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Russia & the CIS - Russia

Council of Europe Reports and Debate on Russia's Law on Religion
("Committee on Culture," April 24, 2002)

Report

Committee on Culture, Science and Education
Rapporteur: Mr Mihai Baciu, Romania, Socialist Group

Summary

The collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe has opened the door to competition between state and religion for the minds and bodies of the people. The report analyses the political and socio-cultural changes in individual countries and highlights the pressures of competing religions and of new religious movements, of cultural identity and respect for diversity, of eastern and western approaches. Ways forward are proposed based on the principles of human rights and respect for the different roles and responsibilities of religion and state.

I.                   Draft recommendation

1.      The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has frequently had occasion to consider questions relating to the preservation and development of traditional religious cultures, and ways of creating the conditions needed for them to interact and develop successfully together. In Resolution 885 (1987) on the Jewish Contribution to European culture, Recommendation 1162 (1991) on the contribution of Islamic civilisation to European culture, and Recommendation 1291 (1996) on Yiddish culture, the Assembly expressed its sense of the need to safeguard and develop Europe’s shared cultural heritage, in all its richness and diversity.

2.       The Assembly has also persistently expressed its awareness of the need to ensure or restore harmonious relations between religious institutions and states. This is an essential part of securing such basic human rights as freedom of conscience and religion, religious tolerance and the protection of individuals and communities against all forms of religious persecution. These issues are specifically dealt with in Resolution 916 (1989) on redundant religious buildings, Recommendation 1202 (1993) on religious tolerance in a democratic society, Recommendation 1222 (1993) on the fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance, Recommendation 1396 (1999) on religion and democracy, and Recommendation 1412 (1999) on the illegal activities of sects.

3.       The collapse of communism has given religious institutions in central and eastern Europe an opportunity if not responsibility to renew their social potential and focus on their basic, historical tasks (e.g. the spiritual education of the individual, the ethical improvement of society, and charitable, cultural, educational and other projects).

4.       More recently, socio-religious developments in the post-communist countries have been marked by the emergence of fundamentalist and extremist tendencies, active attempts to make religious slogans and religious organisations part of a process of military, political, and ethnic mobilisation in the service of militant nationalism and chauvinism, and the politicisation of religious life.

5.       The emergence of independent states has encouraged certain national Orthodox churches to seek independence for  themselves or transfer their allegiance - aspirations which are sometimes strongly resisted by the Orthodox centres to which they were previously subject. This has led to a worsening of relations between Churches and, in some cases, Governments. It is important to exclude all possibility of governmental interference in questions of dogma, church organisation and canon law.

6.       The new religious freedom and the removal of barriers to the dissemination of ideas and beliefs, including religious beliefs, have forced the Churches of central and eastern Europe to face religious differences.  Weakened in the past and never having functioned in a climate of political, cultural and religious pluralism, the traditional churches of the region now find themselves in conflict with newly- arrived foreign missionaries and new religious movements. So far, the problem remains unsolved of striking a balance between on the one hand the principles of democracy and human rights, of freedom of conscience and religion, and on the other the preservation of national cultural, ethnic and religious identity, .

7.       The disappearance of the "Iron Curtain" has made the religious and cultural divide in Europe more apparent, and has even aggravated it. Europe’s two Christian cultures - Western and Eastern – know very little of each other, and this ignorance is a very dangerous obstacle on the path to a united Europe. As Pope John Paul II has repeatedly said, Christian Europe must breathe with both its lungs, eastern and western. Similarly, adherents of the two Christian traditions show little interest in Jewish culture, such an integral part of the European heritage, or in Islamic culture, which is becoming increasingly a part of the European scene.

8.       The Assembly accordingly recommends that the Committee of Ministers call on the governments of the member states, the European Union, and also the authorities and organisations concerned:

Legal guarantees and their observance

i.          to promote conformity of national legislation with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, paying special attention to Article 9, which states that religious freedoms shall be subject only to limitations prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society, and to the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (1983) that restrictions on human rights must be motivated by a "pressing social need", and be "proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued";

ii.          to guarantee all churches, religious associations, centres and communities the status of legal entities, if their activity does not violate human rights or international law and in particular to press the Government of the Republic of Moldova to register the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia according to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights of 13 December 2001;

iii.         to take effective action to guarantee the freedom of religious minorities, especially in central and eastern Europe, with special emphasis on protecting them against discrimination or persecution by religious majorities or other groups practising aggressive nationalism and chauvinism;

iv.         to activate the normal procedures provided for in national law in all cases where religious freedoms are proved to be abused in a manner harmful to the community, or to the rights, freedoms  and health of individuals;

v.          to guarantee to religious institutions, the assets of which were nationalised in the past, restitution of such assets within a certain time or, in cases where this is impossible, fair compensation; due care must be taken to prevent privatisation of nationalised church property;

vi.         to offer to mediate between conflicting parties, in cases where the latter accept this, for the purpose of settling disputes, while taking care to ensure that government bodies do not interfere in dogma or other internal religious matters;

vii.        to ask the European Convention to include European religious and Christian traditions into the Preamble of the future European Constitution, as the foundation of human dignity and human rights and of the ethical roots of European identity;

Culture, education and exchange

viii.        to devise communication strategies and to develop the necessary activities in the field of cultural exchange, making people in different countries mutually aware of their cultural achievements;

ix.         to co-operate with the church authorities in identifying and sharing their responsibilities, such as  in maintaining historic buildings and in religious education, and in promoting joint discussion of the major social, moral, ethical and cultural issues which modern societies face;

x.         to include information on Europe’s main religious cultures and practices in school curricula;

xi.         to support the activities of non-governmental organisations working to strengthen mutual understanding between religious groups, and protect the religious cultural heritage;

xii.        to take action to secure equal access to the media, education and culture for representatives of all religious traditions;

xiii.       to encourage the setting-up of special centres to promote interconfessional relations, and also the exchange of exhibitions and fairs, centred on cultural heritage, masterpieces of religious art and books, and helping people to familiarise themselves with Europe’s various religious cultures.

xiv.       to promote exchange programmes to give students, research workers and artists a full picture of the ethical, moral and cultural values of Europe’s religions.

xv.        to encourage the development of cultural itineraries in Europe and linking Europe with neighbouring countries so as to reflect and develop past perspectives and new possibilities of cultural communication.

xvi.       to provide public libraries with publications, which detail the cultural achievements and beliefs of the various religious traditions;

xvii.       to promote scientific research aimed at uncovering the shared roots of Europe’s various cultures and fostering a better understanding of the ways in which they interrelate and complement one another; 

Russia’s law on religion

Doc. 9393

25 March 2002

 Report

Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Rapporteur: Mr Kevin McNamara, United Kingdom, Socialist Group

Summary

The new Russian law on religion, which entered into force on 1 October 1997, has caused some concern, both as regards its contents and its implementation. Some of these concerns have been addressed, notably through the judgments of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and the re-registration exercise of religious communities on the federal level successfully completed by the Ministry of Justice, but other concerns remain.

Most reported problems concern the lack of uniformity in the implementation of the law. While no religious community has alleged systematic discrimination or harassment by the state, in some regions, difficulties plainly persist. Some local officials seem to discriminate against or harass faiths which are in a minority in a certain locality (though not systematically), or display a preferential attitude towards the Russian Orthodox Church.

Moreover, some regional and local departments of the Ministry of Justice have refused to (re)register certain religious communities, despite their registration at the federal level. The federal Ministry of Justice does not seem to be in a position to control these regional and local departments in accordance with the requirements of the rule of law, preferring to force religious communities to fight these local departments over registration in the courts, rather than taking remedial action within the Ministry.

Therefore, the Assembly should recommend to the Russian authorities that the law on religion be more uniformly applied throughout the Russian Federation, and that the federal Ministry of Justice becomes more pro-active in resolving disputes between its local/regional officials and religious organisations, before these disputes are brought before the courts.

The Assembly should further recommend that, in cases of differences between local authorities and other officials and religious communities within the Russian Federation, an independent, non-judicial control body be established on which religious communities would be represented, with a view to mediating, and resolving problems.

I.           Draft resolution

1.         The new Russian law on religion entered into force on 1 October 1997, replacing and abrogating a 1990 Russian law – generally considered very liberal - on the same subject. The new law caused some concern, both as regards its contents and its implementation. Some of these concerns have been addressed, notably through the judgments of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation of 23 November 1999, 13 April 2000 and 7 February 2002, and the re-registration exercise of religious communities on the federal level successfully completed by the Ministry of Justice on 1 January 2001, but other concerns remain.

2.         The law itself, while seeming to pose an acceptable basis of operation for most religious communities, could still be ameliorated. Although the Russian Constitutional Court has already restricted the application of the so-called “fifteen-year rule”, which initially severely limited the rights of religious groups which could not prove their existence on Russian territory for at least fifteen years before the new law entered into force, the total abolition of this rule would be considered as an important improvement of the legislative basis by several of these groups.

3.         Most reported problems concern the lack of uniformity in the implementation of the law. While no religious community has alleged systematic discrimination or harassment by the state, in some regions, difficulties plainly persist. One of the reasons mentioned for these difficulties is that some subjects of the Federation have adopted their own laws on religion, which are not always in conformity with the federal law. The Presidential Administration is reportedly looking into this problem.

4.         Another problem seems to be posed by local officials, who, in certain cases (but not systematically), discriminate against or harass certain religious communities, in particular faiths which are in a minority in a certain locality. Sometimes a preferential attitude by local officials is displayed towards the Russian Orthodox Church, and other religious communities are obliged by these officials to obtain the agreement of the local representative of the Orthodox Church before they can realise their projects (such as the renting/building of a church or mosque). Sometimes complaints by religious communities filed with the competent authorities, such as the prosecutor’s office in the case of physical attacks or church torchings, are not followed up, and the communities in question are forced to take their complaints to court themselves.

5.         Moreover, some regional and local departments of the Ministry of Justice have refused to (re)register certain religious communities, despite their registration at the federal level. The federal Ministry of Justice does not seem to be in a position to control these regional and local departments in accordance with the requirements of the rule of law, preferring to force religious communities to fight these local departments over registration in the courts, rather than taking remedial action within the Ministry. The case of the Moscow branch of the Salvation Army deserves particular attention in this respect, and should lead to an internal disciplinary inquiry by the federal Ministry of Justice into the workings of its Moscow department. The Moscow Department of Justice tried to close down this branch of the Salvation Army (despite federal registration), for allegedly failing to re-register by the law’s deadline. The Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the Salvation Army on 7 February 2002.

6.       Therefore, the Assembly recommends to the Russian authorities that:

i.        the law on religion be more uniformly applied throughout the Russian Federation, ending unjustified regional and local discrimination of certain religious communities, and local officials’ preferential treatment of the Russian Orthodox Church;

ii.       the federal Ministry of Justice become more pro-active in resolving disputes between its local/regional officials and religious organisations, before disputes are brought before the courts, by taking remedial action within the Ministry in case of corruption and/or incorrect implementation of the law on religion, thus rendering it unnecessary to take such cases to the courts;

iii.      when the courts close down a religious community in conformity with the law on religion, no property be forfeited until all legal avenues have been exhausted (including national and international judicial appeal mechanisms);

iv.       in cases of differences between local authorities and other officials and religious communities within the Russian Federation, an independent, non-judicial control body be established on which religious communities would be represented, with a view to mediating, and resolving problems;

7.       The Assembly further calls on the authorities of the Russian Federation to take into account the principles contained in Recommendation 1412 (1999) on illegal activities of sects when dealing with issues concerning religion.

II.         Explanatory memorandum
            by Mr McNamara, Rapporteur

A.         Introduction

1.           The new Russian law on religion was adopted by the State Duma on 19 September 1997, approved by the Federation Council on 24 September 1997, and signed by President Yeltsin on 26 September 1997. It entered into force on 1 October 1997, replacing and abrogating a 1990 Russian law – generally considered very liberal - on the same subject.

2.           On 6 November 1997, Mr Atkinson and others tabled a motion for a recommendation on the law (Doc. 7957), asking for the law to be annulled. The motion was referred to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for report, which appointed me rapporteur, and to the Political Affairs Committee and the Committee on Culture and Education for opinion.

3.           On 16 April 1998, I presented a first introductory memorandum[1] on the subject to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, following an exchange of letters [2] with Mr Zorkaltsev, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Public Unions and Religious Organisations. My memorandum contained a short summary of the content of the law and an explanation of the state of proceedings. It was the wish of the rapporteurs already at the time to visit Moscow, but, unfortunately, this visit had to be postponed several times at the request of the Russian authorities.

4.            The two rapporteurs for opinion, Mrs Gatterer (Political Affairs Committee) and Mr Roseta (Committee on Culture, Science and Education), accompanied me on my visit to Moscow on 16 to 18 October 2001 [3], which was well organised by the Secretariat of the Russian parliamentary delegation. It is my intention to have my report on Russia’s law on religion debated during the April 2002 part-session of the Assembly, in conjunction with the report by the Monitoring Committee on the honouring by Russia of her commitments and obligations.

B.         The new law on religion

5.            The new Russian law on religion was adopted in response to a perceived threat to Russia’s traditional religious faiths and Russian society, coming from the multiplication of “non-traditional” congregations in Russia in the 1990s, many of which were of American origin. When the law entered into force in 1997, it was widely criticised as being discriminatory, since it established two categories of religious denominations which enjoyed different rights: religious organisations and religious groups. [4]The very limited rights of religious groups, which did not belong to a centralised religious organisation and could not prove their existence on a given territory of the Russian Federation for at least fifteen years, gave rise to particular concern.

6.            Article 27.3. of the law, the “fifteen-year rule”, was challenged in the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. The Court ruled on 23 November 1999 that religious organisations established before the law came into effect, and religious groups which were attached to a centralised structure did not need to offer documentary proof of 15 years’ existence to exercise the (wider) rights accorded to religious organisations in the new law. The emphasis thus shifted to whether or not religious organisations had already been registered (under the old law) when the new law came into force.

7.            In accordance with the original version of the law, all religious communities were required to re-register with the Ministry of Justice by 31 December 1999. Failure to re-register could lead to the “liquidation” of the religious community in question. Following the judgement of the Constitutional Court, and amid reports that re-registration proceedings were not proceeding as planned, the State Duma extended the deadline for re-registration of religious communities from 31 December 1999 to 31 December 2000. At the same time, however, the Duma amended the law to make the “liquidation” of unregistered religious organisations obligatory for the Ministry of Justice.

C.         The law's implementation

8.           On 1 January 2001, 20.200 religious communities had been registered in the Russian Federation, 479 of which were registered as «central» religious organisations, 19.005 as parish congregations, 118 as higher education seminaries, 334 as monasteries and 264 as religious «offices». The majority of the registered communities were Russian Orthodox (10.913 in all); 3.048 were Muslim, 1.323 evangelical Christian, 975 Baptist, 563 Adventist, 278 Old Believers', 258 Roman Catholic, and 197 Jewish communities. However, «minority» religious denominations were also represented, in the form of  330 Jehovah's Witnesses congregations, a number of Orthodox Church congregations (e.g. Free Russian Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox autonomous Church, etc.), and 51 charismatic church congregations.

9.            None of the representatives of different religious denominations we met in Moscow in October voiced any complaints about the handling of the re-registration exercise by the federal Ministry of Justice. It seems that, in order to take advantage of the abrogation of the 15-year rule for religious groups attached to «central» religious organisations, some groups which would perhaps rather have remained independent, were forced to join a «central» (if loose) religious organisation in order to be able to keep their legal identity. However, this does not seem to have caused major problems.

10.        Unfortunately, the situation is very different on the regional and local level. While no-one we met complained of a pattern of discrimination or harassment, in some regions and in some localities, difficulties plainly persist. One of the reasons mentioned even by the Russian authorities for these difficulties was that some subjects of the Federation (especially some Republics) had adopted their own laws on religion, which were not always in conformity with the federal law. However, the Presidential administration was looking into these disparities[5].

11.       On a more practical level, it seems that the federal Ministry of Justice is unable (or unwilling?) to control some of its local departments, which has led to some abuses regarding registration. The most acute problem has apparently been posed by the Moscow Department of Justice, which has refused to re-register the Moscow branch of the Salvation Army (and, incidentally, has also refused to transfer the title of property held by the Moscow branch to the “central” religious organisation of the Salvation Army, which has been re-registered by the federal Ministry of Justice).

12.        According to the representatives of the Salvation Army we spoke to, the Salvation Army applied in late 1998 for the renewal of its registration in the city of Moscow. The re-registration process proceeded well until January 1999, when the problems started. It has been alleged by several sources that corruption might be at the root of the problem in this case, as it has apparently also been in other Moscow cases. It was suggested that if the Salvation Army changed its lawyers, its case might proceed more expeditiously and successfully. The Salvation Army fought for its re-registration in the Moscow courts, without success; one of the court judgements even found this renowned Christian religious and charitable organisation, which feeds more than 7.000 homeless a month in Moscow, to be a “foreign paramilitary organisation aiming at the violent overthrow of the Russian Federation”. The city government filed suit to have the Moscow branch liquidated in September 2001, and won its case on 6 December 2001.

13.     The Salvation Army appealed to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, which ruled in its favour on 7 February 2002. The Court found that a religious organisation registered prior to the adoption of the 1997 law on religion may not be liquidated purely for failing the re-register by that law's deadline of 31 December 2000. Legal rulings made in relation to the Moscow branch of the Salvation Army which followed a divergent interpretation, are now “subject to reconsideration”. An appeal by the Salvation Army to the European Court of Human Rights is still pending, but might now have been overtaken by events.

14.       Jehovah’s Witnesses have also encountered some problems, especially in Moscow, where the city has been trying to “liquidate” the Moscow branch via criminal and civil court cases, attempts which have, however, so far failed. It was reported that some Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations had also been the target of local attacks, but the cases looked random, and when the congregations filed complaints, they were looked into by the competent authorities. Representatives of other “minority” religious denominations complained of similar, localised, problems. However, according to the representative of the Pentecostal Union, it was very difficult, if not impossible, to get the prosecutor’s office to react when abuses took place, even when clergymen were physically attacked or churches set on fire. The authorities simply asked the Union to take such cases to court.

15.       Interestingly, the refusal of some local departments of the Ministry of Justice to register a congregation, or of a local official to permit the handing back/ building and/or renting of a church, mosque or prayer house, often seemed to be based on a desire to allow the “dominating” religion in the locality to guard its “canonical territory”. Thus, for example, a Muslim congregation might be prevented from building a mosque in a traditionally Russian Orthodox town (or vice-versa), or a local official might ask the applicant to first obtain permission from the local Orthodox bishop or imam. The desire of some local authorities and officials to translate their own attitude (to, for example, the Russian Orthodox Church) into official practice, obviously poses some problems if it is left unchecked. It is unacceptable for local officials to send people e.g. to the Russian Orthodox Church for approval on any course of action in the religious field before giving their own approval.

16.       Some representatives of different religious organisations were concerned about an ongoing “Orthodoxation” of Russia. According to them, the Russian Orthodox Church was being allowed by the state to play a special, dominant role in public and political life. In practice, for example, Russian Orthodox priests had the seemingly exclusive right of access to schools, military garrisons, hospitals and prisons. The Russian Orthodox Church appears to equate Russia with Orthodoxy, and Orthodoxy with Russia.

17.       In fact, it is very difficult to discern the extent to which, in practice, the state influences religious life in Russia. The Jewish and the Muslim communities have split (we saw only one of the two rival Chief Rabbis and one of the two rival Chief Muftis), and it seems that – at least regarding the Jewish community – the state was involved in the affair. As regards an alleged “Orthodoxation” of Russia, this does not seem to be systematic state policy, but rather a question of relations between individuals and the local representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the claims of the Orthodox Church.

D.         Newest developments

18.        In February 2002, two new draft laws concerning religion were proposed by Duma members. The first draft law, “on traditional religious organisations”, was unveiled at a press conference on 5 February 2002 by the Vice-Chairman of the Duma’s Committee on Religious and Social Organisations, Mr Aleksandr Chuyev. However, since this bill has not been co-ordinated with the Presidential Administration, it is reportedly unlikely to be passed. This draft law would create several different categories of “traditional religious organisations”, allotting state preferences to some of these, apparently to Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. The bill would thus risk discriminating against other faiths, deemed “non-traditional” in Russia, and might thus clash with Russia’s law on religion, and even with the Russian Constitution.

19.          More worrying is a recent bill presented by the Ministry of Justice, “on the struggle against extremist activity”, which is due to come before parliament soon. The bill defines extremist activity as “socially dangerous acts aimed at violent change to the constitutional order of the Russian Federation, the violent seizure or retention of power, the violation of the sovereignty or territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, the creation of illegal armed units, the violation of the rights and freedoms of citizens on account of their race, nationality, language, or attitude to religion or convictions, and incitement of national, racial or religious hatred, as well as public appeals to commit socially dangerous acts with these aims”.

20.        This bill contains several amendments to the law on religion currently in force. Inter alia, religious organisations as a whole could be ruled as extremist and banned, if the organisation, its subdivisions, leaders or members were shown to have conducted extremist activity, either at the direction or with the knowledge of at least one of its ruling organs. Responsibility for monitoring compliance with the law would shift from the prosecutor’s office to the Ministry of Justice (the registering organ). The Ministry of Justice would obtain the right to “request the management documents of a religious organisation and to send its representatives to its religious rites, ceremonies and other events”, and financial organs would obtain the right to “monitor a religious organisations’ sources of income”. The bill would furthermore create a federal organ for monitoring religious affairs, with a view to “administering assistance to religious organisations”.

21.        From the point of view of the rule of law, and respect for the freedom of religion, this bill poses severe problems. So far, the Russian parliament has, in religious affairs, proved itself to be respectful of these values, and it can thus be hoped that neither of the two draft laws in question will be passed.

E.         Conclusions and recommendations

22.        In conclusion, I think it is fair to say that Russia’s law on religion in its current form, while far from perfect, poses an acceptable basis of operation for most religious denominations. No religious community alleged systematic discrimination or harassment by the state. The re-registration exercise completed by the federal Ministry of Justice early this year went relatively smoothly.

23.       However, the law could and should still be ameliorated. Although the Russian Constitutional Court has already restricted the application of the 15-year rule, the total abolition of this rule would constitute a considerable improvement of the legislative basis. It goes without saying that the legislative basis should not be worsened by the adoption of two draft laws concerning religion, currently being floated.

24.        In addition, the implementation of the law is not uniform throughout the country. The federal Ministry of Justice does not seem able (or willing?) to control its regional and local departments in accordance with the requirements of the rule of law, preferring to force religious communities to fight these local departments over registration in the courts, rather than taking remedial action within the Ministry. The Federal authorities should take a stronger line with regional and local governments and authorities (even if they are in powerful and influential positions, like the Moscow City Government). The Federal Minister of Justice should seek to curb the illegal activities of local bureaucrats and investigate allegations of corruption in his regional and local departments. The case of the Moscow branch of the Salvation Army seems the most glaring in this respect. An internal disciplinary inquiry by the federal Ministry of Justice into the workings of its Moscow department would also seem long overdue.

25.       The Moscow Department of Justice had tried to close down this branch of the Salvation Army (despite federal registration), for allegedly failing to re-register by the new law’s deadline. The Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the Salvation Army on 7 February 2002. The Court found that a religious organisation registered prior to the adoption of the 1997 law on religion may not be liquidated purely for failing to re-register by that law's deadline of 31 December 2000. This ruling is very important, and shows that, as a general rule, no property should be sequestrated on failure of registration until such time as all legal avenues have been pursued, up to and including appeals to the Russian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Nobody should be prejudiced by actions of the state until all forms of judicial remedy have been exhausted. Nevertheless, religious groups or organisations which feel themselves threatened, should, if they wish, be allowed to transfer title to that property to a body which has already been registered and is operating under the present law.

26.        Practically all representatives of religious communities we spoke to complained about the conduct of local officials, who often discriminated against or harassed certain non-dominant denominations. There also seems to be some general distress of all the faiths not having equal access to state institutions, like schools, prisons, hospitals, the army, etc. While the Russian Orthodox Church is probably the strongest religion in Russia, there should be equality of access for other duly registered religious faiths.

27.     The Russian authorities are aware of the problem of local discrimination and harassment, and have floated the idea of a state-sponsored permanent monitoring body to check that local authorities comply with federal legislation in this area. This non-judicial body might create regional bodies to hear cases at first hand. Religious representatives[6] would prefer such a body to be independent, and would wish such a body – should it be created – to react more speedily to complaints.

Reporting committee: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Reference to committee: Doc 7957 and Reference No 2238 of 7 November 1997; Doc 8351 and Reference 2373 of 30 March 1999

Draft resolution adopted unanimously by the committee on 18 March 2002

Members of the committee: Mr Lintner (Chairperson), Mr Magnusson, Mrs Gülek, Mr Marty (Vice-Chairpersons), Mr Akçali, Mr G. Aliyev, Mr Andican, Mr Arabadjiev, Mrs Van Ardenne-Van der Hoeven, Mr Attard Montalto, Mr Bindig, Mr Brejc, Mr Bruce, Mr Bulavinov (alternate: Mr Khripel), Mr Chaklein, Mrs Christmas-Møller (alternate: Mrs Auken), Mr Clerfayt, Mr Contestabile, Mr Davis, Mr Demetriou, Mr Dimas, Mr Engeset, Mr Enright, Mrs Err, Mr Fedorov, Mrs Frimansdóttir, Mr Frunda, Mr Guardans, Mr Gustafsson, Mrs Hajiyeva, Mr Holovaty, Mr Jansson, Mr Jaskiernia, Mr Jurgens, Mr Kastanidis, Mr Kelemen (alternate: Mr Pokol), Mr Kostytsky, Mr S. Kovalev (alternate: Mr Shishlov), Mr Kresák, Mr Kroll, Mr Kroupa, Mr Lacão (alternate: Mrs Aguiar), Mrs Libane, Mr Lippelt, Mr Manzella, Mrs Markovic-Dimova, Mr Mas Torres, Mr Masseret (alternate: Mr Hunault), Mr McNamara, Mr Michel, Mrs Nabholz-Haidegger, Mr Nachbar, Mr Olteanu, Mrs Pasternak, Mr Pellicini (alternate: Mr Budin), Mr Penchev, Mr Piscitello, Mrs Postoica, Mrs Roudy, Mr Rustamyan, Mr Skrabalo, Mr Solé Tura (alternate: Mrs Lopez Gonzalez), Mr Spindelegger, Mr Stankevic, Mr Stoica (alternate: Mr Coifan), Mrs Stoisits, Mrs Süssmuth, Mr Svoboda, Mr Symonenko, Mr Tabajdi, Mr Tallo, Mr Tepshi, Mrs Tevdoradze, Mr Uriarte (alternate: Mrs Posada), Mr Vanoost, Mr Vera Jardim, Mr Volpinari, Mr Wilkinson (alternate: Mr Lloyd), Mrs Wohlwend

N.B. The names of those members who were present at the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretaries to the committee: Ms Coin, Ms Kleinsorge, Mr Ćupina

APPENDIX

PROGRAMME of the visit of the Rapporteurs on the new Russian law on religion
to Moscow on 16-18 October 2001

Tuesday 16 October 2001

4pm

Arrival of the Rapporteurs, transport to Hotel

8pm

Dinner with NGOs (Hotel National)
[including representatives of the Keston Institute, the Moscow Helsinki Committee, and the Slavic Centre for Law and Justice]

Wednesday 17 October 2001

9am

Departure from Hotel National

9.30– 10.30am

Meeting with representatives of the Salvation Army and of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Institute for Religion and Law)

11 – 12am

Meeting with the Chairman of the State Duma Committee  on the affairs of public unions and religious organisations, Mr Zorkaltsev

12.30 – 1.30pm

Meeting with the Chairman of the Commission on questions of religious associations with the Government of the Russian Federation, Mr Sebentsov

1.30 – 2.30pm

Working lunch with Mr Sebentsov (State Duma, Red Room)

3.15 – 4.30pm

Meeting with the Chairman of Russia’s Mufties Council, Mr. Gainutdin

5 – 6.15pm

Meeting with the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Mr Shayevich

7 – 8.30pm

Meeting with representatives of different religious organisations (Institute for Religion and Law)

Thursday 18 October 2001

9 – 10am

Meeting with the Russian Orthodox Church, Head of Department Mr Vsevolod Chaplin

10.30 – 11.15am

Meeting with the Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, Mr Sidorenko, and Head of Department Mr Tomarovsk

12 – 1pm

Meeting with the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation, Deputy Head of Department of Interior Politics, Mr  Abramov

1pm

Departure for the airport


[1] AS/Jur (1998) 22.

[2] Published ibid, AS/Jur (1998) 17 rev. and continued in AS/Jur (1998) 34.

[3] The programme is reproduced as an Appendix to this memorandum.

[4] When reference is made to "religious organisations" and "religious groups" it is in the framework of the meaning of the Russian law on religion. To avoid confusion, "religious communities" and "religious denominations" have been used when all other cases are included.

[5] The results of this undertaking are not yet clear. In this connection, the Keston Institute has pointed out that the Supreme Court had rejected a case against controversial parts of the law regulating missionary activity in the Belgorod Region.

[6] The Russian Orthodox Church is opposed to the creation of such a body.

Russian law on religion

Doc. 9407

9 April 2002

Political Affairs Committee
Rapporteur: Mrs Edeltraud Gatterer, Austria, Group of the European People's Party

I.          Conclusions of the committee

The committee considers that the new Russian law on religion is a good structure in which religious denominations in the Russian Federation may operate.

However, the committee puts forward the following propositions :

i.                    inconsistencies at different levels of the judicial systemwithin the Russian Federation should be limited.  Identical charters can not deem unacceptable in one region what is considered acceptable in other regions.  Judicial decisions protecting thereligious freedom of minorities should be widely disseminated;

ii.                  there is a need for more co-operation regarding the handling of visas for clergymen and religious followers;

iii.                citizens whose conviction or religious confession forbids the performance of military service should have the right, in practice, to substitute military service with an alternative civilian service in a proportional way;

iv.                 it is essential that the right of an individual to hold or participate in religious ceremonies in health centres, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes and prisons is guaranteed.

II.         Amendments to the draft resolution proposed on behalf of the committee

Amendment 1.

  • add a new paragraph before paragraph 1.

                "Post-communist Russia gave religious creeds a free rein.  But, the ensuing flood of foreign evangelists, missionaries and dubious sects, backed by rich western churches and organisations provoked uneasy feelings amongst the Russian population.  A new law on religion was introduced to remedy this situation."

    Amendment 2.

  • In paragraph 2 replace the words "while seeming to pose..." by "while posing"

    Amendment 3.

  • In paragraph 4. in the 3rd line and 5th line replace "Orthodox Church" by "traditional church".

    Amendment 4.

  • In paragraph 5, in the 7th and 8th lines, delete the words "and should lead to an internal disciplinary inquiry .... of its Moscow department"

    Amendment 5.

  • In paragraph 6.i., delete after  all the words "communities".

    Amendment 6.

  • Add a new sub-paragraph at the end of paragraph 6.

                "The project under study for the setting up of an alternative civilian service should be accelerated in order to offer an alternative to citizens whose religious convictions forbid them to carry out military service."

  • III.        Explanatory memorandum by the Rapporteur

    1.         The Assembly of the Council of Europe has been dealing with Russia’s new law on religion since its adoption in 1997.  A visit in October last year took place becausethe rapporteurs expressed their wish to carry out a fact-finding visit to Moscow.

    A.         The new Russian law on religion and its implementation

    2.         After having been denied religious freedom for over seven decades, post-communist Russia initially gave religious creeds a free rein.  But, the ensuing flood of foreign evangelists and missionaries which received the backing of their richer western churches who practised more sophisticated preaching techniques provokeda reaction of insecurity amongst the Russian population.  In the new atmosphere of freedom, thousands of new churches and religious groups were formed, feeding a post-Communist search for religious identity.  Respectable non-Orthodox churches, as well as dubious sects or even criminal ones, like the Aum Shinrikyo, the cult which was held responsible for the gas attack on the Japanese underground, tried to become established.

    3.         The government’s response to this development was the new Russian law on religion, which replaced the 1990 Russian law.  While stating that individuals shall have full freedom to choose a religion, it established different categories of religious denominations, which enjoyed different rights.  The law places religious ‘groups’ which do not belong to a centralised religious organisation and could not prove that they had existed on the territory of the Russian Federation for no less than fifteen years, on a fifteen year probation, during which their institutional rights werelimited.  After the fifteen year probationary period had elapsed they would be entitled to applyfor the status of an ‘organisation’, which would give full rights to possessproperty, to publish material, to provideeducation and to belong topublic institutions.  The ‘fifteen year rule’ was challenged in the Constitutional Court and in 1999 the Court ruled that religious organisations established before 1997 and religious groups which belonged to a centralised structure were not required to prove their fifteen years’ existence in order to gain the rights accorded to religious organisations.

    4.         All religious denominations were required to re-register.  The deadline for registration was extended twice and subsequently the registration process was finally completed in January 2001.  Religious denominations which failed to register were faced with liquidation.

    5.         The new Russian law on religion was criticised by non-governmental organisations, in Russia and abroad, claiming that it violated rights guaranteed by the Russian Constitution and international treaties.

    6.         The new law introduced a concept ofdifferentiation between ‘religious organisations’ and ‘religious groups’ according to the time of their formation was criticised, but one must stress that such a distinction exists in the laws of many European countries.

    7.         Looking at the implementation of the new Russian law on religion, it should be pointed out that the Federal Ministry of Justice departments would indeed appear to have been largely able to implement the policy towards re-registration.  The vast majority of groups did not have any problems with re-registration.  Liquidation proceedings against functioning organisations which would have preferred to retain their legal status therefore appeared to be a rarity.  The Russian authorities claimed that those organisations which had been refused registration had either been unable to produce the appropriate documentation or were defunct.

    8.         Nevertheless, problems arose because the law is administered at local level, by regional departments of the justice ministry.  In certain cities, local officials delayed or denied registration and sought the liquidation of religious groups, even though they had been registered in other regions or at Federal level.  Two prominent cases of religious organisations, which had been registered at national level, but which had been refused registration at local level were the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Salvation Army.  The City of Moscow Department of Justice filed suit against the Salvation Armyto have the Moscow branch liquidated in September 2001, and won its case on 6 December 2001.  The Salvation Army appealed to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, which ruled in its favour on 7 February 2002.  The Court found that a religious organisation registered prior to the adoption of the 1997 law on religion may not be liquidated purely for failing to re-register by that law’s deadline of 31 December 2000.  Legal rulings made in relation to the Moscow branch of the Salvation Army which followed a divergent interpretation, are now “subject to reconsideration”.  An appeal by the Salvation Army to the European Court of Human Rights is still pending, but might now have been overtaken by events.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses were registered at Federal level in 1999, but the Moscow branch was facing problems with re-registration.  The Russian authorities have also closed a Pentecostal church and in another city, officials have refused to register a Catholic parish as a religious organisation.

    9.         According to the Russian authorities, they are working to cancel religious laws adopted by Russian regions that are more restrictive than the national law.

    10.       Religious minorities frequently complain about the pressure from the dominant role of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Russian Federation.  As pointed out, the religious pluralism is essential in a democratic society, however, it is legitimate for the State to take into account the impact of religion on tradition and culture which constitute the spiritual heritage of a nation’s people.  Most Russians identify themselves as Orthodox Christians and as the only public institution pre-dating Communism, the Orthodox Church is regarded as a key symbol of nation identity even by many non-believers.

    11.       Other hurdles confront established religions, including how to recover church propriety which has been seized by the Soviets or how to obtain permission to build new churches.  Furthermore, there have been problems encountered when bringing in foreign priests.

    B.         Conclusion

    12.       Issues which, in my view, ought to be considered:

    • inconsistencies at different levels of the judicial systemwithin the Russian Federation should be limited.  Identical charters can not deem unacceptable in one region what is considered acceptable in other regions.  Judicial decisions protecting thereligious freedom of minorities should be widely disseminated;

    • there is a need for more co-operation regarding the handling of visas for clergymen and religious followers;

    • citizens whose conviction or religious confession forbids the performance of military service should have the right, in practice, to substitute military service with an alternative civilian service in a proportional way;

    • it is essential that the right of an individual to hold or participate in religious ceremonies in health centres, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes and prisons is guaranteed.

    13.                    To finalise, I wish to say that the Russian authorities have stressed that the legislative, taking into account the historically conditioned multi-confessional heritage in Russia, is observing the provisions of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and that these provisions guarantee human and civil rights and freedoms in accordance with generally recognised principles and are within the standards of international law.

    14.       (The “fight against terrorism” should not be used as an excuse to clamp down on human rights.  However, the attacks carried out on 11 September 2001 have shown that States need to carefully monitor developments on their territory.)

    15.       Furthermore, one must take into account that only about 10 years ago Russia and the other parts of the Soviet Union were closed totalitarian societies.  The newly won democratic pluralism and freedom also brought about a massive and sometimes aggressive missionary effort from North America, Western Europe and Asia.  The rapid spiritual change led to something that could be called a religious identity crisis.

    16.       After our fact-finding visit to Russia, I consider that the new Russian law on religion is a good structure in which religious denominations in the Russian Federation may operate.  As emphasised by the Russian authorities, President Putin pays a lot of attention to this matter and he has spoken out repeatedly in favour of religious freedom.

    17.       The State, while opposed to both extremes: a State religion and a laissez-faire attitude, should favour co-operation with the various religious groups.  It is therefore essential to continue dialogue.


    Reporting committee: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

    Committee for opinion: Political Affairs Committee

    Reference to committee: Doc. 7957 and Reference No. 2238 of 7 November 1997; Doc. 8351 and Reference No. 2373 of 30 March 1999

    Opinion approved by the committee on 5 April 2002

    Secretaries to the committee: Mr Perin, Mrs Ruotanen, Mr Sich, Mr Chevtchenko

    Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

    Russia's law on religion

    Doc. 9409

    16 April 2002

    Committee on Culture, Science and Education
    Rapporteur: Mr Pedro Roseta, Portugal, Group of the European People's Party

    I.         Conclusions of the committee

                The committee generally agrees with Mr McNamara’s opinion that this law is an acceptable basis for relations between the state and the religious communities. However the situation with regard to the media is worrying: different religious groups complain that they are often denied the right of reply. Moreover, religious groups are not given regular air time on state-controlled media.

                The committee proposes to present the following amendments to the excellent draft resolution presented by Mr McNamara on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights:

    Amendment 1

    – At the end of sub para 6 (i), add the following phrase “and in particular their insistence in certain districts that religious organisations obtain prior agreement for their activities from the Russian Orthodox Church”

    Amendment 2

    – After sub para 6 (iv, add a new sub para to read “as regards the media, attention is paid to guaranteeing religious organisations their right to reply”

    Amendment 3

    - At the end of para 6, add a new sub para as follows “as regards state media, religions are guaranteed regular air time”

    Amendment 4

    – Amend para  7 to read  “… the principles contained in Recommendations 1396 (1999) on religion and democracy and 1412 (1999) on illegal activities of sects …;”

    II.        Explanatory memorandum by the rapporteur

    1.         The Committee on Culture, Science and Education has on several occasions given an opinion on the role of religion and its impact on politics. In this connection I refer to the reports on religious tolerance (Recommendation 1202 (1993)), on religion and democracy (Recommendation 1396 (1999)), the two opinions on sects (Recommendation 1178 (1992) and Recommendation 1412 (1999)) and the report on religion and change in central and eastern Europe (Doc. 9399) which will be submitted for debate by the Assembly in April 2002.

    2.         With a view to preparing the present opinion, I accompanied the Rapporteurs of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Mr McNamara, and the Political Affairs Committee, Ms Gatterer, to Moscow in October 2001.

    3.         I generally agree with Mr McNamara’s opinion that this law is an acceptable basis for relations between the state and the religious communities.

    4.         I also agree with him that the main problem appears to be discrimination in the implementation of the law at local and regional levels.  There is a huge disparity in the way the law is applied in the different regions of the Russian Federation and the Assembly should definitely urge the Russian authorities to ensure that the law is uniformly applied.

    5.         It should be noted that the Russian Orthodox Church sometimes plays a very dominant role and is often seen to be the cause of discrimination in the implementation of the law.  Moreover, the concept of “canonical territory”, which the Orthodox Church often uses - whether it be orthodox or non-orthodox  -  to refer to a region or a so-called “traditional” religion which allegedly has different (ie more extensive) rights than other religions, is unacceptable by human rights standards as we in the Council of Europe understand them.

    6.         Under our committee’s terms of reference, I have been given specific responsibility for education and access to the media.  Although the situation with regard to education is acceptable, particularly where the right of religious groups to open private schools is concerned, the situation with regard to the media is worrying: different religious groups complain that they are often denied the right of reply. Moreover, religious groups are no longer given regular air time on state-controlled media.

    Committee for report: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (Doc. 9393)

    Committee for opinion : Committee on Culture, Science and Education

    Reference to the committee: Doc. 7957 and Reference No 2238 of 7 November 1997

    Secretatiat of the committee : Mr. Grayson, Mr Ary, Mrs Theophilova-Permaul, Mr Torcatoriu

    EXTRACT ON RELIGION IN RUSSIA FROM:

    Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

    2002 ORDINARY SESSION

    REPORT

    Tenth sitting

    Tuesday 23 April 2002 at 10 a.m.

           Russia

     Presentation by Mr Atkinson and Mr Bindig of report of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Doc. 9396).

     Presentation by Mr McNamara of report of the Political Affairs Committee (Doc. 9393); by Ms Gatterer of opinion of the Political Affairs Committee (Doc. 9407); and by Mr de Puig of opinion of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education (Doc. 9409).

    Speakers:

    Mr Akçali (Turkey)

    Ms Gamzatova (Russian Federation)

    Mr Hornhues (Germany)

    Mr Olteanu (Romania)

    Mr Shishlov (Russian Federation)

    Mr Jaskiernia (Poland)

    Mr Gaburro (Italy)

    Mr Sudarenkov (Russian Federation)

    Mr Hancock (United Kingdom)

    Mr Seyidov (Azerbaijan)

    Ms Hoffmann (Germany)

    Mr Kirilov (Bulgaria)

    Mr Naumov (Russian Federation)

    Mr Chaklein (Russian Federation)

    Mr Landsbergis (Lithuania)

    Mr Zhvania (Georgia)

    Mr Serguei Kovalev (Russian Federation) 

    Mr Hegyi (Hungary)

    Mr Ali Huseynov (Azerbaijan)

    Mr Slutsky (Russian Federation)

    Mr Akhvlediani (Georgia)

    Russia

    THE PRESIDENT. – The first item of business this morning is the joint debate on the report on the honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation and on the report on the Russian law on religion.

    The list of speakers closed at 6 p.m. yesterday. Thirty-four names are on the list, and thirty-two amendments have been tabled to the two reports.

    I remind you that we have already agreed that we must finish at 12 noon so that Mr Ion Iliescu, President of Romania, can address the Assembly, and that the replies to the debate and the votes will take place this afternoon. I will therefore interrupt the debate at 12 noon.

    I call Mr Atkinson and Mr Bindig, co-rapporteurs of the report of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe. They will have eight minutes in total.

    Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom). – In January 1995, the President and Prime Minister of Russia, together with the two speakers of parliament, signed this historic document committing Russia to the Council of Europe’s standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. After a twelve‑month delay – due to the first Chechen war – the Assembly recommended Russia’s accession in January 1996. Order 193 listed a large number of obligations for Russia to satisfy and they are the subject of our debate today.

    The report before you by Mr Bindig and by me clarifies the considerable progress that has been made in satisfying those commitments. It also clarifies those areas where further progress should be made before we can recommend the closure of the monitoring process.

    Today, under President Putin, there is no doubt that Russia is enjoying the longest period of economic and political stability since its independence of the Soviet Union in 1991. There has been a real increase in the incomes of many. The standard of living is rising. Pensions are being paid.

    A new law on political parties is developing a multi-party system throughout the country. The introduction of seven new federal districts overseen by a presidential envoy is encouraging a common legal and administrative standard. Freedom of expression has long been established, but only now is television broadcasting becoming free of oligarchical control. We shall want media that are politically impartial, economically independent and free of Kremlin influence before the next elections.

    A new land code allows private ownership of non-agricultural land. Now we want this extended to farmland; that would do so much to restore Russia to self-sufficiency in food.

    Russia has ratified a large number of our conventions, including those on the protection of national minorities and the prevention of torture. But it has yet to abolish the death penalty. We must warn our Russian colleagues that, were the current moratorium to be lifted, as the recent motion passed by the Duma has urged, Russia could not long remain a member of the Council of Europe.

    We warmly welcome the new judicial and legal reforms that provide for more and better-paid judges and trial by juries. With the new code on criminal procedure we hope that these will lead to a more efficient judiciary free from corrupting influences. We shall follow the implementation of these reforms closely. However, they are no substitute for the reform of the General Prosecutor’s office and Federal Security Service, which remain outstanding commitments. The cases of Alexander Nikitin, Igor Sutyagin and Gregory Pasko – whom Amnesty International describes as a political prisoner – demonstrates that KGB habits die hard.

    Freedom of religion in Russia is the subject of Mr McNamara’s report, which we endorse. The banning of the Salvation Army and Jehovah’s Witnesses from Moscow is, of course, totally unacceptable. Such examples demonstrate that a Soviet mentality is still in place in the bureaucracy and that in the principal obstacle to progress in Russia today.

    We thank the Russian delegation and secretariat for facilitating the three fact-finding visits that we undertook last year. There will be more visits to come, including to Russia’s regions, but we can assure them that, with the progress that is being made and assuming that the situation in Chechnya has been resolved according to the Assembly’s satisfaction, we can foresee a closure of the monitoring process for Russia after the next elections, providing of course that we find them to be clean, free and fair.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Atkinson. The next speaker is Mr Bindig.

    Mr BINDIG (Germany) said that the main problem in Russia was the unresolved situation in Chechnya. Although the Chechen problem was beyond the mandate of his committee, he called on the Russian authorities to investigate and end any violations of human rights. An overhaul of the judicial system was needed, including a separation of powers, improvement in the conditions of detention and an investigation into the allegations of torture and mistreatment of members of the armed forces. Article 59 of the Russian Constitution should be applied. Progress made by the Russian human rights ombudsman included prison visits and investigations into allegations of mistreatment of members of the armed forces. It was important that the General Prosecutor’s office was reformed and that monitoring was continued.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr McNamara, Rapporteur of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, to present the report of the Political Affairs Committee on the Russian law on religion.

    Mr McNAMARA (United Kingdom). – Thank you. If it is agreeable to the Assembly, I shall surrender some of my minutes to my co-rapporteur from the Political Affairs Committee so that she can have more time, especially as the other co-rapporteur is not with us.

    In 1997, the Russian Federation passed a new law on religions which caused great concern because of what was seen to have been a derogation from the position that originally existed in Russia, following the downfall of communism, which was very liberal indeed. Russian society had been alarmed by the sudden appearance of strange sects and different attitudes to religion from the West and was concerned about the effects that that was having on traditional religion in Russia and on Russian society as a whole. Therefore, this law was passed, but for many people in this Assembly – whose concerns were voiced in a recommendation first introduced by Mr Atkinson and others – there was a feeling that the new law was a step backwards by the Russians, rather than a step forward. Indeed, some of the provisions in the legislation seemed very illiberal indeed and there was much concern felt.

    Actions taken by the Russian Government and, more particularly and more importantly for us as an Assembly, actions taken by the Supreme Court in Russia – including the striking down of part of the law as being against the Russian Constitution and the final decisions taken on the Salvation Army – demonstrated that the new Russia is subject to the rule of law and the Supreme Court has real power, which this Assembly must welcome.

    That is not to say that everything is perfect. Nothing ever is, in Russia or any other member state of the Assembly. The rapporteurs found several causes of concern. I wish to pay tribute to Ms Gatterer, Rapporteur of the Political Affairs Committee, and to Mr Roseta, who was the Rapporteur for the Committee on Culture, Science and Education, but for some unknown reason appears to prefer the post of Minister for Culture in Portugal above the benefits of membership of this Parliamentary Assembly. We wish him well in his new post. I am indebted to them both for the work that they carried out on our visit to Russia, which was well organised by the Russian secretariat – and on which Mr Atkinson has already complimented them.

    The main difficulties that the rapporteurs found were, first, a lack of uniformity in the implementation of the law throughout the Russian Federation, for a variety of reasons. In some areas of Russia, local governments have passed their own laws on religion that run counter to the provisions contained in the constitution and, indeed, the general law that has been passed. Another problem was that the Ministry of Justice did not seem to be proactive in asserting how the law should be implemented. Indeed, at times it seemed incapable of taking control of its own regions, particularly the Moscow region. That caused grave difficulties for some of the religious sects.

    While there was no evidence of any systematic persecution or harassment, we were given indications – not just by the Salvation Army and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but by other groups – of favouritism on the part of local officials towards the Russian Orthodox Church, which seemed to have a monopoly in terms of rights to visit prisons, hospitals and the like, and to act as chaplains to the armed forces. Representatives of other areas had no such rights. When those matters were discussed with the President’s office, it was clear that the office was irritated by the lack of uniformity and the failure to implement the laws properly.

    There have been other recent examples. For instance, following the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy – the Vatican hierarchy – and the establishment of bishoprics in the Russian Federation, there has been a cold stand-off between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, resulting in petty harassment of Catholic priests going to and from the country and the appointment of one of the bishops. It is not my role to make any sort of judgment about the merits of that dispute; as a Christian, however, I regret the lack of ecumenism between the two bodies.

    The overall picture is not of the horror that was originally envisaged, but of a state trying to get to grips with a problem, of local officials exercising too much power and interpreting the law in their own way, of too much subservience to the dominant religious group in certain areas, and of insufficient uniformity. I believe that our proposals will deal with those problems, and I trust that the Assembly will accept them.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I now call Ms Gatterer, Rapporteur of the Political Affairs Committee, to present the committee’s opinion.

    Ms GATTERER (Austria) said that, following the collapse of atheism, Russia had opened its door to religion. There was a new atmosphere of freedom and various religious groups had emerged. A new law had replaced the old 1990 law on religion, but there was concern that it did not meet the Council of Europe’s standards on freedom of religion. Criticisms could be made. There were events concerning the regional authorities and the registration of religious groups, for example in Moscow. The committee had been assured that attempts were being made to achieve harmony. There was overt discrimination between religious groups and religious organisations; however, a different standard could not be set for Russia, as all countries made that distinction. In Russia there were a number of traditional churches and an Islamic community, and there were also other groups. It was not the case that there was no discrimination. Religious freedom was about freedom to practise religion: freedom to have religion, to change religion and to exercise it as seen fit.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr de Puig, Rapporteur of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education, to present that committee’s opinion.

    Mr DE PUIG (Spain) said that he was stepping in at short notice for Mr Roseta, who had been appointed a minister in Portugal and whom he congratulated. The opinion and draft amendments had been endorsed by the committee, which had frequently examined the subject of religion. The committee had produced a report on religion and democracy and had organised events and hearings. The committee had scrutinised religion in Russia and was concerned about discrimination against certain religious groups. The new law was not inherently bad, but some points needed to be reviewed or revised. An important problem was the hegemony of the Russia Orthodox Church, which was anchored in Russian law. The overall opinion of the committee was positive, but some points needed to be re-examined.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr de Puig.

    The debate is now open. The first speaker on the list is Mr Akçali, on behalf of the European Democratic Group.

    Mr AKÇALI (Turkey) congratulated the rapporteurs on their very difficult work. The European Democratic Group had voted in favour of both reports. Russia had fulfilled most of the commitments that were a requirement of its membership of the Council of Europe, but not all. Russia was the biggest member of the Council of Europe in terms of geography and population. It was difficult for Russia to reach Council of Europe standards within the six or seven years of its membership following seventy years of communism.

    There were some problems between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches. In one case a Catholic priest had been deported from the country and there were cases of discrimination. Some Russian authorities had not been giving permission to build Catholic churches. Religious discrimination and ethnic discrimination had appeared. An ethnic group that had been relocated in the time of Stalin, to central Asia, had come into conflict with local people and had been forced to leave.

    There had been no settlement on Chechen issues. The Russian Government claimed conflicts had been investigated and conflict had diminished, but KGB methods were still used.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. The next speaker is Ms Gamzatova, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

    Ms GAMZATOVA (Russian Federation) said Russia was a country where all atheists had become believers. Many divergent faiths had led to problems because of the vacuum of religious knowledge. Other groups had used the vacuum.

    The Russian Federation would not adopt local laws that did not conform to national laws. In parts of the Russian Federation, villages had claimed that they were independent. The local government had adopted laws to stop the situation. Villages had been destroyed by illegal groups. The government had to adopt measures to stop that.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Ms Gamzatova. Mr Olteanu is not here, so the next speaker is Mr Hornhues, on behalf of the European People’s Party.

    Mr HORNHUES (Germany) said the report of the Monitoring Committee contained positive parts. Chechnya was not the subject of the proceedings but the report had still mentioned it. The reform of the system of justice, if put into practice, would be a step towards democracy. The withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria would help Moldova. The Duma had not accepted the abolition of the death penalty.

    It was pleasing that so many Russians were speaking in the debate. He would be grateful if they were to speak more personally on some of the issues raised in the report, particularly the death penalty. The position of the Duma should be made clear. There were many positive things in Russia, but some negative things had also come to light and had been mentioned in the report. His colleagues from the Duma should do what they could to ensure that any future report on Russia was positive.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Hornhues. The next speaker is Mr Olteanu, on behalf of the Socialist Group.

    Mr OLTEANU (Romania) was grateful to the rapporteurs for the reports. No one could claim that enlargement of the Council of Europe would be easy or painless, but inclusion was far better than exclusion. The Assembly had to open up to central and eastern Europe.

    It was essential that the positive steps that Russia had made in democracy and the rule of law in past few years were acknowledged. The accession of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe was an important step towards the re-entry of the Russian Federation into the wider family of Europe.

    The report considered positive issues such as judicial reforms that had recently taken place in the Russian Federation. It also pointed to improvements that were needed but were as yet outstanding. Co‑operation between the Russian Federation and the Council of Europe would be essential until the monitoring process had come to an end. The Assembly had to keep its responsibilities in mind: it had to help to bring Russia to a position where it could accept all the responsibilities of being a member of the Council of Europe.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Olteanu. The next speaker is Mr Shishlov, on behalf of the Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group.

    Mr SHISHLOV (Russian Federation) was very grateful to the rapporteurs for their work in producing the reports. However, he did not share Mr Atkinson’s optimism about the situation. Chechnya was still a big barrier because on a daily basis the law was flouted in Chechnya and innocent people were killed. The people of the Russian Federation needed to see the rule of law and democracy being upheld, but the Russian President and Parliament were not living up to their responsibilities. The situation was worsening every day.

    A manipulative democracy existed in the Russian Federation, and the institutions of democracy there were merely formal bodies which could not deal with the problems. The most important part of democracy was the existence of free media, and that did not exist in the Russian Federation. There were many breaches of press freedoms; one newspaper had had sanctions applied to it and had been shut down because it had not been afraid of telling the truth about the situation in Chechnya.

    The foreign policy of the President was successful, but the standards applied to it were not applied to his domestic policy. The Russian Federation had to make a decision about its future and the liberal, humane values of the Council of Europe had to be taken into account.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Shishlov. The next speaker is Mr Jaskiernia.

    Mr JASKIERNIA (Poland). – We are discussing two very important reports.

    The honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation is a serious subject because Russia is one of the most important members of our Organisation. Several issues and problems lie under its jurisdiction, and we should pursue them according to the values of the Council of Europe.

    First, I congratulate both rapporteurs, Mr Atkinson and Mr Bindig, on a very objective and balanced report. I also congratulate Mr McNamara on the report of the Political Affairs Committee.

    The commitments that the Russian Federation has already honoured are very impressive. I recall the discussions four years ago. Some people did not believe that Russia could deliver as much as it has done. Of course, we cannot end the monitoring procedure as some important issues are still outstanding. There is a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, but that is not enough. We want the death penalty to be abolished, so we are very worried about the State Duma resolution of 15 February, which was in favour of that penalty and goes against the values of the Council of Europe.

    We want the Russian Federation to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and we want greater enforcement of the legal reforms that are already on the books. The reforms of the General Prosecutor’s office should also be completed according to the principles of the Council of Europe. When those obligations are honoured, it will be time to end the monitoring procedure as enough progress will have been made.

    On freedom of religion, I must stress one element, which has already been referred to by Mr Akçali and other colleagues: the fact that Bishop Jerzy Mazur has been refused entry to Russian Federation territory. He is the Roman Catholic Bishop of Irkutsk. Even though that situation is unique, it is a serious case and it arouses great emotion in Catholic circles in Russia, Poland, and indeed throughout Europe and in the Vatican. We would like that conflict to be resolved. We want Bishop Jerzy Mazur to have the chance to enter Russian territory to continue his mission as the Bishop of Irkutsk and to undertake his pastoral duties. We do not want to overemphasise that problem, as we hope that it will be resolved. However, religious freedom is an important element. We want all religions, including the Roman Catholic Church, to have a chance in the Russian Federation.

    I congratulate our colleagues from the Russian Federation delegation on the achievements of their country. Progress has been made. I will not mention Chechnya. It is very important, but we have discussed it several times and we hope that that problem will also be solved.

    Several other issues are also important to the monitoring procedure. I stress that that procedure gives the Council of Europe unique leverage. Let us hope that the obligations that have not yet been fulfilled will be fulfilled as soon as possible because we want the Russian Federation to be not only an important member of our Organisation, but a member that defends human rights and religious freedoms and fulfils the democratic principles and those other principles that are the great goal of our Organisation. I hope that that goal will be achieved in the Russian Federation.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Jaskiernia. The next speaker is Mr Gaburro.

    Mr GABURRO (Italy) congratulated the rapporteurs and suggested that the presence of the Orthodox Church explained why other religions were treated differently locally. Problems were encountered when other religions tried to disseminate their message. He called for deeper respect of human rights and help for the Orthodox Church to allow other religions to develop.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Gaburro. The next speaker is Mr Sudarenkov.

    Mr SUDARENKOV (Russian Federation) said that Russia had changed a great deal since becoming a member of the Council of Europe. He emphasised the changes to the Russian Constitution and its greater willingness to adhere to the principles of democracy. Russia had had a five-fold increase in trade and its trade balance was good. The Russian Federation had tried to comply with its commitments. Reports of the Monitoring Committee between 1993 and 1996 had borne that out. The Russian Federation had continued to attempt to fulfil its commitments, for example in banning the death penalty and setting up juries across the Federation. The Russian Federation was working toward fulfilling a further thirteen commitments involving the reform of judicial offices and the bringing about of freedom of religion. The Monitoring Committee had kept a keen eye on the work of the Russian Federation, but a situation of greater trust would give the Federation greater inspiration. Nevertheless, the Federation was willing to co‑operate with the Monitoring Committee.

    The law on freedom of conscience and religious communities had meant that religious communities were considered equal before the law. Some religious communities had a destructive nature and in that respect it was important to assess the situation carefully. All religions in Russia had one aim, but the new religious developments had brought about a change in the field.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Sudarenkov. The next speaker is Mr Hancock.

    Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom). – Like other members, I wish to congratulate the two rapporteurs, Mr Bindig and Mr Atkinson, on the consistency of their report. They have performed a great service to the Assembly. They have not allowed themselves to be seduced by the size of Russia or put off by the size of problems that they face. We are indebted to them, because they have persevered with their task and produced a report.

    When we debated Chechnya and the Ukraine yesterday, the word “progress” was used several times. However, in this report, the two rapporteurs have recognised that enormous steps have been taken and members are right to recognise that. We congratulate not only the members of the Duma but the rapporteurs on their persistence in getting the Russian Government to recognise that progress needs to be made. The report is right to suggest that more than progress has been made. Notable progress has been made, and that is a significant step in the right direction.

    As always in a report produced by these two rapporteurs, the conclusions are firm but fair. The report addresses the ongoing problems that Russia faces and that we as an Assembly face in having Russia as a member of our family. The firmness with which the rapporteurs have addressed the issues should be embraced. We should tell our Russian colleagues in the Assembly and the Duma that we want the dialogue and the progress to continue.

    In a thoughtful and rational approach to religion, our colleague, Kevin McNamara, asked some serious questions about people’s right to take a line on their beliefs – whether religious or not – and on how they should be practised. That right should be honoured. Those of us who know Russia understand that it is made up of not just Moscow and the St Petersburg region. Russia is an enormous country and when it assumes obligations, such as those to the Council of Europe, we have a duty to the whole population. We must ensure that rights and obligations are interpreted consistently and that they are not available only to the citizens of Moscow. Rights should be available to the people of Siberia, the Urals and the far east of Russia. Our rapporteurs have a duty to ensure that human rights are delivered consistently across the country.

    Many members have said that more needs to be done and expressed their disappointment on the issue of the death penalty. Its reintroduction would instantly mean that Russia is no longer an acceptable member of our family. That point should be clearly understood, and there should not and cannot be exceptions in this case. Whether the Duma likes it or not, a vote insisting on the reintroduction of the death penalty would mean the instant dismissal of the Russian Federation from the Council of Europe. We cannot compromise on that, and that point must be made clear.

    We should also consider the ongoing problems relating to the way in which prisoners are held. Torture still features among many of the criticisms about what is happening in Russia.

    As our rapporteurs have said, we should accept that enormous progress has been made. A decade ago, none of us would have believed that such a report could have been written. It is a compliment to Russia and to the elected and unelected politicians in the region who have made such big efforts. It is always possible to admire what a small country has done. However, in a country such as Russia, there is no task that is not formidable. We should applaud its path to democracy and continue to support its efforts.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Hancock. The next speaker is Mr Seyidov.

    Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan). – Thank you, Mr President, for giving me the floor. I also wish to thank the rapporteurs, Mr Bindig and Mr Atkinson, for the extremely important report that they have just presented to the Assembly.

         We are a small neighbour of the Russian Federation and we are very interested in the processes that are going on in Russia. We believe that progress and democracy in Russia are closely correlated with a stable situation in our region. The report presented by Mr Bindig and by Mr Atkinson is extremely important in that respect. During the last year, as a full member of the Council of Europe, we were able to observe the honouring of the obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation and we welcome the progress made by the Russian authorities. We can read of that progress in the report. I also wish to say thank you to our colleagues from the Parliamentary Assembly who have done much work towards that progress, which is the result of their common work.

    Russia is a big country and has many different problems. We try to understand the difficulties and obstacles that Russia has met in the process of democratisation. The co-rapporteurs and the Monitoring Committee agreed that attention should be directed to the implementation of several important obligations, including the need to maintain friendly relations with neighbouring states.

    Relations between Azerbaijan and Russia – a relationship between a big state and its smaller neighbour – are very important from the point of view of the fulfilment of the obligations of the Russian Federation. The history of the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia has many difficult, sensitive and sometimes painful problems, but in spite of all the obstacles we can bear witness that in the last two years our bilateral relations, as a result of negotiation and communication, have helped us to create a democratic base for future co-operation. Our agreements on the Caspian Sea and on the economy and education, which take into account difficult regional conflicts, confirm the territorial integrity of our republics and show that it is possible to establish good relations with a big and democratic Russia. That was possible because democratic values have rapidly improved in Russia. We welcome that progress. Relations between Azerbaijan and Russia could now be a good example for other neighbouring countries to follow.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Seyidov. The next speaker is Ms Hoffmann.

    Ms HOFFMANN (Germany) said the report showed Russia was on the right road but had some way to go. It pointed towards deficiencies, such as press freedom. Implementation of the law had occurred but would take time.

    The Chechen conflict continued to claim victims on both sides. There was a danger that the Caucasus region would be destabilised. The Russian position did not conform with international law. Inspection trips to Chechnya had not been satisfactory. In the Duma, Russia had to discuss how European democrats viewed the conflict, and a solution had to be found. Third party intermediation should be welcomed and the rights, freedom and security of the people should be observed.

    Russia was still in transformation and co-operation with the Council of Europe should be strengthened.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Ms Hoffmann. The next speaker is Mr Kirilov.

    Mr KIRILOV (Bulgaria). – We must all pay due tribute to the rapporteurs for a good and objective analysis of what the Russian Federation has and has not accomplished as far as the high democratic standards of the Council of Europe are concerned. There has been undeniable progress, but some issues are still outstanding. The report is a balanced document which I support.

    After the last parliamentary and presidential elections, the state of political uncertainty in Russia is over and there is a firm trend towards institutional stability. That is definitely a good trend, which is supported by a solid majority in the Duma. There has also been a consolidation of the political system, which brings stability. As for the economy and the general political situation, we have seen another big accomplishment which is not often remarked on – the diminution in the role of the oligarchs in Russia. We know the role that they used to play in the political system. I agree with critics of state interference with the free press, but there was unacceptable interference from the oligarchs with the press. I was happy to see, for instance, that Berezovsky is no longer the influence in the press that he used to be.

    There is clearly a need for a big effort to reform the legal system, although reforms have already taken place in many areas. Time does not allow me to expand on that subject.

    I return to the subject of Chechnya. We all remember the heated debates in which we engaged not long ago. This was a big test of democracy in Russia and for the delegation from the Duma, but together we managed to pass it. The problems have not been entirely solved, and solving them will be a long, slow and difficult process, but what is important is that we are on the way towards solving them, and we are discussing the issues. After the debate during which we decided to remove the Russian delegation’s power to vote, I noted that the Duma’s reaction was on the whole constructive. The test was passed quite well.

    Another test was 11 September. There was a crucial moment when the Russian Federation and President Putin himself established themselves strongly as being on the side of the world’s anti-terrorism coalition, as a responsible and important player. That too was a very positive development. A further positive development was the revision of the plans for more growth in the Russian economy, and for more attention to be paid to it.

    I stress the importance of issues connected with a forthcoming event, the signing in Rome of an historic agreement between Nato and the Russian Federation. Even at this point I can safely describe that as a cornerstone in the building of a stable and secure structure for Europe.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Naumov.

    Mr NAUMOV (Russian Federation) was grateful to the rapporteurs for their work on the reports. Russia had to make efforts to fulfill commitments that it had made when it joined the Council of Europe.

    Getting rid of the death penalty was not an easy matter. Public opinion was not yet ready to turn its back on that method of punishment. Recent opinion polls and independent research had shown that. His political party was categorically opposed to the death penalty and would try to educate people to turn against it. Crime was rising in the Russian Federation. That needed to be dealt with to bring about a change in the criminal environment, and that would help people to change their minds about the death penalty.

    The report pointed to corruption within the Russian Federation. The help and co‑operation of the Council of Europe were needed to address the problem. An international fight against corruption would help to reduce it. If the Council of Europe were to adopt a position on corruption, that would be welcomed by his party and, he believed, by the population as a whole. It was essential to try to cure the Russian Federation of that sickness.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Chaklein.

    Mr CHAKLEIN (Russian Federation) said that, as a member of the Duma, he could say that the accession of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe had added dynamism to endeavours which had been ongoing. Co-operation with the Council of Europe had been a great help, but he was well aware that the work was not yet complete.

    Mr McNamara had worked successfully in investigating the Russian Federation’s law on religion. Federal legislation had provided for the re-registration of religious organisations within the Russian Federation. He believed that the points made during the debate and in the report would be taken into account by the Russian Federation to improve its legislation.

    Not all the problems which had been identified could be solved so rapidly. The Republic of Chechyna would not be sorted out overnight. Its problems, and indeed those of the Russian Federation, could not be solved quickly. Dialogue was needed. Co-operation with the Council of Europe would help to resolve the situation in Chechnya.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Chaklein. The next speaker is Mr Landsbergis.

    Mr LANDSBERGIS (Lithuania). – Mr President, dear colleagues, we are considering a great work: the report on fulfilling and not fulfilling the obligations and commitments taken by the Russian Federation in 1996. That very informative document includes fair analysis, criticism and requests for improvements. It does a good service for Russia. Although, unfortunately, it excludes Chechnya, it differs from Russia’s fake, unauthorised monitoring of Chechnya, which represents an unbelievable privilege for one special member state, making it first among equals.

    Clearly, Mr Rogozin is moving the hand of Lord Judd in writing reports on the Chechen war which praise Russia’s achievement. That is not a fair game, nor does it provide a good service to our Russian friends. The Russian people have the human right to live without the risk to their lives or their homes from professional Russian bombers, either in Grozny or in Moscow.

    Russians in Chechnya had their homes ruined by the actions of fleeing Moscovites. One could say, “Be fair, Mr Commissioner, and do not say that local Russians were expelled by Chechens. On the contrary, the truth is completely different.” Russian people have the human right to know the truth about all the explosions in 1999, including the one that failed to happen in Riazan. The Duma did not want an investigation. A year ago the majority voted against it, but we are not the Duma yet. The people have the right to be informed. It is not just about the freedom of the media business, but about the common people having free access to non-selected information.

    One principal gap remains. Rapporteurs have said that many of Russia’s commitments remained unfulfilled. Let us urge Russia to fulfil them all now. The truth is that Russia’s commitments have never really had to be met because we have repeatedly told Russia, “Don’t worry, dear sister. In some years we will urge you once more.” The system of appeasement has to be changed. If we want Russia to improve, we must also improve. We have to be more self-critical and not to sell so easily any legitimate government, as happened with the legitimate government of President Maskhadov which the Council of Europe sold for a single penny, and a handshake somewhere in Moscow. Thank you for your attention.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Landsbergis. I call Mr Zhvania.

    Mr ZHVANIA (Georgia). – Thank you, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen. I am afraid that I must raise issues that have nothing to do with the Russian obligations towards members of the Council of Europe, but concern the very essence of the work of the Council of Europe, the pan-European process and the modern international community in general.

    Some ten days ago, about 100 Russian paratroopers landed in the small village of Ajara in Kodori Gorge in Georgia. This military provocation was entirely unexpected. Nor was it understandable. It threatened stability not just in the region, but throughout the country. Only the risky arrival of President Shevardnadze in the area avoided new major violence.

    Some six weeks ago the Russian state Duma adopted a resolution on the situation in Georgia. It stated that in the event of unfavourable developments in negotiating a peaceful settlement of the Georgian and Abkhazian conflicts, the Duma would be ready to discuss alternative ways of developing statehood for the people of this separatist region of my country.

    Some seven weeks ago the Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, declared that Russia would delay the withdrawal from military bases on Georgian territory. The terms and conditions of that withdrawal were agreed at the Istanbul summit of the Organisation for Security and Co‑operation in Europe countries. All this, as well as an unprecedented statement by the foreign affairs committee of the Duma that it would consider recognising the independence of Abkhazia in south Caucasus, represents a response by some of our Russian colleagues to Georgia’s new co-operation with the United States on the provision of training and equipment for Georgian special forces dealing with terrorist problems in our country.

    Does all this have anything to do with Russia’s obligations? Certainly not, but, dear friends and colleagues, can you think of any member state of the Council of Europe treating its small neighbour in the manner in which Russia is treating Georgia? I am terribly sorry that I am spoiling the harmonious debate this morning, but I am the voice of 5 million Georgians who celebrated our entry to the Council of Europe because they believed that it would provide a strong guarantee of their sovereignty and independence and proof that the era of the cold war, and the world being divided into different spheres of influence, was over. Unfortunately, many of my fellow citizens are more than frustrated and I am forced to raise these issues here. I am sure that Russia respecting its peace obligations means not only developing internal institutions, but changing its international policies and its attitude towards its neighbours.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Zhvania. The next speaker is Mr Kovalev.

    Mr Serguei KOVALEV (Russian Federation) stressed that it would have been better if the Council of Europe had concentrated on the way things were developing in Russia. The higher authorities in Russia had declared that they were trying to build a “managed democracy”. As regards religious freedom, he questioned why a new law on freedom of conscience was necessary. The new law was required by the higher echelons of the Orthodox Church as they sought to get back to the position of being the official state religion. The Orthodox Church was lobbying for discriminatory treatment in its favour. There were draft laws before the Duma to get closer links between the state and the church. For example, the clergy would become civil servants and state religious education would be taught in state schools. That was a matter of great concern.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Kovalev. The next speaker is Mr Hegyi.

    Mr HEGYI (Hungary). – I want to speak about freedom of the press in Russia, but my feeling is that something is lacking from this debate: the social situation in Russia. We can say many interesting things about so-called freedoms and rights, but I have to mention that tens of millions of Russian people live in worse conditions than they did before. It will be a long process before Russia becomes a socially developed country. Not only politicians and journalists but the rank and file in Russia are living under very bad conditions. We have to remind ourselves of that sad fact.

    On the freedom of the press, yesterday, a hearing was organised by the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of this Assembly. The general attitude was that the battle for freedom of the media in Russia was neither won nor lost. Basically, in principle, there is freedom of the press but in many details it is missing. The public media is under government control. I am sad to say that such control exists even in my country of Hungary. We hear that there are the same dangers in Italy and many other countries.

    Where there is no independent television, there is a need for private television channels. As many of you know, there is no independent private TV channel in Russia at the moment. It is important to re‑open TV6 and to have independent control of government.

    The printed media is, in principle, free in Russia, but that mainly applies to the so-called national newspapers. There is a big problem in the regions, where the media are sometimes totally controlled by the governors. We have to remind ourselves that not everyone reads and speaks Russian in Russia. There are many small nations with ethnic languages. For example, in the Mari Republic, Finno‑Ugrit is spoken. Every Mari and Udmut language paper is owned, sponsored and controlled by the local authorities. Their circulation is low. They do not have advertisements. Independence is endangered by state influence.

    It has to be mentioned that the life of Russian journalists is permanently in danger. Seventeen journalists were killed last year in Russia. There were more than one hundred attacks on journalists, not all because of their political beliefs. Sometimes, the attacks were by gangsters, sometimes by those in economic circles who were afraid of the journalists. In any case, it cannot be tolerated.

    One problem is that the journalists’ associations fight each other instead of fighting together for journalists’ rights. It is not the first time that I am here listening to a debate on Russia. I would like to underline that there is competition between the Kremlin and the so-called liberal financial circles, but there is a third partner: the Russian people themselves. Thank you.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Hegyi. The next speaker is Mr Huseynov.

    Mr Ali HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) thanked the rapporteurs for their work. Mr McNamara had said that things were not as bad as had been thought. Often, when issues were raised in the Council of Europe they appeared to be awful but were not as bad when examined in detail.

    Since 11 September, there had been some difficulty in distinguishing between human rights and terrorism in Chechnya. Those living in that region had difficulty in judging the difference. In Russia the situation had improved in respect of the criminal system but much work was still needed, for example in respect of capital punishment. The Council of Europe had recently met Russian representatives at a conference on the death penalty. It had been said that public opinion did not allow the abolition of the death penalty in Russia, but in reality there was a lack of political will. Following awful crimes, citizens had appealed to the Russian Government to remove the moratorium. It should be concluded, however, that the state should not interfere with life or death. There was public opinion in support of the death penalty even in countries that did not have it. Colleagues were called upon to support the enforcement of Protocol No. 6.

          THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you Mr Huseynov. The next speaker is Mr Slutsky.

    Mr SLUTSKY (Russian Federation) said that he could not agree with what had been said about the management in Russia of an image of democracy. There were many problems in Russia but there was a difficulty in achieving success over only one decade since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was difficult to persuade people that the abolition of the death penalty would not result in a rise in crime or in problems combating terrorist acts where many had been killed. It was a moral issue and not just a way of exerting pressure.

    He noted there had been progress on draft laws in Russia on the alternatives to military service by the young.

    The mention of minorities in the report showed double standards by the Council of Europe. The report said discrimination was rife in Russia. Twenty minorities had their own territory, media and culture in Russia. Some Council of Europe countries had not recognised minorities or their languages. The report made no mention of the Turks in Georgia returning.

    The Russian Orthodox Church was separate from the state. There was no example of the Russian Orthodox Church having not given permission for other religions to proceed.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Slutsky. I should warn colleagues that the next speaker may well be the last to be called. The next speaker is Mr Akhvlediani.

    Mr AKHVLEDIANI (Georgia). – My dear rapporteurs, I thank you for the significant job that you have done and hope that you will continue with that work.

    I want to mention positive aspects of Russian democracy, but I can speak only about some of them. I must mention the negative influence that Russia has on the situation in my country. In Georgia, we attentively observe the democratic process and we completely support the territorial integrity of Russia. Unfortunately, Russia applies double standards to Georgia by openly supporting the separatist leaders of Abkhazia. Furthermore, the military action in the Kodori Gorge was direct interference in the internal affairs of Georgia.

    Georgia always favours equal and good relations with Russia. Georgia supports strengthening of the democratic process in and European integration for Russia. However, those double standards seriously complicate Georgian-Russian relations as well as obviously demonstrating the weak points of Russian democracy.

    It is particularly disappointing that the aggressive actions of the Russian generals are backed by the absurd statements of some Russian politicians, who neglect the sovereignty of Georgia. Unfortunately, our colleague Mr Rogozin demonstrated that. By his aggressive statements, he interferes in the sovereign rights of an independent Georgia. He is one of the best examples of that Russian attitude.

    I am convinced that common sense will prevail and that the Russian authorities, as well as the Russian delegation here in Strasbourg, will do their best to normalise the traditionally good Georgian‑Russian relations. I am sure that the Council of Europe will further that process in future, will not allow further Russian military aggression against my country and will do all that is possible to restore the territorial integrity of Georgia.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Akhvlediani.

    I must now interrupt the list of speakers. I remind you that members who are on the list and present in the Chamber but who have not been called may submit their speeches in typescript to the Table Office within twenty-four hours for publication in the official report.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) raised a point of order and asked that the next Russian delegate be allowed to speak before the sitting was suspended.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Unfortunately, Mr Rogozin, the position on the list of speakers was predetermined and is not within my control. Of course, there will be an opportunity to speak on the amendments later.

    I remind members that replies to the debate and the vote will take place this afternoon after questions to the Committee of Ministers. I now suspend the sitting.

    (The sitting, suspended at 11.56 a.m., was resumed at 12 noon with Mr Schieder, President of the Assembly, in the Chair.)

    AFTERNOON SESSION 

    (Second part)

    REPORT

    Tenth sitting

    Tuesday 23 April 2002 at 3 p.m.

    5.        Russia (resumed debate)

    Speakers:

    Mr McNamara (United Kingdom)

    Ms Gatterer (Austria)

    Mr De Puig (Spain)

    Mr Atkinson (United Kingdom)

    Mr Bársony (Hungary)

    Amendments Nos. 15, 14, 2, 3, 13, 21, an oral amendment, 18, 19 as amended, 20 and 4 adopted.

    Draft resolution in Doc. 9396, as amended, adopted.

    Amendments No. 9, as amended, and No. 10 adopted.

    Draft recommendation in Doc. 9396, as amended, adopted.

    Amendments Nos. 2, 7, 6 as amended, 9 and 10 adopted.

    Draft resolution in Doc. 9393, as amended, adopted.

    5. Russia (resumed debate)

    THE PRESIDENT. – We now turn to the concluding remarks to this morning’s debate on the two reports concerning the Russian Federation.

    Mr McNamara, rapporteur of the report on the Russian law on religion, has four minutes to be shared – if Mr McNamara wishes – with the two rapporteurs for opinion.

    You, Mr McNamara, have four minutes. If any time is left, I will give the floor first to Ms Gatterer and then to Mr de Puig. I will then ask the Chairman of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Mr Lintner, to speak for two minutes. I will then call Mr Atkinson and Mr Bindig, the co-rapporteurs, who will have four minutes between them. I will then ask the Chairman of the Monitoring Committee, Mr Bársony, to speak for two minutes. That is the correct way to proceed.

    Mr McNamara, you have the floor.

    Mr McNAMARA (United Kingdom). – In the list of people I failed to thank today, I forgot the Secretariat of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and, in particular, Mrs Kleinsorge. I mention her because she is shortly to go on maternity leave. When she is away, she will be badly missed by the committee. We hope that she has a successful confinement and I hope that the child will be as beautiful and intelligent as its mother or as handsome and intelligent as its father. We are grateful for the work that she has done and will miss her very much.

    The majority of the comments in the debate, particularly those from our Russian colleagues, were constructive. They understood the nature of the problem. It is not a governmental issue. It is a local issue caused by petty harassment by local officials and by people trying to be more orthodox than the Patriarch himself. That was shown in the comments of Mr Akçali when he spoke about the petty harassment of Roman Catholic clergymen following the establishment of a Catholic hierarchy and bishoprics in the Russian Federation. Such petty harassment should cease. It is against the spirit and the letter of the Russian Constitution and denies what the constitution establishes, which is the separation of Church and state.

    We have heard how far Russia has advanced on the particular issue of the law of religion, but many of us would not have started from here. However, given that we started from where we did, progress has been made. We want that progress to continue and to iron out the various difficulties that exist. I believe that the spirit is there in the government, but in many ways it is being lost at a local level, with officials using the law to their petty advantage – perhaps even with a degree of corruption.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. There are two minutes left. Ms Gatterer, you may share them with Mr de Puig.

    Ms GATTERER (Austria) said it was important that the Russian Federation gave more travel permits for priests and provided for civil service instead of military service, for conscientious reasons. The law as presented covered basic rights for freedom of religion, but more needed to be done.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr de Puig.

    Mr DE PUIG (Spain) agreed with Mr McNamara. He hoped his amendments would be adopted later in the day.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. Mr Lintner is not here, so there are four minutes for Mr Atkinson and Mr Bindig. How will you share them?

    Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom). – I shall take all four minutes and I am grateful to Mr Bindig for his generosity. The majority of speakers in the debate echoed the positive approach that he and I have sought in order to encourage the progress that Russia has made towards meeting its obligations. Several speakers rightly reminded us that Chechnya remains an outstanding obstacle. Let me confirm once again to the Assembly that we can recommend a closing of the monitoring process for Russia only when the situation has been resolved to our satisfaction. In addition, as several speakers confirmed, Russia must abolish the death penalty, however difficult that will be – it was difficult in our own countries – before we can close the monitoring process.

    I thought that Mr Chaklein summed up the position that Russia has achieved very well by saying that it has been difficult for Russia to fulfil its commitments in just seven years of freedom after seventy years of Soviet communism, but – as Mr Hancock said – the progress that has been made could not have been anticipated when it joined, seven years ago. We heard from Mr Shishlov and Mr Serguei Kovalev about some worsening problems in Russia. They said that human rights were less protected in Russia today than before. Mr Kovalev called Russia a managed democracy and we heard from our two Georgian colleagues about Russian military incursion into Georgia and interference in its internal affairs. In response, Mr Valionis, the minister, said that he anticipated that that situation would return to normal.

    I wish to thank Mr McNamara for doing part of our work for us, through the extremely valuable work of his report, which was done in response to my original motion on the effect of the new religious freedom law in Russia in 1997. I hope that his report and the resolution that we will pass this afternoon will contribute to ending the problems that are still being experienced by some Churches and religious organisations in that country. The two rapporteurs will take into account all the valuable points that have been made in the debate and carry it on during our further forthcoming fact-finding visits to Russia, including those to its regions. We look forward in our next report to being able to report further progress to you, so that we are able to end the monitoring of Russia by this Assembly, as we had hoped to do after the next parliamentary and presidential elections in 2003 and 2004.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. If Mr Bársony wishes to speak he has two minutes.

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – More than six years ago in January 1996, as the Chairman of the Political Affairs Committee, I had the privilege of presenting the final argument to the Assembly in favour of the admission of the Russian Federation. After six years, we can see that the Assembly made a very wise decision. Although there were widespread emotional opinions against the whole procedure – and emotions are very important in human life – the facts and the trends in the development of the European continent are more important. Emotions alone cannot be the deciding factor.

    When I propose that the Assembly accepts the position of the Monitoring Committee in the draft resolution and recommendation, and in the amendments, I once again ask you to understand the emotions of all sides throughout Europe to the past of this big country – and to accept those emotions – but, for the sake of Russia's future prospects and those of the whole European continent, to take into account the facts and the truth before voting.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you.

    We now turn to the votes on the reports which were debated this morning. We take first the draft resolution in Document 9396, to which there are seventeen amendments and one oral amendment. We will consider the items in the following order: 1, 15, 16, 14, 2, 3, 11, 12, 13, 21, 17, 18, 19, 20, 4, 5 and 6.

    (Mr Behrendt, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Schieder.)

    THE PRESIDENT. – We come to Amendment No. 1, tabled by Mr Neguta, Mr Marmazov, Mr Rakhansky, Ms Jirousová, Mr Carvalho, Mr Rogozin, Mr Seyidov, Mr Ali Huseynov, Mr Goulet, Mr Margelov, Ms Belohorská, Mr Bakulin, Mr Sharandin, Mr Fedorov, Mr Sudarenkov, Mr Grachev and Mr Bulavinov, which is, in the draft resolution, delete paragraph 8.i and insert a new paragraph as follows:

    “The Assembly takes note of the efforts undertaken by Russia to normalise the situation in the Chechen Republic. It reiterates its call on the Russian authorities to conduct a proper investigation into all cases of human rights violations.”

    I call Mr Rogozin to support Amendment No. 1.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said that Amendment No. 1 sought to take further steps to normalise the situation in Chechnya.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr Bindig.

    Mr BINDIG (Germany) said that the amendment referred to a situation that did not exist in Chechnya.

    THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee is against.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 1 is rejected.

    We now come to Amendment No. 15, tabled by Mr Landsbergis, Mr Libicki, Ms Tevdoradze, Ms Shakhtakhtinskaya, Mr Dobelis and Mr Holovaty, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 8.i, after the first sentence, insert the words:

    “It states that a cease-fire introduced immediately with the consent of both conflicting sides is the means to save human lives and the preferable precondition for a peaceful settlement, which has been consistently requested by the Assembly;”.

    I call Mr Landsbergis to support the amendment.

    Mr LANDSBERGIS (Lithuania). – Our choice is clear and simple: we favour fire, or we favour a cease-fire, which has so often been the preferred peaceful solution. I ask all members of the Russian delegation to support the amendment, and not to vote as a war party.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Rogozin.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said that of course he would not vote against a cease-fire, but the amendment referred to terrorists. They themselves did not want a cease-fire.

    THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee is in favour.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 15 is adopted.

    We now come to Amendment No. 16, tabled by Mr Landsbergis, Mr Libicki, Ms Tevdoradze, Ms Shakhtakhtinskaya, Mr Dobelis and Mr Holovaty, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 8.i, insert a new sub-paragraph as follows:

    “Concerning the political terrorism in Russia, the Assembly regrets the lack of proper judicial or, at least, parliamentary investigation of bombing cases in Moscow and Volgodonsk, as well as the similar attempted explosion in Riazan, in which the FSB was involved;”.

    I call Mr Landsbergis to support the amendment.

    Mr LANDSBERGIS (Lithuania). – Russian parliamentarians are trying to establish a parliamentary or semi-parliamentary committee to bring about a more proper investigation of at least one scandal, involving an attempted explosion in a residential house in Riazan, in which FSB personnel were involved. As parliamentarians, we should be in favour of parliamentary control over executives.

    I remind the Assembly that that involvement is a fact, proved by the FSB chief General Patrushev on the day of the event. He said “Yes, they were my guys, but they were only exercising with explosives in that basement.”

    When someone who is suspected proceeds to investigate himself, an independent parliamentary view is normally recommended. That is all we ask in this amendment. Please support democracy.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Rogozin.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said that the Russian authorities should be allowed to investigate the matter themselves.

    THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee is against the amendment for two reasons. First, an investigation, or an exchange of views, took place initially in the Russian Duma. Secondly, this is not a simple amendment but a statement by those who tabled it – a statement about something for which there was never any clear evidence. It might be reasonable to ask for an investigation, but to insert a statement of this kind into the draft resolution would mislead the Assembly.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 16 is rejected.

    We now come to Amendment No. 14, tabled by Mr Atkinson and Mr Bindig, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 8.viii, after the words “secret services”, delete the words:

    “which was passed in July 2001”.

    I call Mr Atkinson to support the amendment.

    Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom). – In fact, it is inaccurate to say that the new law on the secret services was passed in July 2001, but that is what we had been told. We have now been informed that it is not the case, so we want the words “which was passed in July 2001” to be removed for the sake of accuracy.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The committee is obviously in favour.

    The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 14 is adopted.

    We now come to Amendment No. 2, tabled by Mr Neguta, Mr Marmazov, Mr Rakhansky, Mr Carvalho, Mr Rogozin, Mr Seyidov, Mr Ali Huseynov, Mr Goulet, Mr Margelov, Mr Bakulin, Mr Sharandin, Mr Fedorov, Mr Sudarenkov, Mr Grachev and Mr Bulavinov, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 8.ix, after the words “the CPT and” add the words:

    “calls on Russia to”.

    I call Mr Rogozin to support the amendment.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said the amendment was necessary to show respect for the Council of Europe.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.

    What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – In favour.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 2 is adopted.

    We now come to Amendment No. 3, tabled by Mr Neguta, Mr Marmazov, Mr Rakhansky, Mr Carvalho, Mr Rogozin, Mr Seyidov, Mr Ali Huseynov, Mr Abbasov, Mr Margelov, Mr Goulet, Ms Belohorská, Mr Bakulin, Mrs Burbienė, Mr Cilevičs, Ms Štěpová, Mr Sharandin, Mr Fedorov, Mr Tulaev, Mr Sudarenkov, Mr Grachev and Mr Bulavinov, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 8.xi, delete the second sentence.

    I call Mr Rogozin to support Amendment No. 3.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said the amendment was necessary because the content of the relevant paragraph was out of date.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    That is not the case.

    What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – In favour.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 3 is adopted.

    We now come to Amendment No. 11, tabled by Mr Landsbergis, Mr Olekas, Mr Libicki, Mr Dobelis, Mr Holovaty and Mr Čekuolis, which is in the draft resolution, after paragraph 8.xi, insert a new sub-paragraph as follows:

    “The Assembly expresses its deep concern at the high level of violence against women, in particular domestic violence which, according to official information, results in the deaths of many women. The Assembly is also concerned that Russian law enforcement officials view domestic violence as a private matter between spouses and not as a criminal offence.

    In this regard, the Assembly urges the Russian government to introduce public awareness campaigns on domestic violence and to adopt specific legislation and to implement effective enforcement procedures to combat domestic violence and to prosecute the perpetrators.”

    I call Ms Zwerver to support Amendment No. 11.

    Ms ZWERVER (Netherlands). – Thank you, Mr President. There is a high level of violence against women in Russian society. Many women die as a result of domestic violence and in many cases the police regard domestic violence as a private matter rather than a criminal offence.

    The amendment asks for a public awareness campaign on domestic violence and specific legislation to combat domestic violence and prosecute the perpetrators of it.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Ms Zwerver. Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr Hancock.

    Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom). – I doubt whether anyone dissents from the opinion of the supporter of the amendment. However, domestic violence against women is not unique to Russia. The issue is not mentioned in the substance of the report; therefore it is manifestly unfair to single out Russia to have to deal with a problem that occurs in all member states. There is a dimension to the amendment which is unfair to the report and to Russia. Therefore, while nobody dissents from the sentiments expressed in the amendment, which should be endorsed by us all, it is unfair to place this obligation on Russia alone when it is clearly an obligation on us all.

    THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee almost shared the views expressed by Mr Hancock for two reasons. First, during our lengthy debates on Russia’s commitments and obligations no one has raised this issue, although some of those who have put their names to the amendment are members of the committee. As the issue has never been raised, there has never been an opportunity to present clear evidence of the situation described in the amendment.

    The second reason may be procedural. We are discussing the obligations and commitments of the Russian Federation. This subject has never been singled out as a special commitment. It is a matter of rules. What is the intention of the committee and what is its authority to reject amendments that are not part of the remit of the committee or its rapporteurs and are not the subject of the report? The situation may or may not be true, but as it has not been investigated or analysed it is very hard to make a judgment, so it is better for the committee to reject the amendment.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 11 is rejected.

    We now come to Amendment No. 12, which is tabled by Ms Zwerver, Mrs Vermot-Mangold, Mrs Nabholz-Haidegger, Mr Jaskiernia, Mr Kolb and Mr Serguei Kovalev, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 8.xi, insert a new sub-paragraph as follows:

    “The Assembly expresses its deep concern at the high-levels of ethnically-motivated violence by groups of ‘skin-heads’ against dark-skinned persons, including persons from Africa, Asia, the Middle-East and the Caucasus, including ethnic Chechens. The Assembly is further concerned that law-enforcement officials often fail adequately to investigate or prosecute the perpetrators of these attacks or to classify them as ethnically-motivated.

    In this regard, the Assembly urges the Russian government vigorously to investigate and to prosecute all cases of ethnically-motivated violence against ethnic-minorities across the country.”

    THE PRESIDENT. – I call Ms Zwerver to support Amendment No. 12.

    Ms ZWERVER (Netherlands). – According to Amnesty International, to which I should have referred in support of Amendment No. 11, 40 000 women were killed in Russia in 1997 due to domestic violence. There is also violence committed by skinheads against dark-skinned persons. Ethnically motivated violence is a great problem in Russia. The Russian Government recognises it, but the police often fail adequately to investigate these crimes and prosecute the perpetrators.

    The amendment asks the Russian Government to investigate and prosecute all cases of ethnically motivated violence against ethnic minorities. Certainly these days we should look very closely into these issues, so I hope that the Assembly will support the amendment.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr Rogozin.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said that there were people with many different hairstyles in Russia and that being a skinhead did not mean a person was racist. Incidents of ethnically motivated racism had been isolated.

    THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – For different reasons the committee rejected this amendment. First, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly presents resolutions and recommendations in more or less legal terminology. These documents serve as legal references in certain countries. I fully understand that newspapers refer to skinheads, rockers and other groups, but those groups cannot be referred to in this way in serious legal documents. Of course we understand the intention behind the amendment, which is to deny all words and actions expressing hatred against minority groups in society, but we cannot define them in the same way as they are defined in certain newspapers. Mentioning skinheads could serve as a precedent so that next week we could be referring to the long-haired group or something similar. Those terms cannot be used as a legal reference.

    Secondly, the amendment refers to issues that have never been presented to the rapporteurs. We cannot improvise in this way. The report and the consequences of the report and the draft resolution and recommendations must be taken into account seriously in the Russian Parliament, so the committee must reject it.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 12 is rejected.

    We come to Amendment No. 13, tabled by Ms Zwerver, Mrs Vermot-Mangold, Mrs Nabholz-Haidegger, Mr Jaskiernia, Mr Kolb and Mr Serguei Kovalev, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 8.xii, second line, after the words “the Assembly”, insert the following words:

    “regrets that restrictive registration requirements continue to be enforced, often in a discriminatory manner, against ethnic minorities. Therefore, the Assembly”

    I call Mrs Vermot-Mangold to support Amendment No. 13.

    Mrs VERMOT-MANGOLD (Switzerland) said that Amendment No. 13 was important in combating racism and exclusion of minorities through propiska.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr Rogozin.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said that it was the first time he had heard of the use of propiska against ethnic minorities and that it was designed to be used in respect of people from neighbouring towns.

    THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee is in favour.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 13 is adopted.

    We come to Amendment No. 21, tabled by Ms de Zulueta, Mr Crema, Mrs Vermot-Mangold, Ms Zwerver and Mr Cilevičs, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 8.xii, add a new sub-paragraph as follows:

    “The Assembly expresses its consternation following the measures taken by the Krasnodar authorities with a view to the expulsion of the Meskhetian population from Russian territories, and expects the authorities of the Russian Federation to seek a permanent solution by means of dialogue with the Meskhetians concerned and the authorities of Georgia”.

    I call Mrs Vermot-Mangold to support Amendment No. 21.

    Mrs VERMOT-MANGOLD (Switzerland) said that the measure related to Meskhetians in Krasnodar and that those people should have citizenship.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr Rogozin.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said that it was a Georgian issue and that the small minority had been deported to central Asia by Stalin and had returned to Krasnodar through Georgia. It was a problem for the people of Krasnodar, and he would have supported the amendment had it applied to the correct Georgian authorities.

    THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee is in favour.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 21 is adopted.

    I have received an oral amendment from Mr McNamara, which reads as follows:

    “In the draft resolution contained in Document 9396 on the honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation, in paragraph 8.xiii, replace the word ‘banning’ with ‘problems’.”

    In my opinion the oral amendment meets the criteria of Rule 34.6 and can therefore be debated unless ten members object. Is there any opposition to the amendment being debated?

    That is not the case.

    I call Mr McNamara to support the oral amendment. You have one minute.

    Mr McNAMARA (United Kingdom). – The paragraph refers to the banning of the Salvation Army and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, neither of those two religious communities has been banned. The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation ruled in favour of the Salvation Army on 7 February 2002. The court’s case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses is still ongoing. No measures have been taken against the community yet; nor are we aware that any will be. Therefore, in fairness to the Russian authorities and because of the fluidity of the situation, I think that the word “problems” is better than the word “banning”.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral amendment?

    That is not the case.

    What is the opinion of the committee on the oral amendment?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee is in favour.

    THE PRESIDENT. – I shall now put the oral amendment to the vote.

    The voting is open.

    The oral amendment is adopted.

    We come to Amendment No. 17, tabled by Mr Landsbergis, Mr Libicki, Ms Tevdoradze, Mr Dobelis and Mr Holovaty, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 8.xiii, insert a new sub-paragraph as follows:

    “The Assembly also regrets the lack of steps to amend the Law of 29 October 1997 (signed by President Yeltsin on 19 November 1997) on additional guarantees and compensation for Russian military personnel acting in zones of armed conflict, by deletion of, at least, the words ‘Baltic states’ as one such zone;”.

    I call Mr Landsbergis to support Amendment No. 17.

    Mr LANDSBERGIS (Lithuania). – The amendment accords with the decision of the Standing Committee. Please look at the 2001 report, Reference 2661. Nothing was changed in the strange Russian law in respect of the Caucasian states, Chechnya, Tajikistan and the Baltic states, where Russian armoured military action has taken place. There are guarantees for close participation on an equal footing within the four points of the map. I cannot understand why it is so difficult for the Russian Duma to delete two words from that law. Then we would have no Russian troops on our soil.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr Rogozin.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said the law in Russia was to give compensation to military servicemen who served in the Baltic states.

    THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee is against.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 17 is rejected.

    We come now to Amendment No. 18, tabled by Mr Landsbergis, Mrs Burbienė, Ms Klaar, Mr Libicki, Ms Shakhtakhtinskaya, Mr Dobelis, Mr Holovaty and Mr Čekuolis, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 8 xiv, line 3, replace the word “set” with the words:

    “which was set for 1997, in accord with the request of Assembly Opinion No, 193, but which was not met, leading to the new deadline set by the OSCE”.

    I call Mr Landsbergis to support Amendment No. 18.

    Mr LANDSBERGIS (Lithuania). – The amendment talks about a factual situation. It deals with the withdrawal of Russia’s 14th army from Moldova. The motion was already decided by the Assembly in 1997 and after that by the OSCE. It is a reminder, simply a fact of history.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr Rogozin.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said the question of the withdrawal of troops from Moldova was agreed at the Istanbul Summit, and to say why the deadline was revised was pointless. Russia was not in contradiction as it had until the end of this year to comply.

    THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee accepts the amendment.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 18 is adopted.

    We come to Amendment No. 19, tabled by Mr Landsbergis, Mr Libicki, Ms Tevdoradze, Ms Shakhtakhtinskaya, Mr Dobelis, Mr Holovaty and Mr Čekuolis, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 8.xv, line 1, after the word “property”, insert the following:

    “of member states of the Council of Europe”

    I call Mr Landsbergis to support Amendment No. 19.

    Mr LANDSBERGIS (Lithuania). – This is a simple amendment to make the resolution clearer.

    THE PRESIDENT. – I have received an oral sub-amendment to insert, not the words proposed in the amendment but instead “of Baltic states”. What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee agreed the sub-amendment. In 1940, a reference to the confiscated property could not mention Council of Europe member states because the Council did not exist then. That is why it should read “of Baltic states”. If the Assembly accepts the oral sub-amendment, we can change the text as suggested in Amendment No. 19. It is impossible to mention the Council of Europe in a reference to 1940.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment?

    That is not the case.

    What is your opinion, Mr Landsbergis?

    Mr LANDSBERGIS (Lithuania). – I support the oral sub-amendment.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    The oral sub-amendment is adopted.

    Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment, as amended?

    The committee is in favour.

    The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 19, as amended, is adopted.

    We come to Amendment No. 20, tabled by Mr Landsbergis, Mr Libicki, Ms Tevdoradze, Ms Shakhtakhtinskaya, Mr Dobelis, Mr Holovaty and Mr Čekuolis, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 8.xv, line 2, after the words “Baltic States”, insert the following:

    “and their descendants, as stated in Opinion No. 193,”

    I call Mr Landsbergis to support Amendment No. 20.

    Mr LANDSBERGIS (Lithuania). – This would insert the same text as that in Opinion No. 193 in our official document. It should concern not only deportees from Baltic states but their descendants.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr Rogozin.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation). – said that the amendment needed to be more specific. It should specify the number of generations to which it referred.

    THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee accepts the amendment.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 20 is adopted.

    We now come to Amendment No. 4, tabled by Mr Neguta, Mr Marmazov, Mr Rakhansky, Mr Carvalho, Mr Rogozin, Mr Seyidov, Mr Ali Huseynov, Mr Abbasov, Mr Margelov, Mr Goulet, Ms Belohorská, Mr Bakulin, Mrs Burbienė, Mr Cilevičs, Ms Štěpová, Mr Sharandin, Mr Fedorov, Mr Tulaev, Mr Sudarenkov, Mr Grachev and Mr Bulavinov, which is, in the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 8.xvi, add the following words:

    “on mutually beneficial terms taking into consideration the need to return the cultural property that was transferred from Russia in great quantities during the second world war”.

    I call Mr Rogozin to support Amendment No. 4.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) moved the amendment in a modified form, deleting the words “in great quantities” from the amendment to make it more specific.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr Landsbergis.

    Mr LANDSBERGIS (Lithuania). – This amendment only makes sense if it is intended to avoid the established commitment of Russia. It might be good for the Russian Federation but it is not good for this Organisation.

    THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee supports the amendment apart from the words “in great quantities”. Would you accept an oral sub-amendment to delete those words from this amendment and the other one that deals with the same issue, because those words cannot have any legal sense? Then we would support the amendment, as amended.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Mr Rogozin has already said that he would delete those three words, so we do not need that oral sub-amendment.

    The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 4 is adopted.

    We now come to Amendment No. 5. Who is going to support this?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – On a point of order, Mr President. Any reference to the report is invalid. No paragraph of the report can be mentioned in the draft resolution or the draft recommendation because the report is the property of the rapporteurs and it will disappear immediately after this debate. It will not be an official paper of the Council of Europe and we cannot refer to a non-existing paper. Therefore, the amendment is improper and should not be debated in this Assembly.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you Mr Bársony. You are right. The report is indeed the individual report of the rapporteurs and we cannot change it here.

    We come to Amendment No. 6, tabled by Mr Neguta, Mr Marmazov, Mr Rakhansky, Ms Jirousová, Mr Carvalho, Mr Rogozin, Mr Seyidov, Mr Ali Huseynov, Mr Goulet, Mr Margelov, Ms Belohorská, Mr Bakulin, Mr Sharandin, Mr Fedorov, Mr Sudarenkov, Mr Grachev and Mr Bulavinov, which is, in the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 10, add the following words:

    “and closing the monitoring procedure”.

    I call on Mr Rogozin to support Amendment No. 6.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said the monitoring procedure related to obligations taken on by the Russian Federation. If the issue of Chechnya were set aside, much progress had been made.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    That is not the case.

    What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – This is the hard core of the draft resolution and the draft recommendation.

    The committee accepted the rapporteur’s position, as presented by Mr Atkinson. If there is a successful parliamentary and presidential election next year and if steps forward are taken in the coming months, this could be the committee’s final proposal. However, we cannot accept the amendment at this time.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 6 is rejected.

    We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 9396, as amended.

    The voting is open.

    The draft resolution in Document 9396, as amended, is adopted.

    We come to Amendment No. 8, tabled by Mr Neguta, Mr Marmazov, Mr Rakhansky, Ms Jirousová, Mr Carvalho, Mr Rogozin, Mr Seyidov, Mr Ali Huseynov, Mr Goulet, Mr Margelov, Ms Belohorská, Mr Bakulin, Mr Sharandin, Mr Fedorov, Mr Sudarenkov, Mr Grachev and Mr Bulavinov, which is, in the draft recommendation, delete paragraph 4 and insert a new paragraph as follows:

    “The Assembly takes note of the efforts undertaken by Russia to normalise the situation in the Chechen Republic. It asks the Committee of Ministers to reiterate its call on the Russian authorities to conduct a proper investigation into all cases of human rights violations.”

    I call Mr Rogozin to support Amendment No. 8.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said that the amendment was necessary because the facts had changed.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    That is not the case.

    What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee wishes to reject this amendment as it does not contain any serious steps. The Chechen conflict is a subject for reports from the Political Affairs Committee and my committee was not authorised to come to an evaluation about monitoring the commitments of the Russian Federation. We took the line of the leadership of the Assembly, which is that we should concentrate on the duties of our committee. We therefore reject the amendment.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 8 is rejected.

    We now come to Amendment No. 9, tabled by Mr Neguta, Mr Marmazov, Mr Rakhansky, Ms Jirousová, Mr Carvalho, Mr Rogozin, Mr Seyidov, Mr Ali Huseynov, Mr Goulet, Mr Margelov, Mr Bakulin, Mr Sharandin, Mr Fedorov, Mr Sudarenkov, Mr Grachev and Mr Bulavinov, which is, in the draft recommendation, at the end of paragraph 5, after the words “Council of Europe member states”, delete the rest of the paragraph.

    I call Mr Rogozin to support Amendment No. 9, to which there is an oral sub-amendment.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said that the report covered relations between Russia and the Baltic states.

    THE PRESIDENT. – We have an oral sub-amendment to paragraph 5. I call on Mr Atkinson to support the oral sub-amendment.

    Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom). – We are happy to support the rapporteurs and the removal of the words “such as the problem of restitution of the Romanian national treasure”. We think that it would be unfair to refer to just one problem and not to refer to the others. However, we insist that we keep our recommendation that the return of such property should be settled between the Russian authorities directly with the states concerned as soon as possible.

    THE PRESIDENT. – I assume that no one objects to the oral sub-amendment.

    Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment?

    Mr VAHTRE (Estonia). – I wish to object to the whole amendment. Is it possible to do that now?

    THE PRESIDENT. – You will have an opportunity to do that. We are now discussing the oral sub-amendment.

    Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment?

    Mr OLTEANU (Romania) opposed the oral sub-amendment. The issue was being considered at the same time as the Monitoring Committee was working and it seemed that the specific point had been previously taken up.

    THE PRESIDENT. – That was in order.

    What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee is in favour of the oral sub-amendment.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    The oral sub-amendment is adopted.

    Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment, as amended?

    I call Mr Vahtre.

    Mr VAHTRE (Estonia). – It is the Romanian treasury that we are talking about and we heard the reasons why our colleagues proposed to take these words out, but it is still an important issue and must be mentioned. It is a treasury that Russia has kept since the first world war and it is a shame that that has happened. Yes, there are many such cases, which is an even bigger shame, but such problems cannot be solved as a whole. They must be solved step by step, by creating precedents. We have to create a precedent and give the problem its correct name.

    THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – The committee's position was not to ignore the fact that the Romanian national treasury was one of the properties confiscated or stolen. That is a matter of fact, but the committee was clear that it did not want to prefer one kind of property against another. It is not up to the committee to say that one should come first and another second, because we must treat all member countries equally. We cannot say to one country, "Look, we are sorry but the Assembly's position is much more favourable to another country." Therefore, we support the amendment, as amended by the oral sub-amendment.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 9, as amended, is adopted.

    We come to Amendment No. 10, tabled by Mr Neguta, Mr Marmazov, Mr Rakhansky, Ms Jirousová, Mr Carvalho, Mr Rogozin, Mr Seyidov, Mr Ali Huseynov, Mr Goulet, Mr Margelov, Ms Belohorská, Mr Bakulin, Mr Cilevičs, Mr Sharandin, Mr Fedorov, Mr Sudarenkov, Mr Grachev and Mr Bulavinov, which is, in the draft recommendation, at the end of paragraph 5, add the following words:

    “on mutually beneficial terms, taking into consideration the need to return the cultural property that was transferred from Russia in great quantities during the second world war”.

    I call Mr Rogozin to support Amendment No. 10.

    Mr ROGOZIN (Russian Federation) said that the amendment was similar to Amendment No. 4 and that he would move it in modified form, deleting the words “in great quantities”.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    That is not the case.

    What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr BÁRSONY (Hungary). – Just for information – I do not wish to be misinterpreted – this is the same situation as before, as Mr Rogozin pointed out. The three words “in great quantities” were deleted from a previous amendment, and we agree with that proposal in this case.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 10 is adopted.

    We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 9396, as amended.

    The voting is open.

    The draft recommendation in Document 9396, as amended, is adopted.

    We now turn to the votes on the resolution contained in the report on Russia's law on religion. The amendments will be taken in the following order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 7, 6, 8, 9 and 10. There will also be three oral sub-amendments.

    We come to Amendment No. 1, tabled by Ms Gatterer, on behalf of the Political Affairs Committee, which is, in the draft resolution, insert a new paragraph before paragraph 1:

    “Post-communist Russia gave religious creeds a free rein. But, the ensuing flood of foreign evangelists, missionaries and dubious sects, backed by rich western churches and organisations provoked uneasy feelings amongst the Russian population. A new law on religion was introduced to remedy this situation.”

    I call Ms Gatterer to support Amendment No. 1.

    Ms GATTERER (Austria) said that the Political Affairs Committee had thought that it was a good idea to explain why the existing situation in Russia had arisen, the reason being that there were many new religions, and that had caused new religious laws to be passed.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr McNamara.

    Mr McNAMARA (United Kingdom). – We discussed this point this morning and we were of the opinion that this proposal is better mentioned in the report as part of the background – as it is at present – because the amendment contains a lot of conjecture and emotion, and on many of the issues the rapporteurs did not receive direct evidence. It is part of the background, but it is not based on any actual evidence that we received.

    THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr LINTNER (Germany). – The committee is against.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 1 is rejected.

    We now come to Amendment No. 2, tabled by Ms Gatterer, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 2, replace the words “while seeming to pose” by the words:

    “while posing”.

    I call Ms Gatterer to support the amendment.

    Ms GATTERER (Austria) said that Amendment No. 2 added clarity.

    THE PRESIDENT. – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    That is not the case.

    What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr LINTNER (Germany) (Translation). – In favour.

    THE PRESIDENT. – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 2 is adopted.

    (Mr Azzolini, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Behrendt.)

    THE PRESIDENT. – We now come to Amendment No. 3, tabled by Ms Gatterer, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 4, second sentence, 3rd and 5th lines, replace the words “Orthodox Church” by the words:

    “traditional church”.

    I call Ms Gatterer to support the amendment.

    Ms GATTERER (Austria) talked about the Orthodox and Muslim churches.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr McNamara.

    Mr McNAMARA (United Kingdom). – We referred to the Orthodox Church because it was the Orthodox Church about which we were talking. We were not talking about Islam, or the Buddhists, or the other principal religion of Russia. We were calling a spade a spade. The Russian Orthodox Church considers itself to be a traditional church, so why not call it the Orthodox Church so that we know precisely where we are?

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr LINTNER (Germany) (Translation). – We are against the amendment.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 3 is rejected.

    We now come to Amendment No. 4, tabled by Ms Gatterer, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 5, delete the words “and should lead to an internal disciplinary inquiry by the Federal Ministry of Justice into the workings of its Moscow department.”

    I call Ms Gatterer to support the amendment.

    Ms GATTERER (Austria) said it was a mistake just to refer to the Moscow district.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr McNamara.

    Mr McNAMARA (United Kingdom). – This goes to the root of the whole problem. It is in the Moscow district that the problems were seen. It is in that district that allegations of corruption were made, and claims were made about people changing lawyers to obtain favourable decisions. It is in that district that there has been harassment by officials, and action has not been taken when local churches have been harassed. That has happened mainly in the Moscow district, although not exclusively. We believe that, in the interests of Russia itself, and in the spirit in which people have addressed this matter, there should be an internal disciplinary inquiry.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr LINTNER (Germany) (Translation). – We are against the amendment.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 4 is rejected.

    We now come to Amendment No. 5, tabled by Ms Gatterer, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 6.i, delete the words after “communities”.

    I call Ms Gatterer to support the amendment.

    Ms GATTERER (Austria) said that the amendment referred to the Russian Orthodox Church.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr McNamara.

    Mr McNAMARA (United Kingdom). – This does not refer to the Russian Orthodox Church; it refers to the actions of local officials in relation to the Russian Orthodox Church. It seemed wrong to us that local officials should go to a local bishop and ask for permission to implement what was already in the law. The Russians themselves were very conscious of that, particularly when we spoke to the presidential committee.

    This is important to the fair application of law. People should see what is happening. It is the local officials whom we are getting at.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr LINTNER (Germany) (Translation). – We are against the amendment.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 5 is rejected.

    We now come to Amendment No. 11, tabled by Mr Landsbergis, Mr Olekas, Mr Libicki, Mr Dobelis, Mr Holovaty and Mr Čekuolis, which is in the draft resolution, paragraph 6.i, after the words “Orthodox Church”, insert the following words:

    “in this context, the outdated tradition of tsarist Russia to treat the Roman Catholic religion as “foreign”, is to be avoided”.

    I call Mr Landsbergis to support the amendment.

    Mr LANDSBERGIS (Lithuania). – This is a reminder of an outdated tradition inherited from a time when autocracy in Russia was directly related to orthodoxy, and the rights of other believers were restricted. Roman Catholics in particular were treated as foreigners, with undisguised xenophobia. Such a bad tradition must not be continued. This is just a suggestion intended to avoid the shadows of such a mentality.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr McNamara.

    Mr McNAMARA (United Kingdom). – I remind those who tabled the amendment that the Russian Orthodox Church allowed the Jesuits into the country when they were being suppressed in the rest of Europe. I throw that in in the interests of fairness.

    We are not here to see spats between different religious communities; we are here to see fairness in the application of the law. We have already referred in passing to some of the problems that the Catholic Church is experiencing in Russia. We hope that they can be overcome, and that the Church’s bishops can be treated with respect; but that is another matter. Here we are talking about a proper application of the law. It does no good, in this context, to dig up what has happened in tsarist Russia.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr LINTNER (Germany) (Translation). – We are against the amendment.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 11 is rejected.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – We come to Amendment No. 7 tabled by Mr Roseta, on behalf of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education, which is, in the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 6.i, add the following words:

    “and in particular their insisting in certain districts that religious organisations obtain prior agreement for their activities from the Russian Orthodox Church;”

    I call Mr De Puig to support the amendment.

    Mr DE PUIG (Spain) spoke about religious organisation and the right of veto of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr Sudarenkov.

    Mr SUDARENKOV (Russian Federation) said that the amendment was imprecise.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr LINTNER (Germany) (Translation). – The committee is in favour.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 7 is adopted.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – We come to Amendment No. 6, tabled by Ms Gatterer, on behalf of the Political Affairs Committee, which is, in the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 6, add a new sub-paragraph:

      “the project under study for the setting up of an alternative civilian service should be accelerated in order to offer an alternative to citizens whose religious convictions forbid them to do military service”.

    I call Ms Gatterer to support Amendment No. 6.

    Ms GATTERER (Austria) said that the Political Affairs Committee wanted to offer an alternative to those whose religious views would not allow them to do military service.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – I understand that the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment to Amendment No. 6, as follows:

    In line 1 of the amendment, replace the words “project under study” with the words “current project being considered in the Russian Parliament” and after the words “civilian service” insert the words “to military conscription”.

    The oral amendment is within the rules. Do ten or more members object to the oral sub-amendment being debated?

    That is not the case.

    I call Mr McNamara to move the oral sub-amendment.

    Mr McNAMARA (United Kingdom). – It might be helpful to the Assembly if I read out the proposal. The amendment would alter the final proposal from the Political Affairs Committee as follows: the current debate in the Russian Duma for the setting up of an alternative civilian service to military conscription should be accelerated in order to offer an alternative to citizens whose religious convictions forbid them to do military service.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment?

    That is not the case.

    I put the oral sub-amendment to the vote.

    The voting is open.

    The oral sub-amendment is adopted.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – I shall now put the amendment, as amended, to the vote.

    The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 6, as amended, is adopted.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – We come to Amendment No. 8 tabled by Mr Roseta, on behalf of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 6.iv, add a new sub-paragraph worded as follows:

    “as regards the media, attention is paid to guaranteeing religious organisations their right to reply;”

    I call Mr De Puig to support Amendment No. 8.

    Mr DE PUIG (Spain) said that the amendment sought to give religious organisations a right to reply to the media. That was a democratic right.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    I call Mr McNamara.

    Mr McNAMARA (United Kingdom). – The committee considered the amendment very carefully and we accept the spirit of what is proposed. However, we felt that this particular formulation, as opposed to that of the next amendment, which the committee is more than delighted to accept, was far too broad because it covered all forms of media and made no distinction between public and private. It did not specify where the right to reply would arise, to whom it would apply and who would judge whether a religious organisation should or should not be in that position.

    We felt that it was far better to look at the alternative suggested by Mr Roseta in Amendment No. 9 when he said that in respect of air time on radio and television being controlled by the state, provision should be made for religious organisations to have the right to reply, but other forms of media correction and answering should be left to the voluntary organisations themselves, perhaps in their own newspapers, periodicals or radio stations.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr LINTNER (Germany) (Translation). – The committee is against.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 8 is rejected.

    We come to Amendment No. 9, tabled by Mr Roseta, on behalf of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 6.iv, add a new sub-paragraph worded as follows:

    “as regards state media, religions are guaranteed regular air time;”.

    I call Mr De Puig to support Amendment No. 9.

    Mr DE PUIG (Spain) said that the amendment guaranteed religious groups regular air time on state media. That was a democratic right.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    That is not the case.

    What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr LINTNER (Germany) (Translation). – The committee is in favour.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 9 is adopted.

    We come to Amendment No. 10, tabled by Mr Roseta, on behalf of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 7, replace the words “in Recommendation 1412 (1999) on illegal activities of sects” with the words:

    “in Recommendations 1396 (1999) on religion and democracy and 1412 (1999) on illegal activities of sects”.

    I call Mr De Puig to support the amendment.

    Mr DE PUIG (Spain) wanted to add a reference to religion to the text to tally with other documents produced by the Council of Europe.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

    That is not the case.

    What is the opinion of the committee?

    Mr LINTNER (Germany) (Translation). – The committee is in favour.

    THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – The voting is open.

    Amendment No. 10 is adopted.

    We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 9393, as amended.

    The voting is open.

    The draft resolution in Document 9393, as amended, is adopted.

    ADDENDUM

    2002 ORDINARY SESSION

    ________________________

    (Second part)

    REPORT

    Tenth sitting

    Tuesday 23 April 2002 at 10 a.m.

    ADDENDUM I

    Honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation

    Russia’s law on religion

    The following texts were submitted for inclusion in the official report by members who were present in the Chamber but were prevented by lack of time from delivering them.

    HONOURING OF OBLIGATIONS AND COMMITMENTS BY THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION

    Mr ANDICAN (Turkey). – I would like to thank the rapporteurs for the work that they have done.  I have read the report in detail and I have to say that, as the report does not cover the situation in Chechnya, it does not reflect the complete picture of the situation in the Russian Federation.

    I welcome the willingness that is shown by the Russian authorities in fulfilling the commitments by the Russian Federation to achieve the rule of law and building of a multi-party democracy.  I am convinced that the Russian authorities will continue their co-operation with the Council of Europe in achieving a stable democratic state.

    I am also pleased with the initial results of the judiciary system reform project.  I think this will help the Russian authorities to strengthen their judicial system and ensure full compatibility of Russian legislation and practise with the Organisation’s principles and standards guaranteed by the European Court of Human Rights.

    The legal steps taken by the Russian authorities in the field of freedom of expression are encouraging.  But I am also aware of the fact that this legislation is not properly implemented.  Although not official, the indirect censorship seems to be implementted through financial punishment, such as taxes, debt and other means.  The closure of the last private TV channel because of its debts to Gasprom was the last major incident in this respect.

    I believe that the Russian Federation will soon solve its border problems especially with the Baltic states, like Estonia, which are candidates for Nato, and their accession is being discussed for the next enlargement.

    According to the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe and the Istanbul Declaration of 1999, the Russian Federation should complete the withdrawal of all its remaining troops and destroy the heavy weaponry in Moldova.  I hope that Russia will fulfil these tasks and contribute to the stability of the region.

    There is one more issue that I would like to dwell on – the Meskhetian Turks.  Although it is mentioned in the report, I do not think that enough attention has been given to these people, who were forced to emigrate from their homeland without any excuse on the orders of Stalin.  It is estimated that there are approximately 250 000 Meskhetian Turks mainly living in Rostov, Krasnodar, Stavropol and elsewhere in the Russian Federation.  These people are being subjected to permanent discrimination by the Russian authorities; they are denied basic human rights; they are faced with ethnic violence committed by Cossacks, who in the past were used in the ethnical cleansing of the Caucasus from Turkic and Muslim groups.

    I would like to mention our deep concern over the recent measures taken by the Governor of Krasnodar, which were also found alarming by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as a “severe violation of human rights”.  These measures will damage the relations, peace and harmony among the ethnic groups living in the region.

    Touching upon the problems faced by the Meskhetian Turks in the North Caucasus, I would like to raise my concerns on Chechnya as well.  There is still so much to be done in that region.  The measures taken by the Russian Federation in achieving their commitment in solving the conflict of Chechnya by peaceful means are still insufficient.  We are still waiting for concrete positive results to be accomplished for the civilians who have suffered a lot in that region.

    Ms TEVDORADZE (Georgia). –  I would like to welcome the undoubted progress made by the Russian Federation in building democratic multi-party statehood.  We in the Caucasus say that if a big neighbour has good times then a small one will also hope for a better life.  However, my small Georgia – neighbour of big Russia – does not enjoy this wisdom.  Imperial ambitions, so widespread among Russian politicians and military people, find expression in mostly aggressive acts towards a sovereign country that are far from democratic.

    On 12 April, a Russian military contingent, under cover of peacekeeping forces, was deployed in Kodori Gorge without Georgian authorities or UN observers, stationed in Abkhazia, Georgia, being notified.  This contingent came face to face with an armed local population who had been defending themselves from Abkhaz separatists during the last ten years.  Hence, the consequences of such a move are rather clear.  The case has been solved only after a site visit by the President of Georgia and his telephone conversation with the Russian President.

    Russian politicians have been engaged in a massive disinformation campaign through the media during these overtense days and have talked about establishing a peacekeeping post, notwithstanding the fact that such a possibility has not even been discussed.  This military insult has initiated a wave of protests.  Of course, the why question has immediately emerged.

    It is already seven years since Russian peacekeepers were stationed in the conflict zone under the aegis of the Commonwealth of Independent States.  Nevertheless, they have largely been unable to fulfil their mandate.  They have, in fact, turned into “border guards” between Georgia and Abkhazia.

    I would like to bring up some facts supporting my statement:  in the security zone along around 2 000 civilians have been killed by Abkhaz boeviks with the assistance of the Russian military and more than 6 000 houses have been burnt down.  And all this has had ethnic bias.

    I wonder whether Russian politicians have discussed in the committees of the Duma the issue of the fulfilment of obligations assumed in settlement of the Abkhazian conflict.  We are unaware of such a fact.  We have, however, been constantly threatened by discussions during the entire week on the issue of Abkhazia joining the Russian Federation on either a permanent or an associated basis.  And that was only in reaction to the intention of the US to assist us in training and equipping our anti-terrorist units.  Those ladies and gentlemen did not take one detail into consideration – that this insults the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a neighbouring country on the one hand and supports separatism on the other.  They consider the Russian-Chechen conflict a fight against separatism; what, then, is the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict?

    To conclude, I can say that when Russian politicians refrain from using double standards, when they start respecting constitutional rights and the sovereignty of other countries, and not only their own, then I, just like Mr Rogozin, will declare:  “The breakthrough is underway, colleagues”.

    RUSSIA’S LAW ON RELIGION

    Mr KALKAN (Turkey). – I would like to thank the rapporteur for the work that he has done.  Even if it is rather descriptive and not fully satisfactory, this report is a good attempt to give a picture about the relations between religion and the state in Russia.  Although the rapporteur suggests that the report focuses on the new law, the report seems to be more limited to newly emerged religious groups, rather than dealing with the law exclusively.

    On a subject such as the religion in Russia, it is impossible to exhaust the matter in a report of seven pages.  Religion in Russia is a subject that has been discussed in many different circles for a long time.

    Religion in Russia has a very long tradition in the state system.  It has been a driving force of the first battles of the Moscow principality against the Golden Horde, during the establishment of the Russian kingdom.  Religion has been the major ally and supporter of the state during the Russian conquests of Crimea, Caucasus and central Asia.  It was also being used as a pan-orthodox alliance in the Balkans against other rivals such as the Habsburgs and the Ottomans.  But religion was not only an element for exterior politics of the Russian empire; it also served in the interests of the empire in interior politics such as during russification, the fight against the revolutionary ideas and people and the fight against the communists, etc.

    State religion, namely the Russian Orthodox Church, lost its power during the Soviet Union, but recently we are witnessing the revival of the long tradition again, sometimes even with dusted and rusted ideas, llike pan-orthodoxy.

    We can say that one of the proofs that Russian orthodoxy is reviving is this law itself.  It is clearly demonstrated in the report that the law does not create discrimination among the settled religions in Russia other than orthodoxy, namely Judaism and Islam.  But I understand from the report that it has created more freedom of movement for the local administrators in their relations with the religious groups, thus resulting in the discrimination of some groups in certain parts of the country.

    Although not mentioned very openly in the report the situation seems to create a great deal of concern for the ordinary citizens who would like to practise their religion in their own way.  For example, the report mentions that the law is not uniformly applied throughout the Russian Federation, that the Federal Ministry of Justice does not seem able to control its regional and local departments, that local discrimination and harassment exist and that smaller sects are being discriminated against.

    The idea of a state-sponsored permanent monitoring body to check that local authorities comply with the federal legislation is a good step forward to eliminate the discrimination, but it is not enough.  The vital thing that is needed is to change the mentality of the local administrators; maybe a training programme or special programme within the framework of the Council of Europe can be foreseen in this respect.

    Mr LIBICKI (Poland). – I would like to draw attention to the rising problems of the Catholic Church in Russia.  Freedom of religion has become virtual in that country every month.

    In the middle of the 1990s we witnessed a debate in the Russian Duma on practical delegalisation of the Catholic Churuch.  It was supported by the Orthodox Church and the Russian nationalistic far right.  It was stopped only because of President Yeltsin’s awareness of the international consequences of such a step.  In February 2002, we witnessed an unprecedented attack on the Pope’s decision to increase the rank of apostolic administration to that of dioceses, the normal pastoral institutions of the Catholic Church.

    Russian authorities forbade the building of the Catholic church in Pskow.  Local authorities threaten the Catholic parish in Magadan, only because the pastor of the parish is an American, Father Michael Shilds.  A lot of priests in Siberia are asked for cross-examinations by the secret service officers.  Father Stefano Caprio, working for ten years in Moscow and the professor of the Humanistic University of Moscow, was refused permission to travel from Moscow airport on 5 April.  His right to travel to Russia was restricted by the Russian Government for twelve months.  Father Stanislaw Opiela, secretary of the Episcopate Conference of Russia, was treated the same way a year ago.  The Bishop of the Catholic diocese of Irkuck, Jerzy Mazur, was sent back to Warsaw last Friday, in spite of having a valid visa and his very good relations, until now, with Orthodox and government authorities.

    We see a great wave of anti-Catholic hate in Russia.  The Society of the Orthodox Citizens plans on 28 April to have countryside anti-Catholic manifestations in Moscow, St Petersburg, Nizny, Novgorod, Saratov, Samara, Kazan, Tver and Vladivostok.  Practical delegalisation is a political project for the Catholic Church in Russia.

    It is time to speak loudly.  It is high time that a general report devoted to the state of religious freedom in Russian was completed.  Russian authorities do not honour the obligations and commitments of the Council of Europe and we are responsible for the urgent normalisation of the Russian politics in that sensitive area.

    (Please see http://stars.coe.fr for the complete report)


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