10 December 2020
Russian President Vladimir Putin has supported an initiative to create a national-level analogue of the European Court of Human Rights. The idea was discussed during a meeting of the head of state with the Human Rights Council. “The idea itself is correct.” Putin said, adding that the proposal “needs to be smoothed out,” as it will require expenditure and legislative changes.
The idea of creating a Russian court for human rights was mentioned by Yevgeny Myslovsky, head of Anti Mafia, a group that combats organised crime and corruption. He talked about “a fall in the rating of criminal justice” citing abuses and violations by officers from the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office: “There is a strong belief in society that the existing criminal justice system is not capable of ensuring justice.” Myslovsky mentioned the creation of a potential analogue of the ECtHR while discussing the matter, later mentioned by Putin.
Karinna Moskalenko, a lawyer and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group who has led many high-profile applications by Russians to the ECtHR, considers this idea “completely unhealthy.” She does not understand why it is necessary to increase the number of courts in Russia, and doubts that this will improve the country’s judicial system. Moskalenko is sure that it is impossible to duplicate the European Court of Human Rights at the national level: “There is no analogue to the European Court of Human Rights, no court in the world can compare with it in terms of experience, precedents, and developments that have been in existence for several decades.. Russia and Russian citizens have had cases considered in the European Court for a couple of decades, and the standards set by the European Convention are still considered to be unsurpassed.
What are we trying to hint at? Is it that Russia wants to secede from the Council of Europe? Why then did we pay all our debts, why do we report every year on the fulfilment of the ECtHR judgments? How many rulings have already been implemented, how many times has compensation been paid, how many decisions and sentences have been corrected?”
Moskalenko hopes that the idea of a Russian analogue of the ECtHR will be rejected during a detailed study. If it is implemented, then, according to the lawyer, this judicial structure will not be taken into account when cases are considered in Strasbourg.
Moskalenko recalled the plans to create a kind of counterpart of the European Court of Human Rights in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). “If the States that still remain in the CIS would agree to reconcile their standards for the protection of human rights, that would be reasonable,” says the member of Moscow Helsinki Group. She then draws attention to the problem of the coexistence of such a court with the ECtHR: “It would have to either repeat the standards of the ECtHR, or oppose them on the territory of CIS, but that just won’t do.”
In 1993, the countries of the Commonwealth approved a regulation on a human rights commission at which the citizens of the States could lodge complaints. In 2011, the Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council Alexandr Torshin noted that this body had never been created. He then proposed to form not just a commission, but a human rights court. According to the senator, citizens of the CIS countries should be able to choose where to apply; to this authority or to the ECtHR.
Moskalenko also drew attention to the difficulties in incorporating the new court into the existing judicial system of Russia. According to her, it is unclear what place in the hierarchy a counterpart to the ECtHR could take:
“We have the Constitutional Court, we have the Supreme Court, we have the Courts of Appeal and the Courts of Cassation. All of them were meant to improve the situation in the judicial community and in the Russian justice. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the judicial reform has failed. It has not been completed at all, and the principles that were set at the beginning of the reform, and those criteria have not yet been achieved. There is still work to be done in the Constitutional Court, the courts of appeal and the courts of cassation. Therefore it is very strange for me to see such a proposal… Apparently they wanted to offer something to challenge Remarque. But Remarque is a writer, and who writes to challenge him… Who creates analogues of the ECtHR in a space where there are already enough courts and a fairly well-structured judicial system (if only it would work). This is incomprehensible, this is the work of the devil. I can’t even find any epithets worthy of this proposal. I hope this initiative will die before it’s even born.”
The Human Rights Council (HRC) addressed a range of issues related to the judiciary system and legislation. Putin admitted the possibility of revising the law on “foreign agents,” stressing that its provisions should not restrict the activities of people: “There is no desire to grab and not let go, but there is a desire to protect oneself from interference.”
In response to the proposal to declare a wide amnesty, following the example of Tsarist Russia, the President stated the importance of “this instrument of humanisation,” but called for caution: “It is known how Tsarist Russia ended up when a huge number of people were released by the interim government from behind bars onto the streets.”
There were also discussion about some high-profile cases. Commenting on the accusations of treason against journalist Ivan Safronov, the Head of State said that he was “convicted” (the investigation is not over yet, according to Euronews) not for his professional activities, but for his actions while working as an adviser to the head of Roscosmos. Later, the state corporation stated that Safronov did not have access to state secrets.
According to Interfax, with reference to HRC member Nikolai Svanidze, in response to the human rights defenders, Vladimir Putin suggested that information about the torture and use of violence against those involved in the New Greatness case should be checked. At the same time, he basically refused to comment on lack of a criminal investigation into the poisoning of Navalny, saying that it should be dealt with by the competent authorities.
Finally, Putin called for greater caution in taking restrictive measures against large foreign Internet resources, given the possible consequences for Russia. “Any response should not be to our own detriment,” the President stated.