Russian President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 15 signed a document giving the constitution primacy over international institutions and their verdicts. Under this new law, for example, the Constitutional Court will be able to ignore the decisions and verdicts of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). This raises concerns about the aggravation of the human rights climate in Russia.
Under the law, the federal body of the executive branch of power - for example, the president or government - asks the Constitutional Court to investigate if a decision by an international body contradicts the constitution, and hence if it can be implemented.
The problem is the way in which these declarations are implemented; they are usually separated by a huge gap between domestic politics and the primacy of political stability over the rights of the citizens to express their will and discontent.
In Russia, I believe this gap is not so huge, however there are still problems to be settled and the European Court of Human Rights, along with foreign human rights activists, can do little to ameliorate this climate. These issues should be dealt with internally among Russians, and include a well-thought and natural political and civilian process – not one imposed from the outside. The hope is that one day the Russian society will reach this level of societal development.
The law signed by Putin is simply a safety measure, so concerns over it – particularly any from the Western media – are exaggeratedMaria Dubovikova
This measure is also a part of the global Russian strategy to reduce dependency on the international community, which has been selective in its outrage over human rights abuses depending on which party is the perpetrator.
These days, those working on the protection of rights are often used by political circles as an instrument of the manipulation in broad geopolitical games and strategies. There have been cases in which human rights activists have actively pushed into such battles, such as the case of Russian feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot.
Meanwhile, the international media and activists are inexplicably overly concentrated on the dispersal of rallies in Russia, even more so, I believe, than the dispersal of rallies in Turkey and EU countries that often turn violent. This double standard approach has not gone by unmentioned by Russian political circles.
Whether it’s paranoia or not, Russian society senses a Western desire to weaken the country by financing human rights activism and supporting domestic opposition.
In any case, differences between the Russian constitution and ECHR verdicts are extremely rare. The law signed by Putin is simply a safety measure, so concerns over it – particularly any from the Western media – are exaggerated.
Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme
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