The United Nations Human Rights Committee has found Russia responsible for violating the rights to fair trial and to be free from torture of six Chechen men who were unlawfully detained and tortured, in the North Caucasus region, between September 2004 and February 2005 before being convicted of terrorism related charges. See Human Rights Committee, Taysumov et al. v. Russia, Communication No. 2339/2014, Views of 11 March 2020, UN Doc. CCPR/C/128/D/2339/2014. The Human Rights Committee reminded Russia of its obligation to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the torture allegations and to prosecute those responsible, as well as to compensate the complainants and implement measures to provide “full redress” for the violations. See id. at para. 11. While Russia is obligated to submit to the Committee an update on the measures it has taken to comply with the judgment within 180 days of this judgment, in the past, Russia has failed to conduct effective investigations and hold perpetrators accountable for similar human rights violations. See id. at paras. 2.10, 12. In similar cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Russia has often paid the compensation ordered by the Court, but has refused to prosecute the individuals allegedly responsible for torture. [Open Democracy; HRW] Relatedly, the victims in this case had first complained to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled the application inadmissible, without explanation, in 2012. See Human Rights Committee, Taysumov et al. v. Russia, paras. 8.3.
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The Russian Federation (Russia) is a Member State of the Council of Europe (COE) and of the United Nations (UN), and has human rights obligations at the regional and universal levels.
Regional: European System
As a Member of the COE, Russia has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and is subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. Russia has ratified the Revised European Social Charter, but has not authorized the European Committee of Social Rights to decide collective complaints against it. Its human rights policies and practices are also monitored by the COE Commissioner for Human Rights, who identifies gaps in human rights protection, conducts country visits, engages in dialogue with States, and prepares thematic reports and advice.
Individuals and groups have submitted complaints of human rights violations committed by Russia to the European Court of Human Rights. For example, the Court found that Russia failed in its obligation to prevent inhuman or degrading treatment and violated the right to non-discrimination when authorities did not investigate a woman’s allegations of domestic violence, and based on the State’s general failure to address domestic violence. See ECtHR, Volodina v. Russia, no. 41261/17, ECHR 2019, Judgment of 9 July 2019. Additionally, the Court may grant interim measures to protect people in urgent situations of risk in Russia.
As a State party to the Revised European Social Charter, Russia must submit yearly reports to the European Committee of Social Rights on its implementation of the Charter’s provisions.
Russia is a party to the following regional human rights treaties:
- European Convention on Human Rights and several of its protocols
- Revised European Social Charter
- European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
United Nations System
As a UN Member State, Russia is subject to the oversight of various UN human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review and thematic special procedures. As a party to specific universal human rights treaties, Russia’s policies and practices are monitored by UN treaty bodies. It has accepted the complaints procedure of four treaty bodies.
Russia has ratified the following UN human rights treaties:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
Russia has not ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aimed at abolishing the death penalty. Russia has ratified the optional protocols to the CRC addressing children in armed conflict and the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. Russia has a duty to submit State reports to the UN treaty body associated with each UN human rights treaty Russia has ratified. These reports must be submitted on a periodic basis and describe the steps taken to implement the treaty provisions.
ussia has also ratified optional protocols and made appropriate declarations allowing individuals to submit complaints against the State alleging violations of the ICCPR, CEDAW, CAT, and CERD. Additionally, certain UN treaties contain inquiry procedures, which allow the UN treaty body to consider allegations of grave or systematic human rights violations. Russia has accepted the inquiry procedures of the CAT and CEDAW.
Russia has not extended a standing invitation to UN special procedures, which means that any such mandate holders must seek specific invitations from Russia to conduct a visit within the State. For example, the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous peoples went on a mission to Russia in 2009 and published a visit report in 2010.
For more information on Russia’s engagement with UN human rights bodies, visit http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/RUIndex.aspx.
Last updated: February 2020
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has issued its second ever monetary judgment in an inter-State case, ordering Russia to pay the Georgian government 10 million euros as reparations for Russia’s collective expulsion of thousands of Georgian nationals between 2006 and 2007. See ECtHR, Georgia v. Russia (I) [GC], no. 13255/07, ECHR 2019, Judgment of 31 January 2019 (Just Satisfaction). The judgment on reparations follows the Court’s 2014 judgment on the merits of the case, in which it found that Russia’s mass expulsion of Georgians violated the European Convention on Human Rights. See id. at para. 2. If Russia complies with the judgment, Georgia will be responsible for distributing the 10 million euros to a group of 1,500 identified victims, awarding 2,000 euros to each person who was expelled and awarding an additional 10,000 to 15,000 euros to those who had also been detained and ill-treated. See id. at paras. 77, 79. This judgment applies and builds on the Grand Chamber’s 2014 just satisfaction judgment in Cyprus v. Turkey, in which it ordered Turkey to pay 90 million euros in just satisfaction for the enforced disappearance of 1,456 people and various violations against the Greek Cypriots of the Karpas peninsula, by Turkish authorities, dating to 1974. See ECtHR, Cyprus v. Turkey, [GC], no. 25781/94, Judgment of 12 May 2014 (Just Satisfaction).
This case is the first of four cases that Georgia has brought to the ECtHR against Russia since 2007. The second case, concerning Russia’s alleged violation of the European Convention during the 2008 Russo-Georgian conflict, is currently pending before a Grand Chamber. See ECtHR, Cases pending before the Grand Chamber. The third case, which concerned Russia’s detention of several Georgian nationals, was voluntarily dropped by Georgia after Russia released the individuals from detention. [ECtHR: New Complaint] The fourth case, filed in August 2018, concerns alleged violations of rights along the border between Georgian-controlled territory and Abkhazia and South Ossetia. [ECtHR: New Complaint] The International Criminal Court (ICC) has also opened an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 2008 Russo-Georgian conflict. See ICC, Situation in Georgia.
On June 20, 2016, a chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that legislation in Russia banning the promotion of homosexuality, especially to minors, violated three gay activists’ rights to the freedom of expression and the prohibition of discrimination, enshrined in articles 10 and 14, respectively, of the European Convention on Human Rights. See ECtHR, Bayev and Others v. Russia, no. 67667/09, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 20 June 2017. Regarding the violation of the activists’ freedom of expression, the Court concluded that the law did not serve a legitimate goal to protect the morals or health of the public, and further held that it impermissibly deepened the stigmatization of the country’s homosexual minority, in contravention of the European Convention. See id. at para. 83. The law, the Court concluded, is discriminatory since it provides for different treatment solely on the basis of sexual orientation. See id. at para. 90. Civil society organizations have previously warned that Russia’s gay propaganda law has spread to other countries with proposals to enact similar legislation, including in other States that are subject to the European Court’s jurisdiction, such as Armenia, Latvia, and Lithuania. [Human Rights First; HRW] Read more
On October 11, 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously held that the government of Russia violated the rights of Garri Kasparov, a political activist and well-known chess player, to liberty and security of person and to freedom of assembly under articles 5 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. See ECtHR, Kasparov v. Russia, no. 53659/07, Judgment of 11 October 2016. Kasparov alleged that he was unlawfully detained at an airport in Moscow in May 2007 and prevented from attending a political protest in the Russian city of Samara. [ECtHR Press Release]
The ECtHR’s decision comes during a time of heightened repression, and retaliation, against Russia’s dissenting voices; many journalists, rights advocates, politicians and whistle-blowers who speak out against Russian leadership face risks of imprisonment, defamation, and death. [NY Times] Kasparov, who has been critical of the government for over 10 years, previously brought a 2013 case before the ECtHR, which ruled that Russia violated his rights when authorities arrested him at a political demonstration in April of 2007 in Moscow. See ECtHR, Kasparov and Others v. Russia, App. no. 21613/07, Judgment of 3 October 2013, para. 7. Read more
The International Criminal Court (ICC) last week authorized the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in South Ossetia from July 1 to October 10, 2008 during the armed conflict between Georgia and Russia. [ICC Press Release] According to the ICC Prosecutor, between 13,400 and 18,500 ethnic Georgians were forcibly displaced and the ethnic Georgian population in South Ossetia was reduced by at least 75 percent. [The Guardian] The forthcoming investigation will seek to gather additional evidence of international crimes committed in or around South Ossetia by Georgian, Russian, or South Ossetian forces and identify the individuals most responsible for the most serious abuses. See ICC Office of the Prosecutor, Corrected Version of “Request for Authorisation of an Investigation Pursuant to Article 15”, ICC-01/15-4-Corr., 16 October 2015.
In authorizing an investigation into the situation in Georgia on January 27, 2015, Pre-Trial Chamber I determined that all of the requirements set forth in Article 53(1) of the Rome Statute had been satisfied. See ICC, Situation in Georgia, ICC-01/15, Decision on the Prosecutor’s Request for Authorization of an Investigation(27 January 2016). Importantly, the Pre-Trial Chamber agreed with the Prosecutor that South Ossetia should be considered part of Georgia and not an independent State, and that alleged acts of sexual and gender-based violence appropriately fall within the scope of the investigation. See id. at paras. 6, 34, 35. This is the first time the ICC will examine alleged crimes committed by Russian authorities, and it is the first situation the ICC is formally investigating outside of Africa. Read more
On December 4, 2015, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued its judgment in the case of Zakharov v. Russia, concerning the compatibility of Russia’s secret surveillance of mobile phone communications with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. See ECtHR, Zakharov v. Russia [GC], no. 47143/06, Judgment of 4 December 2015. The case was brought by Roman Zakharov, who complained that the Russian law did not have sufficient safeguards against arbitrariness and abuse by authorities and this violated his right to respect for private life. The Court agreed, stressing that while Russia’s interception of communications pursued the legitimate aims of protecting national security and public safety, the prevention of crime and the protection of the economic well-being of the country, it needed to have adequate and effective guarantees against abuse. The Court held that there was high risk in a system such as Russia’s where the law enforcement bodies had direct access to all mobile telephone communications. Finding several shortcomings in the legal framework, the Court held that Russian law did not meet the “quality of law” requirement and was not “necessary in a democratic society.” The Court accordingly recognized a violation of Article 8 of the Convention. [ECtHR Press Release] The case was relinquished to the Grand Chamber March 2014, and had not previously been decided by another chamber of the European Court. Read more
European Court of Human Rights Finds Medical Students’ Observation Violated Patient’s Right to Privacy, in Konovalova v. Russia
In a new judgment, the European Court of Human Rights has addressed a novel issue in human rights law: whether allowing medical students to observe a childbirth without the mother’s explicit consent violated her right to privacy. [ECtHR Press Release] The applicant, Ms. Yevgeniya Konovalova, argued that the unauthorized presence of medical students during her childbirth unlawfully interfered with her privacy rights and was neither necessary nor proportionate to the needs of a democratic society. The Court unanimously held that Russia violated Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and ordered the State to pay Ms. Konovalova 3,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages and 200 euros for costs and expenses. ECtHR, Konovalova v. Russia, no. 37873/04, ECHR 2014, Judgment of 9 October 2014. Read more
Universal Periodic Review: Ongoing 16th Session Includes Colombia, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Russia, Cuba & Others
On April 22, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group commenced its sixteenth session in Geneva. During this two-week session, the Council will review and confirm reports on the human rights situation in Turkmenistan, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Colombia, Uzbekistan, Tuvalu, Germany, Djibouti, Canada, Bangladesh, the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, and Cuba. [UN HRC]
The fourteen countries reviewed during this session were previously evaluated by the UPR Working Group in February 2009. This is the fourth session of the UPR Working Group to be held in its “second cycle,” meaning that the countries are being reviewed for a second time. An integral part of the second cycle concerns “what steps [the States] have taken to implement accepted recommendations posed to them during their first review.” [UN] Read more
In I.K. v. Austria, ECtHR Prohibits Deportation of Russian National Due to Risk of Collective Punishment against Those with Ties to Alleged Chechen Separatists
Last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) announced its decision in the case of I.K. v. Austria, app. no. 2964/12, Judgment of 28 March 2013, in which the court considered the conventionality of Austria’s denial of asylum to a Russian national of Chechen origin whose father had worked for former Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov. The court held, unanimously, that there would be a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights if the applicant were removed to Russia because of his past persecution and the ongoing risk of collective punishments by security forces which target those affiliated with separatists.