Judge Seeks to Slow Appeals to Strasbourg

MOSCOW – The Constitutional Court’s chairman is calling for legislation barring Russian citizens from appealing to the European Court of Human Rights before exhausting all domestic legal possibilities.

The comments by Valery Zorkin on Saturday came just days after the European court handed down the latest verdict against Russia stemming from human rights abuses in Chechnya. His call is also the latest criticism of the court to be voiced by senior officials, who are incensed with growing number of appeals by Russians and the growing number of cases that Russia is losing.

Zorkin said the European court was essentially subverting Russia’s judicial system by allowing appeals before Russia’s top courts – the Supreme and Constitutional courts – had heard the cases.

“This also cuts off the summit of the judiciary pyramid in our country,” Zorkin said, Interfax reported.

“By replacing the Supreme and Arbitration courts, and partially the Constitutional Court, the European court, which is a supranational body, plays the role of a national tier of judiciary, which is at odds with its nature and tasks,” he said. He also suggested that procedures at Russia’s top courts be simplified.

Dozens of rights cases are pending before the Strasbourg-based court, and Moscow has been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of euros to victims of the Chechen conflict. Human rights activists say the fact that Russia accounts for the largest number cases filed to the European court is an indicator of Russians’ frustration with domestic courts.

On Thursday, meanwhile, the court ruled that Russian authorities were responsible for the presumed killing of a former speaker of the Chechen parliament in 2000, and ordered Moscow to pay his mother $54,000 in damages.

The European court’s chairman in May urged Russia to approve reforms of the court that the parliament has blocked. Russia is the only member of the 46-nation Council of Europe, the European rights watchdog that runs the court, that has not yet ratified the reforms so that they can come into force.

The Associated Press.

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