On July 26, Tatyana Moskalkova, Russia’s human rights ombudsman, gave an address to the state-organized ‘Territory of Meanings’ youth conference in the village of Dvoriki, on the banks of the River Klyazma.
Moskalkova told the roomful of students:
“Four times fewer Russian citizens are going to the European Criminal Court. Because today the European court doesn’t meet our ideas of justice. It takes a long time to consider things, selectively.”
According to the ombudsman, the Russian justice system “is now more modern than the European.”
Meduza, a Latvia-based Russian online newspaper, set up by the former editors of Lenta.ru, noticed that this statement seemed a little odd.
Firstly, as the site pointed out, there is no such thing as the “European Criminal Court.” Meduza’s Mikhail Zelyonsky and Denis Dmitriev assumed that Moskalkova was, in fact, referring to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) - an assumption likely correct given that the Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI) subsequently reported Moskalkova as mentioning that body rather than a “criminal court.”
But Moskalkova’s claim that the ECHR had received four times fewer cases from Russian citizens was even more confusing, especially, as RBC noted, because she gave no time frame for such a decrease.
Meduza found that the ECHR does not publish records of approaches from would-be plaintiffs over any given time period, but the site did compare figures for the number of petitions from Russian citizens that were accepted for consideration between 2005 and 2016.
For 2010, the total number was 14,309 - the highest number recorded in that time period, while in 2016, the ECHR accepted only 5,591 cases from Russians for review.
By the end of 2016, therefore, the number of Russian citizens’ cases accepted by the ECHR, from the 2010 peak, was 2 and a half times smaller, not four. Furthermore, if we compare the number of applications accepted in 2016 with that in 2005, which was 8,781, then the total decrease was only by a factor of 1.57.
Meduza also highlighted the fact that, over the entire, 57-year history of the ECHR, Russia holds the absolute record for the number of cases accepted for consideration with 140,731. Ukraine took second place with 85,228 and Turkey third, with 70,439.
It is perhaps worth pointing out that Moskalkova’s appointment as ombudsman was not without controversy, given that her background was not in human rights but the Interior Ministry, where she served as a police general.
As the BBC reported at the time of her appointment in April 2016, even the flamboyant ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, no human rights advocate to say the least, criticized the move:
“Moskalkova is a great person but her work in the Soviet police and in the police under [President Boris] Yeltsin cannot give us any reason to think that she is able and wants to defend human rights.”