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Human rights and governance

16 - Rule of law and human rights in Russia

Grade: C
Unity 4/5
Resources 2/5
Outcome 2/10
Total 8/20
Scorecard 2012: C- (7/20)

Member states are relatively united but vary in terms of commitment. They had little impact beyond human rights that Russia perceives as nonpolitical.

Europeans want Russia to observe the rule of law and respect human rights. In 2010, there were several high-profile human rights abuses in Russia, including the death in prison of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, the murder of the human rights activist Natalya Estemirova and the judicial harassment of Oleg Orlov of human rights organisation Memorial. In July, President Dmitry Medvedev signed a new law that gives the security services “preventative powers” against citizens who are “creating the conditions” for crime. In December, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was arrested at a peaceful and officially-sanctioned rally. In December, former Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky was sentenced to an additional eight years in prison after a 22-month trial.

The main channel for communication between the EU and Russia is the Human Rights Dialogue, which was created in 2004. Member states are relatively united but vary in terms of commitment: Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK collect information on human rights abuses in Russia, yet Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal show little interest. Along with member states such as Germany and the UK, High Representative Catherine Ashton issued a strong statement of protest about the Khodorkovsky verdict. The European Parliament was also particularly vocal in criticizing Russia for human rights abuses.

However, the EU had minimal impact on the most pressing human rights issues. For example, although the issue was discussed at the summit in Rostov-on-Don in May/June, no Russian response was expected or given. However, Russia did sign up to the amendment of the statute of the European Court of Human Rights known as Protocol 14, which speeds up the court’s process (Russia was the final signatory to the statute that had not ratified the amendment). Russia also agreed to set up a joint project with the EU to facilitate the application of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.