Reactions

The guilty verdict and failed appeal in the second trial triggered an outpouring of international support for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, as well as criticisms of the Russian legal system.

Across the world the trial was viewed as a failure of then-President Dmitry Medvedev’s pledge to end “legal nihilism” in Russia, and it led Amnesty International to designate Khodorkovsky and Lebedev as prisoners of conscience. Commenting of the failed Khodorkovsky-Lebedev appeal in May 2011, Amnesty International stated: “For several years now these two men have been trapped in a judicial vortex that answers to political not legal considerations. Today’s verdict makes it clear that Russia’s lower courts are unable, or unwilling, to deliver justice in their cases.”

In September 2011, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) released a report based on its own independent observation of the trial. The IBAHRI was the only organization with a full‐time observer at the trial. Highly critical of the numerous failings of the proceedings, the IBAHRI report concluded that “this trial was not fair”, and cited numerous legal failings and violations demonstrating that the proceedings “were incapable of producing clear proof” for a sound conviction.

Read the report here.

CREDIBILITY OF VERDICT UNDERMINED BY PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL

In February 2011, responding to increasing public pressure, then-President Medvedev mandated his Presidential Council of the Russian Federation for Civil Society and Human Rights to conduct an inquiry into the case. The inquiry, conducted from April to December 2011, brought together a group of renowned Russian and foreign experts to examine the verdict and related materials. A report and recommendations were released in December 2011. The inquiry identified serious and widespread violations of the law, finding that there was no valid legal basis or evidence supporting the guilty verdict in the second Khodorkovsky-Lebedev trial, and that the proceedings were severely marred by violations of fundamental human rights. More broadly, the inquiry found that the Khodorkovsky-Lebedev case highlighted widespread systemic problems in Russia’s law enforcement practices and judiciary. The inquiry prompted calls for an annulment of the “illegal” guilty verdict and the release of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, and also for a series of reforms to address the systemic problems illustrated by this case.

The Council’s report and recommendations have no judicial force and cannot compel the courts to reopen the second Khodorkovsky-Lebedev case for reconsideration, however the inquiry was a damning indictment of the credibility of the second guilty verdict and extended incarceration of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev.

Click here for more information about the Council’s inquiry and recommendations.

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