ECHR could take years to reach judgement on annexation of the Crimea


The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is due to begin considering Ukraine’s application over Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.  Radio Svoboda’s Crimea site reports that Ukraine’s Justice Ministry is confident of victory and expects that Russia will be ordered to pay over a billion UAH in compensation.  Unfortunately legal experts, while agreeing that Ukraine has every chance of winning the case, predict that the case itself could drag on for years. They also foresee Russia refusing to implement the ECHR judgement and to pay the compensation.

The Justice Ministry lodged the application a month ago and it is currently at the stage of preliminary examination. The application is on 200 pages, contains 914 items with these including cases of abduction, murder and torture linked with Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the ministry’s press service reports.

The application also contains appendices concerning the economic side of the demands.  The figure asserted in the application itself for losses incurred through Russia’s act is 1 trillion 180 billion UAH, but this is only preliminary.  Preparation of material to be added to the case is ongoing.

The bans on entry to the Crimea of head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Refat Chubarov and veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Jemiliev are also in the application.

The minister, Pavlo Petrenko believes that the fact that the ECHR has already issued a decision on Russia’s actions, binding it to refrain from military action, is a guarantee of future success for the case.

Arkady Bushchenko, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, who has himself successfully represented applicants in Strasbourg, does not doubt that Ukraine will win the case. It is likely, he says, that the Court will find violations of a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights and award compensation.  He warns, however, against expecting much more from the Court.

There is no guarantee, he says, that ECHR will order Russia to pay the entire amount, stated in the application, and believes that this will depend on how well the Ukrainian government justifies the amount stated.

He also doubts that Russia will implement the ruling and pay Ukraine compensation.

Petro Burkovsky from the Kyiv Mohyla Academy’s School of Political Analysis believes that Ukraine can only expect to get such compensation if the political climate in Russia changes.  He also believes that Ukraine will win the case, and cites the example of Cyprus which took Turkey to ECHR for violating the rights of Greek Cypriots.  The court recently found in favour of Cyprus and ordered Turkey to pay 400 million USD in compensation.

That case dragged on for 30 years; a case brought  by Georgia against Russia took 8 years.  Bushchenko believes that a decision on the Crimea could take as long or longer. 

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