• 2009-11-26

A cross-party group of 130 influential Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) sent a letter to Russian President Medvedev through Russian EU Ambassador Chizhov, to voice their concerns over rule of law and human rights in Russia. The letter specifically highlights the second trial and ongoing persecution of former Head of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky as a test case for the credibility of the Russian justice system.
Sent on the first day of the EU-Russia Summit held in Stockholm which the Russian President is attending - and after the disturbing death of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer for investment fund Hermitage Capital Management who was denied vital medical treatment in prison - the letter says:

16 November 2009

Dear Mr. President,
We, the undersigned Members of the European Parliament, wish to communicate our concern regarding the precariousness of the rule of law – and notably the situation of human rights and property rights – in the Russian Federation.
Recent developments – from the Natalya Estemirova, Andrei Kulagin and Zarema Sadulayeva murders to the condemnation of the 2009 Sakharov Prize winner Memorial by a Russian court and the ongoing Khodorkovsky trial – all raise grave concerns about the partner with which we seek to forge closer ties.

We are committed to working towards a new EU - Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement during the new term of the European Parliament. It is our strong belief that this partnership will benefit both parties, economically, politically, socially and culturally. But this partnership requires a solid foundation to function.
You have pledged to work towards ending “legal nihilism” in Russia, and have named “the supremacy of law in international relations” as one of your top priorities. We hope that you will succeed in strengthening the rule of law in your country, and we recognise that systemic reforms need time to take root and to flourish.
The rule of law, which is the foundation of vibrant democracies and strong economies, must also be the foundation of our partnership. Yet we have observed worrisome trends in Russia that lead to fears about the sanctity of human rights and private property rights, and the independence of the judiciary.

After the killings of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova early this year, a further series of murders has shaken us over the summer of 2009. The brutal deaths of Natalia Estemirova, Andrei Kulagin, Zarema Sadulayeva and her spouse Alik Djabrailov have reinforced the pattern of violence suffered by human rights workers who publicly criticize the regime. Coupled with official moves against non-governmental organisations, the recurrent murders have, we believe, created a chilling effect on the free exercise of constitutional rights by millions of citizens across Russia.

We also wish to communicate our concern regarding the ongoing second trial against Mikhail Khodorkovsky. This is a test case of the credibility of the Russian justice system. The obvious political machinations surrounding this case harm the reputation of Russian justice, undermine economic activity and foreign investment, and further stain the country’s human rights record, while jeopardising your efforts to end “legal nihilism”.

We hope that as the guarantor of the Constitution of the Russian Federation you will succeed in your efforts to bolster the rule of law in your country. The national anti-corruption plan that you launched last year was a major positive development, given that corruption – and impunity – are so fundamental to Russia’s rule of law problems. We will continue to look for real signals and real progress demonstrating that Russia is a place where human rights flourish, property rights are secure, and corruption in government does not go unchecked.

Yours sincerely,
130 signatories