Bringing Human Rights Home: The Application of the European Convention in Russian Courts

March 03, 2011
12:00 pm - 02:00 pm

Bringing Human Rights Home: The Application of the European Convention in Russian Courts from National Endowment for Democracy on Vimeo.


Dr. Anton Burkov (Watch his interview with DemocracyVoices)
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

With comments by

Dr. William Pomeranz
Deputy Director, Kennan Institute
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The recent conviction of Mikhail Khodorkovsky underscores serious weaknesses in Russia’s rule of law, a problem President Dmitry Medvedev has characterized as “legal nihilism” and put at the forefront of the public agenda upon coming to power in 2008.  Despite this discouraging development, there are indications that limited progress is being made within the Russian Federation’s vast legal system.  These include ratification of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and participation in the European Court of Human Rights. Though Russian courts still do not consistently and competently apply the Convention in their judgments, Russian lawyers, particularly staff attorneys at NGOs, have begun successfully using the Convention when advocating for their clients—in doing so, they seek to bring human rights home and to transform the Russian legal system. What are the key obstacles to legal protection of human rights in Russia and how might the Convention be used as a force for the rule of law?  What can be done to strengthen the efforts of lawyers and NGOs working to bring human rights home? Russian lawyer Dr. Anton Burkov, who has brought numerous cases before Russian courts based on the Convention and European court case law, explored these questions and discussed the future of human rights-oriented law in Russia. Dr. William Pomeranz provided comments.


Dr. Anton Burkov is a lawyer based in Yekaterinburg, Russia. An advocate of human rights, he has litigated cases in Russian courts, including the Supreme and Constitutional courts, and currently serves as a legal representative in a number of cases before the European Court of Human Rights. In 2001, he received the highest legal prize in Russia, the FEMIDA Award, “for contributions toward the creation of a democratic society and the development of state legal institutions.” An expert on the Russian legal system, he has authored numerous publications, including Convention for the Protection of Human Rights in Russian Courts (2010). He is a graduate of the University of Essex, where he was a Chevening Scholar, and the University of Cambridge, where he was a TNK-BP Kapitza Scholar. During his fellowship, Dr. Burkov is investigating the principles that the European Convention can contribute to Russian legislation and legal practice.

Dr. William E. Pomeranz is the deputy director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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