Vladimir Putin is proposing constitutional reforms which would enshrine rejection of international law in the Russian constitution. By adopting these reforms, Russia could reject judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which Russia is bound under international law to observe, and could reject any decisions by international bodies that Russia has violated international law by invading and annexing the Crimea in 2014, invading the eastern Ukraine in 2014, or by attacking Ukrainian naval vessels in the Kerch Strait and seizing their crews in 2018.
In essence, the constitutional reforms amount to a full rejection of the binding nature of international law.
“Putin defenders”, who successfully argued for restoring the voting rights of the Russian Federation in the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe (suspended after the invasion of the Crimea), with the argument that doing so would make the judgments of the ECHR an important tool for Russian advocates of the Rule of Law, have now had the rug pulled out from under them.
Richard Herzinger, “Dieser Plan ist ein Schlag ins Gesicht aller Putin-Versteher,” Die Welt, 19 Januar 2020.
Putin will auch den Grundsatz in der Verfassung verankern, dass internationale Gesetzgebung und Verträge sowie die Entscheidungen internationaler Institutionen „nur insoweit gelten, als sie keine Beschränkungen der Rechte und Freiheiten des Menschen und Bürgers nach sich ziehen und unserer Verfassung nicht widersprechen“, wie er in seiner Rede an die Nation erklärte.
Vladimir Isachenkov, (Associated Press), “Vladimir Putin floats constitutional reform as prime minister steps down,” Yahoo News, January 15, 2020.
Isachenkov quotes Putin as follows:
Mr Putin also emphasised the need to amend the constitution to give it a clear priority over international law.
“The requirements of international law and treaties and decisions of international organs can only be valid on the territory of Russia as long as they don’t restrict human rights and freedoms and don’t contradict the constitution,” he said.
This development should be of grave concern to all those who support international law, and even to Putin defenders or apologists in the United States. The proposed amendments to the Russian constitution would formalize Russia’s de facto approach that it will follow and recognize international law as binding omly when it wants to do so.
Without acceptance of the binding nature of international law by the leading nations of the world, the whole system of international law and institutions will be greatly weakened, leading to increasing anarchy on a potentially horrific scale.
The Trenchant Observer