Pavel Chikov: 'I'm tired of keeping silent'

posted 13 Sep 2015, 11:24 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Sep 2015, 11:25 ]
5 September 2015

By Pavel Chikov 

Source: Facebook 

I’m tired of keeping silent. 

I’m asked quite often how things are, what’s changed. Well, nothing special has changed: there’s plenty of work do, and a lot of cases. But recently I have started to notice more frequently that I have to hold my tongue. Something important and interesting is happening or has already taken place but, for a variety of reasons, it’s best not to talk about it. 

As journalists would say, there are excellent opportunities for a story. Even for features. Not about ourselves, and nor about those whose cases we are working on, nor about anything at one step removed from all this. AsOleg Kashin wrote in a recent comment on Nemtsov and Chubais, increasingly the proviso for success in political, human rights and even simply normal everyday work, is the ability to keep quiet. 

Moreover, the more you are silent, the more you find out behind-the-scenes and informal means of resolving questions. So I am already aware who it is exactly in the country who decides a particular question, and how much it costs. I know how a phone call by a certain person decided a question that no one else in the country had been able to decide. 

Not in a corrupt way, no. They simply phoned and asked that the thing shouldn’t be done. And they stopped doing it. People arrive on a summons and they are told that the situation has changed. Moreover, the same thing happens simultaneously in tens of such cases throughout the whole region. 

In another high profile case it becomes known from a conversation in the corridors between the advocate and a judge, old colleagues and almost friends, that the wind has changed and now everyone has to think of a way out of the situation. Simply two doctors of legal sciences met and concluded that there was no evidence of a crime. 

Journalists write, make calls and ask if there’s anything to write about. Yes, there is, but they can’t write about it. A third advocate writes that in one of our cases charges against an activist for radical extremism have been dropped. The case is still with the prosecutor and until he confirms the decision, the investigator has asked us to remain silent. 

In another well-known case concerning an assault that has not been solved as yet a crowd of well-wishers report terribly important details, and it becomes necessary to convince the victim that for now he should remain silent. For the good of his case. 

And in yet another, the judge asked not to make a fuss in exchange for a suspended sentence, and there had to be a six months’ moratorium on any comments so that this could be achieved. They promised to sort out everything, but just don’t make a fuss, that’s all. 

Lawyers see that this approach is effective, and demand silence. But I have a problem with this, after all I know that systemic changes come about through the impact of public opinion. And certainly I have a desire to writing about our successes. 

Maybe this is some sort of indicator of weariness of the system itself. Increasingly investigators, judges, prison authorities, and various levels of officials make their own personal protest. And this indicator, that noise makes sense, you have to make a fuss, it makes them jumpy, you can use it to bargain, but making a fuss also brings risks. Whether to avoid causing harm, or to rock the boat. It’s a dilemma. And my journalist-friends, write more stories giving the facts of specific cases. Your articles will be all the more influential. 

Translated by Frances Robson