Memorial Human Rights Centre: Are the amendments to the Constitution being unnecessarily imposed or are they much needed?

4 February 2020
Statement by Memorial Human Rights Centre
Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Memorial Human Rights Centre supports the proposal by the Yabloko party to set up a working group of independent experts to prepare draft amendments to the Constitution and considers it necessary to support this work.

The years that have passed since the adoption of the Constitution have exposed flaws in its text allowing the authorities to ignore many fundamental provisions.

Changes to the Constitution are truly necessary.

However, the amendments proposed by President Putin, allegedly drafted in five days (including a Saturday and Sunday) by a working group with a very strange membership, far from improving the Constitution undermines the very foundations of the constitutional order. A particular danger is represented by the introduction into the Constitution of a norm rejecting — despite Article 15 — the priority of Russia’s international treaties over national law, and the entrenchment in the Constitution of the existence of the State Council — an arbitrarily formed body with wide, indefinite powers that is, by this means, in practice placed above constitutional governmental bodies. The amendments expand further the already hypertrophied powers of the president and strengthen the dependence of the judiciary on the presidential office.

The indecent haste with which these amendments are being pushed forwards in itself reveals that the amendments’ authors are not thinking of improving the Constitution but of avoiding discussion about the amendments.

In these circumstances, Russian civil society must urgently prepare alternative proposals.

There is little chance that the authorities will allow its version of the amendments to go to a referendum along with proposals by an independent group of professional experts.

But sooner or later the Constitution, repeatedly recast by the current regime to cater for its immediate political needs, will have to be given a seemly appearance. And then the proposals, discussed and agreed by a wide range of experts, civil society actors and organisations, will be much needed.

Board of the Memorial Human Rights Centre
Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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