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Russian Duma votes against returning to CoE

January 17, 2019

The Russian parliament has agreed not to send representatives back to the Council of Europe and not to resume funding of the organization. Human rights advocates fear Moscow may leave the organization completely.

Russian Duma meeting in 2017
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/V. Prokofyev

Russian lawmakers on Thursday voted against sending a delegation to the Council of Europe (CoE) and to not resume funding of the body.

Deputies in the Russian parliament, the Duma, accused the council of "grossly" violating the rights of Russia by stripping their delegation of voting rights over the Crimea crisis.

"As a result of the lengthy anti-Russian campaign, the activities of Russia in the Council of Europe were actually suspended along the parliamentary line, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe itself, violating the basis of parliamentarism, found itself in a deep systemic crisis," the lawmakers said in a statement published on the Duma website.

The Strasbourg-based council is a non-EU organization aiming to uphold human rights across the continent. It incorporates 47 European states. The body is in charge of electing judges for the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Duma questions ECHR legitimacy

On Thursday, Russian lawmakers noted that "more than half of the [ECHR] judges were elected (...) without the participation of Russian representatives, which raises doubts on the legitimacy of the decisions of the ECHR in relation to Russia." The Council's current commissioner for human rights, Bosnian Serb Dunja Mijatovic, was also elected without Russian input.

Following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, the CoE imposed sanctions on Russia's delegation, stripping it of voting rights and excluding it from the body's monitoring missions and leadership structures. In response, Moscow representatives refused to take part in plenary sessions. Russia also stopped its funding contribution in 2017. This led to serious financial problems for the organization.

Council of Europe suspends Russia

Moscow rejects compromise

The vote outcome was previously heralded by House Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who told reporters there was "no basis" for Russia to return to the body after meeting with representatives of the Duma parties on Wednesday.

Volodin also told reporters that some CoE delegates from the "healthy-thinking" part of the council were making "weak attempts" to remedy the conflict.  However, there was no systemic solution to the impasse.

A proposal was tabled to restore some of Russia's voting rights while stopping short of restoring full powers to its delegation. However, Moscow views this compromise as "unacceptable," the parliamentary speaker said.

Previously, Russia said it would only end the boycott if all rights of its delegation were restored and if the CoE amended the rules which allowed the council to impose the sanctions.

dj/rt (dpa, Interfax)

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