Human Rights Defenders Demand New Open Selection Procedure for Post of Russian Judge at European Court of Human Rights

Vera Vasilieva, 26/06/12

Source: HRO.org

· Strasbourg Court  · The Courts  · Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders have demanded that a new open election be held for the post of Russian judge to the European Court of Human Rights. A report on this issue was published on 25 June 2012 on the website of the Moscow Helsinki Group.

On that day it became known that the Russian list of candidates for judge to the European Court of Human Rights would not be considered at the current session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). A Russian judge to the European Court of Human Rights will not be chosen until October. According to the official version, this decision resulted from the withdrawal of one of the three Russian Federation candidates, Supreme Commercial Court judge Liudmila Novoselova.

The new Russian judge to the European Court of Human Rights is to succeed Anatoly Kovler, whose term expires on 1 November 2012.

On 1 July 2011, the Russian Ministry of Justice announced a competition for the selection of candidates for the position of judge at the European Court of Human Rights. As a result, in the autumn a commission headed by Russia's official representative at the European Court of Human Rights, Georgy Matyushkin, selected 6 of the 13 candidates who submitted documents. The list was then approved by the Interdepartmental Commission for Council of Europe Affairs and in February 2012, the then-President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev gave his approval to three candidates.

As Kommersant reported on 26 June, these candidates turned out to be lawyers who specialize exclusively in commercial law: Liudmila Novoselova, her colleague at the Supreme Commercial Court Dmitry Dedov, and a professor in the law faculty of Saint Petersburg State University Andrei Bushev. Among other things, the latter took part in the review by the European Court of Human Rights of the Yukos v Russia case as a Russian ad hoc judge.

"It's a scandal. A state containing 140 million citizens was unable to prepare worthy candidates for the European Court of Human Rights over the course of a year!" commented Karinna Moskalenko, a barrister with the International Protection Centre, Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, on the decision by the PACE (as quoted in Kommersant).

On 22 June, the Moscow Helsinki Group appealed to the Council of Europe a second time, this time to members of the bureau, with a letter in which human rights defenders expressed their concerns regarding the selection procedure for candidates for the position of judge at the European Court of Human Rights.

"The real reasons why it was decided not to consider the list of candidates for the position of Russian judge at the European court of Human Rights at the PACE session in June 2012 is still not known. However, the Russian authorities are trying to make it seem as if one of the judges decided not to take part in the selection process themselves, and so removed their name from the list. Chances are that the aim of the Russian authorities is to change the make-up of the list without carrying out a new selection process and to resubmit candidates who underwent the same ‘selection process’ as those candidates on the present list at the PACE session", the Moscow Helsinki Group believes.

Human rights defenders point out that "information being disseminated by the authorities is incomplete". "The specialists in commercial law being put forward by Russia as candidates to fill the position of judge at the European Court of Human Rights may not have enough experience in the field of human rights or enough linguistic knowledge, even if they are highly-qualified in terms of the Russian commercial courts. And the reason for a candidate's withdrawal may well be that they simply do not satisfy the necessary requirements of the Council of Europe", the Moscow Helsinki Group point out in their statement.

According to statements by the interdepartmental commission, its selection of candidates was extremely thorough and responsible, when in reality the entire process was neither democratic nor transparent, the Moscow Helsinki Group believes.

In the middle of December last year, the Moscow Helsinki Group sent a request to PACE asking that the selection process for the position of Russian judge to the European Court of Human Rights be discussed.

In addition, the Moscow Helsinki Group is trying to get the results of the selection process overturned in court. Karinna Moskalenko had previously appealed to the Zamoskvorechye district court in Moscow to rule that the actions taken by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation in advertising and conducting the selection process were unlawful.

However, the lawsuit was not heard until five months later. It should be noted that the human rights defenders were able to familiarize themselves with certain materials of the interdepartmental commission only in court, a long time after the selection process had been concluded.

On 17 April, after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already sent the list to PACE, Karinna Moskalenko's lawsuit was dismissed.

An appeal against this decision has still not been heard, and therefore it has not yet entered into force.

Starting with the creation of the selection committee (which, as human rights defenders point out, was created after the selection process had already begun) and the interdepartmental commission which selected the six candidates, the procedure for selecting candidates was accompanied by a large number of violations, the Moscow Helsinki Group believes. These commissions did not include any women or any representative of the many human rights NGOs and specialized government bodies that exist in Russia. There were not even representatives from the Federal Human Rights Ombudsman.

"The government is trying to make do with half measures, but the Moscow Helsinki Group is calling on civil society to demand that the government hold a broad, open and transparent selection process for the position of judge at one of the most important institutions of the Council of Europe", the statement by the Moscow Helsinki Group concludes.
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