Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 104

Russia’s newly elected human rights commissioner, Oleg Mironov, has launched his first investigation. He wants to examine media allegations that it is possible for suspected criminals to avoid prosecution by greasing the palms of procuracy officials. As a start, Mironov has asked Russia’s Prosecutor General to inform him how many procurators have been prosecuted for corruption. “The Prosecutor General’s Office is no hurry to supply the answers,” Moskovsky komsomolets reports. (Moskovsky komsomolets, May 28)

Mironov’s election by the State Duma on May 22 caused an uproar because he is a leading member of the Russian Communist Party. “When all’s said and done, a Communist in charge of defending human rights is nonsense,” Izvestia wrote. (Izvestia, May 27) Russia has been without a human rights watchdog since 1995, when the first man to hold the post, the indomitable human rights activist and former political prisoner, Sergei Kovalev, was sacked by the Duma for his criticism of Russia’s human rights violations in Chechnya. Since then, the Duma has made several attempts–in April and September of last year–to elect a replacement. As the candidate put forward by the Communist faction, Mironov got the largest number of votes each time, but failed to muster required the two-thirds majority. His election became possible last month only because the Duma’s Russia is Our Home (ROH) faction wanted to remove its estranged member, General Lev Rokhlin, as chairman of the Duma’s Defense Committee and replace him with Roman Popkovich. To do so, ROH needed Communist support. The Communists agreed in return for ROH’s support of Mironov for human rights commissioner. Kovalev was shouted down when he told the Duma the deal was “shameless” and “monstrous.” He said the manner of Mironov’s election meant he would never be an independent actor. (ORT, May 22; Izvestia, May 27)

Born in 1939 in Pyatigorsk in the North Caucasus, Mironov studied law in Saratov and worked as a police detective in Pyatigorsk before returning to Saratov to teach constitutional law. In 1992, he was one of the team of lawyers who represented the Soviet Communist Party in its case before the Constitutional Court seeking to overturn President Yeltsin’s decree disbanding the Communist Party.