Russia can suspend its membership in ECHR

 

The Russian Federation can suspend its membership in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and also is considering to reduce contributions to the Council of Europe. This is the reaction of certain top Russia’s officials after Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Assembly) was deprived [1] of key rights in April 2014, including the right to vote and take part in the Assembly’s governing bodies following the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The sanctions will affect the right of Russian delegation from participation in the approval of the Council of Europe’s senior officials and Judges of European Court of Human Rights.

Moscow CremlinReactions
In this regard Speaker of the Russia’s State Duma (lower house of the Federal Assembly) Vyacheslav Volodin has said [2] on October 14, 2017 at the opening of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Assembly), Moscow will not consider itself bound by the judgments of the ECHR if Russia is not allowed to participate in the selection of judges.
One day before, on October 13, 2017 Valentina Matviyenko Chairwoman of the Federation Council (upper house of the Federal Assembly), stated [3] the same about the ECHR, saying that anyone chosen without Russia’s participation “will not be fully legitimate” and that “Moscow will not recognize the decisions made by the ECHR until the Russian delegation regains its full rights at the Assembly. Moreover, Mrs Matvienko declared that ECHR rulings cannot be recognized as legitimate in Russian Federation if country’s delegation is not participating in sessions of the Assembly.

Council of EuropeThe suspension of the Russian Delegation voting rights
The Assembly adopted a Resolution on April 10, 2014 [4] aimed to reconsider credentials of the Russian delegation. According to the Resolution The Assembly: “…considers that the actions of the Russian Federation leading up to the annexation of Crimea, and in particular the military occupation of the Ukrainian territory and the threat of the use of military force, the recognition of the results of the illegal so-called referendum and subsequent annexation of Crimea into the Russian Federation constitute, beyond any doubt, a grave violation of international law, including of the United Nations Charter and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Helsinki Final Act.”. Because of the violation, the Assembly decided to suspend the voting rights of the Russian delegation to the Assembly.

Constitutional Court RussiaConstitutional Court allows to ignore ECHR Judgments
The Constitutional Court of Russian Federation adopted a Judgment in 2015 [5] that allows the State, in exceptional cases, to deviate from its obligation to enforce an ECHR judgment if this is contrary to the fundamental principles and norms of the Russian Federation Constitution: “The Constitution of the Russian Federation and the European Convention for Human Rights are based on common core values. In the overwhelming majority of cases, conflicts between these two documents do not arise at all. However, such a conflict is possible, if the ECHR will provide an interpretation of the Convention, which is contradictory to the Constitution of the Russian Federation. In such a situation, due to the supremacy of the Fundamental Law, Russia will be forced to refuse to follow literally the Strasbourg Court judgements.”.

Law on deviation from the ECHR judgments
Not a long time following Constitutional Court explained its opinion on the enforcement of the ECHR judgements, the Legislative Body of the Russian Federation has passed the law [6] on the same issue. It enables Russia’s Constitutional Court to deviate or even refuse to enforce judgments issued by the ECHR. Once the law entered into force the Constitutional Court has the competence to review judgments of the ECHR and pronounce them non-enforceable if the top court find them contrary to the Russian Fundamental Law.
At other hand, former Constitutional Judge Tamara Morshchakova said [7] that this does not mean that Russia will not implement ECHR judgments. The above-mentioned opinion of the Constitutional Court refers to cases when national authorities in charge of execution of the ECHR judgment detect some, in their view, inconsistencies between the ruling of the ECHR and the Russian Constitution, they will be required to request a constitutionality review from the Russian Constitutional Court.
It should be noticed that Russia has many cases at ECHR deriving from internal subjects as well as from eastern part of Ukraine and Transnistria and has to pay out large compensation in some cases.

Consequences?
Russian Federation did not submit the credentials of its delegation to the Assembly in 2016 and 2017, as a reaction to the sanctions. Meanwhile, the ECHR has issued couple of quite important rulings on Yukos case and Alexei Navalny case both in favor of claimants. This made bilateral relations even worse.
First case, the ECHR has ruled in case of oil company Yukos and the Russian government and found that there was not abuse to destroy the firm, but found the company’s legal rights were violated. European Court stated that Russia had violated property laws and the right to a fair trial in its handling of the company and awarded shareholders almost $2 billion damages. As a consequence, Russia refused pay compensations and later in 2015 the Russian Constitutional Court, has issued a ruling stating that ECHR decisions do not prevail the pre-eminence of the Russian Constitution.
Second case, most active Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was convicted of money laundering and fraud in 2014. The ECHR found that conviction of Navalny had been arbitrary and demanded the Russian Government to pay out compensation for that.

In June, 2017 the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement [8] in which it informed the secretary general of the Council of Europe that the annual payment to the organization, about $33 million would be suspended until the rights of Moscow’s delegation are fully restored.

“There is a potential danger that Russia will have to leave” Thorbjørn Jagland secretary-general of the Council of Europe has said. [9] He also stated that “If Russia is forced to leave, then 140 million people will be deprived of going to the highest court in Europe, which is very important for Russian citizens.”.

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