Bilateral meetings between the highest courts of different countries are of utmost benefit. They contribute significantly to the spreading of the horizons and the borders in the heads of judges, helping to open their views beyond the formal and narrow-minded national legal systems, making it possible to compare and thus better understand the domestic judicial and legal system, including their professional judges, the exchange of rich experiences, paper and online communication can never replace a genuine, direct personal contact – after all, even with a relaxed conversation at a glass of vine before or after a dinner.
Especially welcome is the fact that contacts with the supreme courts of neighboring countries and EU members are necessary, because we belong to the common European legal area because we share the same European values on which the Union is founded and, finally, because we come from comparable, even the same legal traditions . An exchange of views on the relation to the Luxembourg Tribunal, on the understanding and enforcement of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, on the search of the city of Supreme Courts in the Triangle of Luxembourg, Strasbourg and the National Constitutional Court, and much more is valuable. In short, as we can read on the websites of the German Federal Administrative Court, the legal principles in the EU are rooted in the legal systems of the Member States, which makes cooperation with other European courts of the utmost importance – it enables a deeper understanding of each other, as well as the understanding of European law .
When establishing bilateral relations between the highest courts of different countries, as in relations between individuals, a fundamental reference point is an essential basis for establishing contacts, which means that the interlinked contact, in our case, the court must share at least the minimum but absolute axiological (discussion) starting points. Certain basic words must be among the interlocutors to be able to talk at all, certainly a consensus. What should be the premises on which conversations could be based, the substratum from which it could develop, as it is called, fruitful debate, is when it comes to the highest courts, which at least nominally belong to the Western civilization paradigm, is completely clear. This is respect for human dignity and human rights, the fundamental principles of international law, the rule of law, the principles of constitutional democracy, and what the TPSB mantra says: tolerance, pluralism and the spirit’s breadth.
And then come the Russians
On the website of the Slovenian Supreme Court on 23 May 2019, we can read: “The President of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, Vyacheslav Lebedev, will meet today with the President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia, Damijan Florjančič, and tomorrow the delegations of both courts will meet in official talks. “The announcement then announces that” [the] interviewers […] will be dedicated to topics such as specialized criminal justice, the area of the family code, the financial and spatial problems of the judicial systems and the field of appointment of judges “. Also, our Supreme Court praises, “This will be an opportunity to present Slovenian good practices, such as an e-session, in which the Supreme Court judges do not need more physical files in order to deal with the matter at the session.” Nice, promising, modern, cosmopolitan, in short, in the spirit of what is said in the first paragraph of this column. Of course, unfortunately only for naive, but for those only for the first, and still this short-sighted and shrill look.
About their constitutional identity
What is the Russian genre of “democracy”, probably knows most of them. What is the format of the person who leads it and how it “holds together” this spacious, on two continents, the extensible autocracies and what leverage the preservation of its regime is used, also does not need to be explicitly explained. Nevertheless, his attitude to human dignity and life is testified to the exact analysis of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, which you can read on Guardian’s website today. I also recommend to the doubters a book written by the journalist of the same magazine Luke Harding, A Very Expensive Poison. Or, let’s say, Anne Politkovskaya’s death. Not to mention his attitude to the sovereignty of other states, international law and fundamental postulates of law. As far as the latter one is concerned, his statement will suffice: “Listen, all our opponents are demanding the rule of law loudly. But what is the rule of law? This is compliance with applicable legislation. And what is the applicable legislation about the gatherings? It is necessary to obtain permission from local authorities. Did you get that permission? Then go ahead and demonstrate. If you do not, then you have no right to demonstrate. But if you do it anyway – you will get them with a baseball bat [poluchite po bashke dubinoi]. End of the story! “(VV Putin, 30 August 2010, summarized by M. Popova, Putin-Style” Rule of Law “and the Prospects for Change, Deadalus, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 146 (2017) No 2, page 64).
Russian citizens, thanks largely to France and Germany, have resolved, in the last minute, to exclude their country from the Council of Europe – where they had been deprived of their voting rights in 2014 and Krim’s annexation by the European Court of Human Rights, Russia, as a reimbursement for this measure, does not pay for it a decaying annual share (around EUR 33 million a year). After two years of non-payment, it should be excluded. But because the price for this would be paid by citizens of the Russian Federation, who would thus be closed to the ECHR, most Member States are ready to look through the fingers to the persistent violator of international law and human rights.
But let’s look at the Russian judiciary and its most remarkable features. There are many of them and, at least, I hope that no one will have to be inspired by Slovenian judges. Let me just hide some systematic human rights violations unsystematically: For example, Russian Prosecutor General Juri Jakovlevich Tsaiak admitted that thousands of people were imprisoned every year in Russia for crimes that they did not commit and that people spend their years in jail without any legal the basis. The European Parliament has adopted a number of resolutions on Russia and serious human rights violations in that country, including the Resolution of 13 March 2014 (2014/2628 (RSP)). We can read a lot in it, among other things, that many trials and court proceedings have raised doubts over the independence and impartiality of the judiciary of the Russian Federation over recent years, that the Russian authorities increase the scope of mass surveillance programs, that these programs are linked to legislation against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals, and legislation restricting the freedom of non-governmental organizations is a very powerful tool to allow the Russian authorities to control and oppose the opposition that the human rights situation in Russia has deteriorated in recent years and the Russian authorities have adopted a series of laws , which contain unclear provisions and could be used to further restrict the opposition, civil society actors and freedom of expression and assembly, that repression of protests also include measures such as police raids, confiscation of assets, administrative penalties and other measures aimed at civil society organizations have been discouraged from acting and prevented them from being about leaders of opposition parties and movements victims of harassment of Russian authorities, and some even detained on the basis of various allegations – and more and more.
Then, Russia is the record holder in terms of the number of convictions before the ECHR, of which I should mention only those that originated from police violence at the authorized assembly in the Bolotnaya market on May 6, 2012, where participants at one of the protests in the series of “The Millennium” protested against alleged irregular elections. Russian courts have unscrupulously participated in human rights violations with deprivation of liberty before criminal proceedings were instituted and without any legal basis. Instead of responding to these convictions by Russia with measures that would prevent further violations of the human rights of the opponents of the autocratic regime, the Duma adopted a law by the end of 2015 that gives the Russian Constitutional Court the power to test whether the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights issued against Russia, , is consistent with Russian constitutional values and is, therefore, feasible in Russia (in general). According to the regime’s eligibility of the Russian Constitutional Court, such a power of the carte blanche means arbitrary disregard for the judiciary of the Strasbourg tribunal. The advocates of this law unambiguously defined its purpose as protection of Russian “legal sovereignty” (legal sovereignty) vis-à-vis international institutions. Moreover, according to the president of the Russian Constitutional Court Valeriy Zorkin, their constitutional court does not build a constitutional identity on values derived from human dignity, but on the principle of state sovereignty, or, as Vladislav Surkov said, the creator of the concept of “sovereign democracy” ( suverennaya demokratiya), “democratic values are neither in dispute nor not denied – they are only subordinate to the national interest”. (see Kerttu Mäger, Enforcing the Judgments of the ECtHR in Russia in the Ligue of Amendments to the Law on the Constitutional Court, Juridica International, 24/2016, pp. 18, 19, 21).
The Russian Constitutional Court demonstrated its regime’s servitude to the entire world without any shame when it decided on a single night to decide on the constitutionality of the “international treaty” on joining the Crimea to the Russian Federation. The contract was submitted to the Constitutional Court on March 18, 2014, and the constitutional judges wrote a decision confirming it overnight. The president of the Lithuanian Constitutional Court, Dainius Žalimas, therefore called the constitutional judges the puppeteers of political authority and because it was a violent attachment of the territory of a foreign state, as co-perpetrators of a crime against international law. Due to the annexation of Crimea and the aggression against Ukraine, Russia is still under the sanctions of the EU and our allies of the United States, Canada and Australia.
That the Russian regime cannot be compared even with the authoritarian constitution of the type of Singapore is proved by judicial cases by opposition leader Alexei Navalaj and the deported oil billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and of course the case of Pussy Riot punkers (the ECHR in the case of Mariya Alekhina and others found violations of five human rights – from inhuman and degrading treatment to the violation of freedom of expression) and the case of Suren Gazaryanater Evgeny Vitishka, environmental activists who publicly warned about violations of environmental legislation during the Olympic Games in Sochi and was therefore sentenced to three years in prison. Putin’s regime uses law and the judiciary arbitrarily – as a means of removing political opponents. In the last two (Pirov) victories of Navalny before the ECtHR, the last judgment was issued less than two months ago, as Professor Jernej Letnar Chernic showed in the column “The European Court of Human Rights as the ultimate guardian of a free democratic society “(30 November 2018), Article 18 of the ECHR was used, with the European Court specifically highlighting the complainant’s persecution, not as a private person, but as a opposition policy, which committed itself to performing an important public function through a democratic discourse. It is important to emphasize that the repressive regime has not only intervened in the complainant’s human rights, but has sought to destroy the fundamental values of a democratic society.
Let me get back to where I started, to the news that “the president of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation is hurrying” and that they will hold formal talks with the Russian delegation (when I write, they have already expired). For the end and end there is only hope. The hope that the leadership structure of the Slovenian Supreme Court for anything from what I previously said about Russian “democracy” and its justices, although these are just drops in the sea of Russian authoritarianism and the rule of the lawlessness, did not know that it was briefly ignorant and therefore , he does not know who he really connects with the bilateral relations; he is naive, bona fide accepts guests and talks to the delegation of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. And I just hope that the talks did not revolve around the “good practices” of how to silence critical judges and exert internal pressure on judges (discussed by Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe in his report on the state of the rule of law in Russia in 2016, and the capitulation of the ECtHR in the case of Kudeshkina of 14 September 2009), and that the presence of the Prosecutor-General at a gala dinner was in no way an expression of any new “good practice” or attempts to raise the conviction rate, and in this respect, it is as close as possible to Russia – it is 99.66% and, according to the Times, is even higher than it was under Stalin – but only a bit clumsy, naive and unhappy symbolic gesture of the host, done in the belief that it will contributed to the better and more domestic well-being of the President of the Russian Supreme Court. I can only hope that the Delegation of the Supreme Courts plus the Prosecutor General did not exchange “good practices” on how to abolish the criminal prosecution for the exclusion of a political opponent, but the telephone justicia, which is otherwise a Soviet invention, but still permeates the Russian judicial system ( about which I wrote in the telephone justica po sloveniji), or about how to disregard the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, which are not in accordance with the will of the regime. Finally, I can only hope that the spatial and temporal coordinates of the mayor of “the most beautiful city in the world” and the delegations of the highest courts of Russia and Slovenia plus the Attorney General at a formal dinner coincided only with a strange, unexplainable coincidence.