RUSSIA Kononov, the constitutional judge who criticized Chechen special laws, has died

At the age of 75, one of the most influential figures in the Russian judiciary has passed away. The memory of her battle against the return to the Soviet regime. He was one of those who signed the law on victims of political repression in the 1990s. A personality openly opposed to Putin.

Moscow () – A week ago, on August 15, Anatoly Kononov died in Moscow at the age of 75. The constitutional judge was retired and for many years he represented the “resistance of the law” against attempts to restore various forms of dictatorship in Russia. To such an extent that he received the nickname “knight of legal dissidence.” Many have remembered him these days, given the obvious defeat of his epic fight, which however has left an inexhaustible source of energy in many people who do not accept going back to Soviet times.

Kononov was the author – together with Sergei Kovalev and Arsenij Roginskij – of the famous law on victims of political repression in the 1990s. This law was, in fact, the only real attempt to purify memory after seventy years of oppression, condemning the Soviet regime as “guilty of the massive persecution of its own people”. In the sessions of the Constitutional Court he recorded his “private opinions” contrary to the attempts to curtail the rights and freedoms of citizens. He always maintained that he was not interested in “the balance between private and public interests”, the motivation for any law in favor of the regime in power. On the contrary, his main concern was the defense of the rights of the person.

In fact, Kononov was a “white fly” (Russian for “white crow”, belaja vorona), and his fellow magistrates constantly reproached him, saying: “You are not a judge, but a humanitarian activist”, because he did not put the interests of the State first. The president of the Court, Valerij Zorkin, even told him: “it’s time to grow up, you defend criminals and oligarchs, stop playing with people’s rights.” The radical nature of this opposition is now better understood, given the “great war against liberalism” announced by Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill.

He himself explained the reasons for his disagreement with his colleagues, who interpreted the law with positivist criteria, as “the set of laws in force”, while he adhered to the conception of natural law, as “the set of principles of freedom, equality and justice”. If the laws are the ones that exist, as long as they are approved by the State, this means for the positivists that the rights of the people must also be decided by the State. On the contrary, Kononov affirmed that it is precisely the Constitutional Court that must illuminate the laws with the fundamental principles of human existence, the last bastion before giving in to the arbitrariness of the State or resorting to international courts, which are also sources of ambiguous ratings.

Also famous was his official opinion against the reasons that led to the dissolution of the CPSU, the Soviet Communist Party, which were based on general arguments without giving an assessment of the activities of the party. This could have “provoked sectarian interpretations of the role of the party, without giving guarantees to prevent its reconstitution”. Indeed, in 1996 the party was reborn as the KPRF, proposing the first regime restoration against Yeltsin and paving the way for Putin’s “United Russia.” Instead, Kononov, as the jurist Nikolai Bobrinsky recalls, had set himself the goal of “ensuring that there is no repetition” of state totalitarianism.

The rights advocate also opposed Yeltsin’s “Chechen decrees,” which in the late 1990s gave the government unlimited powers over the military and civilians, powers that passed to Putin in 1999. Again, his “particular opinion” insisted that “the transformation of a subject into the object of coercive measures, even for ethical reasons, goes against the foundation of his rights, which is inalienable: the dignity of the person.” Many of his interventions in this sense were later collected in the book Osoboe mnenie (“Special opinion”), until he was forced to prematurely leave his post at the Constitutional Court in 2009. Even then, his dismissal was considered by many as “the undoing of justice in Russia”, and now the consequences can be seen in the catastrophic ruins of the state war.

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