ECHR Admits Khodorkovsky Case

Thumbnail image for echr052209.jpgBig news today from Strasbourg. The European Court on Human Rights has admitted a complaint submitted by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, meaning that the court will hear arguments from the defense that his arrest, persecution, and trial by the Russian government has violated three Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Most importantly, the court rejected arguments from the Russian prosecutors denying the political motivation of his detention and trial. In addition to the ECHR’s past rulings on Platon Lebedev and the Dutch court’s Yukos ruling, this news really turns the pressure up on the authorities at a critical moment in the trial.

The full press release is available over at the Khodorkovsky Center:

The European Court of Human Rights has issued its Admissibility Decision on Khodorkovsky’s first application to the Strasbourg Court which was initially submitted in 2004. The Court comprehensively rejected the arguments of the Russian Federation that had sought to have the application ruled inadmissible. Instead the Court ruled that Khodorkovsky’s argument that there had been fundamental violations of his human rights raised “serious issues of fact and law under the Convention” which now must be considered for a final judgment.

The Court decided that Khodorkovsky’s allegations of the followingbreaches of the European Convention on Human Rights were all admissible:

Article 3 (inhuman and degrading treatment):
Article 5 (unlawful arrest and subsequent detention); and
Article 18 (his arrest, detention and prosecution were politically motivated).

Critically, the European Court rejected the Government’s argumentthat Khodorkovsky’s allegation that his arrest, detention andprosecution were politically motivated should be declared inadmissible.The Government had argued that the allegation was “not supported by thematerials of the case” and referred to Khodorkovsky’s conviction in2005 as proof that the charges against him genuine. The Court rejectedthe Government’s contention, noting that Khodorkovsky had argued inresponse to the Government’s allegation that the drafters of theConvention were concerned to ensure that an individual was protectedfrom the imposition of restrictions arising from a desire of the Stateto protect itself according “to the political tendency which itrepresents” and the desire of the State to act “against an oppositionwhich it considers dangerous”. Consequently, the Court ruled admissibleKhodorkovsky’s argument that his arrest and consequent detention on 25October, just a few weeks before the Duma elections on 7 December 2003and shortly before the completion of the Sibneft / Yukos merger, wasorchestrated to act against an opposition which it considered”dangerous” contrary to Article 18 of the Convention.

The Court also ruled that Khodorkovsky’s argument that theconditions in which he was tried in 2004 and 2005 (when he was kept ina metal cage and was handcuffed whilst being conveyed to and from thecourt room) as well as his conditions in the remand prison were inhumanand degrading raised serious issues of law and that they should also bedeclared admissible.

In its Decision, the Strasbourg Court ruled that Khodorkovsky’sargument that his initial arrest by FSB officers at gunpoint in Siberiain October 2003 and that his subsequent detention was unlawful wasadmissible. The Government had argued that Khodorkovsky had not been”arrested” but merely “conveyed” to Moscow and that there had been noinvolvement of the FSB. The Court noted that Khodorkovsky had respondedto the Government’s arguments forcefully. The Government’s assertionthat the FSB did not take part in the arrest was flatly contradicted bythe Ruling made by one of the Investigators which had been sent to theDeputy Director of the FSB for implementation. Moreover, at thesubsequent hearing on 25 October 2003 the prosecutor had explicitlystated that the ruling had been implemented by officers of FSB.Khodorkovsky’s case that subsequent decisions to detain him wereunlawful was also declared admissible.

Continue reading the full press release at Khodorkovsky Center.