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Strasbourgs threshold
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, 14 2012

:   / European Court comes up with new restrictions on Russians

‘Kommersant’ found out that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has begun the formality of refusing improperly drawn up complaints from citizens of Russia, as well as not allowing them to resubmit. Bytightening regulations, Strasbourg hopes to relieve the crowded court of similar types of complaints. Russian lawyers working at the ECHR say that European justice is now only available to a select few.

Human rights defenders working at the court were informed of the tightening of rules for complaints to the European Court at a conference in Strasbourg a few days ago. Thechanges will affect five countries, including Russia. Theleadership of the European Court made no official statement about this. Attorney Anna Stavitskaya, who specializes in filing complaints with the European Court, told ‘Kommersant’ that the ECHR has started “working out a mechanism” to deny applications not drawn up according to the established pattern. Theonly exceptions are cases involving violations of the right to life, or torture. “The manual on writing complaints states that a document should consist of a correctly completed form with a brief description of the case on one or two sheets. Earlier these were only recommendations, but now they are binding,” said Ms. Stavitskaya. Thehead of the ‘Agora’ human rights organization, Pavel Chikov, confirmed this: “Our lawyer was present at this meeting. There it was really announced that complaints not completed true to form would be rejected without the right of resubmission.”

The European Court did not respond to an inquiry made by ‘Kommersant’ yesterday.

Prior to the development of the new rules, procedures for filing with the European Court were quite democratic: the chancellery of the Court allowed the plaintiffs the right to submit necessary documents and would even send a letter that listed deficiencies that plaintiffs needed to correct in order to make the complaint would be admissible. Nowthere will be no drawn-out correspondence with those wishing to sue at the ECHR it will be limited to notification that the complaint was drawn up incorrectly and would not be considered.

The tightening of regulations was carried out in the framework of reforms at the ECHR, which is overloaded with cases pending consideration. Asof 2012, there was a backlog of 160thousand complaints at the Court. Atthe same time, according to human rights activists, Strasbourg continues to receive the same types of applications, for which the court does not have the resources to process, and because of this its work was on the verge of a standstill. World leader in the number of complaints made to the ECHR is Russia. Themain reasons that Russians write appeals to the European Court are torture, unfair trials, and prison conditions. InJanuary, Strasbourg tried to reduce the number of similar complaints coming from Russia in a so-called pilot decision on 30complaints concerning prison conditions. Thistype of decision allows the court to specify to the country the presence of structural problems and establish a deadline for their solution, so that in the future citizens (from that country) would no longer appeal to the ECHR with similar complaints.

According to Maria Voskobitova, an attorney who participates in court proceedings in Strasbourg, with the entry of the new regulation into force, the ECHR’s use of pilot decisions will not longer be necessary, as most applicants will simply be unable to overcome the bureaucratic barrier. According to Voskobitova, this first of all affects political activists who complain about unfair administrative arrests after mass actions, as well as prisoners. “Now at the Court these tens of thousands complaints that are allegedly unacceptable according to various criteria will be rejected only because they were handwritten, or not written in English or French. Whenthis has become so formal, access to European justice will be to only a few,” said Ms. Stavitskaya. Withthe tightening of the rules for complaints, many of the applicants, who prior to this had been able to apply independently to the ECHR, will have to resort to paid lawyers. Skills of such attorneys in this area, however, are extremely low. “Right now only a few can really work with the ECHR,” said Ms. Stavitskaya. “And we know them all Karinna Moskalenko (head of the Center for International Protection Kommersant). Buta professional lawyer is not physically able to do more than one complaint per month in Strasbourg.”

In ‘Kommersant’

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