ECHR Finds Violations in the Case of Tikhonov and Khasis
On 16 February 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declared the trial of Nikita Tikhonov and Yevgenia Khasis unfair.
The ECHR found that the jury lacked impartiality.
However, the Court did not award any compensation to the applicants.
Tikhonov’s guilty verdict for the murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova shall be reviewed by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation after the ECHR decision comes into force.
In May 2011, Tikhonov was sentenced to life imprisonment and Khasis was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the murder of Markelov and Baburova.
On 15 February and 10 March 2012, Tikhonov and Khasis lodged their applications with the ECHR under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. They complained of a violation of Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 6 of the Convention, which guarantee the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.
In their complaint, they drew attention, among other things, to the possible bias of the jury, referring to an interview with one of the former jurors, Anna Dobracheva, who recused herself and refused to participate in the hearing. Allegedly, some of the jurors were putting pressure on the others, some were former law enforcement officers, and two of the jurors, number one and four, had been lobbying from the very beginning of the trial. “Every morning in the conference room, number one read media reports to us, read even about what was happening in court and what we were not supposed to know. He commented on each report, trying to provoke in us negative emotions toward the defendants. I also saw number four walk up to the court officer, put her arm around him, and say, “Don't worry, we’ll give you a guilty verdict.” Neither number one nor number four responded to my remarks when I said that they had no right to do that," Dobracheva said.
In another interview, she spoke about a juror who gave the others incriminating information about Tikhonov and Khasis (for example, about Tikhonov's tattoos of Nazi symbols); that information was not publicly available on the Internet. After these interviews were published, the defendants requested the recusal of the jurors who were suspected of pressuring their colleagues, but the court rejected the motion.
This has led the ECHR to rule that the principle that stipulates that jury should only consider evidence, arguments, and information about the accused presented in the courtroom was violated.
The Russian Judge Dmitry Dedov voted against and expressed a dissenting opinion. Objecting to the complaints lodged by Tikhonov and Khasis, the Judge said that he regarded Dobracheva’s speech as a provocation on behalf of the defense and pointed out that at the time of her press appearances, Dobracheva was no longer a juror and her statements had no legal force.
In 2014, Tikhonov was tried in another criminal case in connection with a neo-Nazi group known as BORN (Russian for Militant Organization of Russian Nationalists). He pleaded guilty to founding the group, trafficking illegal weapons, and committing several other murders. The court sentenced him to another 18 years in prison. Khasis was not charged with participating in BORN; she was a witness for the prosecution in this case.