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Russia must stay in Council of Europe: activists

Published on April 08, 2019

Russian human rights activists urged the Council of Europe and Russia Monday to compromise so that Moscow remains in the group, fearing there could be “irreversible” consequences if it is forced out.

Excluding Russia “would by no means contribute to the resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the return of Crimea under Ukrainian jurisdiction,” more than 70 lawyers, journalists and members of Russian civil society wrote in a joint letter to the council.

“Instead, it would have irreversible consequences, putting an end to a difficult struggle of Russian society to make the country an important part of Europe on the basis of shared norms and values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights,” they said.

The council is a watchdog that underpins the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and includes member states from outside the European Union.

Since Moscow occupied, and then annexed Crimea in 2014, Russian members of the council are not allowed to vote in its parliamentary assemblies.

In response, Russia suspended support payments of 33 million euros ($37 million) in 2017.

If Russia were excluded from the council, it would deprive Russians from appealing to the ECHR and “we could expect a restoration of the death penalty,” noted Konstantin Baranov, of the International youth movement for human rights.

Russia put a moratorium on capital punishment when it joined the Strasbourg-based council in 1996.