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Europe

Russia approves reforms to European Court of Human Rights

Lawmakers in Russia have ratified an international agreement to reform the European Court of Human Rights. For years, Russia had been the only European nation to resist the reforms.

Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma

392 of 450 Duma members voted in favor of the reforms

Russian legislators gave the green light on Friday to reforms to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), marking a dramatic change in the way the Kremlin sees the institution.

The lower house of Russian parliament voted 392 to 56 to ratify Protocol 14 of the 2004 European rights convention, which called for changes to help improve the way the court processes cases.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg

The Council of Europe is looking to streamline the ECHR

The document required approval by all members of the bloc's human rights watchdog - the Council of Europe - to come into force, and Russia had been the only member to hold out.

Council Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland called the move significant for the future of the court and "key for the modernization of Russia's judicial system."

"Today's approval of the ratification will clearly help the reform process. By joining the other 46 member states, Russia is sending a strong signal of its commitment to Europe," Jagland said in a statement.

Hearing of cases to be expedited

Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said that passing the changes would significantly improve the Kremlin's own human rights record, which has been sharply criticized by rights groups in Russia and abroad.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev

Medvedev wants to improve relations between Russia and the Council of Europe

Denisov added that the number of cases lodged at the ECHR was on the rise, with almost 30,000 of the current 112,000 rights complaints coming from Russia. Of these cases, however, only a fraction will ever seen by the court.

Once the court accepts a case, the plaintiff must prove that the state played a role in the matter, after which the ECHR issues a judgement to the country, or an order to launch an investigation.

Protocol 14's reforms are meant to strengthen the court's ability to throw out clearly inadmissible cases and increase judges' discretion to reject minor complaints.

To complete the ratification process, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the upper house of parliament must give their endorsement; both are widely expected to do so.

glb/AP/Reuters/dpa
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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