Russian Federation: Council of Europe expulsion must not leave victims of human rights violations without remedies

People across Russia will lose crucial human rights protections as a result of the Russian Federation’s expulsion from the Council of Europe following its military aggression against Ukraine, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) warned today.

Following its suspension from the Council of Europe on 25 February, Russia formally indicated its withdrawal from the organisation, and its renunciation of the European Convention on Human Rights, on 15 March. The Committee of Ministers declared on 16 March that Russia would be immediately excluded from the Council of Europe.

Russia will now cease to be a party to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which is overseen by the European Court of Human Rights. Article 58 of the ECHR implies that the Court can continue to adjudicate on cases against Russia already before it and on alleged violations taking place up to six months following the date of expulsion. Russia also retains obligations to execute judgments of the Court against it and the Committee of Ministers can continue to supervise this execution.

Some 18,000 cases against Russia are pending before the Court. Many more cases are likely to be filed in the coming weeks and months in response to escalating violations of human rights by the Russian authorities both in Ukraine and in Russia. The Court should continue to adjudicate on cases concerning Russia for which it retains jurisdiction and the Committee of Ministers should supervise the execution of these cases, the ICJ emphasised.

“For decades, the European Court of Human Rights has been one of the only effective means by which those whose rights had been violated by the Russian authorities could hope to secure justice and remedies. Russia’s record of full implementation of judgments has been poor, but applicants to the Court secured vindication of their rights and compensation. Following Russia’s expulsion from the Council of Europe, people in Russia, or under Russian jurisdiction abroad, will lose the protection of the Court on which they have so depended” said Róisín Pillay, Europe and Central Asia Director at ICJ.

“This comes at a moment when Russia is perpetrating grave violations of human rights in Ukraine, and increasingly suppressing dissent, debate and peaceful protest at home. We urge the Council of Europe institutions to do all within their powers to monitor and report on human rights in Russia following its departure from the Council of Europe and to support Russian civil society in documenting such violations and seeking accountability and remedies for them.”

Even if Russia is no longer a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, it remains bound by other obligations under international human rights law as well as national guarantees of Constitutional rights . It remains a party to most of the principal United Nations human rights treaties and individual complaints can be brought against it before several UN treaty bodies, including to the UN Human Rights Committee under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). However the enormous gap left by the loss of the European Court as well as other Council of Europe mechanisms, and the ineffectiveness of the national justice system in protecting rights, now requires increased monitoring and enforcement by the UN human rights mechanisms, the ICJ stressed.

“Russia’s judiciary is not independent of the executive, as the ICJ has clearly documented. The Russian judicial system cannot be relied on to provide effective protectiod for human rights or remedies for their violation” said Róisín Pillay “Given the systemic human rights violations by the Russian authorities and the loss of crucial Council of Europe monitoring and enforcement, the UN treaty bodies, special procedures and Russian civil society must be supported and resourced to ensure the effective use of UN complaint procedures and monitoring in respect of Russia. In particular, a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Russia should be established as a matter of urgency ” she added.


The ICJ has condemned the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine as a violation of article 2.4 of the UN Charter and has called for accountability for the gross violations of human rights and crimes under international law committed during the conflict.

The ICJ has called for a UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Russia to be established by the UN Human Rights Council, to address the deteriorating human rights sitaution in Russia, in particular the suppression of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

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