English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World Living Arctic) No. 9-10, 2002
Changes proposed in federal laws on indigenous peoples
P.V. Sulyandziga, M.A. Todyshev and O.A. Murashko
A Commission under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation is engaged at present in preparing proposals concerning differentiation of subject matter and authority between federal bodies of state power, state bodies of RF admistrative units and local offices of self-governance. It is chaired by D.N. Kozak, Deputy Chief of the President’s Administration.
The Commission prepares proposals of changes in federal laws of the Russian Federation in order to put them in compliance with federal legislation, including the Federal Law “On Differentiation of State ownership of Land in the Russian Federation” effective from January 19, 2002.
From this point of view, the laws regulating the legal status of indigenous peoples are also subject to revision: “On Guarantees of Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Federation”, “On Basic Principles of Organizing Communities of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation” and “On Traditional Subsistence Territories (Territories of Traditional Use of Natural Resources) of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation”. At the beginning, the Working Group was of the opinion that norms of these laws could be transferred to general civil legislation, hence individual laws regulating legal status of indigenous peoples could be abolished. Thus, the Explanatory Note dated March 27, 2002 prepared by the Working Group suggested “… to supplement the draft Land Code of the Russian Federation by a separate article substantiating legal regulation of juridical relations in the field of organizing and functioning of traditional subsistence territories (territories of traditional use of natural resources) of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation. In doing so, it is essential to proceed from the principle of excluding it from the sphere of legal regulation of other federal laws… With due account of the above, it is suggested to consider Federal Law # 49-FZ dated May 7, 2001 ‘On Traditional Subsistence Territories …’ null and void”.
At this stage of the Commission’s work the following RAIPON representatives joined its working groups: P.V. Sulyandziga, first vice-president of the Association, M.A. Todyshev, RAIPON vice-president and Ms. O.A. Murashko, RAIPON expert. It is worthwhile noting that this Commission’s efforts have been underway since September 2001 but RAIPON has got its chance to join in its work directly in March 2002 only.
S.N. Kharyuchi, RAIPON president has sent a letter about inadmissibility of abolishing federal laws on legal status of indigenous peoples to President V.V. Putin. Its text is given below.
Esteemed Vladimir Vladimirovich!
The Russian Association of indigenous peoples of the North (RAIPON) expresses its anxiety about the fact that the Commission set up under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation to put forward proposals concerning differentiation of subject matter and authority between federal bodies of state power, state bodies of RF admistrative units and local offices of self-governance is now working out proposals to abolish Federal Laws “On Guarantees of Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Federation”, “On Basic Principles of Organizing Communities of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East” and “On Traditional Subsistence Territories …” on the pretext of improving legislation of the Russian Federation.
You signed the last Federal Law on May 7, 2001 – the first anniversary of your inauguration. Indigenous peoples of the North would like to believe that the signing date of this document is not accidental and that you attach special importance to the norms of this law guaranteeing indigenous peoples their constitutional right to defend their native environment and traditional lifestyle.
The Association would like to emphasize that the aforementioned federal laws are in compliance with the RF Constitution, generally acknowledged norms and principles of international law and international agreements of RF, and form the legal basis for the establishment of conditions required for sustainable development of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation.
The adoption of these laws by the Russian Federation within the framework of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (1994-2005) had a positive response and approval on the part of the world community, contributed to gaining greater authority of the Russian Federation on the international level. The texts of these laws have been translated into many languages and formed the basis of fruitful cooperation in the field of realization of international projects and programs oriented at environmental protection, healthcare, preservation of historical and cultural heritage, traditional use of natural resources and self-governance of indigenous peoples.
Surviving under the conditions of the hardest socio-economic crisis sweeping all across the territories of traditional inhabitance of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East, these laws have formed the legal fundamentals for the development of regional legislation on protection of indigenous peoples’ rights to their native environment, preservation of their traditional culture and traditional way of life as the basis for the development of future generations.
We are agreeable to the fact that the field of law to protect the indigenous peoples’ rights is in need of further improvement rather than abolition of its fundamentals. The Association, hand in hand with experts of the Government and RF Federal Assembly, has been engaged in drafting new legislative proposals envisaged to foster the defense of traditional lifestyle and native environment of indigenous peoples as well as their rights outlined in the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
Indigenous peoples do not oppose their interests against the interests of other strata of society. It is recognized internationally that the level of rights given to indigenous peoples to preserve their traditional lifestyle, develop traditional use of natural resources and culture represents minimal standards to secure survival, respect of indigenous peoples’ dignity and their welfare.
The experience of other countries, primarily those of the Arctic region with which Russia is cooperating within the framework of the Arctic Council, has shown that the supreme state bodies are in fact the guarantors of indigenous peoples’ rights and that the issues of legal protection of a traditional lifestyle and native environment are, first and foremost, under the authority of the state, being subject of regulation by special legislation.
Abolition of the above federal laws which have just started to be effective and inspired hope in indigenous peoples for a possibility of legitimate development of their unique culture and economics, is likely to cause the deepest disillusionment and social destabilization.
Esteemed Vladimir Vladimirovich!
The Russian Association of indigenous peoples of the North (RAIPON) is appealing to you with a request to charge the Commission with treating the existing package of federal laws on indigenous peoples’ rights with utmost care and attention, preserving solicitously everything which has been achieved so far as well as with submitting recommendations for further improvement of the field of law with regard to defense of Russia’s indigenous peoples’ rights and, above all, with preventing abolition of laws long and patiently awaited by the indigenous peoples, the laws which have raised hopes in their breast for survival and decent future.
With deepest respect,
The position of RAIPON found support in the State Duma and the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly as well as the Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia, O.O. Mironov.
RAIPON representatives were simultaneously involved in the work with members of the working groups. As a result of negotiations and elucidation, we succeeded in convincing them of the necessity to preserve federal laws identifying the legal status of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East.
On April 7, 2002, a proposal was put forward at a session of the working group to make amendments to Articles 5, 6, and 7 of the Federal Law “On Guarantees of Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Federation” in compliance with existing system of differentiation of subject matter and authority between federal bodies of state power, state bodies of RF admistrative units and local offices of self-governance leaving the rest of the articles without alteration.
On April 9, a decision was reached at the Commission’s session with regard to the Federal Law “On Traditional Subsistence Territories …”. It stipulated approval of the working group’s proposal that “legal regime of a particular traditional subsistence territory should be introduced by the federal law on the establishment of such a territory on the basis of the provisions of Article 95, Paragraph 7 of the Land Code of the Russian Federation (lands of specially protected natural territories) supposed to be included in the Federal Law “On Traditional Subsistence Territories …”. P.V. Sulyandziga, RAIPON first vice-president had the floor at the Commission’s session.
The work of the Commission under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation continues. The Commission’s proposals will then be tabled for consideration by the State Duma and the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.
RAIPON representatives intend to participate in defending indigenous peoples’ interests at every stage of discussion of federal laws on indigenous peoples’ legal status.
In connection with the revision of legislation, the actual laws remain in force until the final variant of the aforementioned federal laws have been adopted. RAIPON recommends representatives of indigenous peoples of the North to go on with their efforts making appeals about the establishment of traditional subsistence territories and sending them to leaders of regional administrations, to the Government of the Russian Federation and RAIPON.