Russia: the perils of selective justice

Russia: the perils of selective justice

The guilty verdict in the trial of Russian anti-corruption activist Aleksey Navalny and his five year prison sentence for alleged embezzlement is a troubling example of selective justice. It calls into question the independence of the judiciary and shows the difficulties faced by those who are vocal in their criticism of the authorities.

Navalny, who declared himself a candidate in September’s election for mayor of Moscow, is a vocal critic of the government, active blogger and leader of an anti-corruption non-governmental organisation.

Irrespective of the merits of the case, which legal experts have called into question, neither the process nor the punishment fit the crime. Russians took to the streets of Moscow on hearing the verdict to protest. Simultaneously, the court where Navalny was tried, released him on bail, pending his appeal.

Maintaining equality before the law

The judiciary is one of the most important pillars of a state and its independence and integrity are the foundations for maintaining the rule of law. Only if all are equal before the law and receive a fair trial, can justice be done. A compromised justice system, one that is used for political purposes, seriously damages the rule of law and also diminishes a state’s ability to fight corruption.

Despite Navlany’s release on bail, the trial and its result raise many questions. Navalny was tried in a criminal court for a civil offense and the severity of his sentence is not consistent with similar cases. Navalny, was convicted of embezzling about US$500,000, a charge he denies. He was given a five year sentence and fined US$15,000. The previous week the former deputy prefect of northern district of Moscow, Joseph Reyhanov, received a five year suspended sentence for embezzling US$9.6 million and no fine.

Such a different outcome in the prosecution of similar cases highlights the problems in the system of rule of law.

Judicial and political corruption can reinforce each other, which is why it is important that not only are the courts seen as independent but that they are consistent in their sentencing, something that appears not to be the case in the Navalny trial.

For any press enquiries please contact


Support Transparency International

The terrible consequences of police corruption in South Africa

What do we do when those mandated to protect us are serving other interests than public safety and security? In South Africa, police corruption leaves the public exposed to high rates of crime, and causes distrust of the police service while allowing crime to flourish.

Why do DRC citizens report such high levels of corruption?

People's experiences with corruption in the DRC are far worse than in most other African countries. Why is corruption so prevalent in the DRC, why is bribery so commonplace and why do two thirds of citizens feel powerless?

Is Mauritius at a tipping point in the fight against corruption?

According to the latest GCB for Africa, very few Mauritians who accessed public services, like health care and education, had to pay a bribe for those services. But given recent scandals, citizens still see certain groups and institutions as corrupt.

Protecting Africa’s wildlife from corruption

When they deliberate over amendments to the global wildlife trade regime, CoP18 must address impunity for illegal timber trafficking in Africa as a matter of high priority.

How the US can help Mongolia get to grips with corruption

A series of bi-lateral meetings and a proposed trade agreement present an opportunity for the US to promote rule of law and an independent judiciary in Mongolia.

Blood diamonds and land corruption in Sierra Leone

A community in Sierra Leone has created powerful short videos documenting their experiences of corruption, forced evictions and a botched resettlement programme at the hands of a multinational diamond mining company.

Countries must be more transparent when investigating transnational corruption

Supervisory and justice systems should be transparent and accountable so that the public can assess their performance.

Resilient institutions

Reducing corruption is an important component of the sustainable development agenda, and one that all state parties have an obligation to address. Although corruption is often thought of as a ‘third-world problem’, institutions in the Global North play an important role in the corruption cycle, and are therefore an essential part of the solutions.

In whose interest? Political integrity and corruption in Africa

What accounts for the wide disparity in peoples’ perceptions of the integrity of elected representatives in different countries? In this piece, we will to look at various forms of political corruption, how they manifest in African countries and what can be done to promote political integrity.

Cidadãos opinam sobre a corrupção em África

A décima edição do Barómetro Global de Corrupção (GCB) – África revela que embora a maioria das pessoas na África acreditem que os níveis de corrupção aumentaram no seu país, elas também se sentem otimistas, pois acreditam que os cidadãos podem fazer a diferença no combate à corrupção.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media