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01.04.2016 Russian Constitutional Court hears the first case on the possibility of compliance with a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

Russian Constitutional Court (RCC) held a hearing on 31 March 2016 on the issue of Russia’s compliance with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia. This is the first time RCC makes a decision on the possibility to comply with a ruling of an international human rights protection body, in accordance with the Russian Constitution. In its judgment in Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia the ECtHR found that Russia violated art. 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights inasmuch as all convicted prisoners in Russia are disenfranchised by virtue of art. 32(3) of the Russian Constitution.

Institute for Law and Public Policy has filed an independent expert opinion (amicus curiae brief) in which it outlined possible ways to interpret art. 32(3) of the Russian Constitution for the purposes of the decision on compliance with the ECtHR ruling of 4th July 2013 in the case of Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia.

Analysis conducted by the Institute leads to the following conclusions:

(i) Determination of the meaning of art. 32(3) of the Russian Constitution is informed by the principle of consistent interpretation. In accordance with this principle, where several interpretations are possible, an interpretation allowing Russia to avoid a breach of its international obligations is to be preferred.

(ii) Systemic, historical and evolutionary approaches to the interpretation of art. 32(3) of the Russian Constitution demonstrate that an absolute ban on prisoners’ voting is not the only possible interpretation of art. 32(3). In particular:

a) Systemic interpretation allows to weaken the ban by way of taking into account various mitigating factors in accordance with the principle of proportionality and (or) the need to guarantee the highest level of protection of individual rights and freedoms.

b) Historical interpretation shows that no goals and interests that would justify a blanket restriction of prisoners’ voting rights exist in the present day. To the contrary, Russian history provides positive examples of a disenfranchisement that was not automatic and indiscriminate.

c) Evolutionary interpretation of the said article in the context of existing trends in international law is consistent with the systemic and historical interpretations, establishing a differentiated restriction of voting rights in accordance with the principles of necessity, proportionality and the need to guarantee to highest level of protection of individual rights and freedoms.

(iii)The ECtHR judgment in Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia may be complied with by way of enactment of legislation governing prisoners’ voting rights on the basis of such factors as the gravity of offence, mens rea, and (or) the length of the prison term, or by empowering the courts to impose a restriction of voting rights as a form of punishment on a case by case basis.

Click here to access the amicus curiae brief (in Russian).


By: Institute for Law and Public Policy

Photo source: http://www.1tv.ru

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