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Court Watch

In Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, nearly half of the state’s lawmakers are facing criminal charges. Mukhtar Ansari, a lawmaker in Uttar Pradesh’s state assembly, is currently awaiting trial for allegedly ordering to have a rival mur- dered. He has been elected into office three times while awaiting trial. Raghuraj Pratap Singh was the food minister in Uttar Pradesh while he faced charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery.

The July 10 decision is one among a line of cas- es in the Supreme Court of India’s attempt to reform the political and judicial systems and to make them more transparent. In 2003, the Court mandated that candidates running for public of- fice disclose their criminal history. In June, the Central Information Commission subjected politi- cal parties to the Right to Information Act, which allows citizens to seek information from govern- ment bodies.

Despite the recent attempts at reformation, there remain areas of the law that need improvement. Corrupt politicians could undermine the July 10 decision simply by exerting influence on police and judicial officials and avoiding arrest. Addition- ally, anti-corruption legislation is before the Indian Parliament, but it has been stalled. This legisla- tion also fails to create a strong, concrete, and independent system that would be more power- ful at holding government officials accountable. The government must make a concerted effort to deal with India’s huge corruption problem.

* Submitted by Pinky Mehta

ECtHR Rules Khodorkovsky Case Nonpolitical, Finds Human Rights Violations

On July 25, 2013, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the 2005 trial of for- mer Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev was not politically motivated; but there were violations

of the European Convention on Human Rights in Khodorkovsky’s trial.

Khodorkovsky was the former head of Yukos Oil Company, one of Russia’s largest oil compa- nies. Lebedev was a major shareholder in Yukos. Khodorkovsky acquired companies and created numerous shell companies that were controlled from Yukos headquarters in Moscow. Further- more, they were registered in “special tax re- gime” zones, where federal law established reduced tax zones to attract investors to eco- nomically-depressed areas. Khodorkovsky then began trading with those companies through Yukos, profiting from preferential taxation agree- ments.

In 2003, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were charged with the “intention of taking control of the shares in Russian companies during the [privatization] process through deceit.” Khodorkovsky claimed that the proceedings against him were politically and economically motivated, but the Court was unconvinced. In September 2005, both Khodor- kovsky and Lebedev were found guilty of fraud, theft, and money laundering. Both were impris- oned, but they remain in custody. In 2010, former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov testi- fied that President Vladmir Putin ordered Khodor- kovsky’s arrest for political reasons because Khodorkovsky had funded the Communist Party without approval from the president.

ECtHR Findings: Human Rights Violations

The ECtHR reviewed the proceedings and deter- mined that there was no violation of Article 18 of the European Convention of Human Rights (limitation on the restriction of rights permitted under the Convention to those prescribed by the Convention) regarding Khodorkovsky’s complaint that the proceedings were politically motivated. Although circumstantial evidence surrounding Khodorkovsky’s arrest constituted a case of po- litically-motivated prosecution, “[the] mere sus- picion that the authorities had used their powers

ILSA Quarterly » volume 22 » issue 1 » October 2013


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