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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW11834 2006-10-20 15:28 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #1834/01 2931528
P 201528Z OCT 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 011834 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/20/2016 
Classified By: DCM Daniel A. Russell: 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (SBU) Summary. On October 16, President Putin signed into 
law amendments to the Federal Constitutional Law on the Human 
Rights Commission, which considerably broaden the Human 
Rights Ombudsman Office's powers.  The new legislation gives 
the Ombudsman the right to propose parliamentary probes into 
reported mass or flagrant human rights abuses, and to call 
for Duma hearings into the violations of citizens' rights. 
While calling the development positive, human rights 
activists believe the Ombudsman will be too cautious in 
approaching the Duma.  Our experience is that Lukin is no 
rubber-stamp and will likely use his new powers 
pragmatically.  End Summary. 
Human Rights Ombudsman's New Powers 
2. (SBU) The new law was passed in quick succession by the 
State Duma on September 22, the Federation Council on October 
6, and signed by Putin on October 16.  According to the law, 
in cases of mass or flagrant violations of rights and 
freedoms guaranteed by the Russian Constitution, the 
Ombudsman can now propose that the State Duma create a 
parliamentary commission to investigate the facts and 
circumstances of the alleged human rights abuse.  Secondly, 
he has the right to participate in meetings of both houses of 
parliament when they present the final results of an 
investigation.  Thirdly, he can call for State Duma hearings 
into violations of citizens' rights and freedoms and 
participate in such hearings. 
3. (SBU) Human Rights Ombudsman Lukin reported that these new 
powers were a long time coming.  Since 1997, there has been a 
provision in the Russian Constitution that allows the 
Ombudsman to propose initiatives in the event of mass or 
flagrant human rights abuses, in particular to suggest that 
the Federal Assembly conduct an investigation.  However, 
there was no federal legislation for realizing that 
provision, which led to confusion in the past.  About two 
years ago, when Lukin asked the State Duma to conduct a 
meeting to consider an investigation into human rights abuses 
in Bashkiriya, it refused, saying that he did not have the 
legal authority to make such a request.  Lukin said the new 
law makes it absolutely clear that the initiative in such 
cases now belongs with the Ombudsman. 
4. (SBU) Lukin added that there were other draft provisions 
before the Duma that have not yet been accepted.  For 
instance, his office has proposed including in the Human 
Rights Commission Law and in the Criminal-Procedural Code a 
provision on the administrative responsibility of the 
authorities if they choose to ignore the Ombudsman's opinion. 
 Such a law has been adopted in several regions and has 
worked well, he said.  Another example is the law on prison 
inspections, which passed the first reading several years 
ago, but has been shelved.  Under that law, the Ombudsman 
would play an active role in the inspections. 
NGO Reactions 
5. (C) President of the Center for the Development of 
Democracy and Human Rights Yuriy Dzhibladze told us that the 
new law was a positive development from a legal and political 
perspective, given the "limited powers that the Ombudsman has 
under the law in general."  However, he questioned how much 
the new mechanism will be used in practice.  He explained 
that the creation and powers of parliamentary investigation 
commissions in the State Duma are not well-regulated by law, 
and generally the Duma (as well as the Presidential 
Administration, which effectively controls the Duma) is 
reluctant to create such commissions for fear of negative 
political consequences.  He pointed to the Beslan commission, 
which has delayed publishing its report several times. 
Dzhibladze added that Lukin tends to be cautious and will not 
do anything to irritate the Presidential Administration; he 
would "always talk to them first before making a bold move." 
6. (C) Both human rights NGO Sova Deputy Director Galina 
Kozhevnikova and Memorial's Grigoriy Shvedov thought that the 
Duma will find a way to ignore the new provisions and that it 
is unlikely the Ombudsman will ever invoke them without prior 
approval by the Presidential Administration. Moscow Carnegie 
Center Scholar-in-Residence Nikolay Petrov agreed that Lukin 
was unlikely to antagonize authorities with his new powers, 
which will be used more as a threat than in reality. 
MOSCOW 00011834  002 OF 002 
7. (C) While it is a positive development that the Human 
Rights Ombudsman's powers have been expanded, it remains to 
be seen whether or not they will be invoked.  Lukin is not as 
outspokenly critical as many civil society activists would 
like, but he is not a rubber-stamp Ombudsman.  He will likely 
use his new powers pragmatically to subtly influence his 
alings with the Kremlin and Duma.  He has taken important 
stands on key human rights issues, and has a well-developed 
sense of what is realistically doable in today's Russia.  End 


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