Khodorkovskiy in a cage

In the case of Khodorkovskiy v. Russia the Court reaffirmed that placing a person in a cage during a trial if the person is not predisposed to violence or there are no serious security threats, is degrading and violates Article 3.

The Court noted that the practice of placing a criminal defendant in a sort of a “special compartment” in a court room existed and probably continues to exist in several European countries (Armenia, Moldova, Finland). In some countries (such as Spain, Italy, France or Germany) the accused are sometimes placed in a glass cage during the hearing. Such a practice has occasionally been examined in the context of the guarantee of the presumption of innocence under Article 6 § 2 of the Convention (see Auguste v. France, Meerbrey v. Germany). In recent years the Court has begun to examine the practice also from the standpoint of Article 3 of the Convention. Thus, in the case of Sarban v. Moldova the applicant was brought to court in handcuffs and held in a cage during the hearings, even though he was under guard and was wearing a surgical collar. A violation of Article 3 of the Convention was found in a case where the applicant was unjustifiably handcuffed during public hearings (see Gorodnichev v. Russia). Handcuffing of the applicant gave rise to a violation of Article 3 of the Convention also in a situation where no serious risks to security could be proved to exist (see Henaf v. France, Istratii and Others v. Moldova).

I was wondering whether the experience of a person when put in the cage is of such a degrading nature to be considered under Article 3? Continue reading

Khodorkovskiy v. Russia: European Court of Human Rights Rules “No Proof of Political Trial”

A few weeks ago the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment in the high profile case of Khodorkovskiy v. Russia. Mr. Khodorkovskiy was, as I assume most readers are aware, until recently one of the richest persons in Russia and the major shareholder in one of Russia’s formerly largest oil companies (Yukos). He is of course most known for his criminal prosecution and detention by the Russian authorities in 2003 on suspicion of theft and money laundering, ultimately leading to his conviction in 2005. Mr. Khodorkovskiy has always maintained that the trial against him was politically motivated and orchestrated to silence his involvement in Russia’s political life, from 2002 onwards. In addition to financing opposition political parties, he openly criticised Russia’s internal policy at the time, calling it anti-democratic. Many find Mr. Khodorkovskiy’s allegations that his trial was politically motivate reliable and at the very least question the true motivation behind his repeated convictions. Earlier this year, following the extension of Mr. Khodorkovskiy’s conviction with a further 7 years in December of last year, the Guardian reported that an insider of the Russian judiciary, the assistant of the Judge who had ruled on the extension of Mr. Khodorkovskiy’s prison sentence, confirmed the claims that the verdict was “ordered from above”. She stated in particular that “all of legal society understands perfectly well that this is a made-to-order case, a made-to-order trial.”

Among other articles, Mr. Khodorkovskiy relied on the rarely invoked – and even more seldomly granted – article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights before its Court, alleging that Russia had used criminal prosecutions for a political end and in order to appropriate the company’s assets. The ECtHR found no violation of article 18.

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