Russia: Exit from Council of Europe would be serious threat to human rights

ARTICLE 19 expresses its deep concern at the prospect of Russia leaving the Council of Europe (CoE), and shares the concerns expressed by Russian civil society organisations on the damaging impact the country’s exit could have on human rights protections for Russia’s population. We urge the CoE to urgently seek a solution to ensure that millions of people in Russia are not stripped of the vital human rights protections provided by the CoE membership and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and that they retain access to remedy for violations through the European Court of Human Rights.

Suggestions that Russia may be planning to pull out of the 47-member Council, which most recently resurfaced after a number of CoE officials made reference to the possibility in October 2018, have caused concern among Russian civil society. The CoE is Europe’s main human rights body, with a range of different mechanisms, which assess and seek to enforce states human rights obligations in Europe. The human rights protections mechanisms provided by the CoE have provide a vital avenue for human rights protections in Russia, despite flaws in implementation.

The right to freedom of expression continues to face serious threats in Russia, with arrests of protestors, violence against and arbitrary detention of journalists, and a crackdown on online freedoms. This also includes the passage of a raft of new restrictive laws as well as the blockage of websites and social platforms. LGBTQI people continue to face serious abuses, and civil society faces increasing restrictions on their activities to promote democracy and human rights protections. The CoE membership presents an important forum to push for human rights progress in the country, and seek accountability for abuses.

Russia’s threats to exit are apparently based on the ongoing suspension of its voting rights, which has been in place since the country’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. In June 2018, Russia missed the second deadline for payments of funding to the Council, which annually total 33 million Euros.

We share the concerns of national civil society on the severe impact such a move could have on human rights protections and progress in Russia, particularly in the current climate of deteriorating freedoms. We encourage the CoE to seek a solution to ensure people in Russia continue to have access to its human rights mechanisms, and that the country remains bound by regional human rights protections”, said David Diaz-Jogeix, Director of Programmes at ARTICLE 19.