Ludmila Alekseeva on Human Rights and Business

posted 2 Sep 2011, 03:57 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 2 Sep 2011, 04:17 ]
Today a large number of those who come to us for help are business people….The
siloviki tell the entrepreneurs: pay up or we shall put you in prison – or you may even get killed...In some areas, there is a mass exodus of entrepreneurs. For example a great number are leaving Siberia to work in China. Russia is losing its talented business people.

Those who came to the Moscow Helsinki Group for assistance in the 1990s were mostly people who had little money and were not able to hire a lawyer themselves. They were often pensioners or people with disabilities who were not receiving payments to which they were entitled. Today a large number of those who come to us for help are business people, primarily those working in small and medium businesses, but also some owners of larger businesses. These are not the entrepreneurs of the 1990s who often obtained their property unfairly. This is a new generation of business people who have used the right to private property to engage in business and, through hard work and application of their talents, have been successful.

When Putin came to power he brought a whole group of siloviki working in law enforcement - the FSB and the police – to work with him. These were initially mostly from St. Petersburg, but now they are from the whole country. These are people who at every level see successful business, good profits and property, as sources for their own enrichment. The siloviki tell the entrepreneurs: pay up or we shall put you in prison – or you may even get killed. And a lot of these entrepreneurs are put in jail. Not a few are killed. But these people from the siloviki can only take, they cannot run a successful business. So the businesses die, and their employees lose their jobs. As a result, numerous small and medium businesses are closing down – more are closing down nowadays than are opening up. In some areas, there is a mass exodus of entrepreneurs. For example a great number are leaving Siberia to work in China. Russia is losing its talented business people.

These people come to the Moscow Helsinki Group because they say no lawyer can help them. They despair of obtaining justice through the courts. They appeal to the Moscow Helsinki Group as a last resort. They say ‘You are our last hope. There is no one else to ask!’ They say only publicity will help them. They appeal to the Federal Human Rights Ombudsman and to the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights.

Even big business can suffer in this way. Cases like those of Sergei Magnitsky may be the best known, but there are many, many others. Take the case of Valery Morozov, head of the Moskonversprom company. Even back in Yeltsin’s day he was supplying air conditioners to the Kremlin. In June 2010 a top official in the President’s property management department, Vladimir Leshchevsky, demanded that Morozov pay him a bribe for a contract to build a hotel in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Moscow Helsinki Group took up the case. Although with Morozov’s help the police were able to witness the bribe-taking, a criminal investigation into the case only got underway in August 2010 when the incident became public. The investigation is continuing to this day…

Ludmila Alekseeva lives in Moscow and is chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group. She is a member of the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights.
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