Re Review of Constitutionality of Federal Law

JurisdictionRusia
CourtRussian Federation Constitutional Court
JudgeMavrin,Danilov,Kleandrov,Zharkova,Kokotov,Khokhryakova,Krasavchikova,Kazantsev,Gadzhiev,Zhilin,Aranovsky,Melnikov,Rudkin,Boytsov,Yaroslavtsev,Bondar,Zorkin,Knyazev
Docket Number(Judgment No 21-P/2015)

Russian Federation, Constitutional Court.

(Zorkin, President; Aranovsky, Boytsov, Bondar, Gadzhiev, Danilov, Zharkova, Zhilin, Kazantsev, Kleandrov, Knyazev, Kokotov, Krasavchikova, Mavrin, Melnikov, Rudkin, Khokhryakova and Yaroslavtsev, Judges)

(Judgment No 21-P/2015)

Re Review of Constitutionality of Article i of the Federal Law “On Ratifying the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Protocols Thereto”

Relationship of international law and municipal law — Treaties — European Convention on Human Rights, 1950 — Article 46 — Obligation to execute European Court of Human Rights judgments — Constitutional review of provisions of Russian law on execution of European Court of Human Rights judgments — Whether European Court of Human Rights judgments incompatible with Constitution of the Russian Federation can be executed — Hierarchy of legal sources under Constitution — Whether Constitution having supreme legal force — Article 15 of Constitution

Relationship of international law and municipal law — Treaties — Interpretation — Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969 — Article 31 — European Convention on Human Rights, 1950 — Article 46 — Obligation to execute European Court of Human Rights judgments — Whether non-compliance with rules on treaty interpretation exempting State from obligation to execute judgment — Provisions of internal law regarding competence to conclude treaties — Whether subsequent interpretation incompatible with “rules of fundamental importance” exempting State from obligation to execute judgment — The law of the Russian Federation

Summary:1The facts:—A group of members of the State Duma referred the question of the constitutionality of certain provisions of Russian legislation ensuring the execution of European Court of Human Rights judgments to the

Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation (“the Constitutional Court”). Those provisions provided mechanisms for the execution of European Court of Human Rights judgments within the national legal system.

Held:—The examined provisions were compatible with the Constitution of the Russian Federation (“the Constitution”). The Russian Federation could exceptionally refuse to execute judgments of the European Court of Human Rights when the interpretation contained therein was incompatible with certain provisions of the Constitution.

(1) According to Article 15(4) of the Constitution,2 the European Convention on Human Rights, 1950 (“the European Convention”) formed part of the Russian legal system. Article 15(1) of the Constitution3 stipulated the principle of supreme legal force of the Constitution. European Court of Human Rights judgments could only be executed subject to the principle of supreme legal force of the Constitution being observed. If the execution of a European Court of Human Rights judgment against Russia, due to its interpretation of the European Convention, was incompatible with fundamental principles and norms of the Constitution, the Russian Federation could exceptionally depart from its obligation to execute it. An interpretation of the European Court of Human Rights would be incompatible with the Constitution, for example, when the latter gave fuller protection to human rights and fundamental freedoms as compared to the European Convention as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights (paras. 2.2, 4, 5.3).

(2) Execution of judgments based on an interpretation of the European Convention by the European Court of Human Rights which did not comply with the rules of treaty interpretation provided in Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969 (“the Vienna Convention”)4 would

go beyond the obligation to execute such judgments voluntarily assumed by the Russian Federation under the European Convention (para. 3).

(3) Chapters 1 and 2 of the Constitution contained “rules of fundamental importance” for the purposes of Article 465 of the Vienna Convention. Article 46 applied and allowed the Russian Federation to forgo compliance with international obligations in a situation where a treaty had been compliant with the “rules of fundamental importance” at the time when consent was given, but subsequently became non-compliant with such rules due to its interpretation by an authorized intergovernmental body. Such a situation did not affect the validity of the treaty as a whole. It did, however, lead to it being impossible for the State to comply with its treaty obligation to execute a decision of the authorized intergovernmental body based on an interpretation incompatible with the State's “rules of fundamental importance”. Accordingly, when an interpretation of the European Convention given by the European Court of Human Rights in a judgment against the Russian Federation contradicted the “rules of fundamental importance” contained in Chapters 1 and 2 of the Constitution, the Russian Federation was not bound to comply with its obligation to execute such a judgment. Such a contradiction occurred, in particular, when the Constitution gave fuller protection to human rights and fundamental freedoms as compared to the interpretation given to the European Convention by the European Court of Human Rights in a judgment against the Russian Federation (paras. 3–4).

(4) The Constitutional Court, entrusted with the function of constitutional review, was the proper authority to review the constitutionality of national legislative provisions whose application led to the finding of violation of the European Convention by the European Court of Human Rights. The Constitutional Court would decide on the possibility of a legitimate compromise between the European system of human rights protection and the protection offered by the Constitution (para. 6).

The following is the text of the relevant part of the judgment of the Court:

[Proceedings arose out of a request for constitutional review of Article 1 of the Federal Law “On ratifying the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Protocols thereto”, Article 32(1) and (2) of the Federal Law “On international treaties of the Russian Federation”, Article 11(1) and (4) and Article 392(4)(4) of

the Code of Civil Procedure of the Russian Federation, Article 13(1) and (4) and Article 311(3)(4) of the Code of Commercial Procedure of the Russian Federation, Article 15(1) and (4) and Article 350(1)(4) of the Code of Administrative Procedure of the Russian Federation and Article 413(4)(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation. The request was filed by a group of members of the State Duma. The request was motivated by an apparent uncertainty as to whether the mentioned provisions were compatible with the Constitution.]
FINDINGS

1. [The first part of the judgment outlines the content of the provisions of national legislation under review for their compatibility with the Russian Constitution. Article 1 of the Federal Law “On ratifying the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Protocols thereto” accepts mandatory jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights without any special agreement in relation to its interpretations of the Convention and the Protocols when an alleged violation of their provisions took place after their entry into force for the Russian Federation.

Article 32(1) and (2) of the Federal Law “On international treaties of the Russian Federation” provides that the President of the Russian Federation, the Government of the Russian Federation as well as federal executive bodies are responsible for ensuring Russian compliance with its international obligations.

Article 11(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure of the Russian Federation provides that a court deciding a civil case is bound to apply, among others, international agreements of the Russian Federation. Article 11(4) states that when an international agreement provides rules different from those provided under national law, a court deciding a civil case should apply the provisions of the international agreement. Article 392(4)(4) of the Code of Civil Procedure of the Russian Federation lists judgments of the European Court of Human Rights establishing a violation of the Convention by Russia in specific cases among grounds for review of judgments that entered into legal force. Similar provisions are contained in Article 13(1) and (4) and Article 311(3)(4) of the Code of Commercial Procedure of the Russian Federation, Article 15(1) and (4) and Article 350(1)(4) of the Code of Administrative Procedure of the Russian Federation and Article 413(4) (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation.

The group of members of the State Duma referred the question of the constitutionality of the aforementioned provisions to the Constitutional Court. They argued that these provisions are unconstitutional because they oblige the Russian Federation to execute judgments of the European Court of Human Rights even when they contradict the Constitution of the Russian Federation.]

1.1. [The Constitutional Court found the request to be admissible within its competence to carry out abstract constitutional review.]

1.2. [The Constitutional Court can only review the constitutionality of federal laws ratifying international treaties prior to their entry into force. However, in this case, the Federal Law “On ratifying the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Protocols thereto” forms a normative unity with other provisions of Russian law on execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights under scrutiny. Therefore, constitutional review of the Federal Law “On ratifying the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Protocols thereto” is permissible.]

1.3. [The Constitutional Court is entitled to carry out constitutional review of the mentioned provisions to the extent that they regulate execution of...

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