Expert of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Expresses Serious Concern that Incidents in the Context of the Armed Conflict in Ukraine Could Amount to Racial Discrimination
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth periodic report of the Russian Federation, with a Committee Expert expressing serious concern that incidents in the context of the armed conflict in Ukraine could amount to racial discrimination.
Mehrdad Payandeh, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, said it was the Russian Federation’s responsibility to comply with its obligations under the Convention in the context of military activities, and the State party’s obligations extended to all territories over which it exercised effective control, including Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as well as the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions. The Committee was seriously concerned about reports of practices and numerous incidents in the context of the armed conflict which could amount to racial discrimination.
Mr. Payandeh said these included reports of violations of international humanitarian law that targeted or affected members of groups protected under the Convention; forced mobilisation and conscription for the armed conflict that disproportionately affected specific ethnic groups or indigenous peoples, including Crimean Tatars, and migrants; and the rise of racist hate speech directed against Ukrainians in the context of the armed conflict.
What measures were in place to ensure that the armed forces complied with the State party’s obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law? How did the State party ensure that the negative consequences of the armed conflict did not disproportionately affect specific ethnic groups, and that people under its effective control outside of the territory of the State party were not discriminated against?
Introducing the report, Igor Barinov, Head of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs and head of the delegation of the Russian Federation, said the subjects in the list of issues that addressed Crimea and situations regarding International Court of Justice cases currently being reviewed could not be addressed by the delegation as they were sensitive and not consistent with the provisions of the Convention or the working methods of the Committee. The Russian Federation’s laws, policies and institutions aimed to maintain lasting inter-ethnic peace and harmony, and to prevent any form of discrimination, and would continue to do so in the future.
The delegation said that several questions relating to Crimea should not be considered by the Committee as they involved subjects being considered by the International Court of Justice. The International Court of Justice had decided that it was not appropriate for the Committee or any United Nations human rights treaty body to consider these issues, as it could cause conflicts in conclusions drawn. The Committee’s allegations in this regard were not consistent with the provisions of the Convention. Russia was committed to implementing its international obligations in all areas under its control. It was ready to receive communications regarding Crimea when they were submitted through the appropriate channels. The Russian State party applied the Convention in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as well as the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions.
In the dialogue, Committee Experts also raised issues concerning Russia’s Ethnic Policy Strategy, the prevalence of racist hate speech against ethnic minority groups, and cases of violent, inter-ethnic conflicts involving Roma and non-Roma since 2017, among others.
Mr. Barinov said in concluding remarks that the Russian Federation had devoted serious efforts to combatting racial intolerance. He appealed to the Committee to show objectivity and avoid bias, especially in the context of the special military operation in Ukraine. The recommendations of the Committee would be analysed by the executive in detail and the necessary amendments would be made in the State party’s work.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Payandeh thanked the delegation for participating in the dialogue. He said that the Committee regretted that the delegation did not wish to address many of the issues raised. Verene Albertha Shepherd, Committee Chairperson, said that the Committee was made up of independent experts who tried to be extremely objective and avoid bias.
The delegation of the Russian Federation consisted of representatives of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Internal Affairs; Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Sport; Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media; Ministry of Education; General Prosecutor's Office; Ministry of Labour and Social Protection; and the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of the Russian Federation after the conclusion of its one hundred and ninth session on 28 April. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s one hundred and ninth session and other documents related to the session can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 13 April at 3 p.m. to consider the combined twenty-second to twenty-fifth periodic report of Niger (CERD/C/NER/22-25).
The Committee has before it the combined twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth periodic report of the Russian Federation (CERD/C/RUS/25-26).
Presentation of Report
IGOR BARINOV, Head of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs and head of the delegation of the Russian Federation, said the provisions of the Convention had been incorporated into the legal system of the Russian Federation, thus becoming an integral part of the State's policy in such areas as combatting extremism, law enforcement, judicial protection, education, restorative justice, and the fight against prejudice and intolerance. Russia was the author of an annual resolution submitted to the General Assembly on combatting the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other contemporary forms of racism, which emphasised the important roles of the Convention and the Committee.
Russia had a unique thousand-year experience in creating political and legal conditions for the development and peaceful coexistence of various peoples. President Vladimir Putin had repeatedly stressed the importance of preventing any form of discrimination on any grounds. The Constitution established guarantees of equality of "human and civil rights and freedoms", and prohibited any form of "restriction of the rights of citizens on the grounds of social, racial, national, ethnic, linguistic or religious affiliation". Russia had a State Ethnic Policy Strategy that promoted this approach for the period up to 2025. The Strategy was implemented by the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs, which worked to prevent any form of discrimination and incitement of hatred on the grounds of racial, national, religious or linguistic affiliation.
The incitement of social, racial, national or religious discord; propaganda and public demonstration of Nazi or similar attributes or symbols; and the organization, preparation, financing and implementation of discriminatory acts on the basis of social, racial, national, religious or linguistic affiliation fell under the definition of extremist activity and was prosecuted in accordance with the relevant norms in the Criminal Code and the Constitution. The Ministry of Justice monitored the activities of organizations to identify and prevent the promotion of racial hatred. To counter extremism, the Strategy for Countering Extremism up to 2025 had been adopted.
Law enforcement officers regularly received training in combatting racial discrimination and profiling. There had been an increase in the number of detected extremist crimes, largely thanks to the work of centres for countering extremism. Information on the Committee’s decisions regarding individual communications and annual reports was translated into Russian and made digitally available for courts of general jurisdiction, including justices of the peace, and judges and staff of the Supreme Court, and was considered in periodic reviews of the Supreme Court.
The Federal Service for the Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications was implementing measures to identify and block online information inciting racial, ethnic or religious hatred and propaganda.
Particular attention was also paid to the prevention of racial discrimination in sports. For example, in the Russian Football Union there was a post of inspector to combat racism and discrimination in football. Today, Russian sports faced unprecedented discrimination from international sports structures and organizations on an ethnic basis. There were numerous cases of exclusion of all-Russian sports organizations from relevant international federations, suspension of Russian athletes from international competitions under far-fetched pretexts, and bans on holding competitions in Russian territory.
The State provided financial support for the activities of national cultural centres and organizations. It funded ethnic music concerts, classes in folk art, research and dialogue events, and projects for the preservation and development of the traditional cultures of the peoples of Russia.
More than 190 peoples and ethnic groups lived in the Russian Federation; they had equal rights to preserve and develop their language, culture and traditions. The State provided support measures relating to the use of natural resources and lands and measures of social support to the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East. More than 450 regional regulatory legal acts and 13 federal acts had been adopted aiming at the social and economic development and protection of indigenous minorities.
Russia paid serious attention to improving the situation of the Roma and their integration into modern society. The Federal National and Cultural Autonomy of the Roma had developed a comprehensive plan of measures for the socio-economic and ethno-cultural development of the Roma. Roma children in schools were provided with special preparatory classes as required, after which they were integrated into ordinary classes.
The subjects in the list of issues that addressed Crimea and situations regarding International Court of Justice cases currently being reviewed could not be addressed by the delegation as they were sensitive and not consistent with the provisions of the Convention or the working methods of the Committee.
The Russian Federation’s laws, policies and institutions aimed to maintain lasting inter-ethnic peace and harmony, and to prevent any form of discrimination, and would continue to do so in the future.
Questions by Committee Experts
MEHRDAD PAYANDEH, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, said the dialogue was being conducted at a time when the State party was involved in an armed conflict with another State. The Committee’s task was to evaluate the State party’s compliance with the Convention, but it took note of the United Nations General Assembly’s assessment of Russia’s actions as an act of aggression in violation of article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, as well as serious concerns with regard to violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The Committee would assess whether the State’s actions in the armed conflict complied with the Convention. The State party’s obligations applied to both the territory of the State party, and to all other territories over which the State party exercised effective control.
Which human rights organizations had been consulted in preparing the report, and how did they participate? There had been an unusually low number of submissions from civil society, an indication of restrictions on civil society activities highlighted by numerous human rights institutions.
In its previous concluding observations, the Committee had expressed concern that the data provided by the State party did not allow for a comprehensive appraisal of the enjoyment of economic and social rights by ethnic groups, including ethnic minorities, Roma and indigenous peoples. In its current report, the State party had reported that a nation-wide census had taken place in 2021. What were the results of this census regarding the ethnic composition of the State party? How did the State party intend to fulfil its obligation to monitor and assess the equal enjoyment of all human rights, including economic and social rights, by all people, regardless of race or ethnicity?
The Committee had also previously expressed concern regarding the absence of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in the State party. Did Russian legislation contain a definition of racial discrimination covering all grounds of discrimination and all forms of direct, indirect and intersectional discrimination as covered by the Convention? Did it include provisions on special measures for securing adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups or individuals? What was the status of the Convention in the legal system? Had there been any court cases that had cited the Convention? Was there training for lawyers and judges on the obligations of the State party under the Convention?
Concerns regarding police violence and police brutality in the State party have been voiced by numerous institutions, but the State party report did not address this issue. What measures were in place to prevent discriminatory violence by the police and other law enforcement officers and ensure accountability for incidents of discriminatory violence? How many complaints, investigations, and convictions had there been regarding incidents of discriminatory police violence and brutality?
The Committee and other United Nations organs had also previously voiced concerns regarding racial profiling in the State party targeting migrants, people from Central Asia and the Caucasus, and persons of Roma origin, manifested in arbitrary identity checks by the police and unnecessary arrests. What measures had been implemented to address the issue? Were there independent oversight mechanisms that ensured that racial profiling did not occur and provided remedies to victims?
What was the scope and aim of the State Nationalities Policy Strategy revised in 2018? Did the Strategy have an inclusive approach? Had representatives of different ethnic groups been involved in the development, implementation and evaluation of the Strategy? How did the Strategy promote minority culture?
There was a lack of data regarding the implementation of anti-discrimination laws. The Committee requested the State party to provide detailed statistics on complaints on racial discrimination reported to the penal, civil and administrative bodies and to the police, and their outcomes. The Committee found the focus of the State party’s laws on “extremism” problematic as this focus did not allow for an evaluation of how effective the State party addressed incidents of racial discrimination. Definitions of “extremism” were vague and broad. The Committee was also concerned that the “Foreign agent laws” and the “Undesirable organizations law” could be used to arbitrarily silence individuals, and that non-governmental organizations were classified as “foreign agents”. Any advocacy for the rights of minorities might be regarded as “hatred towards ethnic Russians” and therefore an act of extremism.
Was the State party considering revising or repealing its laws on “extremist activities” in light of widespread concerns? How did the State party ensure that the laws were not applied in an arbitrary manner, and that they did not limit civic space, legitimate political dissent, and freedom of expression and religion?
STAMATIA STAVRINAKI, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, said the Committee had previously expressed concerns regarding the legal definition of indigenous peoples and recommended amending the legal framework to ensure that indigenous peoples enjoyed legal and constitutional protection of their cultural, territorial and political rights. What were the numbers of peoples recognised as indigenous and as indigenous minority peoples, and the number of individual members of these peoples? Were remedies provided to contest classifications?
What was the status of a bill to improve legislation on territories of traditional natural resource use? Several attempts to amend such legislation had been criticised by affected peoples. What measures were in place to ensure effective consultation with indigenous peoples regarding legal frameworks affecting them? Ms. Stavrinaki asked for updated information on federal legislation protecting land rights. How was the federal law on compensation implemented, including the number of cases, and what was the status of the federal bill on ethnological assessment? What support measures were provided through a sub-programme on numerically small indigenous peoples, and how many people benefitted from this sub-programme?
There was no federal legislation that addressed free, prior and informed consent. What consultations were carried out with indigenous peoples, particularly in cases of development or exploitation of natural resources projects? Were such consultations in line with the Convention? What measures were in place to prevent, mitigate and redress environmental harm and adverse health risk and outcomes due to mining and other activities; to raise awareness among indigenous peoples on their rights; to hold perpetrators accountable; and to ensure the compliance of the business sector? Ms. Stavrinaki also called for information on fishing quotas and commercialisation, and recognition for indigenous peoples in the North, Siberia and the Far East.
The Committee had also previously raised concerns about rights of the Shor people originally from the village of Kazas that was destroyed in 2013. The Committee had recommended that the State party take effective measures to restore fully the rights of the Shor people, in close consultation with Shor representatives and bodies, including by providing compensation for the loss of land and houses, access to ancestral lands, and respecting the principle of free, prior and informed consent in all decisions affecting Shor people. What measures had the State party taken to restore the rights of the Shor people?
Indigenous youth in Siberia and the Far North were disproportionately at risk of suicide. What measures were in place to investigate this issue and address it accordingly by establishing public health mechanisms and services?
Two human rights defenders working for the rights of the Shor, Yana Tannagasheva and Vladislav Tannagasev, were allegedly subjected to harassment and intimidation by local authorities following their participation in the previous dialogue and had to flee their home. What was the status of the investigation into their case, including regarding alleged reprisals faced by Vladislav Tannagasev while participating in the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?
IBRAHIMA GUISSE, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said the Committee had previously expressed concern about the labour exploitation of migrant workers, mainly from Central Asian and Caucasian countries, who were concentrated in the informal sector of the economy and whose working conditions were characterised by low wages, long working hours, and lack of social security. What measures had the State party taken to combat the exploitation and abuse of migrant workers by their employers, and to facilitate their access to effective remedies? Mr. Guisse called for information on the coverage of labour inspections, violations detected, sanctions imposed, and reparations awarded to victims.
Migrant workers were reportedly subjected to racial profiling and raids by law enforcement and there was a prevalence of racial hatred discourse against them. What measures were implemented to address racial discrimination against migrant workers and ensure their access to justice and remedies? What was the status of the proposed amendment of the Concept of the State Migration Policy for 2019-2025?
GUN KUT, Committee Expert and Follow-Up Rapporteur, said that the State party had submitted a follow-up report to previous concluding observations, which addressed Convention rights of residents of Crimea. The Committee’s concluding observations referred to the International Court of Justice ruling regarding the situation in Crimea, and urged the State party to repeal any policies that in effect discriminated against minority ethnic groups, investigate violations of the human rights of the Crimean Tartars, and take effective measures to ensure that the Ukrainian language was used without interference. The Committee had sent a follow-up letter stating that appropriate actions had not been taken in response to these recommendations and called for information on the response to be included in the current periodic report. However, no new information had been included in the report. What responses had the State party taken in this regard?
The Committee had also issued recommendations regarding indigenous peoples. The Committee was concerned that Shor people had not yet been fully compensated and did not have access to their lands. The Committee considered the response of the State party partially satisfactory, and called for specific, up-to-date information on measures taken in this regard, which was also not included in the periodic report.
A Committee Expert said that the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions had suspended the accreditation of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, which formerly had “A” status. Did the State party intend to challenge this suspension?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the national census held in 2021 had demonstrated the stable nature of the ethnic composition of the country. Most foreign nationals residing in Russia were from Commonwealth of Independent States countries. The largest ethnic groups were Tatars and Chechens. Around 16 million people did not submit information on their ethnic identity in the census. Ethnologists had participated in the drafting of questions involving ethnicity and in defining ethnic categories.
Consultations with non-governmental organizations representing ethnic groups such as Belarusian and Ukrainian citizens and indigenous peoples had been carried out in drafting the State report. Fifty-one non-governmental organizations were involved in the protection of the rights of migrants.
Russian anti-discrimination legislation was comprehensive. The Constitution prohibited discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic identity, and legislation was drafted based on the Constitution. There were special oversight bodies that monitored the implementation of legislation. For example, the Labour Inspectorate monitored the implementation of labour legislation. General oversight of the protection of human rights was carried out by the Prosecutor’s office. The Criminal Code established criminal responsibility for public officials for carrying out discriminatory acts, and crimes based on ethnic or racial discrimination were considered as aggravating circumstances. Legislation also prevented discrimination based on gender identity or on membership of any social group.
Police were legally required to respect the rights of citizens regardless of race or ethnicity. A body had been established within the Ministry of the Interior to receive complaints against the police. The Prosecutor’s office investigated such complaints. The police and law enforcement agents used profiling to identify criminals, but the methodology used did not consider race. Police officers were provided with regular courses on being impartial and respecting human rights.
The State Ethnic Policy Strategy had been revised to promote greater participation of civil society in the development of State policy, and to provide increased support to indigenous peoples. The Strategy was multisectoral, with 23 federal bodies implementing it. Over 60 per cent of activities were being carried out at regional and local levels. National ethnic, religious and scientific organizations had participated in the revision of the Strategy. The results of implementation of the Strategy were published online.
In 2022, 1,566 crimes related to discrimination had been registered, an almost 50 per cent increase from 2021. This indicated an increase in activities from law enforcement to combat racial hatred. In the last two years, courts had handed down guilty verdicts in cases of inciting racial hatred online to 577 people. Complaints from citizens were responded to by the Government. Complaints of labour discrimination were received by the Labour Inspectorate, and complaints of discrimination within educational institutions were received by the Ministry of Education and Science. Decisions on discrimination cases could be appealed. The Prosecutor carried out oversight of complaint cases related to discrimination.
Extremist activities were one of the main threats to national security, and Russia took combatting extremism seriously. “Extremist activity” was defined in legislation, and included inciting social, ethnic or religious strife and promoting racial hatred. Judicial appeals could be lodged regarding the actions of public officials taken to combat extremism. Legislation on foreign agents was introduced in 2012 to inform society about individuals carrying out political activities using foreign funds. The law clearly defined what a “foreign agent” was. A foreign agent could be delisted and expelled from Russian territory under this legislation, however, such decisions could be appealed. The law on foreign agents had been assessed by the Constitutional Court, which had found that the classification of organizations as “foreign agents” did not obstruct their activities. Citizens’ rights to receive foreign funding were not obstructed, but organizations and individuals receiving funding from abroad underwent frequent monitoring to ensure the safety of citizens. The right to freedom of association was guaranteed by various international norms to which Russia was a party.
Indigenous peoples in Russia maintained their culture and language, and were recognised as Russian citizens. There were special territories and municipalities for indigenous groups with less than 50,000 members. Such groups received special collective and individual rights regarding their way of life and ancestral lands. The State had recorded 47 indigenous groups living in over 30 regions in the State. The latest census had recorded around 315,000 indigenous residents. Indigenous population numbers had dropped, and the State was investigating reasons for this decrease and considering additional support measures.
There were over 600 local territories that had been established covering two million square kilometres, around 12 per cent of Russian land. Requests to establish federal territories could be submitted, but none had been received thus far. Changes to legislation had been made to establish a procedure for the provision of damages to indigenous peoples regarding development projects and to safeguard the traditional activities of indigenous peoples. Industrial companies actively cooperated with councils of indigenous peoples, concluding agreements with these councils regarding development projects. Agreements had been formed with several hundreds of indigenous households, and large sums had been provided in cases where compensation was granted. One company had paid a record fine of over two billion United States dollars for an oil leak occurring in the Crimean Peninsula. Compensation of over two billion roubles had been provided to affected indigenous peoples in this case, and a programme to support those people was still ongoing. A list of indigenous peoples with fishing permits was maintained by the State.
Russia had introduced standards regarding economic activities that required that companies could not undertake development near the territory of the Shor people. Affected Shor people had been provided with housing as close as possible to the Kazas village, as well as education and equipment for continuing traditional activities. Local self-governing authorities paid special attention to the preservation of burial sites and a regular bus service to the cemetery in Kazas was provided.
Labour migrants enjoyed the same rights and guarantees in employment as Russian citizens. The State ensured that migrants had safe working conditions. Penalties were issued for violations by employers related to salaries, working conditions, workers’ rights, and refusal of employment. Low levels of wages were related to the areas and sectors in which migrants worked. The Government had established a legal minimum wage. The Labour Inspectorate oversaw all employers in all spheres. Migrant workers were able to lodge complaints with the Inspectorate; 90,000 inspections had been carried out in 2021, including 6,000 inspections of employers of migrant workers. If violations were found, employers were issued with fines.
Migrants had the right to use State employment support offices. More than 5,000 foreign workers had looked for jobs in these offices, of which around 4,000 had found work. Migrants that permanently resided in Russia could receive special allowances for birth and care of children up to 18 months, and migrant workers also had the right to a pension.
Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts
MEHRDAD PAYANDEH, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, asked if the census showed whether all ethnic groups enjoyed rights equally. Were there higher rates of unemployment in minority ethnic groups? Why had many non-governmental organizations not submitted reports to the Committee? How was anti-discrimination legislation applied in practice? Were there any cases against public officials regarding racial discrimination? Had there been any cases of delisting of organizations under the foreign agent law?
STAMATIA STAVRINAKI, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, asked why there was no definition of indigenous peoples within legislation. The populations of some indigenous peoples had dropped significantly in recent years. Had the State conducted a study into this? What was the role of the State in inspecting consultations between corporations and indigenous peoples to ensure that indigenous peoples’ rights were respected? Why had the State report not addressed the Shor people?
IBRAHIMA GUISSE, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, asked about remedies provided for migrants whose labour rights had been violated. What amendments had been made to the migration policy?
A Committee Expert said that recently, a Moscow tribunal had repealed the registration of a human rights organization that had existed since the time of the Soviet Union. How many registrations had been repealed in the reporting period? Did the State intend to introduce a law to protect human rights defenders?
Another Committee Expert asked if the Jewish Autonomous Oblast still existed.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the 2021 census had information such as the level of education, labour status, and family sizes disaggregated by ethnicity. The State would examine the results and consider their implications.
Decisions on delisting of organizations could be challenged in courts, and there were cases where delisting had been challenged.
Most of the Russian population were indigenous peoples. Support was provided to indigenous peoples with populations of less than 50,000. The numbers of small groups of indigenous peoples recorded in the 2021 census could have been affected by the large number of people who had not provided ethnicity information due to problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The State arbitrated agreements between businesses and indigenous peoples and provided indigenous peoples with adequate support.
The Jewish Autonomous Oblast still existed, and it had many Jewish citizens. Representatives of the Oblast had participated in a conference on preventing anti-Semitism.
Amendments to the migration policy had introduced temporary identification for stateless persons within the Russian Federation. Stateless persons could use this identification to access residency permits and State services. The amendments also allowed for improved State services for foreign citizens and stateless persons.
Questions by Committee Experts
MEHRDAD PAYANDEH, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, said that in its previous concluding observations, the Committee had expressed concern regarding the prevalence and rise of hate speech in the State party. Racist hate speech was used by elected officials and politicians and oftentimes remained unpunished. It further highlighted that some media outlets disseminated negative stereotypes concerning ethnic minority groups, including the Roma. The State party had not addressed the Committee’s concerns in its report.
Most of the laws that the State party claimed addressed hate speech seemed to focus on extremism. It was unclear which extremist offences addressed hate speech. How many incidents of hate speech had been reported, how many prosecutions had been issued, and which racial and ethnic groups were most often victims? How did the State party monitor the media with regard to the dissemination of hate speech? What mechanisms were in place to prevent hate speech, to report instances of hate speech, or to address hate speech once it occurred? Were there examples of State responses to hate speech? Reports of hate speech in State-owned media were pertinent. Why was this? How many incidents of online racial hate speech had the State party identified, including hate speech that had not been classified as “extremism”. How was online hate speech monitored and addressed, especially on the social media platform VK, in which hate speech, particularly against Muslims, was reportedly prevalent?
It was the State party’s responsibility to comply with its obligations under the Convention in the context of military activities, and the State party’s obligations extended to all territories over which it exercised effective control, including Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as well as the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions. The Committee was seriously concerned about reports of practices and numerous incidents in the context of the armed conflict which could amount to racial discrimination. These included reports of violations of international humanitarian law that targeted or affected members of groups protected under the Convention; forced mobilisation and conscription for the armed conflict that disproportionately affected specific ethnic groups or indigenous peoples, including Crimean Tatars, and migrants; and the rise of racist hate speech directed against Ukrainians in the context of the armed conflict.
What measures were in place to ensure that the armed forces complied with the State party’s obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law? How did the State party ensure that the negative consequences of the armed conflict did not disproportionately affect specific ethnic groups, and that people under its effective control outside of the territory of the State party were not discriminated against?
What efforts had been taken since the last dialogue to effectively investigate the allegations of violations of human rights of the Crimean Tatars, in particular abductions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment, bring perpetrators to justice, and provide effective remedies? Learning and teaching the Crimean Tatar language had reportedly become increasingly difficult and the high majority of Crimean Tatar students were studying in Russian. What measures were in place to provide education in Crimean Tatars’ language at all levels of education?
Acts of vandalism and desecration affected Crimean Tatar cultural heritage, including tombstones, monuments and shrines. How was the State party protecting Tatars’ cultural rights? The Committee was seriously concerned about the ban of the Mejlis, the most important institution for political representation of the Crimean Tatar people. The International Court of Justice had ordered the State party to “refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis”. What had the State party done in response?
STAMATIA STAVRINAKI, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, said racial discrimination and prejudice against Roma reportedly remained widespread and members of the Roma community had limited access to health care services, education and employment due to racial discrimination. Ms. Stavrinaki called for updated information on the number of persons belonging to Roma communities, disaggregated by gender, age, residence, and status of employment. What resources had been allocated to the implementation of the comprehensive plan of measures for the socio-economic and ethno-cultural development of the Roma? How were the Roma involved in the drafting of the plan? Was the State party assessing the implementation of the plan? How did it address structural discrimination faced by Roma communities? How did the State party promote Roma identity? There were several reports of hate speech against Roma by public authorities and political actors between 2018 to 2022. What investigations had been carried out, and prosecutions and punishments issued?
Why had the Federal Agency for Nationalities Affairs reported that the Roma community often had “low competence in legal issues, widespread archaic traditions and parasitic attitude, [and] mass violations of children's rights to education”? What support was provided to Roma children and families who were facing difficulties in coping with basic educational programmes? How many beneficiaries of support had there been in the last five years? What measures were in place to monitor school absences and promote attendance? Schools in Roma communities were reportedly insufficiently funded, leading to poor quality education and a high drop rate among Roma children, particularly in secondary classes. School drop-out needed to be addressed from a human rights-based and integration perspective. What measures were in place to enhance the quality of education for Roma children? What were the aims of cultural classes for Roma children? Was every ethnic group offered specific classes? Were non-Roma children entitled to join Roma classes? How was segregation prevented? Schools had reportedly refused to enrol children simply because they were Roma. Had the State party investigated such incidents?
There were more than 250 buildings with unregistered property titles housing members of the Roma community, and house demolitions were reportedly still carried out without alternate option for resettlement. What measures were in place to prevent forced evictions of Roma and house demolitions, and ensure that families and individuals affected were provided with alternative adequate housing and compensation? How many buildings had been legally documented in favour of members of the Roma communities in the last five years? Roma settlements were reportedly subjected to electricity and gas cuts as repressive measures. Had the State party investigated such practices?
Law enforcement bodies reportedly carried out raids against Roma residences and towns, followed by mass arrests and detention of Roma men, who in some cases were subjected to ill-treatment in response to theft crimes occurring in nearby towns. What standards guided such operations? Had investigation been carried out into incidents of ill treatment against arrested Roma members? What measures were in place to ensure their access to justice?
There were reportedly several cases of violent, inter-ethnic conflicts involving Roma and non-Roma since 2017. Under the Committee’s Early Warning and Urgent Action procedure, two letters were sent to the Russian Federation in 2019 and 2020. The letters addressed incidents in the village of Chemodanovka, Penza Oblast occurring in June 2019 and in Shor region in Ust-Abakan, Republic of Khakassia, in May 2019. These incidents caused around 900 and 500 local Roma persons to flee, respectively. Hundreds of members of the Roma communities were reportedly detained, and houses were vandalised. No proper investigations had been carried out into the violent incidents or ill-treatment by the law enforcement.
The Federal Agency for Nationalities Affairs had reported that the incidents were aggravated by the one-sided and often biased presentation of information in the media, and the lack of involvement of the Roma in drafting intercultural policy. What measures were in place to investigate the incidents, hold those responsible accountable, and provide the Roma with effective remedies; protect the Roma from reprisals for reporting cases of abuse; and promote dialogue and mutual understanding between Roma and non-Roma communities?
IBRAHIMA GUISSE, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, said that the State nationalities policy being implemented from 2017 until 2025 had an ambitious programme. Mr. Guisse called for information on asylum seekers, refugees and internally displaced persons in the State and the legislative and policy frameworks addressing them. What measures had the State party taken to ensure access to education, employment, and health services without discrimination for these people, and to facilitate the acquisition of citizenship by non-citizens and also stateless persons? The Committee was concerned about reports on delays by State institutions in obtaining documentation for stateless persons. What measures had the State party taken to facilitate residence registration procedures in a transparent manner, and to put an end to any discriminatory or arbitrary behaviour by officials involved in registration activities?
Stateless persons reportedly still faced discrimination and difficulties in registering their marriage, and accessing education and health care services? What measures were being taken to address these shortcomings? Irregular migrants and stateless persons could be deprived of their liberty under administrative procedures for a maximum period of two years, without judicial review for decisions on deportation and detention. How did the State ensure the right to judicial review and the provision of legal assistance in such cases?
The Duma was currently considering an amendment to the Law on Citizenship, particularly articles 24 and 25 on the revoking of citizenship. Under these amendments, persons convicted under several articles of the Criminal Code could be deprived of their citizenship, and thus could be at risk of becoming stateless. What safeguards were provided to avoid statelessness for the people impacted by these amendments? The Committee invited the State party to consider ratifying the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
What measures had the State party taken to promote human rights education, including on racial discrimination, in all school curricula, university programmes and teacher training? The Committee had recommended that history be taught in a way that avoided a dominant historical discourse and ethnic hierarchisation. How was the State party raising awareness among the general public, public officials, law enforcement and judicial authorities of the importance of cultural diversity, tolerance and inter-ethnic understanding?
A Committee Expert said that the transition from the Soviet Union to the Russian Federation had created many stateless persons. Had the State party adopted a national plan to address statelessness? There was reportedly anti-black racism, including against human rights defenders? What measures were in place to protect the rights of black people, including in the context of the Decade for People of African Descent?
Another Committee Expert asked about the delegation’s position on the applicability of the Convention in all the territories under the control of the State, including territories where military activities were ongoing? Did the transfer of children from conflict regions have an ethnic perspective? Was there data on transferred children disaggregated by ethnicity?
One Committee Expert said that the law on prevention of HIV/AIDS had discriminatory provisions that disproportionately affected non-nationals, who risked being expelled from the country and having their labour permits revoked if they tested positive. Non-nationals did not receive funding like nationals did if they had AIDS. This law was in violation of various international human rights norms. What measures were in place to protect migrants’ right to work and access basic social services if they contracted AIDS?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the Russian Federation had 190 ethnic groups and had developed as a multi-ethnic State. It consisted of autonomous Oblasts and districts created in the interests of the people living in those areas. Russia had faced difficulties in protecting the right to land and natural resources. In 2014, Russia had joined the declaration of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, and remained committed to this declaration.
The Russian Federation believed that there was no need to adopt a law on human rights defender organizations, as it already had several laws addressing non-commercial organizations. These laws addressed State oversight of these organizations and regulations involving their funding. The State took measures to prevent the disbandment of such organizations, including by submitting warnings to such organizations before deregistration.
There were several grounds for delisting organizations from the “foreign agents” list, including court orders and cessation of foreign funding. Around 40 organizations had been delisted in 2021 and 10 in 2022 by declaring that they no longer received foreign funding.
Non-governmental organizations did not participate actively in the preparation of separate State reports. This may be related to the short period they were given to submit reports. The State party would work to raise awareness among non-governmental organizations about the reporting procedure and provide translation assistance as needed.
Under Russian anti-discrimination legislation, the State punished the spread of messages inciting racial hatred and funding of racist activities. Racial discrimination was an aggravating circumstance in all crimes. Over the last two years, the State had identified 59 crimes related to the funding of racist activities and issued punishments. The law to combat extremism prohibited organizations involved in racist activities. Any incitement to racial discrimination or hatred was considered as an extremist activity under legislation.
The State party was working to block access to online hate speech, identify individuals that disseminated hate speech online, and punish them administratively. Harsher punishments were issued for repeat offenders. The authorities had identified 1,175 cases of online hate speech in the past two years. Half of the citizens who were punished administratively for online hate speech were not involved in any crimes subsequently.
Over 6,000 websites had been blocked for disseminating hate speech, many of which were hosted on servers located outside of Russian territory. Russian legislation allowed for the blocking of a website when a court decided that its content was illegal or when mandated State authorities determined that the information on a website condoned extremism and represented a risk to the general public. The owners of social networks such as VK were required to monitor and collect information on racial discrimination on their networks and remove abusive content. The Prosecutor General could order the removal of such content. If the owner of a blocked site removed information in violation of the law, the site could be restored.
There were no administrative bodies that regulated the activities of the mass media, but the State carried out daily monitoring of the mass media through automated tools to prevent the spread of racial hate and extremist materials. The activities of the mass media could only be prohibited on the basis of a court decision, which could be appealed. Around 5,780 publications were included in the list of banned media. These publications had been removed by authorities to prevent the spread of hate speech.
The Charter of Russian Sporting Federations included parameters for combatting racism and violence. There was specific work being carried out by the Russian Football Union to identify and prevent racial discrimination in football. When violations were identified, cases were considered by a disciplinary oversight committee and perpetrators were penalised. The Russian Football Union promoted the participation of people of African descent, including through promotional events. The International Olympic Committee and other international organizations had acted discriminatorily in banning Russian athletes from sporting competitions.
Several questions relating to Crimea should not be considered by the Committee as they involved subjects being considered by the International Court of Justice. The International Court of Justice had decided that it was not appropriate for the Committee or any United Nations human rights treaty body to consider these issues, as it could cause conflicts in conclusions drawn. The Committee’s allegations in this regard were not consistent with the provisions of the Convention. Russia was committed to implementing its international obligations in all areas under its control. It was ready to receive communications regarding Crimea when they were submitted through the appropriate channels. The Russian State party applied the Convention in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as well as the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions.
The State had not abducted children from conflict zones, but had evacuated them for their own safety. The Ombudsman for Children had informed international experts, including at the United Nations, on the details and aims of the operation. Over five million residents from the Donbas region, including around 700,000 children, had moved into Russian territory temporarily with guardians, and the majority had now returned to their places of residence. Temporary foster care was provided in development and health camps to ensure that children’s development needs were satisfied. The United Nations Children's Fund and other international organizations aided the work of the Ombudsman.
In Russia, there were more than 173,000 Roma persons, including 104,000 living in rural areas. Their median age was 24 years. The Roma population number had dropped in the latest census, but this may have been due to issues related to COVID-19. There were over 7,000 Roma settlements. All health care and social welfare services could be used by the Roma. Roma families had large numbers of children. The State had a comprehensive plan for supporting the Roma involving civil society and Roma organizations. The plan addressed housing, healthcare and education. Internal monitoring of the plan was carried out, including through annual trips to Roma communities. Subsidies were provided for activities carried out by the Federal Roma Organization, including annual festivals held to showcase Roma culture.
Local authorities ensured the development of infrastructure in areas in which Roma settled. They had stepped up efforts to work with Roma communities to identify potential issues with development. Social services, electricity, gas and other utilities were provided to Roma settlements, and in certain settlements land plots were provided to the Roma by the State. Repressive measures such as blocking of electricity or gas were taken only when there was illegal activity occurring in those areas.
A survey had found that around 23 per cent of members of Roma communities believed that there was conflict with other communities. The State was working to address this conflict. Families displaced by the conflict in the Shor region had been placed in State housing and provided with access to State services. Sixteen land plots had been provided for new housing to be built for affected persons. The affected persons in the Penza Oblast had since returned to their areas of residence. In 2022, a new school had been built in the village and there was ongoing work to improve utilities infrastructure. The conflicts originated not from ethnic reasons but due to anti-social behaviour by members of the Roma community. The situation was being normalised in both cases.
Legislation was effective in promoting access to comprehensive education for the Roma community. Roma children had equal rights to enjoy quality education. The State organised ongoing measures to promote the integration of Roma children in education. There had been a positive increase in the number of Roma children enrolled in education. The number of Roma children enrolled in the 2022 to 2023 school year had risen by 3,000 from the previous year to over 50,000.
About 1,000 children from Roma families were studying in non-mandatory high school education and around 3,000 were enrolled in higher education. Special commissions were created in schools to investigate school absences, hold dialogue with families and promote school attendance. A special federal service for oversight of education had been created. Citizens could lodge complaints to this service related to education. Students could choose to study in their native tongue and 74 languages were used in schools in the Russian Federation, including Roma language. There was no discrimination based on ethnicity in schools.
Questions by Committee Experts
GUN KUT, Committee Expert and Follow-Up Rapporteur, said the Committee was free to determine how to interpret its own working methods. The Committee had tried to involve the State party in a positive dialogue involving issues related to territories under the control of the State party, but this was not successful. It would address these issues in its concluding observations. The claim that the Committee could not address issues being assessed by the International Court of Justice was incorrect. There was nothing in the Convention that prevented the Committee from raising issues that were in the public domain. The Committee’s purpose was to guide the State party regarding how to promote the rights of all persons and prevent racial discrimination. The Committee aimed to work with the Russian Federation to solve problems occurring in the State party.
MEHRDAD PAYANDEH, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, said that there was nothing in the decision of the International Court of Justice that prevented the Committee from assessing the cases involving Crimea. The Committee was not a court and did not issue rulings, therefore, it was not prevented from addressing complaints being assessed by the Court.
Another Committee Expert said that it was not legally possible to derogate from the provisions of the Convention.
STAMATIA STAVRINAKI, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, called for detailed statistics on Roma children compared to the general population.
One Committee Expert said that there were reported cases of reprisals against human rights defenders that had cooperated with the Committee, such as Yana Tannagasheva. What steps had been taken to prevent such reprisals and investigate them, and to provide remedies to victims and prevent repetition?
IBRAHIMA GUISSE, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, asked for information on the registration of foreign residents and on amendments to citizenship legislation.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said it did not consider the Committee to be adversaries, but needed time to consider the assessment of the International Court of Justice before addressing the concerns of the Committee in this regard. There was a direct intersection between the purview of the International Court of Justice and the Committee. Russia looked forward to working with the Committee to address these issues in the future.
The Russian Federation had proposed a meeting with Yana Tannagasheva. Only five families from the Shor region had rejected the Government’s offer of compensation, including the family of Ms. Tannagasheva. There had been no persecution of Ms. Tannagasheva. The State was ready to provide assistance to her family to settle the situation. She did not represent the Shor people, but only her personal interests.
MEHRDAD PAYANDEH, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, thanked the delegation for participating in the dialogue. The Committee regretted that the delegation did not wish to address many of the issues raised. Mr. Payandeh expressed thanks to the members of the Committee who had contributed to the dialogue.
IGOR BARINOV, Head of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs and head of the delegation of the Russian Federation, thanked the Committee for its interest in the Russian Federation, which had unique experience in upholding the rights of the ethnicities in its territory. Russia had devoted serious efforts to combatting racial intolerance. Mr. Barinov appealed to the Committee to show objectivity and avoid bias, especially in the context of the special military operation in Ukraine. The recommendations of the Committee would be analysed by the executive in detail and the necessary amendments would be made in the State party’s work.
VERENE ALBERTHA SHEPHERD, Committee Chairperson, said that the Committee was made up of independent experts who tried to be extremely objective and avoid bias. Ms. Shepherd said that the delegation was extremely disciplined in answering the Committee’s questions, whether they agreed with the Committee’s position or not.
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