Russian Constitutional Court gets priority over international courts in new bill

© Alexei Danichev
Lawmakers of all four Russian parliamentary parties have jointly drafted the bill that once passed into law would give more powers to the Constitutional Court, allowing Russia to legally ignore the decisions of foreign justice bodies.

The sponsors of the bill wrote in explanations accompanying the document that it seeks to secure the “legal sovereignty” of the Russian Federation and to “oppose the prejudiced rulings” that demand huge monetary compensation from Russia’s budget.

In particular, the new act would allow Russia’s Constitutional Court to decide whether the country should fulfill the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The head of the parliamentary group that prepared and submitted the bill, MP Vladimir Pligin (United Russia), said that he and his colleagues expected the draft to be considered by the Lower House in the first reading on December 1.

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In July this year Russia’s Supreme Court established that no international treaty or convention has precedence over national sovereignty, and decisions by the European Court of Human Rights should be upheld only when they don’t contradict basic Russian law.

In late 2013, the Russian Constitutional Court ruled that it had the right to decide on the execution of contradictory ECHR decisions in Russia. The July decision expanded the supremacy of the Constitutional Court over foreign courts and international treaties, and established the priority of the Russian Constitution in general.

Earlier this year the head of Russia’s top law enforcement agency – Chairman of the Investigative Committee Aleksandr Bastrykin – suggested changing the Constitution in order to end the precedence of international laws. Bastrykin claimed that the principle of the superiority of international law over domestic had been added to Russian legislation in 1993 due to the strong backing of US advisors, and called this move a possible act of legislative sabotage against Russia.

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Bastrykin’s proposal has not been converted into a legal draft yet.