Human Rights in Russia week-ending 1 April 2022 - with Kirill Koroteev

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Our guest on the podcast this week is the lawyer Kirill Koroteev, head of international legal practice of Agora International Human Rights Group. Previously, Kirill worked as legal director at Memorial Human Rights Centre, where he specialized in handling cases before the European Court of Human Rights. Kirill graduated from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and received his master's degree from the University of Paris I - Panthéon-Sorbonne, where he also taught public law.

The themes we discuss in the podcast include: the work of a Russian lawyer in international courts; Russia's exclusion from the Council of Europe and its consequences; Russia's war against Ukraine; the current brain drain from Russia; and the future of human rights in Russia.

This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Anchor and YouTube.

The questions we ask Kirill Koroteev include:

1) As head of international legal practice at the Agora Human Rights Group you extensive experience in international courts and jurisdictions in various countries. How would you compare Russian lawyers today - especially human rights lawyers - with lawyers from other European countries?

2) Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe on March 16, 2022. This is only the second case of the exclusion of a state from the Council of Europe. Was there an alternative to this turn of events?

3) What will be the consequences of Russia's withdrawal for participants in Court proceedings – including those whose cases have already been decided, but not yet executed; those who have applied to the Court but whose cases are still in progress; and those who may still want to bring a case to the Court?

4) Russian lawyer and human rights activist Karinna Moskalenko has said that the inability of Russians to apply to the European Court would be ‘a punishment for ordinary people, not for the government.’ Do you agree with this point of view?

5) What is the future of the interstate case filed by the Ukrainian government on 28 February, as a result of which on 1 March the Court issued interim measures (under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court) requiring Russia to ‘refrain from military attacks on civilians and civilian objects, including homes, ambulances and other specially protected civilian objects such as schools and hospitals, and immediately ensure the safety of medical facilities, personnel and ambulances on the territory attacked or besieged by Russian forces.’

6) What is the legality of showing public videos of conversations and press conferences with prisoners of war. Is this a violation of the Geneva Conventions? Valentina Melnikova, for examples, has argued that such videos can save the lives of Russian POWs (see Valentina Melnikova’s interview with Gordeeva in the program "Tell Gordeeva").

7) Do you see any scenario in which Russia could rejoin the Council of Europe?

8) Could the exclusion of Russia could have a positive impact on the Court, given that Russia has one of the worst records so far as implementing the Court’s decisions is concerned?

9) According to existing estimates, as many as 250,000 people have left Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine. A great many of them are young professionals, including lawyers. Do you think this is a temporary phenomenon? Will people return to Russia in the near future? Or is this a development that will last for many years?

10) How do you see the future of human rights in the Russian Federation?

Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “For this reason, a lot of class specialists in the legal practice of the ECtHR appeared in Rusia,” Kirill Koroteev told us, referring to the fact that the flawed judicial system in Russia led to a large increase in applications to Strasbourg. However, on 16 March 2022 Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe. This is the first case of exclusion of a State from the Council of Europe: only Greece left the Council in 1969, and then on its own initiative.

Simon Cosgrove and I asked Kirill if there had been any alternative to this course of events. His opinion is that there was an alternative: an even earlier exclusion of Russia from the Council of Europe. After all, the main purpose of this oldest European organization is cooperation among member states, not armed conflicts among them.

According to Kirill in 2019, the Council of Europe for the sake of 60 million euros actually did everything to permit the Russian authorities to remain members. If the Council had suspended Russia’s membership in 2019, as the organization’s own documents demanded, perhaps membership would have ended sooner.

Kirill, like many Russians, has left a country where the rule of law has long been dormant.

“All we’ve seen in the last 10-12 years,” he says, “is deterioration. What hope for the future is there?”

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