Monday 2 March 2009

Judgment on Dismissal of Judge

Last week, the Court issued its judgment in the case of Kudeshkina v. Russia. With a very narrow margin of four votes against three it found that the Russian Federation had violated the freedom of expression (Article 10 ECHR) by dismissing a Moscow City Court judge.

Olga Kudeshkina had been the judge in a criminal case directed against a police investigator. During the proceedings, she was removed from the case - according to herself withotu any reason, according to the state because she had been delaying the case. A few months after this, she gave interviews to the media indicating that she had been put under pressure by the President of the City Court and that this was part of a wider pattern of manipulation within the judiciary. She also complained to High Judiciary Qualification Panel about the pressure, but no disciplinary proceedings were brought agianst the Court's President. Eventually, Ms Kudeskina was dismissed after the Court President had accused her of insulting the court system and individual judges.

The European Court held that Kudeskina had raied an issue of high public interest and found her statements to be fair comments, even though they generalised and exaggerated matters somewhat. The dismissal lacked sufficient procedural guarantees, since it had been decided upon by the very City Court about which Kudeshkina had complained. The penalty imposed, finally, could have a "chilling effect" on judges who wished to participate in the public debate on the judiciary. Thus the European Court found a violation of the ECHR. Make sure to read the dissenting opinions, amongst others of the Russian judge, who all emphasize the importance of responsibilities of the judiciary under Article 10.

Ms Kudeshkina herself is (not surprisingly) very pleased with the judgment and hopes to be re-instituted as a judge, although her lawyer expects that Russia will ask the Court to have the Grand Chamber review the case, as the Moscow Times reports. The Court's own press release can be found here.