MOSCOW, June 21 (RIA Novosti)
Problems with Extremist Reform Commissions
Russia could establish a federal commission to help former extremists adjust to a peaceful life. The first such commission was established in Dagestan when the amnesty programs expired. Other North Caucasus republics soon followed suit, but the credibility of these commissions is in question as its law-enforcement and civilian members continue to find discord.
The Dagestani commission was established in November 2010 at the initiative of Rizvan Kurbanov, then First Deputy Prime Minister of Dagestan. Similar commissions were organized in Ingushetia in September 2011 and in Kabardino-Balkaria in January 2012. Dagestani leader Magomedsalam Magomedov and his Ingush counterpart Yunus-Bek Yevkurov recently proposed establishing a federal commission to persuade rebels to turn from lawlessness. The Prosecutor General’s Office, other federal law-enforcement agencies, and human rights activists support the idea.
Magomedov said in April that the commission had met 15 times, “hearing 37 cases and granting 32 assistance requests. “It also considered over 100 citizen complaints about infringements on their rights by law-enforcement agencies.”
He added that more convicted extremists were requesting help from the commission, which is evidence of its credibility. Additionally, fighters tend to surrender if the commission promises to help them.
But external observers say the commission is not effective, that there are few genuine rebels among those who surrendered; most of them joined armed groups only recently or only planned to do so, while others surrendered only because they had run out of munitions. The observers say the commission forces rebels to publicly renounce their crimes and broadcasts their statements on TV or online, which may discourage potential applicants but places amnesty seekers at the mercy of their former gangs.
Moreover, commission members differ on who to help and how. In February, the commission for the first time denied the requests of five former extremists because they had refused to fully cooperate with investigators. Alexei Savrulin, head of the Dagestani Investigative Committee, suggested the commission should only hear the cases of those who bring their weapons in when surrendering, but never those who were captured in a gun battle or surrendered because they had run out of ammunition. Savrulin argued that this distorts the commission’s general policy. “Does this mean that you can fight, shoot and kill one day, and then come in for help the next day? This is not logical,” he said.
His civilian opponents insist that the commission is not an investigative or judicial body and that it is focused on ideological and practical issues.
“One fighter, Tamerlan Amirov, revealed the location of two caches holding three bombs. If we’d waited for the outcome of the investigation, the bombs would have been used,” Rizvan Kurbanov said.
“It should be enough that someone wants to stop his illegal activity,” Magomedov said. “We should work with him, moving ahead step by step.”
Russian Culture Centers Abroad to Teach Russian to Potential Immigrants
Russia’s cultural cooperation agency has asked parliament for an increase in financing for its planned chain of Russian language and culture centers abroad. This could prove convenient for potential immigrants.
The State Duma on Wednesday called for intensifying cooperation with Russians living abroad and expanding Russia’s cultural influence worldwide ahead of establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union. The initiative follows a request by Konstantin Kosachev for an additional 7 billion rubles ($215 million) over the next three years. Kosachev is head of a federal agency responsible for cooperation with Russians residing abroad.
According to Leonid Slutsky, who heads the lower house committee on the CIS, the agency’s financing for 2013 was actually decreased despite the prime minister’s support and the president’s pre-election articles which called for attracting Russian compatriots home. At the same time, Slutsky estimates that the agency’s plan to set up a network of Russian culture centers offering Russian language training along with similar linguistic and political initiatives requires over 1 billion rubles ($30.75 million).
However, it is doubtful that these centers will teach Russian to Russians living abroad since most of them know the language. It would be more logical to offer language courses to potential immigrants whose interest in the Russian language and culture is purely commercial. A law requiring all foreign workers who wish to find employment in Russia’s housing and utilities sector, retail or services to speak fluent Russian will come into force on January 1, 2013.
Some curious twists have come to light as the bill is going through its second reading. The government will be authorized to add more industries for which Russian proficiency will be required. An immigrant will have to produce a Russian proficiency document within 60 days of obtaining a work permit. The document should be translated into Russian and notarized. It is obvious that most immigrants – even legal ones – will be unable to produce one. This means that applying to one of the certification centers established at Russian universities will be their only option. The centers, which also teach Russian, may charge several thousand rubles for a document. Some 200 such centers are already issuing these certificates.
The Federal Migration Service refused to give any details on how much authority it will have, or how it will verify the authenticity of the Russian proficiency documents. It also declined to cite any spending details.
“Unfortunately, many of the regulations regarding immigration provoke corruption,” said Dmitry Gorovtsov, member of the lower house security committee. Certificates issued by the same institutions that teach Russian courses will only lead to more bribes, he added. According to Gorovtsov, the language problem requires a more comprehensive approach. For example, potential immigrants should be able to learn Russian in the countries of their residence – something that Kosachev’s culture centers are planning to do.
Belligerent Traffic Police Chief Receives Suspended Sentence
A court in Vladivostok, Primorye Territory, handed down an unexpectedly mild three-year suspended sentence plus a two-year probation term to the former local traffic police chief, Col. Alexander Lysenko, on Thursday. Lysenko was convicted of beating a motorist.
An internet video posted last June showed the police colonel beating a young motorist, Yaroslav Gorbenko, when Gorbenko asked the officer to identify himself.
Charged with abuse of authority, which carries a potential prison term of up to ten years, Lysenko was temporarily removed from his post and placed under house arrest. He later resigned.
He admitted his guilt during the investigation, thereby qualifying for a special court procedure that implies a full confession. Under Russia’s Criminal Procedure Code, a defendant under this special procedure cannot be sentenced to more than two-thirds of the maximum term.
Taking into account his state decorations and his health issues, the court on Thursday gave him a three-year suspended sentence instead of the four years asked for by the prosecutor. After serving this term, Lysenko will not be able to hold any law enforcement position for another two years.
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