In June 2011 Acting Chairman of the Federation Council, Alexander Torshin, introduced the “Federal Constitutional Law on Introducing Amendments to Some Legislative Acts of the RF” draft bill in the State Duma. A more appropriate title would be: “the law on Russia’s non-compliance with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights”.
This raised many eyebrows in Europe, and with good reason. Torshin’s draft law would allow Russia to perform its international obligations selectively. Moreover, the Russian deputies have decided to put a legal seal on the rules for the Strasbourg Court to adhere to. Another point that should be of more concern to President Medvedev than to the Europeans, who could just slam the door to Europe shut in our faces, is that Torshin’s draft bill effectively changes Russia’s Main Law.
This legislative aggression comes off of the ECHR’s decision in the case of serviceman Konstantin Markin, who sought parental leave to take care of his newborn baby. Every court, including the Russian Constitutional Court, turned down his petition on the grounds that it would be prejudicial to the security of the Russian state. Strasbourg ruled that decisions “based on pure presumption and devoid of reasonable grounds” should be repealed and the corresponding amendments should be introduced in the laws.
The most important consequence is not bad blood and not that thousands of officers will decide to go on parental leave, but that elections are on the horizon. Parties denied registration under specious pretexts, candidates thrown off the ballot and election rigging may now challenge the principles of Russia’s “sovereign democracy” “based on pure assumption and devoid of reasonable grounds” at the European Court.
The bill is no a foolish act, but rather a well-thought-out political maneuver. The State Duma is due to pass this unpolished document this week without any prior debate. First Deputy Head of the Committee for Constitutional Law and State Development, Alexander Moskalets, hastened to tell the media that on Tuesday, 28 June, the draft will be submitted for its first reading and that “it could pass all three readings before the end of the Duma’s spring session”, i.e. as early as 6 July.
Should this all get Russia expelled from the Council of Europe, perhaps it would be a blessing in disguise. Then nothing would prevent the Europeans from arresting our bureaucrats’ accounts and property and forbidding them to bask in the sun on Côte d’Azur and to shop on Oxford Street. And that would not mean that someone is preventing Russia from “rising from its knees”. We have been barging into the European home, have been allowed to enter and Europe has suffered through all our shenanigans while we spoiled the air and tormented members of our own family. Once we decided to smash windows, however, it is time to pack our things and brace ourselves for being shown the door.