The European court docket of human rights has dominated that Russia is liable for the 2006 assassination of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko within the UK. The six to 1 judgment is important for human rights requirements, even 15 years after Litvinenko died by poisoning with the radioactive substance polonium-210.
Litvinenko’s story feels lifted from a movie script. In Russia, he had been an agent of the Federal Safety Service (FSB, previously often known as KGB), working within the organisation crime unit and anti-terrorism division. In 1998, Litvinenko publicly accused the FSB of conducting unlawful operations, together with assassinations. He was dismissed from the company and arrested, however subsequently launched. Two years later he left Russia and was granted asylum within the UK.
In London, Litvinenko didn’t lay low. He uncovered corruption in Russia, publishing the e-book Blowing up Russia, which claimed FSB was behind various terrorist assaults in Russia.
In 2006, Litvinenko was lethally poisoned – an uncommon occasion on British soil that shocked the general public and drew intense media scrutiny. The high-profile case led to a prolonged UK inquiry led by Sir Robert Owen, concluding that his homicide was “most likely” accredited by the Russian authorities.
UK police established that Litvinenko had been poisoned by his acquaintances, Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, certainly one of whom was additionally a former KGB agent. Litvinenko fell sick after ingesting tea – later discovered to be laced with the toxic substance – with the pair at a London lodge.
The police discovered a number of traces of the radioactive substance within the motels, automobiles, airplanes and eating places visited by Lugovoy and Kovtun. Curiously, the UK authorities couldn’t examine one of many airplanes they used, as its scheduled return to London from Russia was cancelled – the aircraft by no means landed once more within the UK.
An extended highway to justice
Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, introduced this criticism to the European court docket of human rights in 2007, represented by three eminent barristers – together with the present Labour chief Keir Starmer. She accused the Russian authorities of involvement in her husband’s loss of life, saying that no efficient investigation had been carried out in Russia and that authorities had didn’t collaborate correctly with their British counterparts. The litigation continued alongside the investigation within the UK. The UK recognized the suspects and charged them in 2011. Russian authorities declined the UK’s request for his or her extradition.
The Strasbourg court docket agreed with the applicant, establishing that Litvinenko’s proper to life had been violated. The court docket stated brokers of the Russian state successfully carried out an extrajudicial, focused killing on British soil.
The court docket additionally dominated that Russian authorities tried to thwart British efforts to research the case. Due to this fact, Russia didn’t adjust to its obligations underneath the European Conference on Human Rights (to which it’s a signatory) to correctly examine Litvinenko’s loss of life.
Lugovoy is now a member of Russian parliament and enjoys immunity. He has already characterised the judgment as politically motivated.
The court docket urged that the rationale for Lugovoy’s election was to keep away from accountability. The only real dissenting choose, Dmitry Dedov – the court docket’s choose from Russia – proposed a curious different rationalization, saying Lugovoy “had turn into a sufferer of the Chilly Struggle”.
The court docket established a hyperlink between the suspects and the Russian state, discovering that Lugovoy and Kovtun didn’t have private causes to kill Litvinenko, and likewise that it could have been extraordinarily troublesome to accumulate radioactive poison with out the governmetn’s assist.
Dedov was unconvinced, as an alternative blaming the UK authorities for Russia’s lack of investigation into the case, saying the previous didn’t share materials proof with the latter.
The court docket ordered Russia to pay damages and authorized prices, totalling €122,500 (£105,411), however the Kremlin stated it didn’t settle for the ruling and won’t pay the damages. Because of this judgment the Russian authorities should correctly examine the loss of life of Litvinenko, however that is unlikely to occur any time quickly.
The court docket’s message on this case is evident – any European state that ratified the European Conference on Human Rights (together with Russia) can not escape legal responsibility if it conducts unlawful actions outdoors its borders.
After all, it’s typically troublesome to show one other nation’s involvement in alleged wrongdoing. Within the Litvinenko case, the court docket drew conclusions from Russia’s lack of cooperation within the investigations, saying the state had “failed to interact with any fact-finding efforts” by the UK or the court docket. The court docket additionally confirmed the information that had been established by the 2016 British inquiry into the case, bolstering the legitimacy of these findings.
The judgment returned the Litvinenko case to the world media, a reminder that though it might take a really very long time, human rights justice can in the end be served.
Nonetheless, this won’t be the tip of the story. This judgment was delivered by the chamber of seven judges of the human rights court docket. The Russian authorities can request this case to be transferred to the court docket’s grand chamber, the place 17 judges can absolutely evaluation the chamber judgment.
The grand chamber judgment can be a extra authoritative ruling on this politically delicate case, however it could imply additional delays and uncertainty for the sufferer’s household – if the court docket agrees to listen to it once more. Having stated that, the Russian authorities won’t request a rehearing, to keep away from attracting much more consideration to this case.
In any case, this ruling is important as a result of Litvinenko’s assassination will not be the one remoted case of extraterritorial killing. The try and homicide former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal utilizing the nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury in 2018 involves thoughts.
With the ruling on Litvinenko, the court docket has despatched a transparent message that it’s going to not tolerate extrajudicial killings and spy wars, even when they occur outdoors the borders of the accountable states.
Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that will profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.