24.01.2008 | Halya Coynash

Too much is at stake


It will soon be two years since former YUKOS Vice-President Vasily Aleksanian was remanded in custody on charges of embezzlement, money laundering and tax fraud.  Two years without a court conviction should already raise eyebrows, however there is worse.  A Russian official unlawfully divulged last week that Mr Aleksanian is suffering from AIDS.  He is near blind, and according to his lawyer’s information has also contracted tuberculosis while imprisoned.  He is desperately in need of medical care in proper hospital conditions. 

The European Court of Human Rights has issued three calls to Russia to transfer Mr Aleksanian to a specialist hospital and provide the Court with details about the treatment he is receiving.  In its last communication on 21 December, it warned the Russian authorities that the Court would consider whether a violation of the right to life (Article 2) and the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment (Article 3) of the European Convention on Human Rights had been committed were Vasily Aleksanian to die in the SIZO [remand centre] or if his condition deteriorated as a result of the lack of treatment.

It is deeply disturbing that the Russian Supreme Court on 22 January found no grounds for releasing Mr Alexanian from custody, and has therefore prevented him receiving the proper level of medical treatment he urgently requires.

This is in violation of Russian legislation in the case of people so gravely ill, and it shows a frightening willingness to flout the European Court of Human Rights.  It should be noted that this is not for the first time. In November last year, a Strasbourg ruling temporarily halting the illegal expulsion from Russia to Uzbekistan of Abdugani Kamaliyev (Tursinov) was flagrantly ignored.

The European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights provide vital protection against lawlessness and abuse for all of us, including Russian nationals.  Any failure to comply with these international commitments places our shared rights and freedoms in jeopardy.

These rights must not be held ransom to any settling of scores or other political manoeuvres. 

The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Lluís Maria de Puig has suggested ( ) that PACE might endeavour to bring pressure to bear on the Russian authorities to comply with the rulings issued by the European Court of Human Rights. It only needs a few Members of the European Parliament - our representatives - to put forward this initiative.


Write to YOUR PACE representatives (they can be found at:  )

Explain that their help is needed.  Call on the Parliamentary Assembly to remind the Russian Federation that judgments and instructions issued by the European Court of Human Rights are binding upon all member states and that all measures must be taken to protect the life and health of Vasily Aleksanian.

The European Court of Human Rights protects you and I.  If the Russian authorities have decided that they can violate the right to life or any other fundamental human rights with impunity, we must show them that they are mistaken.

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