Russian parliament ratifies European Court reform

Breitbart (Link) - AFP (January 27, 2010)

The upper house of Russia�s parliament voted Wednesday to ratify a key protocol on reforming the European Court of Human Rights, allowing the reform to proceed after years of resistance from Moscow.

The Federation Council agreed unanimously to ratify Protocol 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, aimed at streamlining the work of the Strasbourg-based court and reducing its backlog of cases.

A spokeswoman for the Federation Council told AFP that 137 members had voted in favour and none against.

The protocol had been widely expected to clear the Federation Council after the lower house of Russia�s parliament, the Duma, voted to approve the protocol earlier this month.

President Dmitry Medvedev�s signature is still needed for the ratification process to be complete.

Russia was the last member of the 47-nation Council of Europe not to have ratified the protocol.

The Duma had rejected the protocol in 2006 amid complaints from some lawmakers that the Strasbourg court was anti-Russian.

Russia is the biggest source of pending cases at the court. Some 27,000 cases out of the 112,000 cases awaiting review by the court originated from Russia, according to the Russian foreign ministry.

Many of those cases have focused on conditions in Russian prisons and abuses committed by government forces in war-torn Chechnya.

In recent weeks the protocol�s ratification had seemed a certainty after the ruling United Russia party, which is chaired by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, gave its blessing.

Russian officials said they dropped their opposition after the Council of Europe agreed to a provision stating that a Russian judge would participate in any decisions concerning Russia.

�Russia and Europe have once again confirmed their mutual interest in each other,� Mikhail Margelov, head of the Federation Council�s foreign relations committee, was quoted as saying by the ITAR-TASS state news agency.