This morning, the European Court of Human Rights has announced its verdict on the case of Alexey Navalny v. Russia. The judges have ruled unanimously that the seven arrests of Navalny between 2012 and 2014 caused severe violations of his rights and freedoms and were politically motivated. This is the first time in 14 years that the ECHR finds Russia guilty of political persecution.
Between 2012 and 2014, Navalny has been arrested a total of seven times at various protest rallies. On two occasions, he was arrested twice during the same day. Each time, Alexey was charged with either breaching the established procedure for conducting public events or disobeying a lawful police order. He was five times given a fine and was twice sentenced to administrative detention. All of his appeals were dismissed.
Navalny complained that all these arrests violated his right to liberty and right to freedom of assembly (Articles 5 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights). He then claimed that these arrests were politically motivated, which, in conjunction with the aforementioned violations, should be considered as a violation of Article 18 (limitation on use of restriction of rights).
The court has ruled that there has indeed been a violation of Article 18 in conjunction with Articles 5 and 11, as well as violations of Article 6 (right to a fair trial) during six out of seven administrative proceedings against Navalny. This established a very important precedent that will hopefully make it easier for future complainants from Russia to prove that they are also subject to political persecution.
The court has decided that Russia is to pay Alexey a total of €51,024 in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage, as well as €12,653 for costs and expenses. There is no guarantee, however, that Navalny will actually receive this money. A recently introduced law states that Russia can ignore the decisions of the ECHR if it is ruled that they contradict the country’s constitution.
Finally, it has to be noted that Russian authorities anticipated such a decision and desperately tried to come up with something to prevent it. Their brilliant idea was to prevent Navalny from attending the court hearing in Strasbourg. Two days ago, he was denied exit from Russia at the airport border control. He was shown a crudely forged letter from the Federal Bailiff Service that stated that he is not allowed to leave the country for an undisclosed reason. At the same time, the FBS database was urgently updated to include the unpaid 2.2 million rubles of compensatory damages on the “Kirovles case”. For some reason, the authorities completely ignored the fact that the debtor needs to be notified about the impending restriction of travel by letter and given 5 days to settle the debt. Nevertheless, the 2.2 million rubles were paid immediately, and Alexey was allowed to fly to Strasbourg on the very next day, making all the efforts of the Russian authorities completely pointless.