- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2015

Russian lawmakers have advanced a proposal to give the government in Moscow the ability to override findings from the European Court of Human Rights in the wake of a recent ruling critical of the Kremlin.

The Duma’s decision on Friday to ensure the international court’s rulings can be ignored was announced the same day that the ECHR awarded a victory to Roman Zakharov, an editor-in-chief from St. Petersburg who been pursuing legal action against Russia’s intelligence agency since 2003 over a secretive, state-sanctioned surveillance program which he claimed had “permitted blanket interception of communications.”

Unanimously, the ECHR agreed that a program that allows the Russian government to eavesdrop on telephone calls without restriction violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, protection of the right to respect for private life and correspondence.

“In view of the risk that a system of secret surveillance set up to protect national security may undermine or even destroy democracy under the cloak of defending it, the Court must be satisfied that there are adequate and effective guarantees against abuse,” the court ruled.

Absent proper safeguards, the ECHR said the spy program runs afoul of human rights law and that Mr. Zakharov roughly $43,000 in expenses. In turn, Russia’s lower house on Friday passed a measure ensuring the nation’s constitution can’t be overrode by any international courts.

“In passing the law, the Duma has provided the court with ‘a special legal mechanism for resolving the question of the possibility or impossibility of executing [international] court rulings from the point of view of the higher legal force of the Russian constitution,’” The Moscow Times said in quoting from state-run media.

Lawmakers in Moscow had first floated the proposal back in mid-July and claimed at the time that the Russian Constitutional Court rarely clashes with the ECHR.

“However, if a conflict emerges and the ECHR interpretation contradicts the Russian Constitution, Russia will have to refuse from strict compliance with the ECHR decision,” a government-run newswire reported.

“The lawmakers who signed the inquiry believe that a number of ECHR decisions are aimed at dissolving the boundaries of Russia’s state sovereignty that is based on the supremacy of the Russian Constitution and priority of the Russian Constitutional Court jurisdiction as the only power body authorized to carry out constitutional supervision,” Alexander Tarnavsky, a first deputy head of the Duma Committee on Budget and Taxes, said previously of the effort.

Russia ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in 1998 and contributed more than one tenth to the organization’s annual budget this year, BBC reported.

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