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Russia: Chief Justice Insists on Limited Application of International Court Rulings

(Dec. 8, 2010) The Thirteenth International Constitutional Justice Forum was held in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on November 18-20, 2010. More than 90 justices, clerks of constitutional courts, and scholars from 14, mostly European, countries discussed modern theory and practice of constitutional law and analyzed the development of constitutional control (Press Release, Institute of Legislative and Public Policy, XIII Mezhdunarodnii Forum po Konstitutsionnomu Pravosudiyu [XIII International Constitutional Justice Forum] [in Russian] (Nov. 24, 2010),

In his speech at the Forum, the Chairman (Chief Justice) of the Russian Constitutional Court, Valerii Zorkin, warned the public that Russia may exempt itself from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Simultaneously, Justices of the Russian Constitutional Court declared the introduction of “a protection mechanism that would defend national sovereignty and free Russian authorities from execution of the ECHR rulings.” (Karina Moskalenko, “Evoliutsiia” Zorkina Mozhet Zakonchitsa Podryvom Konstitutsionnyh Osnov Rossii [Zorkin's “Evolution” Undermines Russian Constitutional System] [in Russian], EZHEDNEVNYI ZHURNAL [DAILY JOURNAL ONLINE] (Dec. 2, 2010),

The Justices' statement was preceded by an article authored by Chief Justice Zorkin and published on October 29, 2010, in the Russian daily newspaper Rossiiskaia Gazeta. In this article, the Chief Justice criticized the obligatory nature of rulings issued by the Strasbourg-located ECHR, especially when the rulings do not correspond with previously issued Russian court rulings. He stated that direct implementation of judgments of supra-national courts in Russia without their special adaptation to Russian cultural, moral, and religious traditions is an act of giving up the national interest, national institutions, and national sovereignty, which need to be defended. He rejected full isolationism of national courts, as well as their subordination to the international judiciary, and stated that the Constitutional Court of Russia will serve as an institution that will defend the nation from European judgments if they are considered by Russian constitutional justices to be “doubtful.” (Valerii Zorkin, Predel Ustupchivosti [Limits to Give Up] [in Russian], ROSSIISKAIA GAZETA, No. 246 (Oct. 29, 2010),

Zorkin's article was criticized by Russian liberal legal analysts, in whose opinion “Justice Zorkin tries to protect the interests of the state, even when they contradict human rights.” (Aleksei Makarkin, Pravovoi Nigilism Valeriia Zorkina [Legal Nihilism of Valerii Zorkin] [in Russian], EZHEDNEVNYI ZHURNAL (Nov. 10, 2010), Other analysts believe that if the Russian state does not follow the ECHR rulings, it will be in direct violation of the Russian Constitution, which provides for the priority of international agreements and states that generally recognized principles and norms of international law constitute a part of the domestic legal system. (Moskalenko, supra.)