Sunday, February 24, 2019

Ingush Constitutional Court Appears Set to Challenge Moscow on Forced Resettlers

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 24 – The Ingush Republic Constitutional Court, a body that had its decision against the Ingush-Chechen border accord overruled by the Russian Constitutional Court and prompted discussions as to whether republics should have such courts, appears set to hand down a decision which will challenge Moscow even more broadly than the earlier case did. 

            The case involves the Russian government’s responsibilities to those forcibly resettled because of conflicts or official decisions, a category most people think was exhausted by the death of Stalin.  But in the North Caucasus, because of the two Chechen wars, there are thousands of “forced resettlers” who moved from that republic to other locations.

            After the second post-Soviet Chechen war, Moscow did not order Chechnya to take such people back: Chechnya didn’t want them, and overwhelmingly, they did not want to go.  Instead, the Russian government set up a program to subsidize such people in order to allow them to settle permanently in new locations.

            The program was never adequately funded, and still worse, in a series of amendments to the law establishing it, Moscow has cut back those falling into this category and the benefits they are entitled to apparently both in order to sweep this problem under the rub (or hand it off as an unfunded liability to federal subjects) and to save money.

            In the past, such people would have assumed that they had very few choices but to put up with their depressed situation. But now a group of them in Ingushetia, confident that they have a good case of Moscow’s violation of its own constitution and a sympathetic court in Ingushetia to which they can appeal.

            The case arises because the Russian government has committed itself as it is required to by the constitution to support those forcibly resettled from one part of the country to the other but has violated that commitment by saying that once someone forcibly resettled has received any benefits of any kind, he cannot get those promised by the law.

            At the very least, Moscow is violating its own laws, something far from unheard of; but in fact, there seem to be good reasons to believe it is violating the constitution as well and to think that the sympathetic Ingush Constitutional Court will rule against what Moscow is doing, according to Timur Akiyev of Ekho Kavkaza (           

            Five days ago, the Ingush Constitutional Court heard the case and announced that it will hand down its verdict by March 11( Any decision will be immediately appealed to the Russian Constitutional Court; but even if the center overrules the Ingush justices, this will represent an important legal development. 

            Not only will this case make it crystal clear that the republic constitutional court is on the side of the victims of circumstances they did not create and official arbitrariness no one should have to live with, but it will be a model for other republic constitutional courts – and also an indictment against the Russian Constitutional Court if as likely it overrules Ingushetia again. 

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