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The Amendments to the Russian Constitution: Putin’s Attempt to Reinforce Russia’s Isolationist Views on International Law?

Published on January 29, 2020        Author: 

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…


Twenty Years of the ECHR in Ukraine

Published on September 18, 2017        Author:  and

Twenty years ago, in September 1997, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) entered into force for Ukraine. By ratifying the Convention, Ukraine recognised the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). While Ukraine had been a party to a number of the international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, long before the ECHR, joining the ECHR had a special significance. It symbolised a European choice of Ukraine, a final breakaway from the Soviet past, and (at least on paper) the acceptance of the European values of democracy and respect for human rights. Making the determination to join the Council of Europe (CoE) and its fundamental legal instruments, however, was easier than to maintain Ukraine’s international obligations in practice. In fact, there had been times when the CoE seriously considered to terminate the membership of Ukraine altogether (in 1999, for example, for the failure to abolish the death penalty).

This post will not cover all the intricacies of the complex (and at times turbulent) relationship between Ukraine and the CoE. We will start with a brief review of the statistics regarding the current situation, in particular the ECtHR case law concerning Ukraine. Then, we will focus on the reasons why Ukraine is still one of the laggard states in terms of the numbers of applications and violations to the ECtHR. Further, we will discuss Read the rest of this entry…

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