More control over FSB is needed, says European watchdog
Russia should establish a mechanism, which helps prevent political abuse from the Federal Security Service, a new report from the European Commission for Democracy through Law concludes.
The Commission, better known as the Venice Commission, stresses that the Russian security agency must be subject to legal control and that the necessary control mechanisms therefore should be established.
The report, which was approved in a Commission plenary session earlier this month, underlines that “the objective is that security and intelligence agencies should be insulated from political abuse without being isolated from executive governance”, and that “it is absolutely necessary to have external mechanisms to bridge the barrier of secrecy and provide assurance for the executive, legislators and the public that operations are being carried out effectively, lawfully and in accordance with policy”.
The Venice Commission is an advisory body under the Council of Europe.
In Russia, control and oversight of the FSB is exercised by the President, the Federal Assembly, the government and the judicial bodies. However, the Commision argues, the President and the government are not “external” controls. Likewise, the State Duma Committee on security and anti- corruption, besides adopting the budget or part of the budget of the FSB, “seems to be empowered merely to request information”.
And, what concerns the procecutors, they can be seen as “external” control only if they are formally and in practice a part of the independent judicial branch. In Russia, this is not the case, the report argues.
“The Venice Commission has previously found that the Russian prosecutors are strongly subjected to the hierarchical control of their superiors and of the Prosecutor-General. Against this background, the Venice Commission has serious doubts that they represent a mechanism of “external” control,” the authors of the report conclude.
The report from the Commission was written based on a request from the Chair of the Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly of 19 December 2011.
The Russian Federal Security Service is the main domestic security agency of the Russian Federation and the main successor agency of the Soviet Committee of State Security (KGB). Its main responsibilities are counter-intelligence, internal and border security, counter-terrorism, and surveillance. According to Wikipedia, it employs about 66,200 uniformed staff, including about 4,000 special forces troops and about 160,000–200,000 border guards.