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Idea of revising Russian Constitution has backers and opponents

February 27, 2015, 16:14 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© ITAR-TASS/Sergei Karpov

MOSCOW, February 27. /TASS/. Proposals for revising the Russian Constitution’s provision to the effect international law enjoys priority over national legislation has sparked debates in the political quarters and among experts.

The chief of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, told the commitee board on Thursday that Russian national legislation should enjoy priority over international law. "Experience shows that this constitutional provision works against Russia’s interests and is being skillfully used by Western opponents," Bastrykin said. Human rights activists, such as the head of the council for the promotion of civil society and human rights under the presidential office, Mikhail Fedotov, and ombudsman Ella Pamfilova, have come out against the proposal of placing national legislation above international law.

The State Duma is prepared to consider Bastrykin’s idea of revising the Constitution. The chief of the State Duma’s committee for constitutional legislation and statehood, Vladimir Pligin, acknowledges that in the jurisdictions of a number of countries national laws enjoy priority over international norms.

The experts polled by TASS reflect both poles the debate has identified.

"I would support the idea of public discussion of certain clauses of the Constitution, which had to be drafted within extremely tight deadlines, and in a different situation, when liberal pro-western euphoria overwhelmed society. These days some actors, unfriendly towards Russia, have been politicizing international law to the detriment of our country," said the chief of the Military and Political Studies Centre at the MGIMO university of international relations, Alexey Podberyozkin. "My profound conviction is the clause saying that ‘no ideology can be established as an official or mandatory one’ should be removed from the Constitution. Russia must have one national ideology protecting the interests of the country’s citizens. As for the controversial provision for the supremacy of international law over national legislation, it is pretty clear national legislation provides better protection for citizens' rights, in particular, election rights, than international legislation."

"The Investigative Committee chief’s proposal for putting national law above international law reflects two mentalities: who should enjoy priority - the individual or the state? Article one of the Constitution says that ‘the individual and the individual’s rights and freedoms are the paramount value.’ But there is another point of view - the rights of the state are the highest priority. This type of approach is very risky in our country, which experienced Stalinist repression. The current Constitution is a safeguard protecting society from a return to that system," said the deputy director of the Political Technologies Centre, AlexeyMakarkin. "From the technical point of view there is only one actor capable of altering the basic provisions of the fundamental law. It is the Constitutional Assembly. Russia has no relevant legislation. If the Constitution begins to be revised, its articles may collapse one by one and the constitutional basis of the state will fall apart."

Says the dean of the Sociology Department at the Russian State Humanitarian University, Larisa Vdovichenko: "Russia joined the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. Departure from these obligations would logically entail Russia’s walkout from international organizations. I am against a revision of the Constitution."

And the director of the Institute of Strategic Evaluations, Sergey Oznobishchev, suspects that Bastrykin’s proposal for declaring the priority of national legislation over the international one is a sort of a probe, an invitation to start a public discussion.

"If the public opinion persuades politicians to accept this initiative, it will be a step back away from Russia’s proclaimed goal of building a democratic society," Oznobishchev said.


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