(New York) - Russia's ratification today of a key reform to the European Court of Human Rights is a positive move that will promote justice, Human Rights Watch said today.

"This is a long-awaited and positive move," said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director for Human Rights Watch. "Now more people in Russia and all of Europe will have better access to justice through the European Court."

Russia's State Duma ratified the reform, Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights. Protocol 14 aims to streamline and expedite the court's process for reviewing cases that come before it. The Council of Europe sought the reform to address the crippling backlog of cases that await the European Court's review. But Russia had blocked the effort for several years, the only Council of Europe member state to resist ratifying Protocol 14.

Protocol 14 also allows the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers to bring states before the European Court for failing to implement the court's judgments. 

Human Rights Watch said that this aspect of the reform could prompt Russia to implement fully European Court judgments on abuses in Chechnya. More than 115 such rulings have held Russia responsible for enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and torture, and for failing to investigate these crimes properly.

Human Rights Watch found that while Russia  has paid  the monetary compensation awarded by the court, in many of the cases it has failed to ensure effective investigations into the abuses and to hold perpetrators accountable.