Russia’s Duma lower house of parliament has finally approved a reform of the European Court of Human Rights so it can deal with cases faster. The changes were agreed in 2004. The upper house of parliament and president must still endorse the protocol, as part of an effort to modernise Russia’s judicial system.
Russia’s human rights record is sharply criticised by rights activists both at home and abroad, and the European court is seen by those seeking justice in Russia as a last resort. Its people brought more cases than any other in 2008, more than 8,000.
The court is the main instrument of the 47-member-nation Council of Europe, the pan-European human rights defence body. Turkey, Russia and Romania had the most guilty rulings against them in 2008, with a bearing on corruption, torture and other misconduct. There remains a backlog of around 100,000 cases — estimates vary — more than a quarter of them Russian.
One of cases against the government is a $100 billion lawsuit filed by the former managers of the oil company Yukos. A member of the governing United Russia party said Russian concerns about the European Human Rights Court reforms had been allayed by guarantees that Russian judges would be involved in reviewing complaints against Russia.