Philosophy behind human rights: Valery Zorkin vs. the West?
Not only Russia but also other countries are affected by the globalization that threatens, metaphorically speaking, to sweep away not only inter- state frontiers but also states themselves. Transnational and international legal regulation makes state legal systems step back in a number of important fields: along with human rights law, one could also mentionius mercatoria, environmental law, and so on. Within some regional blocks such as the European Union (EU), state legal systems are retreating in many other directions, ceding priority to regional law. The CoE, the EU, and national governments strategically seek to establish their own sovereign interpretation of basic concepts in the legal domain. Furthermore, with regard to fundamental rights themselves, conflicts are inherent in their construction, with rights claims of one individual coming up against those made by another or by a collectivity. Given that the major task of high courts is to decide on the balance between competing rights claims, these courts are required to pay close attention to developments in other legal systems, measuring the future justification of their decisions in open discussion forums, one of which should be the ECtHR. These expectations toward the ECtHR largely shape the Russian attitude, incoherent and ambiguous as it might be. If reiterating that the Kremlin takes anti-Western stances in polemics with the Strasbourg Court, it should be understood that “anti-Western” in this sense does not aim at any particular cultural, historical, or religious background as is the case with anti-Western Islamist discourse. The Russian leadership rather considers itself a part of the European conservative powers that search to set back liberal values and to protect Europe from becoming a melting pot of heterogeneous cultures, religions, and civilizations and from thereby losing its “spiritual buckles.” From the aspect of legal philosophy, two key points are important to understand in this approach: that of human rights and that of sovereignty. The Russian exceptionalist understanding of these two key points largely foreshadows Russian international policy and its “living” constitutional order. The ideas set forth by Valery Zorkin are highly illustrative of this exceptionalism and can serve as a litmus paper for detecting the philosophical background of Russian policies toward the ECtHR.