Land and fishing rights of indigenous peoples in Russia
In the Russian Federation, 46 peoples have been legally recognized as “small-in-number indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East”. Indigenous peoples are constitutionally recognized in art.69 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation (1993). This article was legally implemented by the adoption of three federal laws, which specifically apply to indigenous peoples, namely the Laws “On Guarantees” (1999), “On Obshchinas” (2000), and “On Territories” (2001). Formally, these laws provide indigenous peoples with a number of individual and collective rights, guaranteeing, inter alia, the right to freely use land and renewable natural resources in the territories they traditionally occupy, and areas where they engage in traditional economic activities (“On Guarantees”, art.8, para.1). However, problems seem to lie in the effective implementation of the laws or their constant amendment. For instance, art. 11 of the original text of the Law “On Territories” stated that the use of territories of traditional natural use (in Russian: Territorii Traditsionnogo Prirodopol’zovaniya, hereinafter TTP) shall be free of charge. However, the Russian government has undermined the right of the indigenous peoples to free land use by amending art.11 through Federal Law No.118-FZ of 2007; it has also failed to designate such TTP at the federal level. Regarding their fishing rights, art.25 of the Russian Federal Law No.166-FZ of 2004 “On fishery and the protection of biological water resources”, foresees an exception clause for indigenous peoples from the requirement of holding a fishing permit, when fishing is carried out to satisfy subsistence needs and follows traditional practices at the level of the indigenous community. This provision is also poorly applied. At the same time, indigenous peoples have recently litigated successfully to uphold their fishing rights before domestic Russian courts, in order to guarantee the community’s livelihood. This case study will therefore tackle land and fishing rights of indigenous peoples in Russia by looking at the existing domestic legal framework, instances of lack of implementation of such legislation, and pertinent case law, in light of the guarantees identified by the UNDRIP.