ECHR Decisions Regarding Navalny Are Biased in Terms of Speed of Consideration

Cases involving blogger Aleksey Navalny in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), according to statistics, are considered more than twice as fast as other cases against Russians. In this fact, the lawyer, Candidate of Judicial Science Aleksandr Zorin sees a clear bias concerning the basis of the speed of consideration.

“So if, for example, in the practice of I and my colleagues in the European court, we did not observe a period of consideration of complaints that is less than five years, and according to the report of the ECHR itself ‘About long-term prospects of development of the legal system’ it is reported that the average cases involving citizens of Russia is on average ten years. In the complaints filed by Navalny against the Russian Federation on the electronic database of the ECHR (HUDOC), there is a trend to reduce the time for consideration of cases, in contrast to the complaints of ordinary citizens from Russia,” said Zorin.

The timing of the consideration of complaints to the ECHR and the circumstances of the adoption of decisions on interim measures at various times raised questions. In particular, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) drew attention to this problem in 2019. Its representatives pointed out, among other things, that many cases are considered for more than seven or even ten years, while the execution of the decisions can be delayed for another five years. As one of the solutions to this problem, the Council proposed closer contact of the ECHR with the national higher judicial authorities.

It took the ECHR more than ten years to consider the case of journalist Georgy Pirogov (case number 27474/08).

In 2007, the Yoshkar-Ola Magistrate’s Court found that the journalist’s statements were untrue, went beyond acceptable criticism of a public person and were slander against the head of the Republic of Mari El.

The journalist sent a complaint to Strasbourg in 2008. It was accepted for consideration only in April 2017, while a decision on it was made in January 2020.

Also in this context, we can recall the case “Dubrovina and others v. Russia” (case number 31333/07), the decision on which was made in February 2020, although the appeal to the ECHR is dated July 2007.

Russian officials have repeatedly drawn attention to the situation with the timing of the consideration of some complaints.

In an interview with TASS in June 2018, the Russian Commissioner to the ECHR, Deputy Minister of Justice Mikhail Galperin, noted that “unfortunately, sometimes in cases concerning Russia, the ECHR deviates from its established practice.” “Some political activists are often given priority by the Secretariat of the court, they move much faster than complaints of violations of fundamental rights (e.g. the right to life), which causes bewilderment among the applicants themselves, who have been waiting for their cases for years,” said Halperin.

It is noteworthy that the Strasbourg court itself points out that it is impossible to predict the duration of consideration of a complaint and making decisions on it. In its explanations, the court notes that it seeks to consider complaints within three years of their receipt, but some of them may take longer to process, while others may be processed faster.

The length of the proceedings varies depending on the circumstances of the case, the timeliness of providing information to the court and many other factors, the ECHR explains.

In addition, the situation with the time frame for consideration of complaints has been somewhat aggravated in the light of the court’s adoption of a system for classifying them and establishing a priority order.

Experts consider the urgent timing of the ECHR’s decisions regarding Navalny inexplicable. According to the adopted procedure, only 2-3 months are allowed for the registration of a complaint, and the consideration of the complaint for admissibility can last 1.5 years. However, almost all decisions regarding Navalny are made in a matter of months or even days, as in the current case.

Political scientist Yury Samonkin sees the influence of the current geopolitical situation in the court’s decision.

“Most of the decisions of the ECHR are politicised in relation to the support of opposition participants, including the rapid admission and processing of complaints from Aleksey Navalny. Unlike lawsuits and cases from other citizens of our country, who apply to the ECHR for more important cases and sometimes need legal protection, their issues are considered for years, sometimes the very fact of finding justice seems unreal and utopian.
Unfortunately, at the moment it turns out that more than half of the accelerated cases that the ECHR considers against the Russian Federation are devoted either to Navalny’s complaints or to protecting the interests of opposition figures who conduct often openly dangerous subversive activities inside our country, in the form of provoking clashes with the police and other illegal protest actions.”

The expert believes that such a policy of double standards undermines the real relations between Russia and Europe. “If the ECHR is an independent judicial body, where everyone has equal opportunities and rights, the same procedural terms for considering complaints and claims, and a prompt response to the most important cases and problems that affect our citizens, then the degree of trust in the European legal system in Russia will be at an appropriate level,” concludes Samonkin.

Oleg Matveychev, a political scientist and professor at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, suggests that the reason for the ECHR’s extraordinary attention to Navalny’s cases is the political pressure of western governments.

“It has long been noticed that Navalny works in conjunction with various foreign organisations, including the courts. All of this speaks of a single coordination, a single control centre. Obviously, this centre is located somewhere in the United States, because its level can not be compared with the level of some simple non-profit organisation. And all this shows that Navalny is just one of the tentacles of the single United States managing octopus, and they work for each other. I.e., Navalny files lawsuits, they quickly satisfy them, and they do it all out of turn, make, in fact, illegal decisions, without really considering anything,” Matveychev believes.
Recall that the ECHR in its decision demanded the immediate release of Navalny, who’s suspended sentence was replaced with a real one in the case of embezzlement from Yves Rocher.

The day prior, the Russian Ministry of Justice said that Russia would not be able to release Navalny as part of interim measures at the request of the EU. This would be “unjustified and gross” interference in the work of the judicial system of a sovereign state, the ministry stressed.

As was noted by the Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Pyotr Tolstoy live on Instagram, the amended Constitution has an article stating that the international obligations of the Russian Federation are executed, but the “politicised interpretation of international bodies such as the ECHR in relation to the country will not be implemented if they are contrary to the Constitution.

According to him, the Russian legal system “does not provide for it to be influenced by figures from the ECHR in this form, with the help of statements”. As a result, the deputy called these actions of the ECHR “artillery preparation” before the decision on the next sanctions against the Russian Federation.

In turn, member of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (HRC) and federal judge in honorary retirement Galina Osokina said that interference in the judicial system of the state at the political level is unacceptable. Osokina stressed that the legislation of any state has “its own characteristics and priorities”.

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