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Sutyajnik welcomes the ‘revolutionary’ judgment by the Constitutional Court that overturned an ‘evil’ law

01.08.2005

On 14 July 2005, the Russian Constitutional Court decided a landmark case on the right to a fair trial. The Federal Government Order of execution of judgments with a peculiar number 666 was ruled unconstitutional. In essence the Court held that an important category of judgments against the Government can now be enforced. Prior to this decision plaintiffs could win the judgment against the Government but had to rely on the Government’s good will in order for the judgment to be executed

The applicants challenged the constitutionality of the norms specifying the rules of execution of the court decisions obliging the Treasury of the Russian Federation to reimburse incurred damages for illegal actions (failure to act) of the state authorities or their officials. According to the budget laws, such court rulings are executed by the Russian Federation Ministry of Finance under the procedure specified by the Government of the Russian Federation rather than the bailiff.

It was a long standing problem for the Russian people which has its roots in the Soviet times. Although it was possible to bring a law suit against the state authorities seeking damages, the judgment could not be executed. The applicants argued before the Constitutional Court that this situation was due to the provision existing in a number of the annual budget statutes, which laid down that the bailiff does not have any authority to execute judgments if it is against the Federal Government. The situation got worse when the Government issued the Regulation No 666 on the Order of execution of judgments delivered against it, introducing an order dependent on the good will and whims. People have got a situation where the Government itself being a defendant decides how, when or even whether to pay damages awarded by the judgment’.

The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation emphasized that the federal legislator, having delegated the authority in the normative regulation of the process of execution of appropriate court rulings to the Government of the Russian Federation, did not specify the limits of such regulation. The Regulation of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 666 of September 9, 2002 permits the return of the writ of execution to the party without execution on formal grounds. The mentioned Regulation does not contain a mechanism to hold the Ministry of Finance of Russia responsible under the public duty vested in it for the untimely execution of writs. The Constitutional Court recognized as unconstitutional provisions of Part 1 of Article 122 of the Federal Law on the federal budget for the year 2003 where it empowers the Government of the Russian Federation with authority to regulate execution of the court rulings on lawsuits against the Russian Federation to reimburse the damage incurred through illegal actions (failure to act) of the bodies of state power or officials of the bodies of state power. The Regulation No. 666 remains in force until January 1, 2006. Within this period, the legislator is recommended to bring the provisions of the challenged acts in compliance with the adopted Decision.

The Government’s newspaper ‘Russian Newspaper’ called the Constitutional Court’s judgment a ‘truly revolutionary’ decision on the right to a fair trial. ‘This is true in many regards, including the fact that it is the first ever case against the Federal Government brought before the Constitutional Court by citizens (not state authority or their officials)’ – Anton Burkov, a staff attorney with the non-governmental organization Sutyajnik and legal representative of the applicant before the Constitutional Court, comments on the case. – ‘This judgment is unique due to the fact that the Court applied four European Court of Human Rights cases on Article 6 and Article 1 Protocol 1 to the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which is rare in the legal practice of the Russian courts. However, the Constitutional Court did not confront the real problem that can happen within the Russian legal system in the near future. The Court did not rule unconstitutional the provision of the Law On the 2005 Federal Budget that took away the bailiff’s authority to forcefully execute judgments against the Federal Government leaving the matter to the Federal Legislator. Today the bailiff system is the only authority in Russia that can forcefully execute judgments. For this reason, if the Federal Legislature (State Duma) does not repeal the Law On the 2005 Federal Budget by 1 January 2006 (the time allowed for the State Duma for making necessary amendments), the Russian Federation would face many new so-called ‘clone’ cases such as the right to a fair trial case, Burdov v. Russia.’

  • *The Constitutional Court case was litigated by the staff attorneys with the Ural Centre for Constitutional and International Human Rights Protection of the NGO Sutyajnik (Yekaterinburg, Russia), Anna Demeneva and Anton Burkov.

  • *For more detail on the case in Russian please refer to the NGO Sutyajnik’s web-site at http://www.sutyajnik.ru/rus/cases/p_v_gov *The full name of the case is Decision of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation No. 8-P of July 14, 2005 on the Case of Constitutionality of Individual Provisions of the Federal Laws on the Federal Budget for the Years 2003, 2004 and 2005 and the Regulation of the Government of the Russian Federation on the Procedure of Execution by the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation of Judicial Acts on Lawsuits against the Treasury of the Russian Federation to Reimburse the Damage Incurred through Illegal Actions (Failure to Act) of the Bodies of State Power or Officials of the Bodies of State Power Pursuant to Appeals of Citizens E.D.Zhukhovitsky, I.G.Poym, A.V.Ponyatovsky, A.Y.Cheslavsky and OAO "Khabarovskenergo"

    # # #

    News Agency Sutyajnik-Press

    +7-343-355-36-51

    SUTYAJNIK, a non-governmental human rights organization founded in Yekaterinburg in 1994, is a resource center for many non-governmental public interest groups of the Ural region and provides free legal defense of the rights and interests of citizens and their associations. http://www.sutyajnik.ru


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