Feb 17, 2021
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Blackmail in a European way: Free Navalny, or …

Photo: Secretary General of the Council of Europe Maria Peichinovic-Buric (foreground)

Photo: Secretary General of the Council of Europe Maria Pejcinovic-Buric (foreground) (Photo: Zuma / TASS)

Russia will not be able to free the blogger Alexey Navalny at the request of the European Union, the press service of the Ministry of Justice said. The department noted that this would be a gross interference in the work of the judicial system of a sovereign state, calling the adoption of such a decision a certain transition over the “red line”.

Earlier, TASS, citing a source close to the Council of Europe, said that the EU may demand the release of Navalny through the European Court of Human Rights.

“It is possible that this will happen in the near future and for this, an exotic procedural form that is not intended for such cases will be used – a decision on the application of interim measures in accordance with Rule 39 of the ECHR Rules,” the agency’s interlocutor said.

I wonder what they are counting on? That Russia will cave in and run to violate its own legislation, setting a dangerous precedent and showing fear of Western sanctions or the activity of street opposition?

– They act according to the templates of the 90s, and with the feeling that Russia is so weak that it will bend from any movement with the eyebrows of a European diplomat, – I am convinced Associate Professor of the Department of Foreign Regional Studies and Foreign Policy of the Russian State Humanitarian University Vadim Trukhachev. – To put it simply, the Europeans are trying to take Russia “on show”.

“SP”: – And what about Russia? Will it not behave?

– Russia has adopted a law according to which decisions of national courts are higher than supranational ones. The EU demand will only matter in terms of what will trigger another wave of attacks on Russia. But we have already gone through this many times.

“SP”: – The ECHR has never demanded the release of a person convicted by a Russian court as an interim measure. Does this indicate some kind of exclusivity of Navalny?

– Yes, it speaks of his exclusiveness in the eyes of Europe. As strange as it may seem to us, they see him as the only real alternative. To Putinwho became the embodiment of absolute evil for her. And therefore, for the sake of Navalny, you can go for something exceptional.

“SP”: – What will happen after Moscow officially rejects all the demands? Sanctions?

– There may be sanctions. They can deprive our PACE delegation of its vote. Many statements will surely follow. In the case of “wrong” in terms of the election results, they may even go for a toughening of the visa regime for Russian citizens.

“SP”: – A TASS source close to the Council of Europe did not rule out that the European side will continue to look for new ways to demand from Russia to release Navalny. What kind?

– They may go to take some kind of hostage like Buta, Yaroshenko or Butina… And condition his release on the demand to release Navalny. Alternatively, exchange the release of one of the Russian politicians in Latvia for the release of Navalny.

“SP”: – How should Russia react further? You can’t really let it out just like that. Maybe you can really exchange it for someone and sleep well?

– Russia is left with no choice. If the authorities let him go, they will show weakness not only in the world arena, but also in the eyes of their own citizens. So the only option is to release him on parole upon serving two-thirds of the term.

– Russia is a member of the Council of Europe, has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and formally recognizes the jurisdiction of the ECHR, – reminds Evgeny Valyaev, political analyst of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society Institutions “People’s Diplomacy”… – When the Russian Federation joined the Council of Europe, we undertook to bring our legislation and political system in line with European norms. That is, we voluntarily joined the Council of Europe, and thereby assumed the obligation to comply with the decisions of the ECHR and to protect basic rights and freedoms.

If Russia no longer wants to recognize the jurisdiction of this court, then the question of leaving the Council of Europe should be raised accordingly. But they do not dare to take this step, since it will inflict a tangible blow to the image of Russia – because of such a step, relations with the EU will drop to approximately the same point in which Russian-American relations are now. Such a step will affect the value of the ruble, reduce the investment activity of European business, and joint energy projects will be jeopardized – it is unlikely that Moscow wants to achieve this result with its statements that the ECHR is interfering in Russia’s internal affairs.

Russia’s membership in the ECHR should be retained at least for the sake of its own normative nature. There is no point in copying the isolationist course Replacement in foreign policy and it is indicative of breaking off relations with international organizations in order to create an aura of sacredness around national sovereignty.

Russian relations with the ECHR have a special status, because only Moscow was allowed to pass at the legislative level a norm that would imply selective execution of the ECHR decisions, although it greatly reduces the effectiveness of the European court. But the Council of Europe decided to make such a compromise in order to maintain a dialogue with Moscow. This is a big relief for a member of the Council of Europe, which shows the difficult relations between Russia and the Council of Europe.

In fact, both sides pretend that some kind of joint work is going on. In fact, Russia simply ignores most of the decisions of the European Court, and the ECHR continues its work, as if ignoring this state of affairs: the ECHR continues to formally consider Russia a member of the Council of Europe and a country that has assumed certain obligations by signing the European Convention on Human Rights – therefore it continues make your decisions.

Thus, the ECHR’s demand with reference to Article 39 of the court’s rules to release Navalny is legitimate. This article deals with the court’s right to take prompt action before considering the complaint itself. Since the prosecution of Navalny is political, the defense of the politician will win all cases against Russia in the ECHR, as has already happened seven times before this moment: Navalny protested in the ECHR almost all of his arrests, detentions and even the verdict in the Yves Rocher case was declared unfounded by the court.

It can be easily assumed that the ECHR will rule in favor of Navalny in the trial with the veteran, to replace the suspended sentence with a real one and in other subsequent cases. And the point here is not so much in Navalny’s special status, although this must be taken into account, but rather in the unprecedented violation of procedural norms by the court and the investigation in the cases in which Navalny appears.

It is important to note that in Russia today there is not – and cannot be – not a single human rights defender who would publicly support the position on Russia’s refusal to cooperate with the ECHR. It is through the ECHR that Russian citizens seek compensation for the fact that those accused of committing crimes are kept for years in inhuman conditions in a pre-trial detention center.

Frequent complaints to the ECHR by Russians are related to non-enforcement of decisions of Russian courts in Russia. By its decisions, the ECHR made our judicial system and the system of execution of sentences better – more humane and fair. According to statistics from the ECHR, Russia is still among the leaders in terms of the number of complaints filed. This suggests that Russians cannot achieve justice at home. You cannot deprive people of the opportunity to achieve justice.

It is very strange to hear the statement of the press service of the Ministry of Justice that the ECHR allegedly cannot make a demand for the release of Navalny. What does the press service refer to? Some unidentified international law and interference in the work of the judicial system of a sovereign state. The latter formulation is generally very strange, as if the Ministry of Justice does not know that Russia did not leave the Council of Europe and recognizes the jurisdiction of the ECHR. So what kind of interference can we talk about if this interference is sanctioned by the Russian side itself?

The Ministry of Justice with such statements deliberately primitivizes the concept of international law and sovereignty. It is also absurd, as if Russia, after the oil crisis in 2020, first assumed obligations to cut production, and then, violating it, would refer to OPEC interference in its affairs. It is a mistake to believe that the presence of Russia as an international subject in supranational organizations allegedly damages our sovereignty. Russia is a member of most international organizations, from the UN to the BRICS, APEC, SCO, IMF and WTO. Membership in them implies that the participating countries impose certain restrictions on themselves, as they act within the framework of adopted declarations, statutes and agreements.

“SP”: – How will events develop further?

– The ECHR will continue to make decisions in favor of Navalny, and Russia will continue to ignore these decisions, or even defiantly use the right not to officially execute them. If events develop according to the second scenario, then the ECHR will have the right to raise the issue of a systematic and politically motivated violation by a member state of the ECHR regulations and the CoE charter, for which Russia may be expelled from the Council of Europe.

This scenario looks unlikely at the moment, since Europe wants to leave at least one platform for contacts with Moscow. This position was defended by the previous Secretary General of the Council of Europe Torbjorn Jagland, who believed that it was necessary to preserve the status of the CE as a platform within which Russia is linked with Europe by binding legal norms. Since 2019, the Council of Europe has chaired Maria Peichinovich-Burich, but this position remains dominant in relations between the CE and Moscow.

The Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights will not become the main platforms through which the West will put pressure on Russia in the Navalny case. The main levers will remain the same – new personal sanctions on Navalny’s priority list and the freezing of Nord Stream 2. The European Parliament has already supported these steps with its resolutions, the US Congress is also ready to support them.

The list of possible levers may include the threat of Russia’s disconnection from the global SWIFT payment system, new sanctions against the foreign currency government debt, a ban on the import of Russian oil products into the United States, and even sanctions against Aeroflot or the Sputnik V vaccine. All these sanctions can become real if there is no dialogue between Moscow and the West at the expense of the heads of state. So far, there is at least some dialogue, and Vladimir Putin even spoke after a long break at the Davos forum, that is, chances are that the parties can find at least a formal compromise.

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