Statement by the Russian Helsinki Group: In Defence of the Constitution of the Russian Federation

21 October 2023

Source: Russian Helsinki Group

On the basis of the fundamental principles of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, ‘Recognition, observance and protection of human and civil rights and freedoms is the duty of the state’ (Article 2) and ‘Human and civil rights and freedoms have direct effect. They shall determine the meaning, content and application of laws, the activities of the legislative and executive authorities, local self-government and shall be upheld by the justice system’ (Article 18), we the members of the Russian Helsinki Group, an informal human rights community, express our utmost concern about current violations of these provisions of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and of a number of other key provisions.

The independence of the justice system, which, according to Article 18, ensures the protection of human rights, is also guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation: ‘State power in the Russian Federation is exercised on the basis of a separation into legislative, executive and judicial branches. The bodies of legislative, executive and judicial power shall be independent’ (Article 10). The loss of the independent, adversarial nature of judicial proceedings along with the substitution of a real separation of powers by a de facto fusion of powers create the conditions not only for mass violations of the constitutional rights of citizens, but also for a severe crisis of Russian statehood itself.

It needs to be stated that citizens of our country concerned about this threatening situation who criticise these anti-constitutional phenomena and accompanying decisions of state authorities, including the decisions that have resulted in the armed conflict that has caused colossal human casualties, are now subjected to widespread repression. This is in flagrant contradiction with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which guarantees freedom of thought and speech (Article 29) and the right to any non-violent criticism (Article 31) to Russian citizens.

It should also be emphasised that the articles of the Constitution of the Russian Federation that are ‘forgotten’ today by the Russian authorities conform with the key provisions of the fundamental international agreements signed by the Russian Federation, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and a series of others.

‘Observe the Constitution!’ – the slogan of human rights activists during the years of the USSR – has become tragically relevant today in the New Russia.

The Russian Helsinki Group   

Translated by Rights in Russia

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