Moscow Sends a Fresh Face to Strasbourg Human Rights Court

Demonstrative of the Kremlin’s seemingly total incomprehension of the functioning of a proper justice system and a fair court, the Russian media is reporting today that President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to force Pavel Laptev, the envoy to the European Court on Human Rights in Strasbourg, into retirement, and have him replaced by Veronika Milinchuk, an official in the Russian prosecutor general’s office and protege of Vladimir Ustinov. The move is generally understood as part of the Kremlin strategy to handle the upcoming Strasbourg trials on the Yukos affair. It seems quite clear that regardless of the individual you put before the court, the merits of the case will have to speak for themselves – something that the Russian administration may fail to understand as they have become accustomed to “legalism a la carte” and the export of corruption. From Kommersant:

However, human rights lawyers do not believe that the new Russian envoy to the European Court will have any influence on the outcome of the trials. “Unfortunately, the authorities [in Russia] think that the problem lies with a single person – Pavel Laptev. They simply do not understand that the problem lies with our justice system,” said Irina Yasina, the former deputy chairwoman of Open Russia, the civil society organization founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky. “They are used to the fact that in our courts you can cut some sort of deal, and they think that this will also be possible in the European Court. That is not true. If the Court in Strasbourg decides to review the matter of Khodorkovsky, then they will review his case, regardless of who is involved with the case in Russia, whether it is Laptev or Milinchuk, the presidential administration or the Ministry of Justice,” she said.