Today the State Duma has approved draft law no. 362484-4 “On ratification of Protocol 14 to the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms modifying the control mechanism of the Convention, dated 13 May 2004”. The Interregional Committee against Torture fully supports this decision of the supreme legislative body. Ratification of the Protocol by the Russian Federation will finally launch the ECtHR reform targeted at increasing its application processing capacity. Applications, including those filed by Russian citizens, will be tried faster, the state will have to react to the violations determined by the Strasburg Court and eliminate their causes and consequences more promptly. In should be mentioned that it has taken Russia rather long to ratify Protocol 14. In 2006 the State Duma refused to ratify it by a majority vote.
For a long time Russia was the only country among 47 Council of Europe member-states refusing to ratify the document. The protocol could not enter into force because it required approval by all states parties to the Convention. This delay has dramatically inhibited the reform of the European Court that cannot cope with the case load. Thus, on 1 December 2009 there were 118 thousands (!) of applications pending trial, 32 600 out of them were from Russia.
In autumn last year the parties managed to reach an agreement by promising to take into account Russia’s observations. The Committee of Ministers ensured that Protocol 14 would be interpreted. Besides, the ECtHR Registry issued special clarification notes to those articles of the Protocol that Russia was opposing.
Russia found it inappropriate that, according to Protocol 14, cases against Russia could be tried by the Committee of 3 lacking a Russia judge. Our officials thought this might pose a threat to justice. Here we would like to mention that in the majority of cases Russian judge – Anatoly Kovler – adjudicates against Russia with the same degree of criticism and detachment as other judges. For example, in the notorious cases «Mikheyevvs. Russia» and «Maslovavs. Russia» the judges unanimously disapproved of tortures and prosecution delays.
The Russian Federation also did not like the article allowing the Strasbourg Court to conduct a pre-trial investigation before taking a decision on admissibility. According to the authorities, this amounted to interference into the domestic system of justice. However, any practicing lawyer working in the sphere of international law knows that, according to the ECHR and Rules of the Court, Strasburg judges may request additional information on the merits of the case from the state even before deciding on the admissibility of the application. This can be seen under the cases supported by the Interregional Committee against Torture – for example, cases of Anatoly Atayev and Olga Gavrilova.