Russia quits Council of Europe rights watchdog

By Reuters   March 15, 2022 | 07:50 pm PT
Russia quits Council of Europe rights watchdog
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe via videolink, in an extraordinary session, in Strasbourg, France March 14, 2022. Photo by Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann
Russia on Tuesday quit the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights watchdog, pre-empting an expected expulsion over its attack on neighbour Ukraine.

Russia is only the second country to leave the pan-European group tasked with upholding human rights and the rule of law since its formation after World War Two.

Greece had done the same in 1969, also to avoid expulsion, after a group of army officers seized power in a military coup. It rejoined after restoring democracy five years later.

But the decision, announced hours before a vote on its expulsion in the Council of Europe's assembly, also has concrete consequences.

The human rights convention will cease to apply to Russia and Russians will no longer be able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against their government.

In a resolution drafted on Monday but adopted on Tuesday after Moscow's announcement, the Council of Europe's assembly said Russia should be pushed out.

The resolution, adopted by unanimity, said that the impact of Russia withdrawing from Europe's court of human rights would be mitigated by the fact that Moscow failed to properly act on its judgements.

Pyotr Tolstoy, head of the Russian delegation at the Council's Parliamentary Assembly, said on his Telegram channel that he had handed over a letter from Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announcing Moscow's decision to leave the watchdog.

The Council of Europe, which is separate from the European Union, confirmed it had received Moscow's letter.

The Council of Europe was founded in 1949. Russia joined in 1996.

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