Nikitin v. Russia
European Court of Human Rights
Application No. 50178/99, Eur. Ct. H.R. 2004-VIII, 41 E.H.R.R. 10 (2004)
Aleksandr Nikitin (plaintiff), a former officer in the Russian Navy, worked with a Norwegian nongovernmental organization to produce a report on radioactive contamination caused by a Russian fleet. Russian authorities seized the report and arrested Nikitin for treason, alleging that the report contained secret information about accidents on Russian nuclear submarines. The lower Russian courts acquitted Nikitin of the charges, and the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation upheld the acquittal. Later, the Russian prosecutor general requested review of the case under a provision in Russia’s criminal code that allowed officials to challenge a final judgment and allowed the relevant court to review on the merits. The prosecutor general’s request for review was dismissed, and Nikitin’s acquittal was upheld. Nikitin challenged the law that allowed supervisory review of a final acquittal. The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation found that the law was unconstitutional, except in cases in which new evidence or a fundamental defect in the proceedings emerged. Russia (defendant) enacted a new law limiting supervisory review to cases in which changes that would be detrimental to the defendant were not involved. Nikitin brought an action to the European Court of Human Rights, alleging two violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (the convention). First, Nikitin argued that the supervisory-review proceedings after Nikitin’s acquittal violated his right under Article 4 of Protocol No. 7 to the convention not to be tried again in criminal proceedings when he had been acquitted of the offense. Russia argued that the review proceedings did not constitute a trial within the scope of Article 4. Second, Nikitin argued that the proceedings violated his right to a fair trial under Article 6(1) of the convention. Russia argued that because the request for review was dismissed without entering the merits, no new examination of the criminal charge was conducted. Russia also argued that no violation of the right to a fair trial occurred because the outcome favored Nikitin. Nikitin argued that the mere possibility of challenging a final acquittal violated Article 6(1).
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning ()
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