President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Tuesday allowing Russia’s national legislation precedence over international treaties and rulings from international bodies in cases when they conflict with the Russian constitution.
The Kremlin has said that all Russia’s obligations under international treaties remain in force and that Moscow remains fully committed to international law.
According to the law, the country’s legislation would come with a provision “stating that the decisions of interstate bodies … contradicting the constitution of the Russian Federation are not subject to execution in Russia”.
But the legislation has caused concern among some rights advocates in Russia, where hundreds of people appeal to the European Court of Human Rights every year seeking justice that they say they have been denied at home.
Russia has had a very delicate relationship with rights groups, and this bill is expected to receive flak from activists and activist groups alike. In fact, every year, hundreds of Russians flock to the European Court of Human Rights in a bid to seek justice, which according to them, is unattainable at home.
Putin first toyed with the idea in January, during his state-of-the-nation address. It is one of an array of legal and constitutional amendments adopted this year including one allowing Putin to run again for president two more times when his current term comes to an end in 2024.
Another bill has been submitted to the Russian parliament that can grant ex-presidents immunity from criminal prosecution could be extended to any offences committed in their lifetimes, not merely while in office.
The draft legislation is being carefully parsed for clues as to what Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for more than two decades, plans to do in 2024.
Former presidents already enjoy lifetime immunity for crimes committed in the office under legislation adopted after Russia’s first post-Soviet president, Boris Yeltsin, handed the reins of power to Putin at the turn of the century.
The new bill would also make it harder to revoke ex-presidents’ expanded immunity.
It would require the upper house of parliament to vote overwhelmingly to revoke it on the strength of accusations by the lower house that the president had committed treason or another serious crime.
The bill will become law if the lower house votes to approve it in three readings, the upper house backs it, and Putin then signs it.