Russian Federation: constitutional amendments undermining human rights protection should be withdrawn

Following the decision to postpone a referendum on amendments to the Russian Constitution, the ICJ calls on the authorities of the Russian Federation to refrain from adoption of the amendments or revise those amendments which are likely to have a detrimental effect on the rule of law and human rights protection.

“Amongst the wide range of amendments proposed, are some that would restrict the implementation of international human rights law, and in particular the decisions of international human rights courts, in the Russian Federation,” said Róisín Pillay, Director of the Europe and Central Asia Programme of the ICJ.

“Other amendments would damage the independence of the Russian judiciary through changes to judicial appointments and dismissal procedures.”

The ICJ draws attention to these issues in a briefing paper on certain amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, published today.

“We urge the Russian authorities to use the opportunity presented by the postponement of the referendum, to reconsider amendments that would damage the ability of the justice system to provide an effective remedy to people whose human rights have been violated,” added Pillay.


On 15 January 2020 the President of the Russian Federation announced a decision to introduce more than forty amendments to the Constitution adopted in 1993. They are to be adopted through an extraordinary procedure which includes public vote, organised specifically for these amendments.

The amendments touch upon a range of issues not necessarily connected with each other. They among other things erode the role of international law and tribunals as well as weaken the independence of the national judiciary.

On 25 March, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin announced that a planned referendum on the constitutional amendments would be postponed due to COVID-19.

This ICJ briefing paper analyses how these amendments may run contrary to international commitments of the Russian Federation and further impede the judicial independence. The briefing paper addresses three particular changes proposed to the 1993 Constitution:

  • The role of international law and of decisions of international courts or other mechanisms (Article 125 of the Constitution)
  • Appointment of judges (Article 83 of the Constitution)
  • Procedures of appointment and removal for judges (Articles 83, 102 and 128 of the Constitution).

Full Briefing Paper (in PDF): Russia-constitution changes-Advocacy-Analysis Brief-2020-ENG