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European Court of Human Rights registers Navalny's application over "swindlers and thieves"

11 June 2013 

Open Information Agency 

Aleksei Navalny. © Photo by Georgy Alburov (@alburov).

The European Court of Human Rights has registered an application by Aleksei Navalny concerning the violation of two articles of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Navalnyy v Russia - No. 32058/13). 

On 11 June 2013 a communication to this effect from the court was received by Agora legal analyst Damir Gainutdinov who is representing the interests of Aleksei Navalny in the case. 

Navalny is confident that Moscow’s Lublinsky district court, in considering a claim by Vladimir Svirid that the phrase describing United Russia as a party of "swindlers and thieves", violated his right to a fair trial (Article 6 of the Convention) and the right to freedom of expression (Article 10 of the Convention), and Moscow City Court on appeal failed to redress these violations. 

On 4 June 2012 Moscow’s Lublinsky district court partially satisfied a claim by United Russia member Vladimir Svirid and ordered Aleksei Navalny to pay 30,000 roubles in damages and to publish a retraction of a statement Navalny made in an interview with the journal Esquire. 

On appeal, the counsel for the defence argued that the court of first instance had unlawfully ruled in favour of a claim by the applicant whose rights had not been violated. Counsel said that the law does not prohibit the expression of personal opinions, and criticism of a political party is permissible. In addition, they submitted to the court the conclusions of an independent linguistic examination that the statement that ‘United Russia is a party of swindlers and thieves’ is an expression of general emotion and thought not linked to particular individuals or to specific events. This statement could only be a personal opinion, in other words a judgment based on values held by the speaker that cannot be verified. 

On 10 October 2012 Moscow City Court had rejected an appeal by Aleksei Navalny against the ruling. On 29 April 2013 his request for a judicial review was declined. 

The application to the European Court of Human Rights points out that, according to a public opinion survey of April 2012 by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centrer, 11% of respondents said that they primarily associate United Russia with the phrase "party of swindlers and thieves". In June 2012 a poll by the Levada Centre found that 42% of respondents agreed with this description of the party.