Mikhail Khodorkovskiy, and Platon Lebedev.
Igor Sutyagin was released during the year.
In August, in what his lawyers described as a serious human rights violation, authorities transferred Aleksey Sokolov, the head of Sverdlovsk-based NGO Legal Basis, which highlights corruption and abuse in prisons, to an unspecified Krasnoyarsk Krai penitentiary by order of the FSIN. On September 5, Sokolov reported that while in transit, the head of the Novosibirsk detention center beat him. Sokolov stated he was ordered to put in writing he had initiated the fight.
Despite his injuries, Sokolov did not receive medical attention for eight days.
Sokolov was arrested in May 2009 and convicted on charges of having committed a burglary five years earlier. Sokolov had received warnings local authorities would "find a reason" to imprison him if he continued his human rights work (see section 5).
According to his legal representatives, Sokolov had little or no access to his family and legal representation. Sokolov's case was filed in the ECHR in December 2009 and was awarded priority status in April. On December 14, the Sosnovoborsk city court rejected Sokolov's motion for conditional early release. Despite letters supporting his motion from the Russian Human Rights Ombudsman, the Helsinki Group, Amnesty International, and the Russian Public Chamber, the judge reportedly based her decision on two disciplinary infractions: Sokolov's reading a book at the wrong time of day and his drinking tea with a cellmate in remembrance of Sokolov's recently deceased father.
Valentin Danilov continued serving a 13-year prison sentence for allegedly transferring classified technology to China, although colleagues and supporters asserted the information in question was declassified more than a decade before his arrest.
RUSSIAFormer Yukos owners Mikhail Khodorkovskiy and Platon Lebedev continued to serve eight-year prison sentences following their initial 2005 convictions for fraud and tax evasion. Although a number of high-profile witnesses had testified that the new charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were baseless, both men were found guilty on December 30 and subsequently given the maximum possible sentence by the court. They will be eligible for release in 2017. The ECHR heard arguments in claims by Yukos against its expropriation by the government in March.
The arrest, conviction, and subsequent treatment of Khodorkovskiy and Lebedev raised concerns about due process and the rule of law, including the independence of courts. Some observers believed that, while the original charges against Khodorkovskiy may have had some merit, he was selectively targeted for prosecution because of his politics. Others have speculated that he was targeted to strip his assets and those of Yukos and acquire them on behalf of government and business interests. A week before the court reached the verdict, Prime Minister Putin commented about the case that "a thief belongs in jail," which some observers called pressure on the court.
In March the ECHR agreed to hear Khodorkovskiy's approximately three trillionruble ($98 billion) claim against the government that his rights were violated. The damage claimed is the estimated amount that Yukos would have been worth if its properties had not been stripped away in 2007.
Regional Human Rights Court Decisions
By law any person in the country may bring allegations to the ECHR concerning human rights violations covered by the European Convention on Human Rights that occurred after 1998, provided they have exhausted "effective and ordinary" appeals in the country's courts. This condition was usually satisfied by two appeals (first and cassation) in courts of ordinary jurisdiction or three (first, appeal, and cassation) in the commercial court system. The ECHR received more than 40,000 complaints involving the country. During the year the ECHR ruled against the state in 217 of 415 cases. The Demos Center reported in January 2009 that state agencies enforced ECHR rulings approximately 60 percent of the time. When they did, the government generally paid financial judgments ordered by the ECHR in a timely fashion; however, it rarely carried out judicial orders from the ECHR or made corresponding changes in domestic legislation and practice required by ECHR decisions. The government also issued blanket refusals in response to
In May and June, the ECHR ruled that the government must provide financial compensation to victims' family members for its complicity in the 2000 and 2002 killings and disappearances of a number of Chechens (see section 1.g.).
A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released in September 2009 concluded that the central government had failed to act on any of the ECHR rulings that called on it to investigate the 115 rulings on human rights violations in Chechnya, almost all of which found the country responsible for serious human rights violations and failure to investigate the crimes. HRW researched 33 of the cases and found that the government had not brought a single perpetrator to justice. According to HRW, the number of rulings on human rights violations in Chechnya increased to 150 this year, and in almost all cases, the authorities refused to investigate.
Persons considering applying to the ECHR for redress of grievances could be intimidated by a past pattern of harassment toward applicants. Amnesty International and other human rights groups reported past reprisals against applicants to the court, including killings, disappearances, and intimidation.
According to press reports and human rights NGOs, as of September 2009 at least six applicants to the ECHR had been killed or abducted.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
The legislation on Compensation to Citizens Whose Right to a Fair Trial and Right to Enforcement of a Judgment within a Reasonable Time Have Been Violated became law on May 4. The law was expected to reduce the substantial number of cases brought to the ECHR from Russia, since 30 percent of these concern the right to a fair trial. The law allows petitioners to request "reasonable" financial compensation for violation of "reasonable" time limits in the consideration of criminal and civil cases, including the enforcement of judgments.
Although the law provides mechanisms for filing lawsuits against authorities for violations of civil rights, these mechanisms often do not work well in practice. For example, the law provides that a defendant who has been acquitted after trial has
RUSSIAthe right to compensation from the government. In reality, however, human rights activists claimed compensation is avoided through procedural means, such as leaving cases in pending status, without closing them. As a result, Russians who believe their civil rights have been violated typically seek redress in the ECHR, after a Russian court finds against them.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The law prohibits such actions, and it forbids officials from entering a private residence except in cases prescribed by federal law or on the basis of a judicial decision. The law also prohibits government monitoring of correspondence, telephone conversations, and other means of communication without a warrant and prohibits the collection, storage, utilization, and dissemination of information about a person's private life without his or her consent. While these provisions were generally followed, there were allegations that government officials and others engaged in electronic surveillance without judicial permission and entered residences and other premises without warrants.
Law enforcement agencies have legal access to telephone records, including personal information of cell phone owners, and require providers to grant the Ministry of Interior and the FSB 24-hour remote access to their client databases. In past years, some experts asserted this access was unconstitutional; however, the practice has not been challenged in court. Authorities are able to monitor telephone calls in real time through the Law on Operational Search Activity.
The government requires Internet service providers to provide dedicated lines to the security establishment, enabling police to track private e-mail communications and monitor Internet activity. In January 2009, the Ministry of Information and Communication officially required telecommunications companies and Internet service providers to allow the FSB to tap telephones and monitor information over the Internet. The ministry maintained that no information would be accessed without a court order. There were no new wiretapping cases during the year.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Other Abuses in Internal Conflicts Violence continued to spread in the North Caucasus republics, driven by separatism, interethnic conflict, jihadist movements, vendettas, criminality, and excesses by security forces. Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and North Ossetia
RUSSIAwitnessed a significant increase in violence, while Ingushetiya, Chechnya, and Karachayevo-Cherkessia saw a decrease from the previous year. The government used security forces to try to impose order, created a regional public council, and allocated 50 billion rubles ($1.5 billion) for social and economic assistance projects.
Rebels also continued to commit human rights abuses, including major acts of terrorism.
There were numerous killings during the year by both government forces and militants.
Russian government officials often provided contradictory data on such casualties, while nongovernmental sources were inconsistent as well. Russian Federation Deputy Prosecutor General Sydoruk, for example, stated that as of December, 300 militants had been killed, including 16 rebel leaders; additionally, the deputy prosecutor stated that 218 law enforcement and military personnel had been killed and 536 injured in the unrest. This was an 11 percent increase over 2009.
According to other public media reports, there were 918 killings during the year by both authorities and militants, and nearly 800 civilians were killed or wounded as well--a 30 percent increase from 2009.
Caucasian Knot, an online Russian news agency specializing in reporting on the Caucasus, reported that during the year, fighting in the North Caucasus resulted in 1,710 casualties, the majority of which occurred in Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetiya. A total of 754 persons were killed and 956 were wounded; 349 of those killed were alleged militants, 225 were security service personnel, and the remaining 180 were civilians. Dagestan was the deadliest region in the North Caucasus. Almost 700 persons were killed or wounded there, and nearly 150 isolated clashes involving security forces and militants took place, as did more than 100 bombings or explosions.
Among the attacks, on January 6, in Makhachkala, a car carrying 220 pounds of TNT exploded at the gates of a military field camp killing five policemen and wounding 19. In Chechnya, 37 rebel bombings, 12 suicide bombings, and 62 armed clashes killed 127 persons, including 44 security personnel, 80 rebel insurgents, and three civilians, and wounded 123 persons, including 93 security
RUSSIAofficials and 30 civilians. On October 19, three suicide bombers attacked the Chechen parliament building, killing two policemen and one watchman.
In North Ossetia, three rebel attacks killed 24 persons, including two security personnel, two rebels, and 20 civilians, and injured 202 persons, including 35 law enforcement personnel and 167 civilians. On September 9, a suicide bomber drove a car into the central Vladikavkaz market and detonated it, killing 19 persons and injuring 160. In Ingushetiya there were 40 bombings, two suicide attacks, and 103 firefights, which killed 31 security personnel, 63 rebels, and 40 civilians, and wounded 133 government officials and 59 civilians. In Kabardino-Balkaria, there were 41 bomb attacks and one suicide bombing, which killed 23 government personnel, 25 rebels, and 31 civilians. Approximately 16 security personnel and 47 civilians were injured. In Stavropol three attacks killed two rebels and eight civilians and injured 79 persons.
Deputy Chechen Interior Minister Roman Edilov reported 87 rebels were killed in Chechnya, including three rebel military commanders, and 220 had been arrested during the year. On December 20, the Ministry of Interior estimated 80 rebels had been killed and 180 arrested in the first 11 months of the year in Chechnya. Both estimates indicated a decrease in violence from 2009, when 177 rebels were killed and 213 arrested.