The European Court of Human Rights has unanimously ruled that former executives of the Yukos oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovskiy and Platon Lebedev were denied their right to a fair trial. During the trial, the judges refused to call several witnesses for the defence and rejected requests for finance and oil market specialists to come and testify in the applicants’ favour on the expert reports which had been part of the prosecution case.
The Court unanimously held that there had been breaches of the applicants’ right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights because of the trial judge’s refusals to allow the defence to examine prosecution and defence witnesses and to submit important expert or exculpatory evidence.
The Court made a rare finding of a breach of Article 7 (which guarantees that no one shall be convicted of a criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed). The European Court does not question the interpretation and application of national law by national courts unless there has been a flagrant non-observance or arbitrariness in the application of that law and in this case the Court concluded that the conviction was based on contracts that were valid under civil law and that the applicants could not have foreseen that they could retrospectively be characterised as criminal.
Jonathan Glasson QC was involved in this case. Sir Nicholas Blake was instructed in the initial stages of the case before he became a High Court Judge