Russian legal nihilism is on display in the case of Russia’s most famous political prisoner. Having taxed Yukos into oblivion, authorities are now looking for new ways to keep Mikhail Khodorkovsky in jail by absurdly asserting that he in fact stole all of the oil that was just so heavily taxed. In the absence of any appearance of due process, the Kremlin has tried to apply a patina of fairness and reasonableness to the procedures. Schmidt argues that this sham process is the very model of the “legal nihilism” President Dmitri Medvedev decries in Russia. François Zimeray, the French Ambassador for Human Rights who visited the court last month, observed that “Khodorkovsky’s resistance [...] has made him an icon for defenders of human rights.” He concluded that not just one man, but rather the future of Russia itself, is on trial.
Schmidt is a Russian human rights lawyer who represents Mr. Khodorkovsky.