Published: 9 Dec 2016 | By Dario Rossi d'Ambrosio

The Supremacy of the Russian Constitutional Court?


Summary of Venice Commission Opinion no. 832/2015

At the request of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the ‘Venice Commission’ adopted an interim opinion on 11-12 March 2016 and a final opinion on 10-11 June 2016, regarding amendments to the Constitutional Law of the Constitutional Court of Russia (the ‘Constitutional Law’). According to the new law, a ruling from an international body – including the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) – can be declared “impossible to implement” if it is in conflict with the Russian Constitution.

In its analysis, the Venice Commission addressed the main points of the Russian Constitutional Court’s judgment, as well as the constitutional amendments of 2015, concluding that the system put in place may breach a number of norms of international law and of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Commission therefore recommended that Russia take a number of measures, including removing two of the key amendments which introduce new powers for the Constitutional Court. Notwithstanding the Commission’s interim opinion, the Russian authorities have not started the process of amending the Constitutional Law and, in April 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that the 2013 ECtHR judgment regarding prisoners’ voting rights was non-executable in the Russian legal order. Although this might not be the practice in the future, the episode sets a worrying precedent for the non-execution of decisions issued by the Strasbourg Court. In June 2016, the Commission adopted a final opinion based on the analysis provided in the interim opinion and on the information collected by members of the Commission during their meetings held with Russian authorities.

Read the full report summary in the Winter 2016 bulletin.