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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Draws Line On Rights Demands

President Boris Yeltsin called on parliament Tuesday to ratify "in short order" the four basic conventions of the Council of Europe, signed by Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov in Strasbourg last month, but said that Russia was not prepared immediately to meet all the requirements for membership.

Yeltsin told the 12 representatives of the permanent Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that Russia "had earned the right to be in the Council of Europe by the level of democratization of the country, especially in the last two to three years, and by the serious advances made in human rights and freedoms, and in economic reforms," Itar-Tass reported.

But Yeltsin said Russia is not ready to meet the council's recommendation that Russia abolish the death penalty. "We are absolutely unprepared for this," Yeltsin said Tuesday, agcording to Interfax.

Yeltsin also voiced opposition to transferring jurisdiction of prisons and labor camps from the Interior Ministry to the Justice Ministry, Itar-Tass reported. "Not all recommendations of the Council of Europe can be implemented in the near future," the agency reported him as saying.

Yeltsin impressed upon the 12 parliamentarians that they should oppose all efforts "to put pressure on us, to interfere in the internal affairs of Russia, and to implement double standards."

Vasily Likhachev, deputy chairman of the Federation Council, said that parliament was certain to comply with the president's request for ratification of the four conventions.

The only real opposition to Russia's joining the group has come from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party.

"The only interesting part of this organization is the court [of human rights]," LDPR member Alexei Mitrofanov, chairman of the Duma's geopolitics committee, said Tuesday. "The council itself is already aging, decrepit. It reminds me of the Central Committee of the 1980s, where honorable and respected people who had worked for 30 or 40 years in the Party shuffled slowly through the corridors."

In addition to ratifying the European Convention of Human Rights, conventions to outlaw torture and to protect minorities, and a charter on local self-government, Russia must "inventory" some 160 European conventions, Yeltsin said, singling out the convention on human rights in the social sphere as especially crucial.

Council spokeswoman Cathy Burton said by telephone that if the Russian government failed to comply with certain European norms, "it would be strongly encouraged to do so. As a final action Russia could be taken out of the Council of Europe, its membership could be discontinued."

But according to another council spokesman, Adam Ffoulkes-Roberts, punishment of member countries, even for widespread violations of human rights as in Turkey, "is something that the council has not learned how to deal with very well." Despite a slew of petitions to condemn Turkey, no concrete disclipinary action has been taken, and Russia would be an even more vexing case, he said. No country has ever been suspended for its human rights record.