Russia judges Strasbourg bill

Submitted by ILGA-Europe

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Russia’s higher institutions of justice are peering over a bill that could neuter the growing pile of rulings against Russia from the European Court of Human Rights.

Alexander Torshin’s bill would allow Russia’s Constitutional Court to block certain decisions from Strasbourg, but it has been receiving mixed views in judicial circles.

The Federation Council, of which Torshin, pictured above, is acting speaker, said that the formula he used had not been laid out properly.

Meanwhile the Arbitration Court has given it the thumbs up, but the Constitutional Court, the apparent beneficiary of the bill, said there were gaps in the draft.

Turborn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, said he was “very concerned,” Kommersant reported.

The order of courts

The bill gets its first reading on 1 July, proposing amendments to the criminal procedure code and arbitration code. It calls for a new way to review cases and would transform the balance of power between Strasbourg and Moscow.

If Torshin gets his way then whenever the European Court of Human Rights rules that human rights have indeed been breached, the Constitutional Court in Russia will have to check the European ruling again.

If the Constitutional Court finds that the initial Russian verdict complies with the country’s constitution then no-one, including the Strasbourg court, will be able to demand anything.

This effectively gives the Constitutional Court free reign to ignore what Strasbourg has to say, Kommersant reported.

Leaving Strasbourg

The ECHR, unsurprisingly, is concerned about the plan.

Turborn Jagland, General Secretary of the European Court of Human Rights, slammed the bill and urged the Russian authorities to ditch the proposal. He fears the legislation would upset relations between Russia and the Council of Europe.

Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Presidential Council for Human Rights added that Jagland is concerned Russia will withdraw altogether from the Council of Europe, something that Lyudmila Alexeyeva, doyenne of the Russian human rights movement and head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, also fears.

No big deal

But analysts say that anyone worried that Russia will leave the Council can breathe easy. Getting into the Council of Europe in the first place 20 years ago was a major coup for Russian diplomacy.

Although this bill mirrors a bitter and real struggle between modernizers and conservatives, leaving the council would be such a disaster for Russia’s clout internationally that Strasbourg will keep its toehold of influence in Russia, at least for now, Nadia Arbatova of the Institute for World Relations and International Relations, told The Moscow News after Torshin first put his bill forward.

And in reality it changes nothing as all Strasbourg can do it impose a fine when Russia errs. It cannot bring about lasting change, as has been shown when verdicts declaring bans on Gay Pride marches were ruled illegal, only for subsequent rallies to be banned anyway by Moscow City authorities.

Russia’s government has also picked and chosen which laws to follow and Strasbourg’s rulings have fared no better than any others, points out Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Center.

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