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April 26, 2012


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Alexander Mercouris

I have written about the Magnitsky case elsewhere.

It is very troubling to see the way foreign governments and news media give themselves the right to meddle in Russian criminal and legal cases and seek to bully from a distance the Russian authorities and Russian courts to come to the "right" conclusions in complex and difficult cases, which might not in fact be the conclusions to which the facts eventually lead and to which the Russian authorities and the Russian courts might come to if left alone to decide these cases independently by themselves.

As anybody who has worked in a judicial environment knows, this sort of pressure does not make the impartial administration of justice easier but makes it more difficult. It is also far more likely to result in major errors since anyone applying pressure from such a distance is almost guaranteed in a complex case to get the facts wrong. By way of example the recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights have shown conclusively that western commentators and western governments got the Khodorkovksy case completely wrong. If the Russian authorities and the Russian courts had done what western commentators and western governments had demanded of them a man who is by any definition a major criminal who has committed fraud on a simply Homeric scale would now be walking free.

This kind of bullying and interference in Russian criminal cases also grossly infringes the presumption of innocence of defendants in those cases such as the the Magnitsky case where they might at some point face serious criminal charges but who have not yet been tried. It should not be necessary to point out that the human rights of these people merit as much respect as do the human rights of someone like Magnitsky.

If only for the reasons I have just given this sort of unwarranted meddling in Russian criminal and legal cases does not enhance the rule of law in Russia, which western commentators and western governments claim to be concerned about, but instead undermines it.

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Whenever something horrible happens in the world that Western governments and media outlets actually notice, we find two different reactions from Moscow and Washington. Moscow confines itself to anodyne statements about constitutional agreement, peace and so forth – admirable sentiments which do nothing. Washington, on the other hand, feels it has to pick a side and blame those that don’t. US media outlets either create this judgement or follow along (which comes first?). Washington then accuses Moscow (and others) of preventing it “doing something”; the media picks up this line and fills up with stories (many of which don’t prove to be true: this one again, for example)

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