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UN Special Rapporteurs call on Russia to provide housing for children of Soviet repression victims within two years

Source: Kommersant

UN Special Rapporteurs Balakrishnan Rajagopal and Fabian Salvioli have written a letter calling on the Russian authorities to provide housing compensation to the children of victims of Soviet era political repressions as soon as possible.

The UN representatives sent the appeal to the Russian government on September 10, but it was only made public 60 days later. It was first reported by the Russian business newspaper Kommersant on Thursday, November 12

In the letter, the UN Special Rapporteurs draw the Russian government’s attention to the situation faced by Soviet era victims of political repression who have been denied their right to receive adequate housing in the cities where their families lived at the time of the repression.

In 1991, Russia adopted a Federal Law “On the rehabilitation of victims of political repressions,” thereby securing the right to housing for the children of victims of Soviet political repressions in the cities where their families used to live.

However, in 2004, Russia’s regions were granted the right to establish additional restrictions on the provision of housing for these victims. As a result, those seeking housing in Moscow were placed in the general queue for social housing, leaving them to wait up to 25 years on average.

In December 2019, Russia’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of three daughters of repressed Moscow residents who were requesting compensation for housing lost when their families were deported from the Russian capital. The Moscow authorities had denied them social housing on the grounds that they didn’t meet the requirement of already being city residents. The Russian high court demanded changes to the legislation, affirming that rehabilitated victims of political repressions, as well as any children born in the Gulag system or in exile, have the right to receive housing in the cities where their families lived at the time of the repression.

According to the UN’s estimates, approximately 1,500 people in Russia are seeking housing compensation:

The majority of them are older people of more than 70 years. Most of the rehabilitated people live in remote areas and their housing conditions vary from moderate to decrepit, with no sewerage, hot water, and heating.

The Special Rapporteurs added that states are required to provide “adequate, effective and prompt reparation” to people whose rights have been violated. As such, they called on the Russian government to ensure that the victims can access affordable housing in a reasonable time so that they are able to benefit from the reparation during their life. 

Having to wait for more than two years before being able to return or access social housing cannot be considered as prompt and is therefore not compatible with international human rights standards.

As Kommersant notes, regardless of the UN’s appeal on November 11, the State Duma committee in charge of handling this issue approved a draft law developed by the Construction, Housing, and Utilities Ministry (Minstroy) in its first reading, which retains the powers of regional legislation over federal law when it comes to providing housing compensation for these victims. Opponents of the bill have warned that it has the potential to put the “children of the Gulag” on long-term waiting lists for social housing.

The committee also recommended rejecting an alternative bill, which proposed giving victims of Soviet repressions priority when it comes to federal cash payments for the construction or purchase of housing in the places where their families lived.

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