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2020: Summary of the Report of the Human Rights Ombudsman for Saint-Petersburg

The Report of the Human Rights Ombudsman for Saint Petersburg for 2020* (hereinafter – “the Report”) is submitted pursuant to the Law of Saint Petersburg of 8 July 2020 No 357-79 “On the Human Rights Ombudsman for Saint Petersburg”.

The Report is a core document on the human rights situation in Saint Petersburg, and on the Ombudsman’s and his Office’s activities related to the protection of human rights and to the human rights education.

The Report is based on the results of inspections carried out following complaints to the Ombudsman, on analytical and statistical data, information from the authorities, non-governmental organisations (hereinafter – “NGOs”), and media.

The Ombudsman's recommendations on eliminating the human rights issues identified are forwarded to the government authorities responsible for implementing measures to promote and protect human rights and freedoms.

The year 2020 has two distinctive features: the human rights situation was affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the changes in the Russian Constitution.

The pandemic has aggravated and highlighted many existing problems, above all, in the area of protecting the right to life, health and medical care, forced us to look for a balance between human rights and their limitations, which are necessary during the epidemic. Coronavirus has brought much suffering, pain and grief to our lives, but it has also fostered civic solidarity and mutual aid in the common trouble. In 2020, health care workers had a special role to play in protecting human rights.

The amendments to the Russian Constitution adopted in 2020 did not formally affect its second chapter, devoted to the guarantees of human rights and freedoms. In fact, however, the amendments to the Constitution created the preconditions for a radical change in the entire regulatory environment. Already by the end of the year, several bills tightening state control over civil society, hindering the development of civil society and the implementation of the constitutional guarantees of human rights and freedoms had been adopted. And the multi-day voting procedure and the normative restriction of public monitoring during elections showed that in case of their subsequent use during elections the risk of electoral fraud would increase significantly.

In the past year, many of the human rights problems indicated in previous annual reports have remained the same in Saint Petersburg. At the same time, an increase in civic activity, in people's desire to influence their own fate, to resist injustice and untruth, and to stand up for their rights have also continued.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all those who have helped to promote and protect human rights and freedoms in Saint Petersburg.

Alexander Shishlov

Human Rights Ombudsman for Saint Petersburg

* Full PDF-version of this Report is available in Russian

Complaints to the Ombudsman

One of the indicators of the effectiveness of the Ombudsman's work is Ombudsman’s relevance and credibility. Whereas in 2012 the Ombudsman received 2,403 complaints, in 2020 the number of complaints quadrupled to 10,114. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the increase in the number of complaints to the Ombudsman and requests for legal assistance. However, there has been a steady trend of the increasing number of complaints to the Ombudsman for several years now. On the one hand, this is due to a greater awareness of the institution of the Ombudsman. On the other hand, the increased demand for the help of the Ombudsman is caused by violations of the citizens’ rights by those who are obliged to promote and protect them – representatives of the state.

Right to health protection and medical care

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was no official information about the personal protective equipment needs of health care workers who risked their health and lives while treating patients with coronavirus disease. The heads of the health care facilities and public authorities did not report problems. However, they were many problems, in particular in the patient flow management, the lack of personal protective equipment, and medical equipment.

The cases and the causes of mass coronavirus infection in some city hospitals (for example, the Saint Petersburg Research Institute of Ambulance, Pokrovskaya City Hospital, etc.) became known not from official sources, but doctors’ and patients’ complaints. The withholding of information about problems in the management of the healthcare system in a pandemic led to dire consequences, including mass infection of staff and patients in health care facilities.

A significant number of complaints about violations of the right to health care received by the Ombudsman from residents of Saint Petersburg have resulted from the interruption of planned medical care. The re-profiling of health care facilities and forced isolation have contributed to an increase in mortality from chronic diseases.

Overall, the mortality rate increased by 22.9% this year, with cardiovascular diseases in the first place, malignant tumours in the second and coronavirus in the third place. The number of pre-arranged hospital admissions decreased by 20% in 2020 compared to 2019.

In May 2020, the Ombudsman received a collective complaint from patients at City Hospital №15 against the decision to close the haemodialysis unit because of the re-profiling of the unit to the infectious disease one in order to admit to the hospital COVID-19 patients. In October 2020, the haemodialysis unit at Nikolayevskaya City Hospital was closed.

The closure of haemodialysis units increased the burden on other health care facilities. This had a negative impact on both patients of the health care facilities where haemodialysis units continued to work and patients redirected from re-profiled hospitals where haemodialysis units were closed. People were forced to travel to the other side of the city, often at night, as health care facilities were unable to do this vital procedure in the daytime. Some hospitals organised transportation for patients, but mainly patients in need of haemodialysis travelled to and from the health care facility on their own.

Since 2017, the Ombudsman has persuaded the Saint Petersburg government and the relevant committees of Smolny to provide a "social taxi" service for people receiving renal replacement therapy. In March 2021, the Saint Petersburg Social Code was amended accordingly.

Right of health care workers to additional state support

In 2020, the health care workers’ complaints to the Ombudsman showed that they lacked information about the grounds and procedure for receiving incentive and insurance payments for working with coronavirus patients. Medical workers encountered difficulties in being recognised as victims by commissions of healthcare organisations and faced unmotivated refusals to receive one-time payments by social services.

The authorities of Saint Petersburg were the first in Russia to decide to provide additional one-time payments to medical workers who had been affected by coronavirus while providing medical care to patients with coronavirus disease and to family members of deceased medical workers.

However, in practice, the provision of one-time payments raised many questions. The Governor of Saint Petersburg supported the Ombudsman's proposals to change the procedure for recognising medical workers as victims – they did not have to prove their right to receive additional state support measures.

At the same time, the procedure for appealing against decisions to refuse to provide a one-time payment was not regulated and it was only possible to appeal against the refusal decisions in court. For the purpose of pre-trial settlement of such disputes, the Ombudsman proposed to the Governor to establish an interdepartmental conflict commission under the Committee on Social Policy to consider applications of medical workers on disagreement with the decisions to refuse to provide a one-time payment. The proposal was supported. A representative of the Ombudsman was included in the Commission.

In 2020, the Commission restored the rights of almost 80 medical workers, including the injured employees of the City Ambulance Station. The work of the Commission has continued in 2021.

Discrimination against the vulnerable groups of people

An important task of the Ombudsman is to guarantee the protection of the most vulnerable groups of people who are potential targets for discrimination.

The Ombudsman was needed to strengthen control on ensuring the rights of people with mental health problems in hospitals, as during the epidemic the hospital visits by relatives and volunteers were restricted. Contrary to the federal legislation, the chief doctors of the hospitals refused to allow even representatives of the Saint Petersburg Public Monitoring Committee to visit them. In order to eliminate cases of obstruction of public scrutiny in psychiatric hospitals, the Ombudsman needed the support of the Saint Petersburg Prosecutor's Office, with whose assistance the conflicts were resolved.

Social disadvantage and tensions during the pandemic caused an increase in the number of particularly grave crimes, murders and hate crimes. The situation of domestic violence has worsened in the context of self-isolation.

In 2020, the police received 6,703 reports of domestic violence where the victim was a woman, of which only 467 (7%) were prosecuted.

The lack of measures taken to prevent domestic violence leads to tragedies such as the death on 16 May 2020 of a mother of many children after being brutally beaten by her common-law husband in front of their children. A criminal case against the man was only opened after information about the circumstances of the woman's death spread in the media.

In each of his reports, the Ombudsman notes that in Russia domestic violence is still often not considered a crime but viewed as a private family matter. Therefore, there are no effective legal mechanisms to combat domestic violence. Russia's accession to the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention) and the adoption of federal law on the prevention of domestic violence could play an important role in changing state and public attitudes towards this dangerous phenomenon.

As early as April 2020, nine Russian human rights organisations and associations helping victims of domestic violence, including the Saint Petersburg based “INGO. Crisis Centre for Women”, appealed to the Russian Government to take urgent measures to prevent domestic violence and protect victims of domestic violence in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. On 17 July 2020, seven NGOs published the Report on the Situation of Domestic Violence in Russia during Quarantine. There was no adequate response from the state authorities to the recommendations.

The issue of discrimination against the LGBT community remained acute in 2020.

Monitoring of the observance of LGBT rights in Saint Petersburg conducted by the LGBT group "Coming Out" shows that a significant part of LGBT people (36.8%) face insulting comments in social media, and some of them (5.2%) face harassment on the Internet. Almost half of the respondents (43.8%) state that they would not go to the police if they were confronted with wrongdoing due to their gender identity. 16.4% of the respondents, who had previously interacted with the police, reported that they had encountered abusive comments made by the police towards them. The vulnerable position of LGBT persons is exacerbated by the difficulty to openly report rights violations, exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and hold cultural events.

In November 2020, under the pretext of sanitary and epidemiological restrictions, officers from the Saint Petersburg Department of Russian Federal State Agency for Health and Consumer Rights (Rospotrebnadzor) and the police didn’t allow to hold the annual “Side by Side” International Film LGBT festival at the “Palma” space in Saint Petersburg. According to one member of the festival jury, about ten masked people, some with minors, came to the building along with the inspectors. They stood at the entrance, shouted homophobic slogans and demanded an end to the "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors". Thus, the organisers and guests of the festival, as well as the minors, were in fact provoked with the connivance of the police officers.

According to the position of the Saint Petersburg police the event was stopped by the officers of Rospotrebnadzor because of the results of the on-site inspection which took place on the opening day of the festival and revealed violations of sanitary and epidemiological norms (in particular, simultaneous presence of a significant number of citizens without face masks and failure to comply with social distancing). At the same time, the organisers were not given an opportunity to promptly eliminate the violations identified by Rospotrebnadzor. In their turn, the internal affairs bodies remained passive to the participants of the provocation alongside the “Palma” space who came to protest against the opening of the film festival accompanied by minors.

Restrictions on freedom of movement

The temporary ban of regular international air, sea, rail and road transportation in March 2020, as well as the temporary ban on crossing national borders in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, have had a painful impact on many people. The COVID-19 pandemic has separated families and loved ones living in different countries, has not allowed some people to return home, to continue working or studying, to receive treatment or to get married abroad and has left some people in a foreign country without livelihood and state support. Most of these problems, which Saint Petersburg residents and foreigners “stuck” in the city addressed to the Ombudsman, have been successfully resolved with the help of the Russian Government and the Russian Foreign Ministry, the city authorities, and foreign diplomatic missions.

However, in the context of the ongoing pandemic, with some restrictions on the right to freedom of movement being lifted and others maintained for an indefinite period, the Ombudsman continues to receive complaints about leaving and returning to Russia. In particular, foreign nationals having valid residence permit in the Russian Federation and permanently living in Saint Petersburg have asked for assistance in obtaining the opportunity multiple Russian border crossings for humanitarian reasons.

Many citizens of the Baltic States who have relatives in Saint Petersburg and valid residence permits in the Russian Federation have become hostages of the Russian coronavirus restrictions. Before the pandemic, taking care of parents and children in neighbouring countries was not difficult for people, considering the relatively short distance from Saint Petersburg to their native countries. Now, however, the barriers separating such families could only be overcome by individual decisions of the Operational Headquarters for preventing the spread of a new coronavirus infection on the territory of the Russian Federation.

The Ombudsman has appealed to the Russian Government with a recommendation to amend the current legal regulation, which would remove restrictions for this category of citizens to cross borders multiply for humanitarian reasons, since, in accordance with Article 4 of the Federal Law "Concerning the legal status of foreign citizens in the Russian Federation", foreigners in Russia enjoy rights and bear responsibilities on an equal footing with Russians.

Right to housing

In 2020, perennial problems persisted in ensuring the right to housing - non-fulfilment of annual housing plans and court decisions on the provision of social housing, a decrease in the number of families who received social payments to improve their housing conditions (only the number of families who received subsidies under the "Housing for public sector employees" programme increased: 1,106 families, up from 409 in 2019). Vulnerable groups of people waiting for housing for years include citizens with three or more minor children, families with disabled children, orphans, wheelchair-bound people, and citizens suffering from chronic diseases.

As of 1 January 2021, there were 65,400 communal flats in the city.

In February 2021, the Legislative Assembly passed a law introduced by the Governor aimed at changing the approach to the settlement of communal flats and eliminating the resale of vacated rooms. It is too early to assess its benefits in solving the problem of communal flats, but it is clear that without drastic changes in the housing policy the solution will stretch on for many decades.

Freedom of association

During the pandemic, the role of NGOs assisting public authorities in fulfilling their social obligations to citizens and helping people from the most vulnerable groups has increased significantly. At the same time, the problems the NGOs face have become more acute. Many Saint Petersburg NGOs included in the Registry of social service providers have experienced significant difficulties due to a lack of financial and material resources, including delayed compensation payments, changes in the procedures for providing the payments and cuts in funding.

In 2020, Article 114 of the Russian Constitution was amended to declare that the Russian Government was implementing measures to support civil society institutions and ensure their participation in the development and implementation of state policy. Thus, the government has formally recognised the importance of the role of civil society. However, in fact, this constitutional norm remains declarative. Legislation and law enforcement practice are evolving towards increased pressure and control over civil society, the already existing discriminatory provisions of the legislation regulating activities of NGOs are complemented by new restrictions.

In 2020, the tightening of the "foreign agents" legislation and the expansion of the list of the grounds for recognising unregistered public associations and individuals as foreign agents took place against the background of the continuing consideration by the ECHR of the complaints of NGOs previously included in the Register of non-profit organisations performing the functions of a foreign agent. In 2020, International Memorial and the Memorial Human Rights Centre applied to the ECHR.

In 2020, four Saint Petersburg organisations were added to the Register of NGOs performing the functions of a foreign agent, including the “Humanitarian Action” NGO (who helps drug-addicted persons) and the “Candle” NGO (who helps HIV-positive people). If they, like other NGOs unwilling to operate under the "foreign agent" label, were to cease their activities, the lives of the people receiving the support from them who already have a lot of difficulties would be negatively affected.

On 28 December 2020, for the first time, individuals were included in the Register of Foreign Media Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent. Among them is Darya Apakhonchich, a Saint Petersburg-based artist and volunteer giving Russian lessons to migrants. She has no connection to either the media or foreign agents. In February 2021, Daria Apakhonchich filed an administrative lawsuit against the Ministry of Justice.

Freedom of peaceful assembly

In 2020, the main factor affecting the ability of citizens to exercise the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Saint Petersburg was the pandemic.

Due to the imposition of restrictive measures (which includes a total ban on public events, including solitary pickets, from 30 April), the number of public events held has declined many times over.

In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, protecting the right to life and health is a priority. But restrictions on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly must be proportional to the threat of the spread of infection and determined solely on health grounds.

In fact, however, coronavirus restrictions have been applied inconsistently.

Thus, while people participating in mass public events and solitary pickets have been detained and got fines, even if they practised social distance and used personal protective equipment, participants of mass cultural, sporting, and other events have not been held liable in this way, even if they ignored the anti-epidemic requirements.

For example, on 2 August a “ZaBeg.RF” (“For Run”) semi-marathon was held in the centre of Saint Petersburg with 8,000 participants, according to the organizers. On the contrary, about 20 participants of the spontaneous public action were detained by the police the day before the event. It is obvious that a marathon with 8 thousand participants represents a bigger danger of spreading the infection than a public action with 20 participants.

The inconsistency of the authorities in relaxing restrictions on mass cultural, sporting events, while extending the ban on rallies and even solitary pickets, undermines the credibility of the authorities' actions and contributes to the spread of irresponsible attitudes of people to comply with anti-epidemic measures.

In 2020, following the decision of the Constitutional Court, a number of changes, which the Ombudsman had recommended even earlier, were made to Saint Petersburg's legislation on public events.

Thus, the general prohibition on holding public events near public authorities buildings was removed. However, the restrictions on holding events near buildings housing educational, medical and cultural facilities remained in place. The Ombudsman participated in the preparation of the draft law, which was adopted in the first reading in the form corresponding to the decision of the Constitutional Court. But in the second reading the amendments which preserved the ban and contradicted the decision of the Constitutional Court has been adopted.

In 2020, just as in 2019, citizens actively demanded the only dedicated location (so-called the Hyde Park) for holding public events in the city in a simplified manner (i.e. without approval) – Lenin Square. The Hyde-Park on Lenin Square, along with three others, was created in February 2019 by decree of the Saint Petersburg Government temporarily "pending the adoption of a Saint Petersburg law changing the occupancy limits of specially dedicated locations. And in 2020, a law was passed stipulating that this norm could not be less than 500 people. Thus, according to the Government, the decree was no longer valid and the most popular Saint Petersburg's Hyde Park on Lenin Square was excluded from the list of specially dedicated locations. In order to restore the ability of citizens to exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly in specially dedicated locations for holding public events, the Ombudsman recommended that the Saint Petersburg Government not only return the Hyde Park on Lenin Square but also designate new ones in central districts.

In 2020, the ECHR adopted the decisions regarding complaints about illegal detentions of citizens and other unlawful actions during peaceful public events in 2007–2014 in Saint Petersburg. The ECHR found a violation of Article 11 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and ordered the Russian Federation to compensate the compensations for moral damage and legal costs.

The gross violations of the rights of Saint Petersburg residents, who were unjustifiably, by the use of force, detained during peaceful public events and subjected to administrative punishment, were obvious to Russian human rights defenders. Unfortunately, it took many years and the involvement of an international court for these violations to be recognised by the authorities, for at least partial restoration of the violated rights of citizens and for justice to prevail. The Ombudsman hopes that these decisions of the ECHR will influence the law enforcement and judicial practice in Saint Petersburg regarding the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

Electoral rights

The most important political event of 2020 was the all-Russia voting to approve amendments to the Russian Constitution. A review of the complaints received by the Ombudsman and monitoring of information from various sources revealed three main problems in ensuring the constitutional right of citizens to participate in the management of state affairs.

The first problem is the protection of the health of members of electoral commissions and voters. Despite the protective measures taken, the conduct of the all-Russia voting in a pandemic environment certainly posed an additional threat of the spread of coronavirus infection among voting organisers and participants. Thus, according to the procedure approved by the Saint Petersburg Election Commission, only 359 (less than 2% out of more than 20 000) members of election commissions were tested for COVID-19 and 15 (4%) of them had positive tests and were suspended from their jobs. One can only speculate how many infected election commission members who were not tested participated in the work of the commissions and exposed others to the risk of infection. On the pretext of medical confidentiality, the Saint Petersburg Election Commission refused to disclose information about election commissions where cases of COVID-19 infection had been detected.

The second problem was the mass pressing of employees of the budget-financed organisations to "strike off the list" and participate in voting at certain polling stations. This was evidenced by numerous publications in the media and social networks, and dozens of complaints from citizens, including to the Central Election Commission.

According to the Ombudsman, such acts of enforcement are on the verge of a crime under Article 141 of the Criminal Code (obstructing the exercise of electoral rights), undermine the legitimacy of voting and increase the distrust of citizens towards democratic institutions.

The issue of administrative pressure on citizens was not officially discussed at the meetings of the Saint Petersburg Election Commission. However, in its response to the Ombudsman's enquiry, the Saint Petersburg Election Commission said that there was no enforcement to vote, but only "explanatory work aimed at separation the flows of the participants of the voting".

The third and perhaps the most serious problem is the violations caused by multi-day voting. According to the official data, 78.4% of the citizens of Saint Petersburg who took part in voting had done so before the voting day (between June 25 and 30, 2020). At the same time, in many district election commissions irregularities were observed in the way the voter lists were kept. This created the preconditions for falsification, including multiple voting. There were revealed the facts of giving out the ballots to unidentified persons instead of the participants of voting, registered in the lists of electors.

Unfortunately, most of the participants of voting, who found out that someone had received a ballot instead of them, did not apply to the election commissions or law enforcement bodies, which makes it difficult to establish the circumstances of what happened. But even when the complaints were made, no checks were carried out. The full version of the Report gives relevant examples, as well as examples where hundreds of identically filled in ballot papers were taken out of ballot boxes. These facts show conclusively that, in the current state of the electoral system, multi-day voting creates favourable conditions for massive fraud and undermines confidence in the election results.

Another peculiarity of the year 2020 was the violation of the electoral rights of citizens in connection with the failure to hold the by-election of a deputy of the Legislative Assembly in the electoral district No. 21. Saint Petersburg was the only one of the 37 subjects of the Russian Federation where the regional election campaign was suspended due to the pandemic and then not resumed.

The Saint Petersburg Election Commission failed to take a decision on the resumption of election activities and did not appeal to the Central Election Commission, which had the authority to determine the timing and order of elections in accordance with federal law. The inaction of the Saint Petersburg Election Commission resulted in the violation of the electoral rights of both the 144,000 voters registered in electoral district No. 21 and the candidates.

Positive developments in the protection of electoral rights in 2020 were the court decisions that upheld the violations that resulted in 2019 electoral commissions issuing mandates to candidates who had actually lost in the municipal elections. The court restored the violated electoral rights and the mandates were given to those who had actually won (in No. 7, Dekabristov Island, Novoizmaylovskoe, Moskovskaya Zastava, Chernaya Rechka municipalities).

Unfortunately, neither the election commissions nor the law enforcement agencies reacted properly for a long time to the violations, which were evident immediately and were later confirmed by the court decisions. Moreover, already after the court, decisions there were facts of evasion from their execution by election commissions.

A striking example of such a position was the situation in the Dekabristov Island municipality. Despite complaints from the elected deputies and appeals from the Ombudsman, no action was taken to enforce the court decision for three and a half months. Only after the intervention of the Central Election Commission, to which the Ombudsman appealed to protect the rights of elected deputies, were issued mandates to the winning candidates.

Disregard the court decisions, the lack of adequate response of the Saint Petersburg Election Commission and law enforcement bodies to gross violations of electoral rights confirmed by the court undermined the trust of citizens in the most important state institutions – elections and judicial system.

At the heart of many violations of electoral rights in Saint Petersburg lies the flawed practice of forming electoral commissions.

The Ombudsman has noted on numerous occasions that systematic violations of citizens' electoral rights are facilitated by the inclusion in them of persons already convicted of violations of electoral legislation, as well as employees of state and local government bodies, which creates a mechanism for the application of "administrative resource". Without removing the electoral rights violators from the electoral system and without breaking the existing close ties between electoral commissions and district and municipal administrations the situation in the electoral system of Saint Petersburg cannot be changed.

However, the flawed practice of forming election commissions continued in 2020.

Of the newly-appointed Territorial Election Commission (hereinafter – “TEC”) members, 63 at the time of their appointment worked in the executive authorities, seven worked in the office of the Legislative Assembly, three – in the office of the Saint Petersburg Election Commission, two – in TEC 14, 55 worked in state organizations, 50 of which operate in the territories subordinated to TECs, 23 worked in local administrations of municipalities and six worked in the local municipal councils.

14 out of 34 chairpersons of the new TECs held public service positions prior to their appointment, including in the administrations of the districts where these TECs were established. Nine TEC chairpersons were inexperienced in election administration at the time of their appointment, and a number of TECs included citizens who had been members of election commissions that had previously violated election legislation, creating fertile ground for the spread of negative experience of election law violations.

At the same time, none of the 34 nominees sent by the public organisation "Observers of Saint Petersburg" was accepted by the Saint Petersburg Election Commission.

A similar bad practice was consistently applied by the Saint Petersburg Election Commission both in filling vacant seats in existing TECs and in the formation of new municipality election commissions.

The Central Election Commission negatively assessed the activities of the Saint Petersburg Election Commission, stating the systemic nature of its unsatisfactory work.

The violations revealed in the activities of the Saint Petersburg Election Commission once again confirm the need for radical reform and staffing of the system of election commissions in Saint Petersburg.

In September 2021 the elections to the State Duma and the Legislative Assembly will be held. Therefore, the problems of implementing the constitutional right to participate in the management of state affairs and ensuring electoral rights are of particular relevance for deputy candidates and voters alike.

The role of the Ombudsman institution is increasing due to the growing problems in the implementation of constitutional guarantees of fundamental civil and political rights, primarily the right to participate in the management of state affairs, the right of association, the freedom of peaceful assembly. The new legislation imposes restrictions on freedom of speech, information, educational activities and scientific creativity, the norms aimed at limiting civic activity and reducing international cooperation are getting tougher.

In these circumstances, it often becomes difficult not only to protect civil and political rights but also to speak about them. But it is their implementation that is the basis for the observance of the entire diversity of human rights, creating a system of feedback between society and the state. The task of the Human Rights Ombudsmen is not to avoid systemic human rights problems that are sensitive to the authorities, concentrating mainly on complaints in the social sphere, but to publicly announce the existing problems, help overcome them and develop cooperation between the state and civil society.