On September 13, 2000 the Nikitin case finally became history. It was not many who witnessed the occasion, but I am sure that the few who were present in room 319 at the Supreme Court building at Ilyanka7/3 in Moscow will remember it for the rest of their lives.
What we were witnesses to, was not an ordinary court hearing. It was the final tug of war in an almost five year long struggle against the feared Russian secret police and its henchmen at the prosecutors office. It was a struggle that very few thought we were going to win, and when it happened it was almost an anticlimax. After having listened to the speeches of the defense and the prosecution, the members of the Presidium left for considerations at the back room. Some thirty minutes later they returned, and its chairman, Mr. V. Lebedev announced the verdict:
The Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation rejects the appeal of the Prosecutor General in the case against Aleksandr Nikitin.
That was it, nothing more, nothing less, only a few words that said it all.
It is almost 33 years since the then chairman of the Soviet Supreme Court Mr. A. F. Gorkhin declared that the Soviet Courts and the State Security agencies were brought together by the identity of their tasks. Mr. Lebedevs words show that these days are finally gone. They confirm that Russian Courts are guided by the law, and not by the needs of the security agencies or by the resident at the Kremlin. They confirm that the reforms of the Russian judiciary have passed the point of no return. As long as the Court acts independently and in accordance with the Constitution, there will be no way back to Russias totalitarian past.
There is obviously still many rivers to cross before everything is acceptable within the Russian judiciary, and there seems to be a particularly strong need for reforms within the procuracy. However, Russia can today take its seat among the countries ruled by law with pride.
So tonight, I will drink, not only for Nikitin, the members of his defense team and everybody who has supported us throughout the last five years, but also for the Russian Courts, who have stood up against whatever pressure that have occurred. It may have taken them too long time to determine the case, but that does not make the victory less sweet