Communication No. 45/2009

UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

The petitioner argued that Russia failed to criminalise hate speech, in violation of Article 4 following her application to the Prosecutor’s Officer regarding a racist leaflet. The Committee considered that an investigation did take place and, given that it cannot be a trier of fact, found the case to be incompatible ratione materiae.


Theme(s): Ethnic Hatred

Date: 26 August 2011

Description of applicant(s): Citizen

Brief description of facts:  The petitioner is a Roma. On 16 July 2008, she found a leaflet pinned to an electricity post in a public area of the town of Opochka (Pskov region)  bearing the following text:

“White Brothers! Enough we had [of] black bastards in our town! Let us stand together side by side and set their asses up! Stinking gypsies – go away.

On 18 July 2008, the petitioner submitted an application based on the above-described facts to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Pskov Region, requesting the opening of criminal proceedings under article 282 (incitement to hatred or enmity, as well as abasement of human dignity) and article 280 (public appeals to encourage extremist activity) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (the Criminal Code). On 21 July 2008, the authorities found two more leaflets with similar content.

The petitioner submits that the State Party failed to criminalise hate speech and all propaganda based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin, or which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form. She argues that the Prosecutor’s Office of the Pskov Region and subsequently the courts, have interpreted article 282 of the Criminal Code as not applicable to propaganda that did not aim directly at the incitement to hatred or enmity, in disregard of the Committee’s General recommendation XV.

(Alleged) target(s) of speech: Roma

The Committee’s assessment of the impugned speech:

The Committee found the Communication to be inadmissible given that an investigation did take place and noted that it could not be a trier of fact.

Important paragraph(s) from the decision:

7.4 Although the Committee considers that it is not within its competence to examine the present communication, it takes note of the racist and xenophobic nature of the actions of the identified author of the leaflets that had been found in the town of Opochka, Ms. Y.L., as well as of her identified accomplice, Mr. A.K., and reminds the State party of its obligations under articles 4 and 6 of the Convention to prosecute ex officio all statements and actions which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form, regardless of whether or not there was a formal request from the alleged victim(s) to initiate criminal proceedings under article 282 of the Criminal Code. The Committee also takes the opportunity to remind the State party of its Concluding Observations, following consideration of the State party’s periodic report in 2008, in which it had commented and made recommendations upon: (a) the alarming increase in the incidence and severity of racially motivated violence against the Roma; (b) the increase of racist and xenophobic attitudes especially among young Russians; and (c) the absence of information on complaints or court decisions in civil or administrative, as well as criminal proceedings, concerning acts of racial discrimination.20 It, therefore, encourages the State party to follow-up on its recommendations and to provide pertinent information on the above concerns in the context of the Committee’s procedure for follow-up to its concluding observations.

ICERD Article: 4

Decision: Incompatible ratione materiae