The meeting participants also discussed the development of the institution of human rights ombudsman and increasing the effectiveness of the system of regional human rights ombudsmen.
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Excerpts from transcript of meeting with representatives of Russian human rights community
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,
I asked you to get together today after I received the letter that you all signed. The thing is that the term of office of our current Human Rights Ombudsman is expiring and we need to elect a new deserving candidate for the position. I have read your letter and decided to meet with you in person to hear your ideas on this matter.
This is my opening statement. Who will begin? Please.
chairman of the Presidential Council For Civil Society and Human Rights Mikhail Fedotov: Mr President, there have actually been two letters. The first one, signed by all those present here, our prominent human rights activists who are in one way or another directly connected to the work of our Human Rights Council. In parallel, Elizaveta Glinka came up with an initiative, and she decided to engage in this not only all of us present here, but also all members of the Council. Therefore, there is also a Council appeal, which has already been voted on, and almost 50 Council members have signed it. The idea is the same: the example of the current Human Rights Commissioner demonstrates the qualities that are most important for an ombudsman. Among them are sincerity, devotion to the cause, persistence in defending human rights and freedoms as a supreme value of our state, a spotless reputation, unquestioned authority within the human rights community, negotiating and mediating skills required to deal with the complicated relations between civic society and the state. We are all convinced that Ella Pamfilova is the person who perfectly combines all these qualities.
Vladimir Putin: Is she currently heading any entity?
Mikhail Fedotov: The Civic Dignity national public movement. Last year you instructed this organisation to deal with the distribution of grants among human rights organisations.
Vladimir Putin: I never instructed anyone, you suggested it – I agreed. (Laughter)
Mikhail Fedotov: But you agreed and gave instructions, which is very important.
We have had our first experience, the work was perfectly organised, Mr Lukin also took part in distributing those grants. There was not a single complaint, at least I have not read of any in the media. No scandals, no shouting or hysterics. I think it was all done transparently and fairly, with digniti. We are all convinced that as Human Rights Commissioner Ms Pamfilova can be very useful for our cause.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Lukin, when does your term of office expire?
Human rights commissioner Vladimir Lukin: My term expires on February 17, but by law it expires when the new commissioner is elected and takes the vow — this is when the authority is handed over.
Vladimir Putin: I hope that after this happens you and I will see each other and I will be able to thank you for the years we worked together. Meanwhile, today too I would like to use this opportunity to express gratitude for everything you have done on this difficult, thorny path. It is difficult because you cannot please everyone; you have to be both uncompromising and flexible. Keeping in touch with government agencies, maintaining your authority among various groups is not an easy task, which requires specific qualities.
Mr Lukin, thank you very much. I hope we will talk later. Bearing in mind your experience, your qualifications, I would like you to continue working on some areas, but we will talk about this some other time.
Vladimir Lukin: Thank you, Mr President.
If I may, I would like to say I am very grateful. I remember how you and I met in this same building, and you asked me to start the formalities related to taking up this position. All sorts of things have happened since, but I am grateful to the authorities for treating this new unusual position adequately, as I believe.
I do not recall a case when the President would in any direct way try to influence my work. Indirectly, by giving advice – he did. I am grateful to him for that. This contributed to the normal functioning of a commissioner. I am also grateful to the human rights activists present, who had trust in me from the start. I believe we have not lost any of the trust and respect we have had for each other. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much, again.
What do you think of the proposed candidate?
Vladimir Lukin: As for Ms Pamfilova, as I have already said in public, I find her a very good candidate for one simple reason: among the people (candidates) I know, she is the one who best combines the three very important parts of the job, which she has been involved in.
The first one is that she is a state official, she worked in very important areas of the government and she knows things there firsthand.
The second is that she worked in Parliament for a long time and knows the problems of legislation.
And the third is that she has been long and I would say enthusiastically involved in the human rights movement.
All of this taken together gives me confidence that she will do a very good job.
Vladimir Putin: This means we agreed. I will of course have to meet with Ms Pamfilova. I believe it would be proper for Ms Pamfilova and Mr Lukin to come to see me together, so that we could have a joint discussion.
Meanwhile, let us agree that the issue is resolved. We need to hear Ms Pamfilova herself. In line with the procedure set by law, she will be nominated candidate for the position of Human Rights Commissioner of Russia.