The Duma failed yesterday to adopt a constitutional law establishing the office of Commissioner for Human Rights. The bill won only 216 votes instead of the qualified majority of 300 necessary for passage of a constitutional law. (10) The bill, which had the support of the Communist party faction, was blocked by other factions, notably Yabloko, which wanted prior agreement on a specific candidate for the post. The Communist faction called such an agreement unnecessary, but Yabloko countered candidly that the powerful Communist bloc would otherwise vote in its own candidate. The bill is of crucial importance because it aims to create the office of an impartial, independent investigator who would act as watchdog over the observance of the constitutional rights and freedoms of Russian citizens. The officer would be empowered to examine complaints by individuals about the actions of Russian government agencies.
The respected human rights activist Sergei Kovalev recently resigned from the post of presidential human rights commissioner and President Yeltsin has since abolished that post. Kovalev complained that the presidential commission he headed was inefficient because all its efforts to probe complaints of wrongdoing were fobbed off by officials with rude letters or total silence. Given this experience, it is particularly important for the Duma to ensure that the new post has sufficient powers to act in an effective and independent manner. Debate has now been postponed for one month to allow the factions to consult on a candidate.
North Korean Dies After Breaking Into Russian Embassy Compound.