Published: 25 Jul 2018 | By Joyce Man
Positive developments in Russia and the European Court of Human Rights: The Strasbourg Effect
A Book Review
Given developments over the past three years, it is easy to focus on the negative in discussing Russia’s membership of the Council of Europe and adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In Russia and the European Court of Human Rights: The Strasbourg Effect (Cambridge University Press 2018, Lauri Mälksoo and Wolfgang Benedek (eds.)) (hereafter: Russia and the ECtHR), 15 practitioners and academics specialised in Russian human rights provide much-needed reflections on the twentieth anniversary of Russia’s accession to the ECHR. The book examines whether joining the ECHR has led Russia to absorb human rights principles, and in doing so raises reasons for concern. Nevertheless, some authors point to Strasbourg’s positive influence and take a more optimistic view of Russia’s interaction with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Drawing on what they have observed both inside and outside the courtroom, and from sociological and historiological perspectives, they paint a picture of a relationship which, while at times strained, has also been dynamic and positive.
To be sure, there have been setbacks in recent years. In 2015, the Duma created new powers for the Russian Constitutional Court (RCC) to overrule Strasbourg judgments. The following year, the RCC used these powers to find an ECtHR judgment unenforceable in Anchugov and Gadkov, a case relating to prisoner voting rights. Since then, the relationship between Russia and the ECHR system has remained tense. For this reason, Russia and the ECtHR provides a timely opportunity to take stock of how human rights protections have developed in Russia since its accession in 1998.