Posts Tagged ‘Venice Commission’

Putin’s new constitution would undo exactly the provisions that allowed Russia to join Council of Europe

March 24, 2020

reported on 23 March 2020 in the Eurasia Review that Adel Bashqawi, a Circassian human rights defender, has pointed out something that most have lost sight of: Vladimir Putin – by amending the Russian constitution as he proposes to do – is eliminating the provisions which allowed Russia to join the Council of Europe in 1994.

The full text of Bashqawi’s open appeal is given below:

In 1993, the Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted, recognized by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe in 1994 as conforming to the principles of a democratic state governed by the rule of law. This conclusion was one of the grounds for Russia’s admission to the Council of Europe.

In January-March 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated amendments to the Constitution hastily adopted by the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, causing extremely negative reactions from Russian civil society, representatives of indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation, human rights defenders, and the expert community.

The proposed amendments to the Constitution of Russia, in particular the new version of Article 68 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, establish “The state language of the Russian Federation throughout its territory is the Russian language as the language of the state-forming nation, which is part of the multinational union of equal nations of the Russian Federation.”

This norm, in our view, introduces ethnic segregation and discrimination of its indigenous peoples and national minorities in Russia, dividing the multinational people of the Russian Federation and granting a special status to ethnic Russians as a state-forming nation. Other indigenous peoples of Russia and national minorities are established as of non-state-forming peoples, if fact determining them to the status of “second-class” peoples and citizens. These amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation alienate Russia from the principles of a democratic federal state governed by the rule of law with a republican form of government, European constitutional values and democratic norms, and directly contradict Russia’s obligations within the Council of Europe.

We ask the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to send a request to the Venice Commission on the compliance of the amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, in particular Article 68 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, with Russia’s obligations within the Council of Europe.

We also ask the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to send a monitoring mission of PACE to Russia to assess the situation of Russia’s indigenous peoples and national minorities, in the light of decisions taken in Russia on ethnic segregation and discrimination of its peoples.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/09/ruxit-a-real-possibility-and-bad-for-human-rights-defenders/

and https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/25/world/europe/council-of-europe-russia-crimea.html

Kremlin Gutting Constitutional Provisions That Allowed Russia To Join The Council Of Europe – OpEd

European judges demonstrate in Poland against the ‘muzzle law”

January 13, 2020

Not many of us would expect to see European judges demonstrating in the streets, but Al Jazeera reports that on Saturday 11 January 2020 many joined their Polish peers in protest against the ‘muzzle law’, a bill which proposes strict disciplinary measures against Polish judges critical of the government’s judicial overhaul.

The latest escalation came when the government introduced a bill to discipline judges who question its changes [Anadolu]
The latest escalation came when the government introduced a bill to discipline judges who question its changes [Anadolu]

The office of Warsaw’s mayor said some 30,000 people took part in Saturday’s march to denounce a bill that would allow the Law and Justice (PiS) government to discipline judges who question its judicial changes. The introduction of the measure in December is the latest episode in a years-long squabble over courts reform in the country that has triggered a feud with the European Union. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/08/polish-judges-have-become-human-rights-defenders/]

Judges from more than 20 other European countries, many wearing judicial robes over their thick winter coats, carried placards with their countries’ names. As each delegation was announced, chants of “Thank you, thank you” rose from the crowd. About 1,000 Polish judges also joined the rally, with many travelling to Warsaw from all corners of the country.

We want to feel that we are safe at work. A judge cannot fear that if a ruling they hand down is inconvenient for the government, they will bear consequences. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to that,” said judge Halina Musial.

Background: Despite protests in some 200 towns and cities when first announced, the draft law passed the PiS-dominated lower house in late December. It is now being considered by the opposition-controlled Senate, which may delay its passage, but is unlikely to stop it. The draft law, which makes it easier to dismiss or fine uncooperative judges, is seen as a response to an earlier blow to the government’s reforms.  In early December, the Supreme Court ruled that its own disciplinary chamber, a body created by the government, is “not a court within the meaning of EU and national law”. The court also found that the constitutional body nominating judges, the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), which has been reformed to be mostly appointed by parliament rather than other judges, is “not an impartial and independent body”. When first introduced in December, Małgorzata Gersdorf, Supreme Court chief justice, warned that the changes would “infringe EU treaties” and risked driving Poland out of the bloc. For its part, the government claims that the bill is necessary to stop judges from “undermining” the legal system.  Since taking power in 2015, PiS has been at loggerheads with the EU over its judicial meddling, including installing allies in the constitutional court, trying to force Supreme Court judges into retirement and politicising lower-level appointments.  The European Commission’s vice-president, Vera Jourova, has urged Poland to halt work on the legislation until it had been properly consulted, echoing calls by the Council of Europe and the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights

At Saturday’s protest, Irish Supreme Court judge John MacMenamin carried letters of support from Irish Chief Justice Frank Clarke and the Association of Judges of Ireland, according to the Irish Times. Murat Arslan, an imprisoned Turkish judge and winner of the 2017 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, also sent a note of support to the protesters, Polish website OKO.press reported. At the request of the opposition Senate speaker, the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, visited Warsaw this week to prepare its “urgent opinion”, but the government declined to meet the representatives. Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin responded that “Poland is a sovereign country and shapes its own legal system, including the judiciary. These are not issues governed by European law”.