Non-decision in Nikitin case: De facto violation of the presumtion of innocence

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Non-decision in Nikitin case:
De facto violation of the presumtion of innocence

On February 4, 1999, in the city of Moscow, Observers from the Moscow Helsinki Group, Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Helsinki Committee in Poland were present at the session of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation pertaining to Aleksander Nikitin’s case.

The Court upheld the decision of the City Court of St. Petersburg of October 1998 declaring the indictment illegally vague, depriving the defendant any possibility of defense, sending the case back to further investigation. We want to express our deep disappointment with the verdict of the Supreme Court in this case. No court in a country ruled by law can avoid taking responsibility for administration of justice. According to the principle of separation of powers, it is the constitutional duty of courts only to administer justice.

The Supreme Court avoided issuing a final decision although there were no doubts that the investigative agencies of the Russian Federation (the FSB and the Prosecutor’s Office) had violated both the Russian Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code. In conclusion the Court did not seem to have the courage to dismiss the case. Quite opposite, the Court offered the FSB an opportunity to deal with the case again, where no other evidence is possible to find except what is already known.

The court is thus ignoring one of the most fundamental principles of criminal proceedings, namely the principle that everyone charged with criminal offense shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. Furthermore, the judgment violates Aleksandr Nikitin’s right to be judged without undue delay. These rights are protected both by the Russian Constitution, and the European Convention on Human Rights, which Russia is party to.

This verdict is also a clear message sent to the lower courts in Russia that here it is not the courts, but the investigative organs who have the last say in the criminal proceedings.

On behalf of:

The Moscow Helsinki Group and the International Helsinki Federation, Ludmilla Alexeyeva, in Moscow: t/f 207-60-69, 207-12-95, 207-74-04, e-mail:

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Ragnhild Astrup Tschudi, in Moscow + 47 930 31130, e-mail address:

The Helsinki Committee in Poland, Andrzej Rzeplinski, t/f +48 22 8281008, e-mail:

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