The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has told Russia that it must free political opponent and critic of Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny. The court ruling stated that Mr Navalny be granted temporary release from jail as the Russian government were unable to provide adequate proof that there were safeguards to his health and safety in place while in custody.
Russia have not responded kindly and will ignore the ruling, referring to it as ‘gross interference in the judicial affairs of a sovereign state’. Russia’s Justice Minister called the ruling ‘unenforceable’ and that there was no legal basis upon which to release Mr Navalny from custody.
The dispute poses a difficult international legal situation. While Russia have a legal obligation to abide with rulings of the ECHR as per their membership of the Council of Europe, they have previous form in unilaterally ignoring them. In 2014, they were ordered to pay nearly €2billon in compensation to shareholders of the Yukos oil empire assembled by oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was jailed for tax evasion and fraud with the company broken up into state controlled firms. They did not abide with this ruling either.
In fact, last year Russia adopted new constitutional amendments that stated that they had the right to ignore any and all international legal decisions that they deemed violated their national sovereignty. Actions like these leave room for large discussions as to the effectiveness of international courts where rulings can be accepted and rejected by governments such as Russia’s.
After a suspected FSB poisoning, which he claims was orchestrated by Vladimir Putin, Mr Navalny says his life is in danger while in custody. He is currently incarcerated due to violating parole from a 2014 sentence, with further jail time on the cards as the government presses new charges. His original conviction was an embezzlement charge, widely seen as politically motivated, for which he will soon appear in court to appeal.