Author: Iliya Shablinsky
Keywords: closed trial; confidence in the courts; public and transparent hearing; restrictions of the transparency; The European Court of Human Rights
This article provides commentary on two judgements of the European Court of Human Rights on the decision of Russian courts to hold court proceedings in closed regimes. The article considers the factual allegations and shows that the ECtHR has dealt with these issues before. The ECtHR has stated that public and open hearings guarantee public confidence in the courts, and that a public hearing is a condition of a fair trial. Restrictions on publicity and closed trials are allowed only when provided for by law. The closed trial in the case of Chaushev and others v. Russia was not based on any accompanying law, and could have been explained by political motives. The closed trial in the case of Lambina v. Russia also was not based on law, but was explained to be a mistake. The ECtHR recognized that in both situations sec.6, pt.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights was violated. The main conclusion of this article is that the legal proceedings for serious and dangerous crimes require publicity and openness no less than any other legal proceedings. A court’s openness in these situations is one of the factors of trust in justice. In this specific situation, at issue was trust in the court from residences of the Caucasus region (which the ECtHR mentioned in its judgement). A court’s decision to hold the legal proceedings in a closed regime without any argument and appeal to the law could be perceived by residences of the region as a testimony of the political dependency of the court. Thusly, it is unlikely that the closed nature of a court that tried individuals who were accused of terrorism added any authority to the court’s verdicts.
About the author: Ilya Shablinsky – Doctor of Sciences in Law, Professor, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.
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