"The Beginning of the End" of the 24-Year-Long Toxic Relationship Between the European Court of Human Rights and Russia

photo credit: EFE / EPA / Ronald Wittek

Shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia, on its transition path, started to knock at the Council of Europe's door. Despite being engaged in bitter internal armed conflict in Chechnya, on 28 February 1996 was accepted as a full member of the organization. In 1998, Russia also became a Party to the European Convention. Thereby, it consented to the European Court of Human Rights' jurisdiction and the statutory execution of the Court's judgements on cases directed against Russia.

At the same time, the Council of Europe opened its doors for Russia not because of the latter's democratic progress or improvements in terms of human rights, although Russia made some efforts, including the adoption of a democratic constitution in 1993, but primarily because of Russia's future commitments and in the hopes that Russia would use an opportunity to become a decent member of the European family with the support of the European institutions. Unfortunately, however, Russia soon started backsliding and disappointing its partners, which made it easy to anticipate that not only Russia was not going to use this chance, but its policy and resulting pressure would put the brakes on the rapid democratization of other post-soviet nations, which had just joined the Council of Europe or at least hinder full involvement of the Council of Europe's bodies in this process. Moreover, after a decade of Russia's membership to the Council of Europe, a question was raised on what extent the Council of Europe influenced Russia and to what extent Russia has modified the nature of the Council of Europe.

The relationship between the Council of Europe and Russia, which was rather complicated from the very beginning, became toxic after several years. Two consecutive suspensions of the right to vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (in 2000 and 2014), Russia's constant and successful manipulation of the issue of leaving the Council of Europe, general disrespect vis-à-vis the Council of Europe's bodies, most notably of the ECtHR which was manifested in non-recognition and non-implementation of the Court's judgements, attempt to sabotage the crisis-ridden ECtHR by denying a timely response to inefficiency problem and seeking to overload it, finally ended with Russia's expulsion from the Council of Europe, denunciation of the European Convention and the Assembly declaring Russia's incumbent government as a "terrorist regime".

However, considering the historical experience, existing uncertainties with ending relations between Russia and the CoE on the one hand and Russia and the ECtHR on the other hand, as well as difficulty in anticipating both short-term and long-term consequences of this event, a logical question arises – is this the end of a relationship or everything is just beginning? Therefore, this paper aims to remind the abovementioned knowledge of Russia, offer an overview of the present situation vis-à-vis the European Court, and discuss current and future challenges.

To read the research in full, see attached file.


Tamar Ketsbaia