The ICJ expressed concern at the arrest and detention, on 28 February, of lawyer Taisiya Baskayeva, who represents a significant number of victims of human rights violations before the European Court of Human Rights.
Taisiya Baskayeava was arrested on charges of large-scale fraud under article 159.3 of the Russian Criminal Code, based on allegations by investigators that she misappropriated reparations awarded to victims she represented in the case of Salkazanov and others v. Russia before the European Court.
The arrest followed repeated attempts by the investigator to place her in detention in connection with the case.
A previous request to the Court by the investigator for her arrest, on 14 February, had been based partly on the allegation that she was in hiding in the United Arab Emirates and the fact that she had been “put on an international missing list.”
However the Court on that occasion denied the request, saying that it “received no reliable information that Baskayeva T.S. had left the territory of Russia” and that she had sent an urgent telegram from the Moscow region to prove her presence in the territory of Russia.
Taisiya Baskayeva was detained in Moscow region while undergoing a medical check and driven some 1200 km in a car to North Osetia.
At a hearing on 4 March 2014 the Soviet District Court of Vladikavkaz decided to grant the motion to detain the lawyer for two months pending trial. The Court ruled out other less restrictive measures.
The ICJ has received information indicating that the investigation presented no evidence that Taisiya Baskayeva had left Russia, except for an allegation made by the investigator in the motion for her arrest.
The ICJ is unaware of the reasons for declaring the lawyer missing, since her whereabouts were clearly known.
Moreover, the fact that she was detained while undergoing a medical check, of which the investigative authorities were duly informed by the Central City Hospital, contradicts her inclusion on a “international missing list”.
According to the official letter of the Deputy Head Physician at the disposal of the ICJ, the schedule of her visits was also made known to the investigative authorities.
The ICJ is concerned at that the detention may be arbitrary, and may have been ordered for the improper motive of subjecting Taisiya Baskayeva to persecution, harassment or intimidation in regard to her representation of her clients before the European Court of Human Rights.
If so, the Russian Federation would be in breach of obligations in respect of the right to liberty under article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The ICJ recalls that for lawyers to be able to fulfill their role and duties effectively, and independently, the State authorities must ensure that they are able to discharge their functions without any intimidation, harassment or improper interference.
According to the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, lawyers must not be threatened with prosecution or any other form of sanctions for any action taken in accordance with professional duties or standards and ethics (Principle 16).
Under these principles when lawyers are threatened as a result of discharging their functions, the state authorities must take adequate steps to protect them (Principle 17).
The ICJ is concerned that the detention may constitute a form of a reprisal for an effective representation of the interests of a significant group of victims before the European Court of Human Rights.
Any such reprisal would be incompatible with Russia’s obligations under article 34 of the European Convention for Human Rights guaranteeing an effective exercise of the right to bring lodge applications claiming violations under the ECHR.
Approximately 200 other cases submitted by Ms. Baskayeva are currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
The ICJ will continue to monitor the criminal prosecution of lawyer Taisiya Baskayeva.
Róisin Pillay, Director, Europe Programme, t + 32 273 48 46, roisin.pillay(a)icj.org
Temur Shakirov, Legal Adviser, Europe Programme, t + 41 22 979 38 32, temur.shakirov(a)icj.org
Russia-Concerns over Baskayeva-news-web story-2014-rus (full text in pdf)