On 15 January 2020, in his state-of-the-union address, President Putin proposed a number of amendments to the 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation, including the ones prescribing to redistribute the president’s power in favour of the parliament and a vaguely defined but powerful body called the State Council. The speech has made international headlines (see here, here, and here), and was followed by the resignation of Russian Prime Minister Medvedev (who served in this position since 2012) and the entire cabinet. However, apart from the proposed amendments to the Constitution which concern the changes in balance of power in the Russian Federation, Putin also touched upon a number of issues significant for international law and representative of Russia’s view on international law. This post will discuss two of such proposed amendments in turn: (i) securing the prevalence of the Russian Constitution over international treaties and decisions of international bodies; and (ii) limiting political rights of individuals holding dual citizenship or residence permit in another state.
Securing the Prevalence of the Russian Constitution over International Treaties and Decisions of International Bodies
In his speech, President Putin proposed an amendment which will ‘directly guarantee the priority of the Constitution in the Russian legal space’. The Russian President argued that the Russian Constitution should provide that international treaties and decisions of international bodies should not be valid on the Russian territory, if they contradict the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
This proposal is perplexing to say the least, since the current Constitution of the Russian Federation already prescribes that the Constitution takes precedence over international treaties. Article 15(1) of the Constitution provides that ‘the Constitution of the Russian Federation has the highest legal force’. It also stipulates that the laws and other legal regulations must not contradict the Constitution. Article 15(4) provides that ‘generally recognized principles and norms of international law and international treaties of the Russian Federation are an integral part of its legal system’. The same provision also specifies that international treaties prevail over the laws of the Russian Federation, if there is a conflict. While Article 15 does not say so expressly, if read as a whole, it provides that even if the international treaties prevail over the laws, the Constitution still has the highest legal force. Read the rest of this entry…