Good Governance and Property Rights of the State: The Dubovets Case before the European Court of Human Rights and the Russian Constitutional Court

in Review of Central and East European Law

This contribution discusses the recent Dubovets case before both the European Court of Human Rights and the Russian Constitutional Court, and its implications for the changing design of Russian property law as increasingly shaped by international human rights law and good governance principles. Communicated in December 2016, the application in Dubovets v. Russia continues the line of the European Court’s cases against Russia on the protection of good faith private owners of real estate against property claims by the government. Prompted by this case law, the Russian Constitutional Court in its Judgment of 22 June 2017 No 16-P struck down Article 302 of the Russian Civil Code as unconstitutional insofar as it entitled the government to reclaim possession of state property that had been previously alienated due to the government’s own negligence. This judgment manifests the increasing interdependence between private and public law – of classical property law, on the one hand, and international human rights law and good governance principles, on the other hand. It also contributes to ongoing evolution in the understanding of the state’s property rights in Russia: from the superior status of public property in Soviet times – to formal equality between public and private property rights in the landmark legal instruments of the 1990s – and now to the growing need for special protection of individual property rights vis-à-vis the state, in light of the latter’s double role as both the largest owner and the (quite unrestrained) regulator.

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