20 August / 2018

How UK breaks international law under Salisbury investigation

Accusations against our country and its senior leadership were brought by Great Britain without any evidence, in just a few days after the incident in Salisbury, before Scotland Yard’s proper national investigation (which is still underway). London grossly ignored paragraph 2 of the Article IX of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) that states that the “States Parties should, whenever possible, first make every effort to clarify and resolve, through exchange of information and consultations among themselves, any matter which may cause doubt about compliance with this Convention, or which gives rise to concerns about a related matter which may be considered ambiguous”.
Instead, the British, referring to the Article VIII, paragraph 38 (e), requested the OPCW Technical Secretariat to conduct an “independent verification” of their own conclusions relating to what happened in Salisbury. Meanwhile, the mentioned paragraph deals solely with providing technical assistance to states in their compliance with their “regular” obligations under the Convention - first of all declaring and eliminating chemical weapons, as well as enforcing control over other toxic chemicals. Experience in implementing this provision demonstrates that technical assistance is regarded, first of all, as assistance to states that lack qualified staff, equipment or technologies to implement the goals and objectives of the CWC. Therefore, the Article VIII, paragraph 38 (e) does not give the Technical Secretariat the authority to conduct an independent investigation, formulate its own conclusions, as well as conduct “independent verifications” of any state’s investigation results.
London’s actions contradict not only the CWC, but also important international obligations in other areas - including diplomatic and consular agreements, cooperation in providing legal assistance, defense of the human rights. In reality, Great Britain took the “Skripals case” out of the international law and continued to appeal to international law in their accusations against Russia.
Fr om legal perspective, the London Court of Protection’s decision of March 22 to authorize collection of blood samples fr om Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia without their consent by OPCW experts to test for nerve agents and for a DNA analysis is also not able to withstand criticism. The court refused to inform consular officials of the upcoming proceedings, did not invite them to participate in them, prevented provision of legal assistance or court presentation of a consular official, who serves as a lawful representative of Russian citizens, effectively violating the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963. Relatives were also not permitted to attend (they were simply refused visas to enter Great Britain).
According to the Subparagraphs (a), (b), (c) Paragraph 1 Article 36 of the Vienna Convention, “a consular officer shall be free to communicate with a national of the sending State and to have access to them”. According to Paragraph (b) Article 37 of the Convention, “if the relevant information is available to the competent authorities of the receiving State, such authorities shall have the duty: … to inform the competent consular post without delay of any case wh ere the appointment of a guardian or trustee appears to be in the interests of a minor or other person lacking full capacity who is a national of the sending State”.
The necessity of complying with the mentioned provisions of the Vienna Convention in legal investigation under family law concerning foreign citizens, including notifying consular officials and allowing their presence on hearings in court, is fully confirmed by the judicial practice of Great Britain.
Nevertheless, the District Court of London, having supported the opinion of the appointed by the British authorities «trustee», suddenly concluded that “such notification is not obligatory in the British law” as “the Vienna Convention is implemented by Part 1 of the Act on Consular Relations from 1968 that does not cover the Article 37”.
Such position directly contradicts obligations of Great Britain under international law. According to Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on International Treaties of 1969, «a party [of a treaty] may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty».
The District Court of London, as well as British authorities in general, also ignored the bilateral Consular Convention between the USSR and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dated December 2, 1965 that in Russian-British relations takes priority over the 1963 Vienna Convention.
Article 35 of 1965 Convention states that “a consular officer shall be entitled to propose to a court or other competent authority of the receiving State the names of appropriate persons to act as guardians or trustees in respect of a national of the sending State”. According to Article 36 of this Convention, “a consular officer shall be entitled within the consular district to communicate with, interview and advise a national of the sending State and may render him every assistance including, wh ere necessary, arranging for aid and advice in legal matters”.
Despite this, our employees at the Russian Embassy in London were denied consular access to Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia. It should be considered that, according to Article 30 of the 1965 Convention, “the term “citizen” … includes all individuals the representing state deems as its citizens”. Therefore, UK citizenship in addition to Russian citizenship of Sergey Skripal is not a solid ground for denying consular access.
A reference to alleged refusal of the Russian citizens to accept diplomatic protection and consular assistance is unfounded for several reasons. First, such measures, including consular access, is a state’s prerogative; Russia-UK Consular Convention of 1965 does not require a citizen’s request. Second, according to the British side, Sergey Skripal’s unconscious state prevents him to voice his opinion on this matter, and the circumstances, during which Yulia Skripal made her statement, raise concern whether she was forced to make it.
Not only did the Russian side express readiness to assist the British investigation on many occasions, but also began its own investigation of the incident. The UK, however, failed to fulfill corresponding requests of the Russian Prosecutor General’s office on legal assistance despite its obligations under the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters of 1959.
The Russian Side is still unaware of the circumstances for continued protective custody of the Russian citizens with no means to contact outside world, except for a one-time video or telephone message under strict supervision.
It is hard to ignore the U.S. role in publishing the “Novichok” formula, transferring of equipment from a laboratory in Nukus (Uzbekistan) to the U.S., production of the chemical and its patenting in the U.S., as well as a delay in the destruction of chemical weapons by the U.S. The Russian Federation on its side has completely fulfilled such commitments.