Nearly a year after the Strasbourg Court said the 2007 closure of the tiny opposition Republican Party by the Russian authorities was unjustified, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday to reverse the case, the first such decision in years.
Supreme Court Spokeswoman Valeria Zakharova confirmed the ruling, saying that it could yet be appealed.
The Republican party headed by opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov was closed in May 2007 after the Supreme Court ruled that the party had less than 50,000 members and fewer than 45 branches with more than 500 members as required by the law on political parties.
In April 2011, the European Court of Human Rights declared the ruling unjustified, in particular criticizing the Russian law setting minimum membership requirements for political parties that are the highest in Europe.
“The Supreme Court has abided by the ECHR’s decision, and we are completely satisfied,” Ryzhkov told journalists at the courtroom. “This is a moral and political victory.”
The Monday ruling came almost simultaneously with the Kremlin’s announcement that President Dmitry Medvedev had introduced amendments to the State Duma cutting the minimum number of political party members to 500 and cancelling the provision about the minimum number of regional offices starting from January 1, 2013.
As a member of the Council of Europe, Russia must comply with the rulings of the Strasbourg Court. But Russian Justice Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Guseva said the ruling was not the reason the Supreme Court reversed the earlier decision, which was in line with the law that existed in 2007.
She admitted, however, that the ECHR’s decision has pointed to the need to amend the Russian law on political parties.