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Russian law on Constitutional Court incompatible with international obligations

An opinion adopted today by the Council of Europe’s constitutional law experts (the Venice Commission) determines that empowering the Russian Constitutional Court to declare international decisions, including judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, as “unenforceable” is incompatible with Russia’s international legal obligations.

Because such empowerment may result in preventing the execution of international decisions in any manner in the Russian Federation, the Russian Law on the Constitutional Court must be amended, according to the interim opinion (*).

Indeed, the inability of the Constitutional Court to remove contradictions between the Constitution and international decisions does not absolve the state from its obligation to enforce international decisions, according to the experts. It is a duty of all state bodies to reconcile provisions of the international treaties in force in Russia with the Constitution, for instance through interpretation or even modifying the Constitution.

“The Russian Federation should have recourse to dialogue, instead of resorting to unilateral measures,” the Venice Commission stressed, adding that dialogue has been an effective tool in several Council of Europe states for removing possible tensions between the European Court’s rulings and national systems.

The Venice Commission calls on the Russian Federation to do the following:

· “Enforceability” should be replaced with “compatibility with the Russian Constitution of a measure of enforcement of an international decision”;

· Delete articles according to which no measures will be taken to enforce an international decision declared by the Constitutional Court not to be in conformity with the Constitution;

· The law should spell out the duty of the Russian authorities to find alternative measures for executing the international decision;

· The Law should make clear that individual measures contained in the European Court’s judgments, such as payment of just satisfaction, may not be the object of an assessment of constitutionality;

· Any proceedings involving the compatibility assessment should necessarily involve the individual who acted as applicant before the relevant international court or body.

(*) This opinion is an interim one, as the Russian authorities were not able to host meetings with the rapporteurs from December until March. Should such meetings be organised, and should the Russian authorities present their arguments after March 2016, a final opinion reflecting these will be prepared at a later stage

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