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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Report Deals Blow to Moscow's Council Hopes

A damning report on Russia's legal system and human rights record has virtually wiped out its hopes of joining the Council of Europe by May next year, Stefan Trechsel, chamber president of the Commission of Human Rights, said Monday.


Trechsel, a co-author of the report for the Council of Europe published Friday, said there were still serious problems with human rights abuses and that no working legal system was yet in place.


"There are still serious problems in the area of human rights, specifically in detention and remand centers, and punishment and isolation areas in prisons," Trechsel said, speaking from Strasbourg.


"The rule of law is not firmly established in Russia," he said, adding that in legal matters it is not always clear who is responsible. Many issues are not decided along legal criteria and even contradict the constitution, he said.


The report, one of several being prepared on Russia's application for consideration by the Council of Ministers in November, concluded: "the legal order of the Russian Federation does not, at the present moment, meet the Council of Europe standards."


"No other report has been so critical," Andrew Drzemczewski, a lawyer responsible for Eastern Europe in the Council's Directorate of Human Rights, said Monday, admitting that it was "very damning."


Trechsel drew particular attention to the issue of personal property in Moscow and the propiska system, controlling who can live in Moscow, which is still maintained although it is outside the constitution.


Gennady Talalayev, Deputy Head of the Press Center of the Federation Council said he hoped Russia's admission next year was still possible. Defending the propiska system, he said: "Moscow is a very specific case, with a lot of refugees, crime, and lack of housing. If the authorities of Moscow lift the law imagine what kind of hell we would have in Moscow," he said Monday.


Three different committees will submit reports to the parliamentary assembly which will then present a formal view for the Council of Ministers. Political considerations for Russia's membership, may prove stronger in swaying the minds of the ministers of the 32 members who have the final decision. "There is a level of imperfection that the Council accepts," Techsel said, adding that a clear intention for improvement on the part of Russia may be enough.


The main conditions for membership are that the state be a pluralistic democracy and respect the rule of law and human rights.