Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Oligarchs assert their human rights?

It has been reported that the Krivoryzhstal Mill re-nationalization will be taken to the European Court of Human Rights. If it is true, it is priceless and signals to me that they are no smarter about any of this than they were during the revolution. I went to the site to see if they had filed anything and couldn’t find anything noting they had. That doesn’t mean they haven’t or won’t, I just didn’t find anything about it when I looked.

After the last election, when Yanukovych finally lost, they threatened to take the whole thing to the same court. I think people are still laughing about this one. It was hard to know what he thought he could gain from that. Everyone in Europe thought he had stolen the prior two elections, so he was going to go to the ECHR and argue what? That they stole the election from him? The story that would have been circulated about it would have been along the lines of, “A corrupt politician (Kremlin backed, by the way) and his oligarch backers are seeking to use the institutions of Europe to overturn what was finally a free and fair election.” Or something like that. It is hard to see that he would have even gotten a hearing on it. I guess they were to the point of using any threat to hand. This one wasn’t a particularly good one.

If Pinchuk and Akhmetov take this case to the ECHR, it suffers from the same sort of problem. The story would be something like, “Corrupt oligarchs frustrated by free and fair elections and a campaign to root out corruption, seek to use the institutions of Europe to get what they want.” Or something like that. These people might consider this to be entirely unfair, but that will be the gist of it from most of the press (except of course, from the Guardian who saw America behind it all. Guardian: “America, bad. Anybody arrayed against America, good.”) And that is if they could get a hearing on it in the first place. (If I have some time, I might post something on the merits of their claim under the convention.)

But let’s assume that they get the Court to rule in their favor, something I think won’t happen on the merits, but let’s assume it. What does it get them then? If the Court grants them some sort of damages, how would they collect them? “The Court hereby orders the Government of Ukraine to pay to y and z, x amount of money in damages.” How would the Court enforce this order? The Ukraine is a sovereign nation and in control of its borders with the ability to use force in its own territory to enforce its own laws and to further its own policies. How then would the Court get the Ukraine to pay up? Send in the sheriff? (Visa denied.) Shake its finger at them?

The International Court of Justice recently ruled that the execution of Mexican nationals in the US violates some international treaties. What has been the result of that ruling? Absolutely nothing. The Mexican nationals in question were in fact executed under the laws of the states where they were convicted of the crime. And, if they are convicted and sentenced to die from now on, they will still be executed under the laws of the state where they are convicted of the crime. This has internationalists wringing their hands, livid that the US ignores international law. Setting aside the problem of international law—is there really any?—the practical problem is that that ruling cannot be enforced because the US is a powerful sovereign nation and the UN cannot do much of anything about it. In theory, they can convene the Security Council and pass some sort of resolution against the US creating sanctions because of its violations of international law, but that would be subject to a US veto. And even if the US had no veto, it could ignore the resolution with impunity. The point is that there is nothing in reality they can do about it. The Court has no ability to enforce its decisions just as the UN has no ability to enforce its decisions, absent a country (read: “the US”) or group of countries (again read: “the US”) that will take it on.

And, as an aside, a court that issues decisions that are ignored will never develop any authority of its own. A more careful court, that is, more careful judges, interested in nurturing and cultivating its (their) authority, might pick its battles better. But one gets the feeling that this Court has simply constituted another forum for US bashing, a growth industry in the UN for a number of decades.

This is the same problem here. If the ECHR issues its decision, how will it be enforced? Conceivably, the EU authorities could issue some sort of sanction or sanctions against the Ukraine for ignoring the opinion of the Court or it could bring up the decisions when Yuschenko or anybody else talks about EU integration. (The EU official waves a hand in the air. “I know, I know you want to talk about integration. But we have serious concerns here about Krivorastal. We won’t even talk to you about integration until you deal with this problem.”) But that would be subject to politics and interests not to mention foreign policy objectives not only directly with Ukraine but also with the US. The whole thing, assuming that they get the Court to rule in their favor, a big, big assumption, would just be sidelined and swept under the rug. Nobody is going to want to be seen as helping out corrupt interests and enemies of democracy in the Ukraine. The point is that in Europe and the US, these guys are seen as corrupt and interested in fleecing the country and its people for all they can get. They might take issue with this characterization, but that is how they are viewed.

I have made the argument in another posting about how they should go about it if they were smart. I made this argument not to give them any help but to alert anybody who cared about it what the strategy might be if someone clever stepped in. But it looks like business as usual for these guys. The problem is that the world has changed out from under them. They used to speak and it was done. They can no longer do that. And that is a serious infringement of their rights that the ECHR should look into.

If, of course, it is true.

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