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Law will require Russian citizens not to tell tales out of school
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, 16 2007

By Grigory Nekhoroshev

 ? Not all Russian citizens trust the courts for justice. Russians occupy 4th place worldwide in the number of appeals to the European Court in Strasbourg, and in order to satisfy cases brought by our fellow citizens in Strasbourg, the Russian government in the first half of 2006had to pay plaintiffs more than 12million rubles (about$500,000).

Under the pretext of taking some of the load off the European court, the chairman of the Russian Constitutional Court, Valery Zorkin, recently presented the idea for a new law to limit the flow of Russian lawsuits to Strasbourg.

Today a representative of the Supreme Court declared that court chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev has introduced legislation so that citizens may sue their own government in the Supreme Court, and not have to appeal for help in Strasbourg. Manyjurists are calling this idea “not putting up with criticism”. Other believe that, “if the party demands it”, the Supreme Court will try to do the impossible.

“The fact is, there isn’t a single law forbidding a citizen from complaining to the Strasbourg court after they have exhausted all legal means in Russia to solve his problem,” said publicist Konstantin Katanyan, a well-known specialist in problems of Russian jurisprudence. “Today many people are doing it, not even waiting for reviews by the Supreme Court, and the appearance of a new law won’t change anything. Iunderstand that this theme has come up ever since the chairman of the Constitutional Court declared that something had to be done to lower the number of lawsuits sent to Strasbourg. Ifthe Supreme Court has reacted to this and is trying to increase the right of citizens to appeal court decisions, then this is good. Butif the aim is to prevent Russian cases from reaching Strasbourg, then, in my opinion, doing this at the level of national legislation is unrealistic.”

The probability of the new bill being adopted, in the view of Konstantin Katyanin, is also open to question. “If the bill is coordinated with the Kremlin, then the probability of adoption is 100percent. Butif this is merely an initiative on the part of the Supreme Court, then Ithink that this law will spend a long time wandering around various offices in the parliament.”

“As Iunderstand it, the Russian authorities relate to the majority of the cases against Russia in an extremely negative fashion,” commented well-known attorney Yuri Schmidt on the development of the new law. “Many cases are connected with Chechnya, and with hostage taking in particular. Because if the European Court satisfies one lawsuit, then it means that all other identical suits will be satisfied as well. Morethan once, various high-ranking officials have expressed their dissatisfaction with decisions by Strasbourg.”

“I think that such a bill should be coordinated firstly with the European Court,” said Yuri Schmidt to dp.ru. “Since it considers protection under the nation’s laws to be the first stage of the legal process. Ifwe include in this legal review by the Supreme Court, then the entire European judicial practice breaks down. Tome it would seem more just to adopt legal protocol #14, a Russian version of which our parliament for some reason refuses to adopt. It’s very important to increase the personal responsibility of judges in rapidly and objectively examining complaints made by our citizens. Ifjudges are made to feel responsible, then this will be sufficient.”

In Mr. Schmidt’s opinion, adopting the new law is unrealistic. “Doing it this way just won’t work, it must agree with the European Court. Anational law on its own won’t solve a thing. There needs to be a special agreement on changing the judicial regulations and introducing a fundamentally new approach to this. Ithink that given the existing, extremely low level of human rights protection in Russia, the European Court will never go for this.”

“I don’t think this will get by them,” opined attorney Henry Reznik to dp.ru. “Because there are criteria a final decision that enters into the force of law. Oursentences and decisions, however, don’t enter into the force of law until after examination on appeal. Theycould introduce such order throughout all of Russia, in which no decision would enter into the force of law under after it was examined by the Supreme Court, or certainly in the case of complaints, but Ijust can’t imagine this happening right now.”

In Henry Reznik’s opinion, the problem is that “carrying out decisions is also incomplete, because the lion’s share of appeals to the European Court are complaints about court decisions not being carried out. Noneof these can be appealed to the Supreme Court. Onehas to complete the ruling on the spot so that our citizens have no grounds to complain to the European Court about violations of European Convention standards. Ithink that, without an improvement in the work of the regional courts, the problem will not go away no matter what types of manipulations they perform in introducing required higher court reviews.”

Meanwhile, Tamara Morshchakova, doctor of jurisprudence and a former judge at the Constitutional Court, believes that the new bill can help Russians to get along without Strasbourg.

“It’s very hard to speak about this law, since right now it’s only an idea,” said Tamara Morshchakova to dp.ru. “There’s an initiative, and work on how to strengthen the means of effective defense in this country with respect to those rights, which must be protected not only according to Russian law, but also the European convention. It’s very difficult right now to say what will come of all this. Themotivation for this is so that Russian citizens can find protection in their native land and not have to go so far from home for so long, as they must do right now. Thenthe number of complaints from Russia at Strasbourg will decrease, because we’re solving our problems ourselves. Manyfear that the path Russian citizens must take to Strasbourg will actually be getting longer, but one can counter this with a different thesis: really it’s better if people receive protection much earlier, here in Russia.”

Tamara Morshchakova believes that Russians complain about the violation of a specific right, but not about the government. “If they would complain to governmental agencies inside the country, then these agencies could restore their violated right. It’s only a matter of it not being within the scope of the Supreme Court to examine violations of those rights provided by the European Convention, and so one cannot file a complaint with it, even though a majority of violations of rights provided by the Convention have a place in those instances when they’re violated simultaneously with Russian law and the Russian Constitution. Legally speaking, it’s a very complicated question: the demarcation of two procedures. Onething is clear, though: as long as the Supreme Court doesn’t have this included within its scope, then a citizen won’t go to the Supreme Court, he’ll skip this review before his appeal to Strasbourg. Theidea behind the law is to not skip this review, and one must appeal first to the Supreme Court.”

“There’s Italy’s experience,” said Tamara Morshchakova to dp.ru. “For a long time they flooded the European Court with their disputes with regards to very prolonged periods of case reviews. Later they assigned special powers to their Supreme Court, namely, the examination of complaints of prolonged legal hearings and non-fulfillment of judicial decisions. Thisseriously lowered the number of complaints sent to Strasbourg by Italian citizens. TheRussian initiative in creating a new law can only be greeted positively.”


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