Supra-constitutional norms in constitutional law

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Author: Dmitry Shustrov

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2021-1-100-127

Keywords: constitution; material limits of constitutional changes; supra-constitutional norms; supra-constitutionality; unchangeable norms


The idea of supra-constitutionality was formulated in the science of constitutional law in the second quarter of the 20th century and associated with the names of M. Hauriou and K. Schmitt, who for the first time noticed the possibility of the existence of norms that are higher than the constitution. This article is an attempt to give the doctrine of supra-constitutionality an actual theoretical and dogmatic meaning in the context of the study of the material limits of constitutional changes. The doctrine of supra-constitutionality claims to play an important role in explaining that unchangeable norms can exist in constitutional law and that they cannot be excluded, changed, limited, overcome, affected by the other sources of constitutional law, including the constitution itself. Supra-constitutionality is viewed as a characteristic of unchangeable constitutional norms that constitute the material limits of constitutional changes. Supra-constitutionality presupposes the existence of norms that surpass the rest of the constitutional norms and predetermine their content through the definition of what can, should and should not be included in the constitution or excluded from it. The basis of constitutional supra-constitutionality is the argument of hierarchical differentiation. In addition to recognizing unchangeable constitutional norms as supra-constitutional, the article raises the question of the existence of natural law and international law supra-constitutional norms. Natural law supra-constitutional norms have an external and non-positive character. They are not enshrined in the constitution, but stem from a reasonably understood concept of what is due in the most civilized societies, which is determined by the constitutional court. International law supra-constitutionality is understood as the superiority of the norms of international law over the constitution. It has an external and positive character. International law supra-constitutionality can cause political objections from opponents of the absolute rule of international law. Supra-constitutional constitutional, natural and international law norms can come into conflict with each other. The paradox of the doctrine of supra-constitutionality lies in the fact that it creates a hierarchy of norms within the constitution itself, distinguishing between simple and supra-constitutional constitutional norms, or distinguishes certain non-positive norms that are outside the constitution, as having priority over the constitution, or puts some norms of international law over all norms of national law, including the constitution. The purpose of the doctrine of supra-constitutionality is to preserve the inviolable fundamental (natural or generally recognized) values, which justifies its logical flaws and paradoxicality.

About the author: Dmitry Shustrov – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law; Associate Professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Shustrov D. (2021) Nadkonstitutsionnye normy v konstitutsionnom prave [Supra-constitutional norms in constitutional law]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.30, no.1, pp.100–127. (In Russian).


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