UN Women's Rights Expert Concludes Visit to Russian Federation
Saturday, January 1, 2005 1:15 PM


Prof. Yakin Ertürk, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights today issued the following statement at the end of her official visit to the Russian Federation 17-24 December 2004.

During my visit to the Russian Federation, at the invitation of the Government, I held meetings with representatives of the Federal Government and Republican authorities of Ingushetia and Chechnya, as well as civil society organizations, in Moscow, Nazran and Grozny. I heard testimonies from victims of human rights violations, relatives of "disappeared" persons, as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ingushetia and returnees living in a temporary accommodation centre near Grozny. I also visited female detainees at a pre-trial establishment in Grozny.

In the past ten years the Russian Federation has undergone administrative and legislative change that has contributed to improvements in the situation of women. I welcome the recent ratification of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW as an added commitment by the Government to address violence against women in the Russian Federation. Violence, particularly in the home, continues to cause injuries and claim the lives of thousands of women annually. Due to the registration system (propiska) and lack of financial means many women are compelled to share the same housing with a violent partner, even after an official divorce. The situation is further aggravated by the lack of sufficient shelters. Violence against women and sex discrimination are still low on the State agenda. A draft domestic violence bill, presented to the State Duma, was not adopted. Moreover, the Women's Commission, responsible for mainstreaming a gender perspective into State policies and programmes, was abolished earlier this year. Currently, a department within the Ministry of Health and Social Development is the only national machinery in place to address gender based discrimination.

With regard to the situation in the North Caucasus, the State is confronted with the challenge of ensuring security whilst observing human rights. In this regard, some positive steps have been taken by the Government towards normalization in the region. However, the day to day lives of people is far from normal, particularly in Chechnya. I heard first hand accounts of women being arbitrarily detained and tortured following targeted operations. This is said to be in response to women's involvement in terrorist attacks, particularly as suicide bombers. I also heard accounts from relatives of people who had been subjected to "disappearance", extrajudicial execution, torture, and ill-treatment allegedly by members of the security forces. In the absence of the rule of law, the civilian population suffers abuse by security forces and Chechen armed groups, leaving a climate of fear and insecurity.

Furthermore, the situation of displaced populations is also of concern. Chechen IDPs in Ingushetia do not want to return until security is established. The Ingush IDPs from North Ossetia complained of not being recognized as displaced people by federal authorities and the international community and receive limited humanitarian assistance.

In view of my observations, I would like to make initial recommendations to the Government of the Russian Federation:

· prioritize women's rights in judicial and non-judicial mechanisms, policies and programmes;
· amend legislation in conformity with international standards, enact legislation specifically criminalizing domestic violence and provide shelters for those in need;
· launch gender awareness campaigns and provide training to law enforcement officers and security forces;
· support politically and financially civil society initiatives promoting human rights including through research and advocacy;
· ensure that all laws, policies and practices to counter terrorism fully meet fundamental principles of international law and international human rights standards;
· investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for violations of human rights and provide compensation to victims or their families;
· ensure safe and voluntary return of IDPs;
· establish a protection programme for human rights defenders, witnesses and victims who are at risk of harm;

I wish to thank the federal and local authorities for facilitating my visit. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the human rights organizations, individuals and victims of violence for valuable information provided. Finally, I would like to thank the UN country team for their logistical support to the visit.

I will present a full report of my findings and recommendations to the sixty-second session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2006.

Published in: United Nations Press Release, UN Women's Rights Expert Concludes Visit to Russian Federation, 24 December 2004.