Class suits from Ukrainian businesses in the European Court of Human Rights to claim restitution for the assets lost in Crimea is an absolutely natural way to seek justice for those whose property was “nationalized” or confiscated after the illegal annexation of Ukrainian Crimea. Positively, there have been violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, therefore such cases fall under jurisdiction of the ECHR.
The business owners should file suits either in Russian, or in Ukrainian courts, to go through all the stages that hear this kind of cases, and only after all of this, they have the right to turn to the ECHR.
However, these claimants face several problems. First, it should be noted that, in order to ensure such cases be heard by the ECHR, all “local” measures must have been taken. This means that those affected should contact either Russian or Ukrainian courts, pass all instances which consider this kind of cases, and only then they have the right to sue in the ECHR. That is, the procedure is quite long.
Second, as the state of Ukraine appealed to Russia under Article 33 of the Convention on Human Rights for the solution to international disputes, it is likely that class suits of individuals will not be considered until the time when the interstate dispute between Ukraine and Russia is resolved. Here the difficulty is that the subject of the dispute is both the state property that was confiscated, and, mainly, the protection of the rights of Ukrainian private owners and legal entities.
If Russia just simply keeps refusing to compensate the state and entrepreneurs for caused damage – and this has happened before – sanctions must be immediately imposed. However, now it is difficult to say whether they are effective. I am convinced that if Russia refuses to "pay the bills" coercive measures should be applied, and the Russian Federation should be put in a situation when it will have to act in accordance with the requirements and its national legislation and international law. There cannot be any other "recipes". Hoping for a "miracle", thinking up some unrealistic options and ways to resolve such disputes, or hoping that everything will resolve itself is pointless and harmful to the Ukrainian property in Crimea.
The Council of Europe should respond to the ruling of Russia’s Constitutional Court to ignore resolutions of the ECHR.
In turn, the Council of Europe should certainly respond to the fact that Russia’s Constitutional Court recently allowed ignoring the resolutions of the ECHR. Ukraine, as a member of the Council of Europe, should initiate such cases, remind of them, keep in contact with the Council of Europe, and speak up about Russia’s wrongdoings and demand introduction of new sanctions against the Kremlin.
Ukraine’s path of receiving compensation for the illegal actions of Russia, in my opinion, is based on the law, and it must be used to obtain justice and restitution. I am sure if we will actively deal with this, we can achieve a positive effect.
Volodymyr Vasylenko is an international lawyer, former Ambassador of Ukraine to the UK, Benelux, the EU, and NATO.