HC Deb 26 March 2004 vol 419 cc1123-4W
Mr. David Atkinson

: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his Department's assessment is of progress made by the Russian Federation in meeting the commitments and obligations it entered into upon accession to the Council of Europe; what his Department's assessment is of areas on which further progress should be made; and if he will make a statement. [163220]

Mr. Rammell

: The latest Council of Europe (CoE) Resolution on Russian implementation (1277 of 23 April 2002) acknowledges that progress has been made in many areas, for example, judicial reform, the transfer of pre-trial detention centres to the Ministry of Justice and adoption of the Law on the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights. Progress in other spheres such as the moratorium on the use of the death penalty is welcome, but it remains to be abolished formally and implementation is thus incomplete. The situation has however deteriorated in some areas. In particular, in the level of media freedom and the effect of the State controlled media on the conduct of free and fair elections. I refer the hon. Member to the declaration published by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the Presidential elections in Russia on 17 March 2004.

We also remain seriously concerned over the situation in Chechnya. The prosecution of those responsible for human rights violations remains limited to a few key cases, while the majority of reported abuses go uninvestigated. There continue to be reports of widespread human rights abuses, including rising numbers of 'disappearances', by federal forces and local militias in Chechnya.

Most legal instruments pertaining to the accession of Russia to the CoE have been signed and ratified. However, Protocol 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights, and The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages have been signed but not ratified. Furthermore, The European Social Charter and The Convention on Transfer of Sentenced Persons have not yet been signed.

We continue to support the CoE in remaining engaged with Russia and to encourage Russia to implement its commitments.