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.