Toggle navigation menu.
Helsinki Default Banner

Helsinki Commission Chides Khodorkovsky Verdict as Arbitrary Justice

WASHINGTON – The leadership of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, (the U.S. Helsinki Commission), expressed disappointment today at the nine-year long prison sentence meted out to Russian oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky by a court in Moscow. The prosecution had sought the maximum ten-year sentence.

“This case appears to the world to be justice directed by politics,” said Commission Chairman Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS). “President Putin should keep in mind that basic human rights, a fair and equitable judicial system, and real democracy are the cornerstones of the true market reforms he professes–anything less is a step backwards. It seems that, from the Kremlin’s viewpoint, Khodorkovsky’s worst crime was that he crossed the line between business and politics.”

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

Khodorkovsky, one of Russia’s wealthiest persons and former president of the YUKOS oil company, has been detained since October 2003 and was sentenced on May 31 to nine years imprisonment for fraud and tax evasion. During the investigatory stage of the case, Khodorkovsky’s legal counsels charged that the government illegally interfered with the conduct of their client’s defense.

Many political observers and human right activists assert that Khodorkovsky’s financial transgressions were no worse than the other “oligarchs” who cashed in on Russia’s fluid legal system and dubious business practices after the collapse of the Soviet Union. His real crime, they charge, is having become active in political circles opposing President Vladimir Putin, and even hinting he might run for political office.

“Selective prosecution such as appears to be the case here will wreak havoc on Russia’s legal system, its democratic development and its economic future,” stated Commission Co-Chairman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ). “If President Putin values Russia’s future more than his own short-term political benefit, he needs to look long and hard at his legal system.”

“This is not just about one individual,” said Commission House Ranking Member Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD). “Neither genuine social stability nor long-term prosperity can be achieved through arbitrary jurisprudence in any country. I urge Russian officials to stop using the judiciary system to punish political opponents.”

Media contact

Filter Topics Open Close
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission House Leadership Marks Fourth An...

Jun 06, 2024

WASHINGTON—Today, Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) marked the fourth annual Counter-Kleptocracy Month. The U.S. Helsinki Commission has marked Counter-Kleptocracy month since June 2021 when the Commission helped to launch the Congressional Caucus against Foreign Corruption and Kleptocracy (Counter-Kleptocracy Caucus). The Caucus is also chaired by Reps. Wilson and […]


Helsinki Commission Advances Human Rights, Demands f...

Oct 19, 2023

By Shannon Simrell, Senior Policy Advisor Between October 2-13, 11 Helsinki Commission staff joined approximately 1,400 representatives of OSCE participating States (pS) and civil society representatives in Warsaw, Poland in an annual review of the human rights records of OSCE States. U.S. leadership highlighted demands for accountability from Russia and Belarus for their human rights […]


Russia’s Alpine Assets: Money Laundering and S...

Jul 18, 2023

Switzerland has for years been a primary destination for Russian money laundering and, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a weak link in Western sanctions enforcement. This Helsinki Commission hearing examined Switzerland’s poor track record of rooting out dirty Russian money and examined potential paths forward for U.S. policymakers in persuading Switzerland to uphold its […]

Press Releases

Hearing: Supporting a Democratic and Secure Moldova

Jul 06, 2023

Wednesday, July 12, 2023 2:00 pm Cannon House Office Building, Room 210 Live stream: In recent years, Moldova has enacted numerous reforms under current Moldovan President Maia Sandu to strengthen its democratic institutions, combat corruption and kleptocracy, and integrate with the European Union. In 2022, the European Union granted Moldova “Candidate” status in its […]

Press Releases

Chairman Wilson and RM Cohen Mark Third Annual Count...

Jun 16, 2023

WASHINGTON—Today, Helsinki Commission Chairman Joe Wilson and Ranking Member Steve Cohen, Co-Chairmen of the Counter-Kleptocracy Caucus, marked the third annual Counter-Kleptocracy Month. “Foreign corruption and kleptocracy is the main reason that we face a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine today. It is the way that the Islamic Republic of Iran sustains itself. It is the […]

Press Releases

Helsinki Commissioners Announce Re-introduction of C...

Jan 25, 2023

On Tuesday, Helsinki Commissioners Rep. Steve Cohen, Rep. Joe Wilson, and Senator Ben Cardin re-introduced the Combatting Global Corruption Act in both the House and Senate, along with Rep. Bill Keating, Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar and Senator Todd Young. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation formally designates combatting global corruption as a key U.S. national security concern. It would require […]

Press Releases

Co-Chairman Cohen Calls for the Release of Political...

Aug 09, 2022

Washington – On the second anniversary of the sham presidential election in Belarus, the Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “Two years ago today, Belarus’s autocrat Aleksander Lukashenko put up a show of an election that he had hoped would legitimize his […]


Helsinki Commission Digital Digest July 2022

Jul 29, 2022



Jun 30, 2022


Helsinki Commission Digital Digest May 2022

Jun 01, 2022


Putin’s Bribetakers and Warmongers

May 19, 2022

The Helsinki Commission was briefed on 6,000 bribetakers and warmongers identified by Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.

Press Releases

Helsinki Commissioners Lead Bipartisan Ask for Biden...

May 12, 2022

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), author of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and Chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission), along with Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Senator Roger Wicker (MS) and Commissioners Senators Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) are urging President Joe Biden to publicly sanction […]