Yesterday, I had the thrilling experience of arguing a case before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights: Kononov v. Latvia. I was counsel for the Government of Latvia, which was seeking to overturn a ruling by a Chamber of the Court issued last July. The judgment is expected later this year.
The webcast of the hearing, along with explanatory documents, is available on the website of the Court: http://www.echr.coe.int/ECHR/EN/Header/Press/Multimedia/Webcasts+of+public+hearings/. The case raises fascinating issues about retroactivity of criminal law, and the scope of the customary law concerning war crimes applicable in 1944, when the facts arose.
We arrived at the Court first thing in the morning. All of the teams were invited together to a short meeting with the President of the Court, Judge Costa, at which the format of the proceedings was discussed. At the meeting, we were two for Latvia, myself and the agent, there were two for Kononov, and two for the Russian Federation, which intervened in the case because Kononov is a Russian citizen. During the hearing itself, each of the two parties had 30 minutes for a presentation, and the intervenor, Russia, had 15. We expected there would be many questions from the judges, but there were none. We adjourned for a few minutes, and then each side had a short rebuttal. There was an audience of perhaps 150 people in the courtroom, and many journalists, including TV interviewers outside. I think there was a lot of media coverage of the hearing in the Russian and Latvian press.