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Navalny vs. Russian Federation – and the winner is…

Russian Ministry of Justice

Russian Ministry of Justice

Russian Ministry of Justice

“In its ruling, the European Court (of Human Rights) confirmed that the administration of justice in a criminal case cannot pursue political goals. That said, the obvious unacceptability of this part of the complaint was so clear to the European Court that the claimants’ arguments about the alleged political motives for their criminal prosecution were not even included in the subject of the investigation.”

The court ruled that Russia violated the Navalny brothers’ rights

On October 17, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) published its verdict in the case of the Navalny brothers vs Russia. Immediately, both sides of the dispute declared victory.

“The European Court of Human rights (ECHR) has refused to recognize the embezzlement case against Russian activists Aleksey and Oleg Navalny as politically-motivated,” RT, the Russian government-funded broadcaster, reported the same day the verdict was made public.

The Russian Justice Ministry said in a statement that the “inadmissibility” of the Navalny brothers claim of politically motivated prosecution was “so obvious” to the ECHR that the court did not even consider investigating it.

“We have won. Thank you to all for your support,” Alexey Navalny tweeted, with a link to his blog posting on the court decision.

It is possible for two opposing sides in a court case to perceive a verdict as a victory, but such cases usually involve some kind of a compromise, unlike in this case.

Thus, it appears that one side was not completely accurate in claiming victory over the other.

Here are the facts from the ECHR’s press release:

“In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Navalnyye v. Russia (application no. 101/15) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 7 (no punishment without law) of the European Convention on Human Rights and a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial).”

In regard to fines and compensation, the ECHR ruled that:

“Russia was to pay to each applicant 10,000 euros (EUR) in respect of nonpecuniary damage; furthermore, it was to pay, in respect of costs and expenses, EUR 45,000 to Aleksey Navalnyy, and EUR 10,971 and 460,000 Russian roubles to Oleg Navalnyy.”

“That’s a strong result in any court,” said Christopher Swift, a professor of National Securities Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, referring to the Navalny brother’s victory on two out of three claims.

The ECHR failed to act on the allegation that the Navalny prosecution was politically motivated, a provision of the convention the European court rarely invokes in cases involving Russia – not since 2004.

While RT included some of the key details about the two violations in its report, the Justice Ministry ignored them completely. It hinted in its statement that Russia “might consider” appealing the ECHR ruling, which raises the question of ­why anyone would appeal a verdict if it was a victory.

The Justice Ministry’s sole focus on the one claim it denied “mischaracterizes its implications,” said Swift, who also practices international law at a Washington, DC firm. He told that the Navalny brothers “were deprived of their right to a fair trial and punished unfairly” by Russia.

In December 2014, the Russian court convicted the prominent Russian opposition leader and aspiring presidential nominee Alexey Navalny, along with his brother Oleg Navalny, of fraud. Many view that verdict as politically motivated.

The Navalny brothers filed a complaint with the ECRH in January 2015.

Swift noted the brothers’ appeal did not circumvent Russian law. “They’re pursuing the last appeal available to them in a forum that the Russian Government accepted when it signed the Convention,” Swift concluded.