ERRC submits written comments concerning The Russian Federation to The United Nations Committee in The elimination of racial discrimination

Today, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviews the Russian Federation's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In preparation for today's meeting, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) submitted written comments on the human rights situation of Roma in the Russian Federation to the Committee for
consideration during its review.

The ERRC believes that today's review offers an opportunity to highlight some of the most significant respects in which the Government of the Russian Federation has failed to fulfil its commitments under the Convention. On the occasion of the review, ERRC Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova, said: "Russia is in the throes of an extreme outbreak of racism. Roma in Russia today are in a state of raw exposure to the abuse of their fundamental rights. Reports of anti-Romani violence we receive from Russia are, in magnitude and kind, of a different and greater order than those we have seen elsewhere. And yet to date there has been for the most part silence about Roma rights issues in Russia. We hope CERD will today begin to change that."

The ERRC submission documents violations of Articles 2, 3, and 5 of the Convention, as follows:

As to Article 2, the Government has failed to comply with its obligations to "prohibit and bring to an end, by all appropriate means, including legislation [...] racial discrimination." The few relevant legal provisions in this area are inadequate and fail to offer effective protection from discrimination. In the absence of adequate anti-discrimination provisions, Roma in Russia are subjected to discrimination in nearly all areas of public life, from interaction with law-enforcement authorities and the judiciary to the exercise of economic, social and cultural rights.

As to Article 3 of the Convention, the ERRC is concerned that the Government of the Russian Federation has failed to prevent, prohibit and eradicate the racial segregation of Roma. A large number of Roma live in
a state of complete separation from mainstream society, in segregated settlements or ghettos characterised by substandard conditions, and which often have very problematic access to public transportation and other services. This is a major obstacle for Roma seeking to gain access to mainstream schooling or employment opportunities in Russia, and to claim fundamental rights generally. Furthermore, the ERRC and partner
organisations have documented instances in which local authorities in Russia have forced Roma out of integrated housing - either by intimidating them into leaving town, or by simply escorting them out
with the assistance of local law-enforcement officials.

As to Article 5, research by the ERRC and its partner organisations in Russia has established that Roma frequently fall victim to racially motivated violence and abuse by both state and non-state actors. Police
abuse of Roma documented by the ERRC in a number of instances rises to the level of torture, sometimes resulting in deaths in custody. In addition, police engage in massive and often widely publicised abusive
raids on Romani communities and households, as well as abusive and often malicious investigation of Roma on often arbitrary or simply racist grounds. Also, in recent years, members of formal or informal nationalist-extremist vigilante groups have increasingly targeted Roma for violent attacks.

When such abuses occur, they are rarely investigated and even more rarely punished by Russian authorities. Complaints concerning human rights abuses against Roma are either completely ignored by police officials and prosecutorial authorities, or, at best, are investigated only pro forma. When seeking redress for police inaction in cases of human rights violations, Roma are often arbitrarily denied justice by the courts, which place insurmountable bureaucratic obstacles in the way of the victims' access to judicial remedies. Roma who enter the judicial system in the capacity of defendants frequently find themselves arbitrarily subjected to longer periods of detention than non-Roma both in the pre-trial period and following sentencing. Frequently the sole
effective method of seeking release from arbitrary detention is the payment of bribes. Law-enforcement authorities have also failed adequately to protect Roma from a wave of racially motivated violence by
non-state actors.

Finally, the ERRC and its partner organisations have documented violations of the rights of Roma to be free from discrimination in the exercise of economic and social rights, as protected by Article 5 of the Convention. Roma in the Russian Federation suffer from discrimination in the field of housing; in particular, Roma are denied basic security of tenure and their access to adequate housing is effectively blocked by local authorities in a number of localities.

Based on its findings, the ERRC recommends that the Russian Government undertake the following measures:

  • Adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in line with current international standards in the field.
  • Without delay, ratify Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • Investigate promptly and impartially incidents of violence againstRoma and prosecute the perpetrators of such crimes to the fullest extent of the law, whether the perpetrators are law- enforcement officers or private parties; make public guidelines to law-enforcement and judicialauthorities on identifying, investigating, and punishing racially-motivated crime.
  • Publish detailed statistics disaggregated by race and ethnicity, at minimum yearly and in a format readily understandable to a lay person, on the number of racially motivated crimes occurring and prosecuted.
  • Adopt effective measures to prevent, identify and, where occurring, punish manifestations of racial bias in the judicial system.
  • Take swift action to stamp out corruption among law-enforcementauthorities and members of the judiciary.
  • Without delay, curb discriminatory segregationist practices in the field of housing and punish those responsible for actions aimed at forcing Roma out of integrated housing arrangements.
  • Provide security of tenure for residents of Romani communities and informal settlements, and protect the inhabitants from forced and arbitrary evictions, as well as segregationist practices.
  • Ensure effective remedy for cases of discrimination against Roma in the field of housing.
  • Undertake effective measures to ensure that local authorities register all persons actually residing in a given municipality, without regard to race.
  • Provide free legal aid to members of weak groups, including Roma and the indigent.
  • Conduct comprehensive human rights and anti-racism training for the national and local administration, members of the police force and of the judiciary.
  • At the highest levels, speak out against racial discrimination against Roma and others, and make clear that racism will not be tolerated.

The full text of the ERRC written submission is available on the Internet at: http://www.errc.org/publications/legal/index.shtml.

The ERRC is an international public interest law organisation which monitors the situation of Roma in Europe and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. Since its establishment in 1996, the ERRC has undertaken first-hand field research in more than a dozen countries, including Russia, and has disseminated numerous publications, from book-length studies to advocacy letters and public statements. ERRC
publications about Russia and other countries, as well as additional information about the organisation, are available on the Internet at http://www.errc.org.

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