The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that lawyers for Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the former Russian oil tycoon who was jailed after clashing with the Kremlin, had failed to prove that his case was politically motivated, as they had long contended.

If you read through the actual story, you will see the court’s decision is in fact more nuanced than that.  It was found that his human rights were violated in prison, that procedural violations were committed before the trial, and that he had not proved a political motivation to his prosecution, not that no such motivation was present.  Nonetheless in such issues, it really is the headlines and opening sentences which matter.  Imagine how this will play in Russia.  The Court should have written an opinion so the headline would read “European Court of Human Rights condemns Russian tyranny and human rights abuses.”  Instead we get “European Court Backs Kremlin in Khodorkovsky Case.”

Update: A little later, I see the NYT changed it to “Partially Backs Kremlin,” still not nearly good enough for a court of human rights.  By the way, it is an insult for the Court to call for the Russian government to pay Khodorkovsky a $35,000 fine.  For a start, for two months he had only four square meters in his prison cell.


In a case from 2009, the European Court of Human Rights interpreted the right to property as including pre-retirement benefits (the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has adopted a comparable interpretation of the right to property in the American Convention). This prompted a scathing comment from the president of the Belgian Constitutional Court to the effect that the judges in Strasbourg had achieved something that not even Karl Marx had been able to do.


I am not confident that the ECHR's condemnation of clearly politically motivated trial would be better. Russia and Russians need to develop the rule of law and the only sure way to do that is to create an atmosphere of opinions facilitating it.

The insult of paying a $35,000 fine is to who? The Kremlin? Khodorkovsky?

The US during the same period has kept innocent people in similar harsh conditions, innocent in both actual innocence and presumed innocence prior to a indictment issued or reviewed by a court.

I'm guessing Scalia would consider the fine to be an insult to not just Russia but the concept of rule of law.

In the quote it says "prove" then you italicized proved.

What is the average amount of space a prisoner gets in the U.S? I'm not being rhetorical.

Essentially identical. If you're not in the California state system, anyway

Not to diminish the horrors of prison, but I would imagine you could come up with something a little come compelling as the one human rights violation you highlight:

"For a start, for two months he had only four square meters in his prison cell."

The article expands saying:
“In particular, he had had less than four square meters of personal space in his cell..."

If that's a violation of human rights, I'm in trouble . . . I think my kids rooms are smaller than that, and they have to share. In fact, I think my own room is smaller than that . . . . it's a tragedy, really. I won't even go into the sanitary conditions of my house . . . I'll be on trial, myself, soon, I'm sure.

Tom, 6'x6' is pretty small for anything other than a half bath it's 4 square meters not 4 m squared or 16 sq meters (which is a pretty common bedroom size-13x13).

If you are tall enough and the cell was square, a 4 sq meter space would not allow you room to lie down straight. And it probably isn't big enough to take more than a single step in any direction. Two months of never walking and never lying down straight sounds pretty awful to me.

In another episode of senseless eurobashing, an American (!) scolds European judges for not condemning alleged human rights infringements of the Russian government against one of the robber barons who raped and plundered Russia during the Yeltsin years. Why? Because this mobster-billionaire's cell was only four square meters.

That's about double the space of standard US isolation cells, not to speak of the spatial arrangements in US' extraterritorial concentration camps and torture chambers. And these judges are gratuitously called 'cowardly', without any reference to their legal considerations whatsoever. The level of debate among American 'intellectuals' like mr. Cowen has reached a new low. Disgusting.

Citation for the space in "US isolation cells", and "concentration camps" (by which I presume you are talking about Gitmo)?

"one of the robber barons who raped and plundered Russia during the Yeltsin years"
... says someone who obviously knows it from first-hand experience.

The press has never accurately reported a judicial decision from a body like the ECHR ever. There is no way a judge can write a nuanced judicial decision that will get the press to interpret correctly.

Perhaps without Russian gas, it gets cold, cold, cold in Europe during Winter.

Gigantic acts of thievery and government over-reach like the PATRIOT Act, Medicare/Social Security, TARP, eminent domain, questionable if not downright illegal wars in three countries, and on and on, all posted with scrupulous academic detachment.

But if it's a Russian oligarch being prosecuted or a group of silly white hippies being arrested, then all of a sudden the subject lines ring out: "Cowards!" "Tyranny!"

Something about these two cases must have threatened an increase in the price for chalupas and piping-hot Sichuan fish.

You're mixing up your bloggers

Tabarrok posted the Dancing Hippies story under the aegis of Tyler's site, so I'm sure the threat to cheap Mexican and Chinese take-out is very real.

Regardless of what Mr. Khodorkovsky may or may not have done, he is still a human and is therefore entitled to human rights. That's what those words mean.

Four square meters is approximately 43 square feet, or approximately a 4'4" x 10' room, or alternatively a ~6'6" square room. That is not "about double the space of standard US isolation cells", which best as I can tell from a bit of googling are 6'x8'.

It is certainly the case that the United States government is guilty of human rights abuses, particularly at Guantanamo. However that is entirely irrelevant to whether similar abuses have been visited against Mr. Khodorkovsky, and to whether the ECHR rules appropriately.

Whatever. Prison is no fun, yes. But this fact has nothing to do with the living area provided. I lived for 3.5 years with my wife in a room that was exactly 8 m^2. No big deal. We were young and these years were best years of my life.

BTW, Khodorkovsky's prison conditions were and are infinitely better that those of a majority of American prison population. E.g., he's never been raped.

So your room was double the size, and you were able to leave.

Cowen's wife is Russian-Jewish. He's not exactly in a position to have the most objective perspective on this matter.

ad hominem

It isn’t an ad hominem; he’s pointing out a conflict of interest.

Wow, that was fast. It took you only a fraction of time it took you to condemn Bradley Manning's confinement. screw human rights, its capitalists are right. Those who live by the sword...


There is something about Europe that provokes Tyler into fits of rage. I guess it's the fact that they are a saner, juster society than the US.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend best wishes and friendship to the Russian people.

Cowen's wife being Russian-Jewish actually makes this embarassing outburst even worse: a respected economist - America's hottest, I hear - proves himself unable to detach the tribal affinities of his wife from his perspective on a legal (and moral) matter. Now I'd have to wonder how many more of Cowen's "opinions" are informed by such marital considerations.

To call these judges cowards, and insinuate that their ruling in this case was influenced by European economic interests rather than highly nuanced legal reasoning, just because the court did not follow the defense's claim that his trial was policially motivated - is worse than stupid. It's malicious.

Also, read Taibbi's piece on this kleptomaniac sociopath you feel so sorry for.

I don't understand why two of the commenters here choose to make an issue of Tyler's wife's religious affiliation/ethnicity?

BTW, her name is Natasha. It's not a secret, except to those who have never been here before.

Because it's easier to shovel BS that way.

It's an odd issue to get one's dander up about, given that Cowen regularly posts about numerous other outrages (like the fact that AIG and Goldman Sachs executives are NOT in 6 x 6 ft cells) without the florid headline.

Again, I think the explanation must be that this case somehow impacts the near-and-dear issue of cheap chalupas and Sichuan braised fish (served piping hot!).

"It’s an odd issue to get one’s dander up about"
It's an odd issue to get all excited about "tribal affinities" as well, as well as substitute journal articles for proper court rulings and pretend that kangaroo court is somehow not-enitrely-unjust-because-he-had-it-coming.

It's not just his wife's background. There's more than one conflict of interest here. Cowen is a rent-seeker who depends on funding streams from people who benefit from neo-liberalism. He makes his living by providing an intellectual justification for neo-liberalism.

Ah no, Tyler is far to the right of neo-liberalism. Krugman is a neo-liberal.

Tyler loves to link to Krugman and other idiots.

This too is an ad hominem. And not concerned with the immediate contents of this post even. Come back when you have learned how to make a real argument.

It isn't an ad hominem. He's pointing out a conflict of interest.

It is an ad hominem--it's about Tyler, not about his argument here, nor about any of the supposed flaws in the "neo-liberalism" Tyler is supposed to advocate. An ad hominem is simply that, impugning the person rather than the argument. What you suggest is cause for suspicious, perhaps, but cause for dismissing another's argument as wrong, definitely not. Consider yourself schooled.

It *is* an ad hominem because his comment impugns Tyler, not his argument. Not his argument here, nor the substance of any supposed argument for "neo-liberalism". Roman's comment implies that you cannot believe what Tyler says, because he's being payed to say it. Go ahead and look up the definition of ad hominem and report back. This is directed at Cowen's character, hence it is an ad hominem. A conflict of interest *may* give cause to suspect someone's argument, so go ahead and treat *the argument* critically then; it is not, however, a valid argument against anything Tyler has said in itself. Furthermore, whether or not there is a conflict of interest in this case (of being a "neo-liberal shill"), is far from some slam dunk--how the hell does "Roman" presume to know whether Tyler's motives are mercenary or sincere? He offers no evidence. The fact that Tyler is paid by GMU or Mercatus means nothing if he simply works for these groups because he sincerely believes certain things that happen to align with what these groups also believe. So the premise that there's a conflict of interest in itself is shaky (though I'll permit its hypothetical possibility). Why you'd bother to defend what was quite clearly just a bitter barb I don't know.

He was all about the transfer of power over Russian oil pipes overseas. It's only fitting that he would end up falling - and its pretty disappointing for this person, who rose like many others out of the exploitative post-Soviet free-market system in Russian, to be touted as some kind of victim.

It's just a power play between rich creeps, the target included. This isn't Assange - quit pretending like it is.

I haven't read it yet, but $35000 is higher than I would have expected. Large fines aren't the ECHR's thing. A good winning result is usually something like €5000 non-pecuniary damages, and €200000 in costs awarded. Sometimes you just get a declaration in favour of the appellant (and hopefully the €200000 in costs as well). One then tries to get the losing respondent country to live up to its obligations to change the impugned law or procedure. But even the UK drags its feet there, with the example of prisoner voting.

If every thief in every country gets the same treatment as Khodorkovsky, the World would be much better place.

Four square meters... I've lived in rooms about that size. Does this mean I can sue my old landlord for $35,000?

This shows which they last very much lengthier and thus saving you income which could otherwise are actually utilized to purchase new ones.

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