Russia Throws Support Behind European Human Rights Court

Russian legislators voted on Jan. 15 in support of a reform package aimed at streamlining cases before the European Court of Human Rights. Human rights advocates welcomed the move, which comes after years of Russian opposition had stymied the process.

“This is a long-awaited and positive move. Now more people in Russia and all of Europe will have better access to justice through the European Court,” Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia Director Holly Cartner said in a press release.

The “Protocol 14” reform measure will streamline and expedite the process for hearing cases before the Strasbourg-based court, in part by reducing the number of judges required to make major decisions. It will also allow the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to bring suits against state actors for refusing to honor court judgments.

The court has been crippled in recent years by a massive backlog of cases, many of them related to Russia. Human rights groups have complained that Russian authorities have simply ignored court rulings in over 100 cases.

“Moscow’s blockade has been explained by its frustration over the court’s many rulings that faulted basic human rights in Russia,” the Moscow Times said of the reform vote. “The Duma rejected the reform in December 2006, and officials later frequently accused the court of political bias.”