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Human rights and governance

24 - Human rights and rule of law

Grade: C+
Unity 4/5
Resources 1/5
Strategy 4/5
Impact 0/5
Total 9/20
Scorecard 2015: C- (7/20)
Scorecard 2014: C (8/20)
Scorecard 2013: C+ (9/20)
Scorecard 2012: C- (7/20)
Scorecard 2010/11: C (8/20)

The human rights situation in Russia continued downhill, with the EU unable to stop the slide

The most important development for human rights in Russia in 2015 was the December passage of a law that allows the country to ignore rulings from international courts – primarily affecting judgements from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The law allows the Constitutional Court to rule international rulings unenforceable, with a motion from the president or government. The ECHR has been the only remaining source of justice for many Russian citizens: around 45,000 appealed to the court between 2013 and mid-2015. The move follows the ECHR’s 2014 ruling that Russia must pay €1.87 billion to former shareholders in the nationalised Yukos oil company.

Meanwhile, many Russian human rights organisations and other NGOs have seen their activities hindered by the 2012 “foreign agent” law that penalises organisations receiving Western grants. Prominent among the victims is Memorial – a respected research centre whose work focuses on human rights and history, including the history of Soviet repression. In November, the authorities accused Memorial of “undermining the foundations of the constitutional order” – language that echoes some that is found in Memorial’s archives.

The law had an immediate impact on NGOs in Russia. By the beginning ofDecember, the Ministry of Justice had registered 103 groups as “foreign agents”, with four additional groups registering themselves. Six NGOs were shut down by the Ministry of Justice. Another 27 chose not to register as “foreign agents”, resulting in fines for some. A further 29 NGOs received official orders to “eliminate violations”, and 54 received warnings not to violate the law.

In October, the State Duma accepted a law in the first reading that would significantly expand the use of force, including lethal force, against prisoners and detainees.

The EU is unable to affect these trends within Russia. Member states have given asylum to some Russians, while certain countries have also sheltered emigrating organisations or their branches. The EU’s human rights dialogue with Russia was suspended in 2014 as a result of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.