Russia is One Step Closer to Losing the Donbas Case in the ECHR

Monday, 31 January 2022

Last week, a crucial event took place for Ukraine. 

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) began the hearing of the Ukraine and the Netherlands vs. Russia case, also known as the Grand Donbas case. Read European Pravda editor Sergiy Sydorenko’s article Shooting Oneself In the Foot: How Russia is Losing the Donbas Case.

The story dates back to 2014 when Ukraine filed two complaints against Russia to the ECHR, which examines intergovernmental cases in exclusive circumstances only. These cases arise when all other legal means are exhausted.

The hearing that took place in Strasbourg on January 26th included three complaints lodged by Ukraine and the Netherlands. The first one filed by Ukraine relate to mass human rights violations in the Russia-occupied Donbas (murders, tortures, property destruction and others, including the takedown of the MH17 plane). Second one is focused on kidnapping of orphans with special needs who were illegally transported to Russia. Meanwhile, the Dutch government accuses Russia of being responsible for shooting down the MH17 Boeing, 193 passengers of which were Dutch citizens. 

Overall, the cases encompass 11 violations of the Convention – from the right to life to the right to education.

Recently, in his interview with the European Pravda, Ukraine’s Minister of Justice elaborated on the details about Ukraine’s case against Russia. Yet, during the hearing, Ukrainian attorneys took a step further and elaborated dates of Russia’s effective control on occupied Donbas. One of these dates. 30th April 2014, will likely become officially recognised by the ECHR. 

The atmosphere in the court was unprecedented. The judges seemingly sympathized with Ukraine and the Netherlands while the spectators in the back buzzed heavily during the Russian representative’s speech. One of them even interrupted him when he said that Russia is "ready to investigate" the MH17 crash, screaming "do it now then!" Although in such cases the Court must ask the spectators to leave, it effectively ignored the violation. 

And with good reason, as the Russian representative did his best to ignite judicial disrespect and prove that Russia is wrong. 

To that end, Moscow also precluded the Ministry of Justice from attending the hearing in Strasbourg. It also chose not to engage eminent lawyers to defend itself in the Court. Instead, it was represented by Russian Prosecutor-General Office, the delegate of which bluntly lied in the Court.

Read more in Mr. Sydorenko’s article in Ukrainian Shooting Oneself in the Foot: How Russia is Losing the Donbas Case.

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