European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights

Court: Automatic and indiscriminate ban on Russian prisoners’ voting rights was disproportionate

Human rights judges have today declared that Russia’s automatic and indiscriminate ban on prisoners’ voting rights was disproportionate.

In its Chamber judgment in the case of Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia (application no. 11157/04), which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (right to free elections) of the European Convention on Human Rights

The case concerned two prisoners who complained in particular that their disenfranchisement had violated their right to vote and had prevented them from participating in a number of elections.

The court found that the applicants had been deprived of their right to vote in parliamentary elections regardless of the length of their sentence, of the nature or gravity of their offence or of their individual circumstances. It rejected the government’s argument that this case was essentially different from the cases against other countries, notably Italy and the United Kingdom, in which the court had addressed the issue of disenfranchisement, as the ban on prisoners’ voting rights in Russia was laid down in the constitution rather than in an act of parliament. Indeed, all acts of a member state are subject to scrutiny under the convention, regardless of the type of measure in question.

The court therefore concluded that, despite the room for manoeuvre they had to decide on such matters, the Russian authorities had gone too far in applying an automatic and indiscriminate ban on the electoral rights of convicted prisoners.

As regards the implementation of the judgment, and in view of the complexity of amending the constitution, the court considered that it was open to the government to explore all possible ways to ensure compliance with the convention, including through some form of political process or by interpreting the constitution in harmony with the convention.

Article 41 (just satisfaction)

The court found that the finding of a violation constituted in itself sufficient just satisfaction for any non-pecuniary damage sustained by the applicants, and dismissed their claim for just satisfaction.

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