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Karinna Moskalenko: Expelling us from the Council of Europe means depriving Russians of protection; not expelling us means destroying it [The Insider]

posted 26 Oct 2017, 03:01 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Oct 2017, 03:26 ]

12 October 2017

An interview with the Russian lawyer Karinna Moskalenko [an extract]

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: The Insider]

Pictured below: Karinna Moskalenkko

The Council of Europe has lost 10% of its budget due to Russia’s decision not to pay its annual dues for 2017, stated CE Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. “We have been forced to restructure the organization and cut back on personnel,” he said. Earlier, Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko stated that Moscow was not going to recognize the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights[ECtHR] . According to her, these decisions will not be considered legitimate in Russia unless the country’s representatives can participate in the work of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE]. The Russian delegation was stripped of its voting rights in PACE in April 2014 after the annexation of Crimea. Karinna Moskalenko, an attorney, founder of the Centre for International Protection, and member of the Helsinki Group, who represents Russians’ interests at the ECtHR, recounted what ordinary citizens would lose in the event of a departure from the Council of Europe and why that step would mean a grandiose failure for Russian foreign policy. 

Today the need has arisen to develop new human rights approaches to the issue of Russia being in the Council of Europe. Previously, we occupied a perfectly concrete, very stable place in the organization, despite the occasional disagreements and variety of opinions.

Russia had its own face, rights, and responsibilities, which it carried out. It was its responsibilities that at some point began to weigh on the Russian regime. The Council began passing more and more resolutions concerning human rights violations, which the regime came to view with some trepidation. Of course, the key question in due course became the issue of Crimea, but I don’t want to touch on that topic right now. I’m a lawyer, not a politician. Russia has entered into a new stage, of which the Ukrainian question is only part of that stage, believe me.

What is happening in the second decade of the twenty-first century? The Russian Federation's relations with all its neighbours have been sharply exacerbated. Of course, we cannot speak about the fact that all the other 46 states of the Council of Europe maintain identical positions and only Russia takes a different one. However, acute conflict situations are being discussed in the Parliamentary Assembly, and the Russian delegation, whose status has been suspended, is no longer taking part in resolving these issues. This is a mistake. It is always better to be inside a process than on the sidelines, and beyond its confines even more so.

Today a serious stagnation has befallen us in the sphere of human rights. I do not deny that the Russian authorities are taking serious measures to implement the European Court’s decisions. However, as has already been stated many times, with regard not only to Russia, the payment of compensations by a State based on ECtHR decisions is not the end of the matter. Usually, these are relatively small, more symbolic sums, unless we’re talking about violation of the right of property that has been confiscated from lawful possession for one reason or another. When there are 300-400 applicants to the Court, we are talking about large sums. Nevertheless, the Russian Federation has always managed to pay them, but it just doesn't seem able to resolve the issues by taking the necessary measures of a general nature. […]

Right now we are hearing statements by highly placed officials and prominent figures in the Russian establishment about how Russia is not going to implement the European Court’s decisions. What is this membership for, then? What is this absurdity and hypocrisy for? Of course, I understand that many of my clients would not be among the living if it weren’t for the European Court, and this is not even because of the fact that our Centre has successfully argued approximately 330 cases. Of course, there is no need to run to the European Court with every issue, but the very existence of this procedure, the very fact of the presence of European law, is a tremendous restraining force against the tyranny and illegal actions of the Russian authorities. […]

The fact that Russians are at risk of losing the possibility of supra-state justice on matters that fall under universal jurisdiction is a very important point. If we are not irresponsible citizens and irresponsible politicians, we should in no way be undermining these foundations, and this means we have to implement the European Court’s decisions. If at some moment the Parliamentary Assembly, the highest legislative organ of the community of 47 states, realizes that Russia’s unpredictability carries a danger for the Council of Europe’s very foundations, that its basic elements are being destroyed — I fear Russia will not be tolerated in the Council of Europe. And this means that you and I will lose what for me as a lawyer is most essential: the right to the impartial jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.

Translated by Marian Schwartz