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Russia and the ECHR: Tensions Rising?

ECHRThe European Court of Human Rights has yet again condemned the actions of Russian armed forces in Chechnya. The case at hand, Musayev and others v. Russia, concerns a (para-)military operation conducted in early 2000 in the course of which numerous persons were killed and others mistreated. In a unanimous judgment delivered on 26 July, the ECHR found a violation of the right to life, of the prohibition of inhumane and degrading treatment, and of the right to an effective remedy. The Court was surprisingly blunt in its characterisation of the events, referring to the killings as “extrajudicial execution” and describing the response of the authorities to the tragedy as “wholly inadequate and inefficient”. (The full text of the judgment is, of course, available on the Court’s website.)
Although there has been no official comment from the government yet, it is clear that the Russian authorities are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with Strasbourg. This is little surprise—the Musayev decision comes as the latest in a string of similar judgments against Russia. And more might be on the way as applications against Russia currently account for some 22% of all of the cases pending before the Court.
Earlier this month, an additional domestic measure of human rights protection was proposed, which could conceivably reduce the number of applications to Strasbourg. The plan is to invest the Russian Supreme Court with jurisdiction to hear claims made by individuals against the government. It remains to be seen whether this will prove an effective remedy. Commentators critical of Kremlin have, however, already claimed that the new scheme is aimed at prolonging domestic proceeding and thereby delaying recourse to the European Court. This bleak vision finds some support in the fact that Russia is the only state party to the European Convention on Human Rights that has not ratified—and has thereby effectively blocked the entry into force of—its Protocol 14, which seeks to make the operation of the Court more efficient.

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