The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment text] Tuesday that, although Russia did not misuse legal proceedings in order to destroy an oil company, it did violate the business's rights. The former Russian oil company, Yukos Oil, filed suit against the country alleging that it forced the company into liquidation through unfair taxation practices. In 2003, Russian officials arrested former Yukos Oil owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] and his business partner Platon Lebedev [defense website] on charges of fraud and tax evasion. The court ruled that Russia violated Article 1 and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF] in relation to its tax assessment proceedings against Yukos and by giving the company insufficient time to prepare its case before the lower courts. The court did not determine an award of damages and costs. Yukos sought recovery of USD $98 billion, the largest claim in the history of the ECHR. The ruling may be appealed by either party, but it is not immediately clear if either will do so.
Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were convicted in December and sentenced [JURIST reports] in the Khamovinchesky District Court [official website, in Russian] on charges connected with embezzling more than $27 billion from Yukos Oil. Prior to this conviction, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were already serving eight-year prison sentences for fraud and tax evasion [JURIST report]. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Russia [official website, in Russian] ruled that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were illegally detained [JURIST report] for their trial last year, a symbolic victory for the pair that will have no effect on their sentences. International human rights organizations and numerous governments criticized Russia's justice system following the guilty verdict [JURIST reports]. Last year, former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov [BBC profile] testified [JURIST report] that former president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin [JURIST news archive] ordered Khodorkovsky's arrest for political reasons, indicating that Khodorkovsky had funded the Communist Party [party website, in Russian] without first getting approval to do so from the president.