June 24, 2009
By Philip P. Pan
A special European investigator issued a stinging report Tuesday that alleges widespread political abuse of the Russian courts and urges countries not to extradite people to Russia if they might be denied a fair trial.
The conclusions by Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a former German justice minister, are likely to further strain Russia’s relations with the Council of Europe, which commissioned the probe and is locked in a standoff with Moscow over the future of the European Court of Human Rights.
Russia joined the council in the 1990s, but it has recently attacked the court’s impartiality and is the lone council member blocking a plan to streamline its operations. The court, based in Strasbourg, France, acts as an appeals panel of last resort for residents of 47 member countries.
Testimony of William Browder. Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe the U.S. Helsinki Commission.
June 23, 2009
”Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Members of the Commission, thank you for inviting me to appear before you today.
I have been asked to share my thoughts on the rule of law in Russia. Unfortunately, my own personal experience shaped by fifteen years of investing in that country confirms to me that the situation in Russia is not a pretty picture, and it is getting worse.
When I first started Hermitage in the mid-1990’s, my clients would ask me about the Russian horror stories they had heard of shareholders getting wiped off corporate registries, having assets stolen by crooked management or being the targets of corrupt government officials seeking bribes. What I was able to tell my investors back then is that while corporate governance was terrible, valuations were cheap, and investors would make money as Russia evolved from “horrible” to just “bad.” I am here today to tell you that Russia is reverting. The investor horror stories that were largely fantastic in the 1990’s are now commonplace. The situation in Russia is going from “bad” back to “horrible” and it will be more than just investors who lose out in this process.
June 23, 2009
A report approved today by the Legal Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) has recommended a series of steps to boost the independence of judges across Europe to end what it calls “politically-motivated interference” in individual cases.
The report, prepared by Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (Germany, ALDE), exposes ways that politicians can meddle with the law in four countries representing the principal types of criminal justice system in Europe, analysing high-profile cases such as the dropping of the BAE fraud investigation and “cash for honours” scandal in the United Kingdom, or the second Khodorkovsky trial, HSBC/Hermitage Capital case and Politkovskaya investigation in Russia.
Among other things, the parliamentarians call for:
• in Russia, a series of reforms to reduce the political pressures on judges and end the harassment of defence lawyers in order to combat “legal nihilism” in Russia.