at the Pre-Session Meeting with Committee on the Rights of the Child
Geneva, 20 June 2013
Dear Members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child !
This is the third time when Coalition of Russian NGOs presents at the Pre-Session Meeting its Alternative Report. And like in February 1999 and in June 2005 this Presentation begins by the sad statement that most of the recommendations given to Russian Federation in previous Committee’s Concluding Observations are not implemented yet. At the same time our common efforts are hopefully not in vain since during last 8 years, i.e. after the last Concluding Observations from September 2005, many of recommendations outlined there became the Statements and Orders of Russian top leaders, including Presidents Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev. However the problem is that their Orders were not properly implemented as well. In this short Presentation we focus on a number of most painful problems and hopes for their solution.
1. Right for the family. Item 39 of the Concluding Observations – September 2005 (CRC/C/15/Add.274) recommends to “Adopt a comprehensive strategy and take immediate preventive measures to avoid separation of children from their family environment and to reduce the number of children living in institutions”. And it was not by chance that on 10 May 2006 President Vladimir Putin said literally the same in his Annual Appeal to Parliament and ordered “to create mechanisms” to realize these priorities. And 6 years later President Putin repeated the same Order in his Decree # 1688 from 28 December 2012. Why? Because the Order from 2006 was not fulfilled, and more of that: best practices Russian pilot experience of placing inmates of institutions to the supported patronat families was forbidden by the Law “On Guardianship and Tutorship” from 24 April 2008. And now, in December 2012, President of Russia demands “to elaborate the legal basis of the patronat family care” and again we see the strange half a year passivity in implementation of this Decree.
In this situation we ask Committee to support the simple measure capable quickly improve the life of more than 300.000 orphaned and non-orphaned children permanently living in Russian institutions where they are deprived now of such an elementary notions as “home”, “family”, “personal space”, “meaningful adult”. We ask Committee to recommend to Russian Federation to adopt the obligatory rules demanding that life of inmates of institutions must be organized ONLY in the family-like groups with permanent tutors and in social environment. This of course should not substitute the traditional family placement, but this may be realized without changing any laws, without additional resources and it would be an immediate step to children’s better development and socialization. This proposal was inspired by the same reform of all children’s institutions in Slovakia in 1998-2003.
2. Adoption. Item 43 of the Concluding Observations - 2005 recommends to ratify the 1993 Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption. This Convention waits its ratification for 13years after it was signed by President of Russian Federation in 2000. But it can not be ratified now at all because of the “Dima Yakovlev” Law. This Law (December 2012) put a ban for adoption from Russia to the USA – in drastic violation of the international rules and of the Convention’s highest priority of the Best Interests of the Child (cf. items 26, 27 of Concluding Observations). This Law is a vivid example of sacrificing children to the Big Politics interests. And it is very sad to say that Russian Ombudsman for Children’s Rights Pavel Astakhov supported this “anti-children’s right” Law.
We also pay attention that “Dima Yakovlev” Law was passed by Russian Parliament in December 2012 in TEN DAYS whereas family protecting or deinstitutionalization laws are considered during years.
3. Public inspectorate of children’s institutions. Item 45 of Concluding Observations - 2005 recommends “to develop mechanisms for independent public inspections of children’s institutions”. The Draft of the corresponding Federal Law was elaborated by NGOs in 2010, it was supported by President Medvedev who introduced it to Parliament on 27 December 2011. The Law was passed in the First Reading on 16 March 2012. And now during 15 months there is no move of this Law in State Duma which is most strange since President Putin also supported this Law in the above named Decree from 28 December 2012. Meanwhile information on cases of sexual or physical violence in the institutions, on abuse of psychiatry, etc. regularly shocks the country.
4. The lack of independent inspectorate of children’s institutions results in most serious and unacceptable violations of the Russian Laws in the boarding schools (internats) for children with disabilities. Because of it for children - inmates of these institutions are drastically violated basic rights for health, sanitary well-being, upbringing and rehabilitation.
5. On inclusive education (item 50 of the Concluding Observations - 2005). Now new Russian Law “On Education” (January 2013) proclaimed inclusive education, however did not describe it in any detail and even did not abolish the obligatory rules making implementation of inclusive education impossible in practice. Thus to implement inclusive education in Russia will demand additional great efforts. In particular the special programs are demanded to adjust Russian regular schools to inclusive education of children with special educational needs. Meanwhile the right for education is still violated for many thousands of disabled children of Russia.
Also the incapability of schools to realize the inclusive education approach results in the educational discrimination of children of minorities, including children of migrants, Roma children etc.
6. The Laws on Special Courts for Minors (administration of juvenile justice – items 84-86 of CO-2005) wait in the Parliaments for 11 years – after it was adopted in the First Reading on 15 February 2002.
7. Child suicides, cruel treatment and violence. Item 58 of CO-2005 recommended “to take all necessary measures to prevent suicide”. However nothing was done in this field and State Report ignores this topic. Meanwhile dramatic statistics says that Russia is on the first place among European countries in number of child suicides. Also there are no programs for the recovery and social reintegration of the victims of cruel treatment and violence in institutions and in families (items 32-34, 46-48 of CO-2005).
It must be noted that Investigation Committee of Russian Federation established in 2006 has a special task of protecting children from all forms of violence, corresponding Committee’s reports are truthful and terrifying. We fruitfully cooperate with the Committee in the field of protection of children from violence.
Absence of the coordinated and effective work with social services, absence of preventive social work is an essential difficulty in the work of investigation with cases of violence against children. However there is a hope that new draft law “On the basics of social service in Russian Federation” elaborated in 2012 by the Ministry of Labor with active participation of NGOs and Civic Chamber of Russia and recently introduced by the Government to the State Duma will hopefully turn Russian social system to the planned case-management social work, to the work with children – victims of violence, children at risk of suicide, etc.
8. Item 10b of CO-2005 recommends: “the full and effective implementation of the minimal standards for the enjoyment of rights of children in the context of the decentralization foreseen by Federal Law No. 122 in order to prevent disparities…” (see also item 20). Unfortunately no measures are even planned to overcome this decentralization and this unfair disparity established by the Federal Law No. 122 from 2004. Among the dramatic consequences of this social decentralization of Russia is social discrimination of the families with children which do not possess permanent residence registration, including absence of any legal possibilities to resolve their heavy housing problems. Another evident example is the impossibility to guarantee on all territory of Russia the free of charge breast milk substitute for babies born by HIV/AIDS-infected mothers.
9. And most important point which perhaps covers everything. We mean the recommendation of the items 11, 12 of Concluding Observations – 2005 to create the interdepartmental coordinating body responsible for determining the child-protecting policy in Russia. Unfortunately this recommendation is not implemented so far. However in December 2010 President Dmitry Medvedev ordered to transform Governmental Commission on Minors and Protection of their Rights into such an effective coordinating body in the sphere of child and family policy, which, as we hoped, may be also responsible for the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations. But this President’s Order is not fulfilled until now. Thus we ask Committee to inquire Russian Government about the plans of establishing the Federal Body responsible for coordination of State policy in the field of protection of childhood and family in Russian Federation.
There are good news however:
10. In 2008 Russia ratified the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts, and 6 weeks ago, on 7 May 2013, the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography was ratified as well.
11. Also it must be greeted that on 1 June 2012 President Putin signed the Decree establishing National Strategy of Actions in the Interests of Children for 2012-2017 – as it was recommended by item 16 of Concluding Observations - 2005. This National Strategy was elaborated due to the initiative of the Upper Chamber of Russian Parliament and actually was basically drafted by the Civil society experts and NGO activists. Many priorities of this National Strategy coincide with priorities of the Committee’s Concluding Observations, including the goals to overcome poverty of families with children, to resolve their heavy housing problems, to preserve biological families and to provide family care for every orphan, etc., and it includes chapter on child participation.
In connection with the housing problem it is necessary to say that desperate hunger strikes of many-children mothers, who have no hope for better housing, or don’t have housing at all (including those discriminated by the absence of residence registration), became the dramatic Russian reality nowadays.
It must be positively noted also that Plan on Realization of National Strategy approved by the Government on 15 October 2012 includes the most important grass root child participation: development in schools of the Children Reconciliation (Mediation) Services.
However this National Strategy perhaps will never be realized at all. Because it is strongly attacked – just like the Law on public inspection of children’s institutions, like patronat, like many other above named initiatives - by the unnaturally influential so called ‘anti-juvenile’ movement which also condemns Convention on the Rights of the Child, condemns UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and all (as they put it) “Western enemies and foreign agents planning to destroy Russian traditional family”. Paradoxically this anti-juvenile movement manages to stop fulfillment of many positive Orders issued by top Russian leaders, including Orders aimed at protection of the family (see paragraph 1 above).
Thus we ask Committee to support again the above named measures summed up in particular in the National Strategy of Actions in the Interests of Children.
We also ask Committee to pay special attention to the Russia’s Federal Law from 2012 on “NGOs – as Foreign Agents” which is used even against the child protecting activities of NGOs.