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Execution of the ECHR decision is partially possible

The Constitutional Court announced a decision on the possibility of execution of a decision of the European Court of Human Rights

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Saint-Petersburg, Saint Petersburg 19.04.2016 14:08

On April 19, the Constitutional Court of Russia announced in an open hearing the decision on the case concerning execution of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) of July 4, 2013 “Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia”.

According to the Strasbourg court the limitation of voting rights set out in part 3 of art. 32 of the Russian Constitution is of absolute, automatic and undifferential nature and violates art. 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which guarantees the right to free elections: “It concerns all persons serving a sentence of imprisonment, applies for the entire period of serving of such sentence regardless of the gravity and type of the crime committed, the term of punishment and other individual circumstances.” Based on this, the ECHR proposed to the Russian Federation to enable participation of prisoners in elections by political process or by construction of provisions of the Constitution by competent authorities in line with the provisions of the Convention. However, according to the Ministry of Justice of Russia, supporting this position of the ECHR and granting voting rights to prisoners will violate the provisions of the Russian Constitution on its precedence over any other legal acts. The request of the Ministry of Justice on this matter was considered on March 31st.

President of the Constitutional Court of Russia Valery Zorkin announced the decision of the Court, which expressed disagreement with the provision on the absolute nature of denial of voting rights for convicts contained in part 3 of art. 32 of the Constitution. The Constitutional Court indicated that according to this article and the provisions of the Criminal Code of Russia, in general punishment by imprisonment is excluded for citizens committing minor crimes for the first time and, therefore, their voting rights are not limited. However, for more serious crimes imprisonment, and consequently denial of voting rights, is applied only in case the purposes of criminal liability cannot be achieved with a less severe form of punishment.

The decision of the Constitutional Court of Russia also provides statistical data indicating that from more than 700 thousand convicts from 2011 to 2015 only 211 thousand are sentenced to actual imprisonment. Besides, only 10% were sentenced to actual imprisonment out of those who committed minor crimes. This means that the majority of convicts is not deprived of voting rights. Therefore, according to the Constitutional Court of Russia, in terms of measures of a general nature aimed at providing for justice, adequacy and differentiation of voting rights limitations for prisoners, execution of the decision of the ECHR is possible and accomplishable in the legislation and judicial practice of the Russian Federation.

At the same time, in its decision the Constitutional Court of Russia mentioned that the State Duma is entitled to replace certain regimes of imprisonment, such as penal settlements, with alternative types of punishment not causing limitations of voting rights.

However, as for Anchugov and Gladkov vs Russia, in terms of general measures providing changes to the Russian legal system that would allow for limitations of voting rights of not all convicts sentenced to imprisonment, execution of the decision of the ECHR is held impossible, since the provision of part 3 art. 32 of the Constitution is of imperative nature and applies to all such convicts.

Besides, the Constitutional Court held it impossible to execute individual measures concerning Mr. Anchugov, convicted for murder, robbery with violence and participation in an organized criminal group, who were sentenced to capital punishment later replaced with 15 years of imprisonment. They were convicted for extremely serious crimes and therefore could not count on access to active voting rights. On this issue, the Russian Constitution does not contradict international legal acts including the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Topic: constitutional law