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Your Human Rights Court Is Not Our Human Rights Court, Says Putin

Vladimir Putin has signed a law officially allowing the Russian Constitutional Court to pick and choose whether or not it follows rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.
Photo by Matteo Bazzi/EPA

It's official — Russia doesn't care about what the world has to say about its human rights record. Already much-maligned for its adherence (or not) to international human rights law, President Vladimir Putin has now signed a law allowing Russia's Constitutional Court to make up its own mind whether the country should implement rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Human Rights Watch said the law, which allows Russian court to overturn ECHR decisions if it deems them unconstitutional, is designed to thwart the ability of victims of human rights violations in Russia to find justice through international bodies.


Russia's parliament approved the new bill last week and Putin signed it into law on Monday.

Related: New Law Allows Russia to Ban 'Undesirable' Human Rights Groups and Other NGOs

Valery Zorkin, the head of Russian Constitutional Court, told Putin on Monday that Russia was in favor of "dialogue" in case there was a problem.

"I don't see any problem there, I think that people are worrying for nothing," Zorkin said.

The law comes after the ECHR ruled in 2014 that Russia must pay a 1.9 billion euro ($2.09 billion) award to shareholders of the defunct Yukos oil company, a verdict that added to financial pressure on Moscow as it struggles with shrinking revenues due to tumbling oil prices and Western sanctions.

The ECHR said it had received 218 complaints against Russia in 2014 and that it had found 122 cases in which Moscow had violated the European Convention on Human Rights, including the deportation of Georgian citizens in 2006 and the incarceration of defendants in metal cages during Russian court hearings.

Russia was not exactly known for its adherence to ECHR rulings in the past, frequently ignoring instructions to enact policy changes to avoid repeat violations — though it does have a much better record of paying the financial reparations ordered by the court.

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Related: Pussy Riot Members Sue Russian Government at the European Court of Human Rights