Genri Reznik, a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group and of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, a Soviet/Russian lawyer and Doctor of Law, has refused to participate in discussions regarding amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, as proposed by President Vladimir Putin. Reznik compared the procedure for adopting changes to a sprint race, and said that he did not agree with 19 out of the 22 proposed amendments.
A working group was established as part of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights to discuss the proposed changes. On the eve of their meeting, according to Kommersant, members of the Council argued for over two hours about whether such a group was even necessary.
‘Some members of the Council spoke about how the creation of a working group for amendments to the Basic Law is unethical – the President didn’t request it, and the bill was labelled a constitutional coup,’ said one of the meeting participants, who wished to remain anonymous.
As a result, a majority voted to create an interim working group. They will pass on their findings to the ‘main’ working group by the middle of next week. It’s also worth remembering that President Putin earlier introduced a bill to the State Duma that would amend Article 22 of the country’s Basic Law.
‘Five other members of the Council, as well as myself, spoke out against the creation of this group. There is no agreement on a number of amendments among legal experts: regarding, for example, the powers of the new Constitutional Court of Russia to exercise initial oversight ex ante, but not ex post. Or for the municipal and federal authorities to combine to form one single public authority, which means that municipal authorities are deprived of any autonomy. In a sprint race such as this, people start to lose respect for the Constitution, so I will not be joining the group. What we really need here is thorough work done by professionals, but there is not enough time,’ said Reznik.
The lawyer criticised the amendment, which, he says, gives the President the right to start the process of removing the status of judges, including judges of the Constitutional Court. He expressed bewilderment over the fact that the judges have not yet noticed this.
‘I consider this a violation of the principle of judicial independence, not least because the wording in the proposed amendments says [regarding the reason for removal of a judge’s status] “for committing an act defaming the honour and dignity of a judge,” but this is vague wording. It’s unconstitutional, and the judicial community should be outraged,’ Reznik said.