European Court will hear Yukos case


The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has declared partly admissible the application in the case of the oil company Yukos v. Russia and has decided to hear the case on merits.

Yukos, represented by its former managers, accuses the Russian authorities of depriving it of the company's property and seeks damages to the amount of $42 bln. This is the largest claim to be brought before the court in its 59-year history.

Yukos was once the largest Russian oil company. In 2004 it was accused of tax evasion, broken up and sold at auction with Russian state energy companies Rosneft and Gazprom buying its most valuable assets. In 2007 Yukos was liquidated.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky the former head and the major shareholder of Yukos was sentenced to nine years of imprisonment, later reduced to eight years, on various charges.

Another former Yukos shareholder now residing in Israel, Leonid Nevzlin, was sentenced by a Russian court in absentia to life imprisonment for murder and attempted murder. Israel refuses to extradite Nevzlin on the grounds of insufficient evidence of guilt.

'The decision of admissibility has been communicated to both parties,' said a spokesman for the court in Strasbourg. 'There were several complaints under different provisions of the convention [on human rights] and partial admissibility was accepted.'

Russia's ambassador to the Council of Europe, which oversees the court, denounced what he called the politicisation of the court, which has repeatedly ruled against Russia for human rights abuses in Chechnya and Russian prisons.

Alexander Alekseev said: 'The main reason is due to the political context and a certain politicisation of the court's work which we have observed recently.'

Georgy Matyushkin, Russia's envoy to the court, argued that the claim itself breached the European Convention on Human Rights, because Yukos had not exhausted all other legal means before filing the suit. 'According to the case documents, the complaint was filed in spring 2004 when the Yukos case had not yet even been tried in the Moscow Arbitrazhniy (Commercial) Court,' he said.

ECHR is an international tribunal established by the European Convention of Human Rights to which Russia is a party. ECHR cannot reverse decisions of national courts but can award damages to persons whose human rights were violated by member states.


January 31, 2009
photo: bilderbox -