Saturday, January 18, 2020

Putin Wants Constitution to Reject Primacy for Russia of International Law

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 16 – The most important change in the Russian Constitution that Vladimir Putin has called for has almost been lost sight of in all the coverage of what has been taking place, Vitaly Portnikov says. That change is Putin’s desire to have the Russian Constitution explicitly reject the primacy of international law.

            Such a change, more than any of the others the Kremlin leader has called for, represents “the most genuine transformation of Russia into the Soviet Union,” the Ukrainian commentator says, because it means that until there are new changes in the basic law, “Russia once and forever” rejects its international obligations (

            If these changes are introduced, it will mean that Moscow does not recognize the primacy of international law and agreements or the decisions of the various international courts.  And it should  serve as a warning to all those who have pushed for Moscow’s return to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe so that Russians will have access to the European Court.

            With this change, the Russian authorities will no longer recognize the right of their citizens to make such appeals or the decisions of the court if they are nonetheless able to do so; and it will cite the Russian constitution as the basis for Moscow’s rejection of both, Portnikov continues. 

            The existence of the right of Russians under the current Russian constitution to appeal to the European Court for Human Rights has inspired and encouraged many to defend their rights in this way despite all the obstacles that the Putin regime has put in their way and its usual failure to ignore any decisions it doesn’t like.

            But now, if these Putin changes go through, the Kremlin will be able to do so and point to its own constitution, thus depriving Russian citizens of both their rights and encouragement and allowing the Russian regime to ignore all international standards and cite its constitution as the reason it is doing so. Unfortunately, that will persuade many in the West.

            This is “the real transition” in Russia that so much ink has been spilled, Portnikov says, a transition from at least the possibility of defending one’s rights to the complete “triumph” of a regime committed to making that impossible.

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