Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Against Moscow, Common Justice

By Vitaly Arkhangelsky and Boris Berezovsky
Russian businessmen

Last week, the Investigation Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence rejected for the second time the request for extradition of one of the authors of this article (Vitaly Arkhangelsky) accused by the Russian State of fraud and money laundering. His co-author, residing in London, obtained similar protection from the British government for the first time in 2003, and since then the courts and authorities of Great Britain have rejected all successive requests for his extradition.
For the past several years, a wave of expropriation of businesses for the benefit of police dignitaries, public prosecutors and bureaucrats has been prevalent in Russia; these actions go unpunished under the protection of the police State. Deprived of their property, thousands of businessmen are imprisoned on the basis of falsified penal charges. These businessmen include owners of the petrol giant Yukos, as well as heads of small companies that were confiscated by ravaging local civil servants. The Russian judicial system does not work since it is allied with the corrupted authorities and serves as an instrument for blackmail rather than protection. Statements of American diplomats revealed by WikiLeaks concerning the transformation of Russia into a “virtual mafia state” which “saw the borders between the authorities and the criminality erased” are not exaggerated.

After a precedential decision by the British authorities to grant political asylum to Boris Berezovsky, hundreds of Russian “business refugees” have been seen arriving in London, and now it would not be surprising to see a large number of Russian businessmen, lawyers and journalists seeking protection in France. As Great Britain, France will see a flood of requests for extradition based on penal charges entirely manufactured by the corrupted Russian judicial system.
How should the French and other European Union countries’ authorities react?
The problem is that the European judicial cooperation system, as well as Interpol, presumes that the participating States are equally attached to common values proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and as Europe is concerned, granted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). That is why, any request for extradition coming from Moscow is considered by Interpol and by justice in the same way as a request coming from any western State. When private entities, acting in the interest of few individuals, start pursuing a man and use all their financial power and all the power of the State apparatus in order to take his property and to crush his resistance by depriving him of all means of defense along with his freedom. This disrespect of basic values of western society remains absolutely unnoticed when Interpol is contacted.
Practically, this allows the Russian authorities, acting in the interest of mafia groups, to initiate an international arrest warrant based on entirely manufactured criminal charges against the victim who will be arrested wherever he/she is located and imprisoned while the request for his/her extradition is examined.

To the credit of western courts, they are finally making well-thought out and fair decisions. The aggregate weight of such decisions during the last years and the reports of human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and of the Council of Europe, as well as of an important number of decisions of the ECHR in Strasbourg, shows that Russia may not be considered as a law abiding State. Thus, the French justice rejection of the request for extradition of Vitaly Arkhangelsky was clearly motivated: the Russian State does not respect the provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights, in particular the right for fair trial and the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment. However, a favorable judgment does not resolve all the problems.
One of us, in spite of his victory in the French Court may not go to London, and the other one, a refugee in Great Britain, may not go to Paris since Russian requests to the Interpol remain in force. Thus, their freedom is limited to the host country. The use of international arrest warrants by Russian State against businessmen whose flourishing companies have attracted predatory appetites of corrupted groups represents a real reversal of the system which was initially intended to chase criminals, and actually facilitates the task of mafia States.
It is time for the international community to review Interpol powers taking into consideration current realities. It is urgent to strengthen the control and selection procedure which would allow Interpol to filter the warrants issued by the States whose allegiance to human rights values is more than doubtful, and to be more vigilant to the proved mala fide of the Russian authorities.
In addition, European courts should treat with circumspection, and even with suspicion, civil and commercial trials brought before them within the framework of exequatur proceedings or applications for guaranties against people targeted by the famous Russian arrest warrants.
Unfortunately, leaders of western countries have chosen to compromise with Putin’s dictatorship because of the priority of international politics, whether this concerns Iran or Syria. That is why, they close their eyes at the power usurpation, crushing of democracy and persecutions against dissidents, and, more generally, against honest businessmen in Russia.
However, the respect of law and of human rights in western countries is not concerned with international politics, and their public authorities should not contribute to the import of Russian corruption in exchange for the vote of Russia in the Security Council of the United Nations.
That is why, after Mr. Putin’s visit to Paris, we ask western States to review their attitude to their Russian peers, and to do it in a way that a common European judicial politics would be opposed to Moscow, and that, all over Europe, ignominious arrest warrants and requests for extradition coming from disqualified judicial authorities against unlawfully persecuted Russian citizens, whether these are businessmen, lawyers or journalists, would be rejected.

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