European Parliament Presses Russia to Improve Judicial System and Rule of Law

European Parliament unanimously yesterday adopted a resolution on the rule of law in Russia. There were strong reactions within the Russian State Duma against the resolution. Chairwoman Hautala welcomed the resolution as timely and higly necessary: “Lack of independence of the judicial institutions is at the core of the pervasive impunity in Russia. Openly flouting of the rule of law by the Russian authorities undermines any respect of rule of law there might be left in the country.”[:]

The Parliament criticized the political manipulation of the trial and judgement of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev on 30 December 2010, and called for an independent judicial review in the pending appellate proceedings of the trial.

Parliament expressed strong concern over numerous politically motivated trials, failures to investigate serious crimes and noted that these trials and judicial proceedings have called into question the independence and the impartiality of the judicial institutions of the Russian Federation on the whole. It therefore urged the Russian judicial and law enforcement authorities to do all in their power to improve the judicial system.

The Parliament expressed concern in particular over the continuing threats and violence towards journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders and the use of the anti-extremist legislation.

It deplored the regular brutal dispersal of peaceful rallies organised on 31st of every second month in relation to article 31 of the Russian Constitution, and the repeated arrests of opposition figures such as Boris Nemtsov in Moscow on 31 December 2010.

The Parliament again took note of the case of Sergei Magnitsky, Russian lawyer who died in pre-trial detention in Moscow Butyrka prison on 16 November 2009. It is to be recalled that in its Annual Report on Human Rights in the World 2009, adopted on 16 December 2010, the European Parliament called the EU Council to consider an entry ban and asset freeze for those Russian officials involved in the death of Magnitsky should no investigation be opened.

In its resolution this week Parliament also urged the Ombudsman of the Russian Federation to commission a review of the charges and ongoing proceedings against Oleg Orlov, the 2009 Laureate of the European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.