Working group formed on Bill on public oversight of children??‚??s institutions

The first deputy chair of the State Duma (Parliament) Committee on Families’, Women’s and Children’s Issues, Natalya Karpovich, made an announcement about the above at a round table dealing with controlling the way orphanages operate. She also expressed her readiness to lead the working group.  The Bill was proposed by the Centre for Creative Development ‘stART’ and ROO, ‘The Rights of the Child’. The chair of the latter’s management board, Boris Altshuler, said that experts from the council of the Human Rights Commissioner for the Russian Federation, officials from the children’s rights section of the latter’s staff and members of the Public Chamber had been working on formulating an outline Bill. Ms Karpovich explained that the essence of the proposal was for the federal government to allow national communal organisations to supervise and inspect children’s institutions, In the event that violations of children’s rights are detected, these organisations would have the right to resort to authorities at the highest level, e.g. the commissioner for children’s rights.   The outline Bill contemplates NGOs being entitled to nominate their own candidates to supervisory commissions. However, the number of nominations will depend on the status of the organisation. It is proposed that regional organisations will have the right to nominate up to two candidates and interregional ones two from each region that they represent. The commission members will be appointed by the public chamber which will take into account the opinions of the federal human rights and children’s rights commissioners. The supervisory commissions will be entitled to visit children’s homes and boarding schools without giving advance notice. The special feature of the Bill lies in the fact that members of a commission will have the right to speak to a child individually. They will be allowed to inspect an institution accompanied by reliable specialists – psychologists or psychiatrists. They will also be able to request production of any necessary documents. Regional government agencies will be obligated to render assistance to the public commissions alongside which a federal one will be set up.   The round table also discussed amending legislation in relation to the Law on Psychiatric Aid and Guarantees for the Rights of Citizens Accorded Such Aid. The chief executive of stART said that often children’s institutions do not try to deal with children exhibiting deviant behaviour but send them off for psychiatric treatment. The NGOs responded by proposing that orphans or children lacking parental care up to the age of fifteen should be sent to a psychiatric hospital only with the consent of the court. Furthermore, during the first six months their case would be subject to review by a board of psychiatrists at least monthly to decide whether they should continue to be hospitalised. However, some experts do not think that the Russian court system is up to the job of resolving issues of illegal hospitalisation of children from orphanages. Some think specialist judges should deal with such cases if the Law is to afford children effective protection. One expert recalled that the above law on psychiatric aid envisaged the creation of an independent psychiatric service for the protection of the rights of patients in psychiatric hospitals, which had not been implemented to this day even though it was enacted in 1993. Had the service been established, it would have provided an additional safeguard against the unjustified committal of children to such hospitals. It would be independent of the health authorities coming under the aegis of the human rights commissioner and having the right to peruse all the medical documents and talk to patients individually.   Ms Karpovich invited the NGOs to participate in further work on the proposed Bill. She told the ASI correspondent that the working party would be formed and have its first meeting by the end of the month. She added that work on the Bill should be completed by the autumn following which it would be introduced into the Duma.

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