Friday 16 September 2022

Russia No Longer a Party to the ECHR as of Today

Today, 16 September 2002, presents a sad landmark: the Russian Federation ceases to be a party to the European Convention on Human Rights. Exactly half a year has passed since Russia was excluded from the Council of Europe following its invasion of Ukraine. 

And even if the European Court of Human Rights still is competent to deal with applications against Russia concerning actions or omissions occurring up until today, it cannot be denied that this is a huge loss: the protective umbrella, even if it was not fully able to protect people against human rights violations, will no longer be there. As the picture shows, a huge territory now falls outside the geographical scope of the ECHR. It can no longer be said, as many of us teaching on the Convention were used to, that the ECHR applies from Reyjavik to Vladivostok. Much more importantly, more than 140 million people can no longer turn to the European Court of Human Rights, nor invoke the ECHR in domestic courts, for any new violations of the Convention.

And of course, there are currently still 17,450 applications against Russia   pending before the Court. And Russia also has a continuing legal obligation to still implement past judgments as well as those following from these applications, but the practical prospects seem dim. The same goes for cooperation with the Committee of Ministers. All of this in spite of the words that mean to inspire some small sense of hope from the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, who also called for a halt to the war and to suppression in Russia itself: 

'The Council of Europe will continue to support and engage with human rights defenders, democratic forces, free media and independent civil society in the Russian Federation. Our hope is that, one day, Russian citizens will once again be able to enjoy the protection of the European Convention on Human Rights.' 

The European Court for its part took formal notice earlier this month of the fact that the office of a judge in respect of the Russian Federation also ceases to exist as of today. See also our earlier guest post on what could happen with the pending cases here.

Let us hope that one day the situation will have changed for the positive again so that the ECHR will again protect all people within the Russian Federation too. And for all those suffering from the Russian aggression in Ukraine, the Committee of Minsters re-affirmed yesterday in a decision that there should be no impunity for the crimes committed there. For now, 16 September 2002 stands as a sad day for human rights.