Russia Becomes Last to Ratify Strasbourg Protocol

The Russian State Duma. Source: Inetmir.ruAfter more than three years delay, the Russian State Duma has ratified a protocol to reform the European Court of Human Rights in a vote of 392 to 56, RIA Novosti reports.

Friday’s decision makes Russia the last and final member of the Council of Europe to sign the protocol, opening the way for the court to adopt a series of much-needed reforms.

Russian legislators initially refused to sign the protocol in December 2006, saying that the reforms would infringe upon Russian interests.

Specifically, the protocol would provide for a committee of three judges to decide whether or not to consider a complaint that had been filed in the court. Russian deputies also objected to a provision allowing the court to further investigate a complaint before it decided whether or not to take it under consideration.

Statements earlier in the week by State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov met with initial skepticism, with analysts fearing that the rhetoric echoed similar statements by Duma deputies that had previously gone unfulfilled.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has handed down a vast number of rulings against Russia for rights abuses. It has ruled against Russia more than 120 times in cases related to Chechnya alone. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the court of making “politicized” decisions.

According to the RFE/RL news service, the Duma’s decision to finally ratify the protocol is likely political. In particular, a pending $98 billion case from the former oil company Yukos against Russia that accuses the country of driving it into bankruptcy through unfair prosecution is a likely factor.

“The consideration of the Yukos case has been postponed for months on various pretexts. Now that all the possibilities of delays have run out, the ratification lever is being used,” says Russian political analyst Nikolai Petrov. “The Kremlin is interested in mollifying the European Court as much as possible by improving Russia’s image with the judges.”