The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Bad Russians Decide to Ignore European Human Rights Court

Human rights are good, Russians are bad:

President Vladimir Putin has signed a law allowing Russia’s Constitutional Court to decide whether or not to implement rulings of international human rights courts.

The law, published on Tuesday on the government website, enables the Russian court to overturn decisions of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) if it deems them unconstitutional.

President Putin must be a terrible person. Human rights!

The law comes after the ECHR ruled in 2014 that Russia must pay a 1.9 billion euro ($2.09 billion) award to shareholders of the defunct Yukos oil company

So, Europe used the ECHR to inflict two billion dollars of losses on Russia for doing something that it would take a great deal of intellectual contortion to say is a human rights violation.

Putin replied by taking away jurisdiction from “human rights courts” over Russia.

When you abuse your powers and use them unfairly, those who can will take those powers away from you. This is known as legitimacy. Now, when/if Russia does something that is actually a human rights violation, with respect to gays, for example, the ECHR will be able to do nothing.

This abuse of power is a constant refrain from the West. The US Treasury simply putting people and nations on terrorist lists and denying them access to the international banking system is an example, and its result is a serious effort by China and Russia to build a payments system which bypasses the West.

Abuse the power, and those who can will take that power away from you.

Then, we have the use of NGOs to perpetrate undercover activities, as when innoculations in Pakistan were used as cover for the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, bibles were smuggled in to North Korea under NGO as a pre-run for smuggling other items, or when democracy building has been used to overthrow governments.

The damage done to our ability to actually care for people through NGOs has been cataclysmic: They are no longer regarded as neutral actors, but as fair game.

While I have a theoretical belief in internationalism, at this point, absent some environmental issues, I would greatly support a return to the Westphalian system. If it isn’t happening in your country, it is none of your business. The theoretical justification for intervention is strong, but the post WWII history of intervention has shown that it almost always makes things worse.

Mind you own damn business. People who invest in Russian companies take their goddamn chances, and even if it is illegal, it is not a human rights issue. Investor rights do not equal human rights.

At this point, I would scrap every free trade agreement in the world post GATT, and every tribunal that comes with them.  The IMF and the World Bank are disgraces which have done far more harm than good; just get rid of them. All jurisdiction, other than some basic naval, aerospace, and environmental law ends at a country’s borders. If you don’t like another country’s laws, don’t go there, and don’t do business with them.

Then we can start over and create international bodies which aren’t set up primarily to protect American sovereignty and to enrich “investors” and oligarchs.

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  1. EmilianoZ

    The right to own property is a human right.

    Article 17.

    (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
    (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

  2. Ian Welsh

    Touche. But that is so broad as to be meaningless, and selectively enforced.

  3. qlg

    Would the U.S. permit an international tribunal to impose rulings that the SCOTUS deems unconstitutional?

  4. This is not the major sin of Russia.

  5. S Brennan

    Couldn’t agree more with this:

    “At this point I would scrap every free trade agreement in the world post GATT, and every tribunal that comes with them. The IMF and the World Bank are disgraces which have done far more harm than good, just get rid of them. All jurisdiction other than some basic naval, aerospace and environmental law ends at the border of countries. If you don’t like another country’s laws, don’t go there and don’t do business with them.”

  6. Ghostwheel

    Burning some awesome rubber with this one, Ian. It reads like you’re street racing a hot rod.

  7. guest

    Thank you for telling it like it is. Refreshing!

  8. jeff wegerson

    So-called “property rights” are not absolute, they are limited by intelligent societies. Slavery being a common limitation. Environmental limits being others.

  9. Spinoza


    A libertarian defense of slavery would be the apotheosis of that ideology. Hehe

  10. Strangely Enough

    (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

    Offer not available in some occupied countries…

  11. nihil obstet

    (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

    Unless you call it “asset forfeiture.” Or rule that in bankruptcy, pensions aren’t property the way that nonworker claims on assets are. It’s all in the definitions.

  12. Peter*

    This ECHR judgment was relatively small compared to the $50 Billion judgment against Russia handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration and I won’t debate whether shareholders are human or have rights. The loss of ECHB jurisdiction over Russia is probably meaningless because Putin/Russia view all criticism or human rights complaints as foreign interference, with some justification, and ignore them.

    The larger story under the Yukos forced bankruptcy and dismemberment was that Putin thought he had a deal with all the Oligarchs to stay out of his politics and government in exchange for their control of the economy. Khodorkovsky violated that agreement so Putin made an example of him and the other Oligarchs have behaved as agreed since then.

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