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Russia: President Signs Law on Children’s Rights Commissioners

(Feb. 7, 2019) On December 27, 2018, the President of the Russian Federation signed the Law on Children’s Rights Commissioners. ( Federal Law on Children’s Rights Commissioners , Dec. 27, 2018, N 501-FZ, Russian government’s Official Legal Information Portal (in Russian). The Law expanded the authority of the Children’s Rights Commissioner, a post created by a presidential decree in 2009. ( Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of September 1, 2009, on the Commissioner for Children’s Rights , website of the Children’s Rights Commissioner (in Russian).)
The Law aims at defining the legal status of the Children’s Rights Commissioner appointed by the President and that of commissioners appointed to work on the regional level by the heads of the regional administration. (Federal Law on Children’s Rights Commissioners art. 1.) According to article 3 of the Law, the President appoints the Children’s Rights Commissioner for a period of five years and for a maximum of two terms. ( Id . art. 3.) The Commissioner must be a citizen of the Russian Federation aged 30 years or older with an impeccable reputation and professional experience in protecting and restoring children’s rights. The Commissioner cannot be a member of the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly (the upper chamber of the Russian legislature), a deputy of the State Duma (the lower chamber of the Russian legislature), a deputy of a legislative (representative) body in the state and local governments, or a member of a political party or other public association pursuing political goals, nor can he or she engage in other paid activities with the exception of teaching, research, and other creative pursuits. ( Id . art. 4.)
The Commissioner is to guarantee children’s rights, prevent their violation, and assist in their restoration. The Commissioner is also to assist in the formation and effective functioning of the state child-protection system, as well as conduct monitoring of the mechanisms of protection of children’s rights. ( Id. art. 5.)
The Law authorizes the Commissioner to forward to the Constitutional Court for review federal laws, other regulatory acts of the Russian Federation, and laws and other regulatory legal acts of the state and local governments. The Commissioner can send to the federal and state legislative bodies proposals for adopting or amending legislation in the area of children’s rights. ( Id. art. 6.)
The Commissioner can forward to executive bodies of the federal and state governments proposals to invalidate or suspend regulations and decisions if such regulations and decisions violate children’s rights. The Commissioner also forwards recommendations to the executive bodies of federal, state, and local governments concerning the application of disciplinary, administrative, or criminal punishments for the violation of children’s rights. ( Id .)
The Children’s Rights Commissioner also has the right to seek in administrative courts compensation for damages for violations of children’s rights resulting from the inaction or action of state or municipal bodies, as well as visit penitentiary institutions where children, pregnant women, and women with children are incarcerated. The Law allows the Commissioner to participate in civil court proceedings and provide expert testimony. ( Id .)
The Commissioner has the right to conduct independent investigations to verify information concerning violations of children’s rights. The executive bodies of federal, state, and local governments must comply with requests of the Commissioner and provide unlimited and uninhibited access to sites and officials. Appeals to the Commissioner from penitentiary institutions are not to be disclosed to the management of penitentiary institutions and are to be forwarded to the Commissioner within 24 hours of their receipt. When the Commissioner sends a written request, the executive and legislative bodies of federal and local government must provide a written answer within 15 days. ( Id .)
The Commissioner is accountable to the President and must submit an annual report to the President. ( Id . art. 8.) The Law also provides for the posts of children’s rights commissioners at the state and local levels. Commissioners are appointed by and subordinate to the heads of state governments and have the status of public servants. The Law prescribes that the Commissioner is to coordinate the activities of regional children’s rights commissioners in ensuring that policies and laws in the area of children’s rights are applied in a uniform manner. ( Id . arts. 5, 9)
The Law provides for a legal framework for the activities of regional children’s rights commissioners, who have come under strict scrutiny and criticism for their lack of action in providing adequate support in defense of children’s rights and complacency where violations have taken place. One such example of official negligence in the face of violations of children’s rights was the support of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Perm Oblast for a regional law adopted in 2016 that did not provide for the payment of a regional childbirth allowance to single mothers. The Commissioner had supported the law because, in his view, the state should not provide support to mothers who decide to give birth to and raise the children of “worthless fathers.” (Natalia Preblagina, Ombudsman of Perm Supported Nonpayment of Allowances to Single Mothers , IZVESTIA (Apr. 21, 2017) (in Russian).)
 

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