Lawyer Takes Russian Prison Vote Ban to Rights Court

A Russian lawyer said on Tuesday he had filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights against a blanket ban on prisoners in Russia voting in elections.

The Russian constitution prohibits those behind bars from voting, while other convicted criminals who have received suspended sentences or other punishments, including compulsory labor, maintain their right to cast ballots, Igor Trunov said.

The situation constitutes a “violation of the principles of equality and justice” and a contravenes a European Convention on Human Rights protocol guaranteeing the right to free elections, he said.

The Strasbourg court ruled in 2005 that a blanket ban on inmates being able to vote was unlawful.

Earlier this month, the court rejected the British government’s attempt to overturn the ruling. It said, however, that it is up to national authorities to decide which prisoners should be denied the right to cast ballots in jail.

Under current British law no sentenced prisoner is able to vote except those imprisoned for contempt, default or on remand.

Trunov said he filed the complaint on behalf of convicted Russian gangster Yevgeny Yartsev, who is serving a 19-year term at a high-security prison.

“Yartsev has asked an election commission for permission to vote in presidential elections, but his request was dismissed on the basis of Russian constitutional norms,” Trunov said.

Losing the right to vote in elections should be a specific punishment for those convicted for certain crimes such as extremism, Trunov added..

Russian Constitutional Court head Valery Zorkin said on Monday the issue of prisoners’ right to vote would have to be addressed by the country’s authorities sooner or later.


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