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Venice Commission to probe Russia’s constitutional amendment — senior Russian politician

The parliamentarian stressed that the amendment in question is not even adopted yet
State Duma Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS
State Duma Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy
© Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS

STRASBOURG, January 28. /TASS/. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has made a decision to refer to the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission the Russian constitutional amendment that is being drafted by Russia’s parliament particularly stipulating that Russia cannot enforce decisions of international organizations if they run counter to the constitution, said State Duma (the lower house of parliament) Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy who heads the Russian delegation to PACE on Tuesday after a meeting of the committee, underlining that he categorically disagrees with the decision made.

"Now it is decided to refer the proposed draft constitutional amendment to the Venice Commission and request their opinion on compliance of the provision that is only being discussed now with international law. Let’s wait what lawyers say regarding the provision that is yet to be adopted and whether they will consider it," the parliamentarian commented.

"We think that it is unacceptable," he pointed out. "Firstly, it is interference in Russia’s domestic affairs. Secondly, it is just ridiculous to study provisions of a law that is yet to be passed," Tolstoy added. "How are they going to do this? And what if we introduce a different amendment when working on the legislation?" he asked, recalling that such a possibility to do so is there between the first and the second readings.

The head of the Russian delegation lamented that Russia is systematically accused of not enforcing decisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). "I would like to say that 99% of the decisions are enforced. Russia is just a large country, there are many lawsuits and complaints. Therefore, statistically it seems worrying for our European colleagues," he explained. "On top of that, this worrying is amplified by efforts of the Baltic Plus group [formed in PACE] and Ukraine accusing Russia of debating constitutional amendments that are allegedly rendering enforcement of ECHR decisions impossible," he claimed.

"It is not true. Russian citizens’ legal protection will not change with these amendments adopted. Russia is bolstering its sovereignty by not implementing decisions that can contradict our main law," Tolstoy emphasized. He recalled that such a provision exists in the United Kingdom. "However, our colleagues are much less worried by that than the situation in Russia," he concluded.

Russian constitutional amendment

The Russian presidential bill on constitutional amendment suggests introducing a change to Article 79 of the constitution which currently reads that Russia "may participate in interstate associations and transfer to them part of its powers according to international treaties and agreements, if this does not involve the limitation of the rights and freedoms of man and citizen and does not contradict the principles of the constitutional system."

The presidential initiative says that Russia can participate in interstate associations and transfer to them part of its powers according to international treaties which Russia is a party to if it does not involve restricting rights and freedoms of citizens and does not run counter to the principles of the constitutional system. Moreover, "decisions of interstate organizations adopted based on international treaties of Russia in their interpretation that contradicts the Russian constitution cannot be enforced in Russia."