The global political system has become increasingly permeated by transnational judicial institutions and legal instruments. As more and more states subject themselves to elements of this transborder legal system, it is worth exploring the ways in which transnational judicial bodies hinder or promote state accountability and the rule of law. Although individual citizens may see in transnational judicial forums an immediate and practical way to pursue justice previously unavailable to them, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also regard such institutions as having a more long-term transformative potential, hoping to use them as a means to press for political change at home.
This chapter focuses on Russia as a nondemocratic state subject to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), a transnational court located in Strasbourg, France. The ECHR rules on the basis of the 1953 European Convention on Human Rights and its protocols, holding signatory states accountable for violating the rights of their citizens. The increasing number of cases brought to the ECHR in recent years suggests that when national courts fail to protect human rights, people invest their hopes for accountability in transnational judicial institutions. Although claimants must exhaust their options for recourse within their domestic legal systems before turning to the ECHR, the growing use of this transnational court by Russian citizens indicates reliance on an external actor to redress domestic accountability failures.