Russia Needs Rule of Law

Heidi Hautala wrote together with the MEPs Rebecca Harms, Tunne Kelam, Vytautas Landsbergis, Kristiina Ojuland, Justas Vincas Paleckis, and Graham Watson a letter concerning the rule of law in Russia that was published in the European Voice on December 16, 2010.[:]


On 2 December, European Voice published an opinion piece on EU-Russia relations that ended with the statement that “law is Russia’s bridge to Europe” (“A simpler era in EU-Russia relations?”, 2-8 December). We could not agree more. EU-Russia relations are at a critical stage and we welcome the prospect of closer co-operation on an equal footing. But the lack of rule of law in Russia, or “legal nihilism” as President Dmitry Medvedev has called it, still poses an obstacle to meaningful and long-term economic and political co-operation.

As such, we believe that the conduct of the cases against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, as well as investigations into the deaths of the lawyer Sergey Magnitsky, the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the human-rights activist Natalya Estemirova and the lawyer and journalist Stanislav Markelov, are of seminal importance in shaping the views of the outside world on Russia’s respect for the rule of law.

At this point, we are particularly concerned about the impending judgements on Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, due yeaterday but now scheduled for 27 December. The consensus of respected, objective observers is that the case against them is unjust and not truly motivated by law. This has shaken confidence in the Russian legal system and in the Kremlin’s will to uphold the Russian constitution.

As strong supporters of the drive to modernise Russia, we cannot stand idly by when the rule of law and human values are being so openly abused and compromised. Stable and reliable partnerships with Russia can exist only where our fundamental common values are shared and applied: where human rights are protected, property rights are secure, and justice prevails over corruption.

Ending the persecution of Khodorkovsky, Lebedev and other arrested and convicted during the Russian authorities’ dismantling of the energy company Yukos, and finding justice for Magnitsky, Politkovskaya, Estemirova, Markelov and many other victims would send positive signals of change and show that Russia is indeed on the path towards modernisation.