Legal Case of the Week: Prisoners' voting rights

posted 25 Apr 2016, 08:16 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 25 Apr 2016, 08:17 ]
On 19 April 2016 the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation ruled that the Russian government may ignore part of a European Court of Human Rights judgment in a dispute on prisoner voting rights, Tom Balmforth, writing in RFE/RL, reports. Legislation signed by President Putin in December 2015 created a mechanism for Russia to disregard international rulings, including by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), if they are believed to contravene the Russian Constitution. The judgment was issued on the basis of a request in February by the Russian Justice Ministry that the Constitutional Court consider the constitutionality of a judgment handed down by the European Court of Human Rights in 2013 calling on Russia to end its total ban on the voting rights of prisoners. As Tom Balmforth writes: 'The Constitutional Court said it was "prepared to compromise" with Strasbourg but that it was "impossible" to change the law to give prisoners the right to vote.' The Constitutional Court said was impossible to implement this judgment as handed down, and in the cases of the two applicants Anchugov and Gladkov in particular who had been sentenced for very serious crimes. However, the Constitutional Court said that it could be possible to give voting rights to those serving sentences in the community, and also in those circumstances where people convicted of crimes are not incarcerated but given alternative forms of punishment.

Secretary-general of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, said in a statement: "Today's judgment of the Constitutional Court suggests that there is a way to resolve the issue through a change of legislation which would alleviate the existing restrictions on the right to vote. I now call on the Russian parliament to draw on the Constitutional Court's judgment and consider appropriate solutions in order to implement the judgment of the Strasbourg Court."

Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said: "It's very simple: Russia is violating its legal obligation to enforce rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. The Constitutional Court's decision, while predictable, deals a devastating blow for people in Russia who turn to the European Court because they can't find justice in the Russian courts."

Tom Balmforth, 'In Test Case, Top Russian Court Rejects European Rights Ruling,' RFE/RL, 19 April 2016
'19 апреля 2016 года Конституционный Суд провозгласил Постановление по делу о возможности исполнения постановления Европейского суда по правам человека от 4 июля 2013 года «Анчугов и Гладков против России», Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation,' 19 April 2016
'Russia: Constitutional Court Backs Selective Justice,' Human Rights Watch, 19 April 2016