Russia: Conviction of opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyy breached European human rights law

Judges in Strasbourg ruled today that the conviction of Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyy for commercial fraud breached human rights law.

They decided that the sanction was based on the “unforeseeable application” of criminal law.

In today’s Chamber judgment1 in the case of Navalnyye v. Russia (application no. 101/15) the

European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 7 (no punishment without law) of the European Convention on Human Rights


a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial).

As just satisfaction (Article 41), the Court held that Russia was to pay to each applicant 10,000 euros (EUR) in respect of nonpecuniary damage; furthermore, it was to pay, in respect of costs and expenses, EUR 45,000 to Aleksey Navalnyy, and EUR 10,971 and 460,000 Russian roubles to Oleg Navalnyy.

The case concerned the complaint by Aleksey Navalnyy, an opposition leader, and his brother Oleg Navalnyy, an entrepreneur, that their criminal conviction for fraud and money laundering was based on an unforeseeable application of criminal law and that the proceedings were arbitrary and unfair.

The court found in particular that the Russian courts, in determining the criminal charges against

The court found in particular that the Russian courts, in determining the criminal charges against the applicants, had extensively and unforeseeably construed to their detriment the offence of commercial fraud under the Russian Criminal Code.

It had therefore not been foreseeable that the applicants’ commercial conduct would constitute fraud or commercial fraud. Consequently, it had been equally unforeseeable that the profits derived from their commercial activities would constitute the proceeds of crime whose use could amount to money laundering.

The court considered that the domestic courts’ decisions had been arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable. That had undermined the fairness of the criminal proceedings in such a fundamental way that it had rendered other criminal procedure guarantees irrelevant.


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