Sergei Nikitin: Where do Russia's human rights lawyers find their strength?

posted 20 Oct 2019, 09:16 by Translation Service   [ updated 20 Oct 2019, 11:05 ]
20 October 2019 

Sergei Nikitin headed Amnesty International's Moscow office from 2003 until 2017. He is a member of the advisory council of Rights in Russia.

When you talk about Russian human rights activists, you always think of the lawyers who tirelessly defend the rights of those activists. I never tire of praising these professional lawyers, who do not spare themselves in the fight for truth and the rule of law.

Things are very bad with the rule of law in Russia, and you can’t help thinking, where do these admirable people find their strength?

Irina Biryukova, a lawyer from the human rights NGO Public Verdict Foundation, shares her thoughts and feelings on social media:

“Right now everyone is trying to stay cheerful, to look for means and solutions. We support one another, sometimes we have a laugh to at least distract ourselves somehow. But there’s no joking around. It’s not the time for that.

"You read the news, you watch videos, you discuss with your colleagues the situation on various matters in different groups (a collective mind consisting of a team of professionals who have become friends and not just colleagues, is invaluable. I’m proud) and there is a feeling that we can’t find some button to press and open the window, to let in fresh air.

But the news of the wedding of our Kotik and Anna is both joyful and heart-breaking. It’s hard to get your head around it. Children are getting married. Children are getting married in a pre-trial detention facility! If I remember rightly, Anna is 18. My daughter will be 18 in December. So Anna is the same age as my daughter. I wish them happiness and endless love. Strength and patience to pass through these circles of hell. But this should not be happening. At all. We are marrying children in jail. And they are not there for doing anything illegal. But they understand all this, they are scared, but they are ready for this. And so, at such cost, they, these children, try to open the eyes of other people to what is going on. And they’re managing it. Slowly, but they’re managing. These are genuine heroes of our time.”

Irina also writes about Moscow activist Konstantin Kotov, sentenced to four years in jail under the Dadin article and Anna Pavlikova, accused in the "New Greatness" case. They have got married. The ceremony of marriage registration took place in the Matrosskaya Tishina detention centre, where Kotov is currently being held.

As the website reports, Konstantin Kotov is a 34-year-old Moscow opposition activist, who conducted solitary protests against political repression and police brutality. He was repeatedly detained by the police. The last time, he was detained on 10 August in the centre of Moscow during a rally in support of opposition candidates for the Moscow City Duma. On 5 September 2019, Konstantin Kotov was sentenced to four years in prison under the article dealing with repeated violations of the rules for holding rallies. He does not acknowledge guilt.

19-year-old Anna Pavlikova is a defendant in the “New Greatness” case, and at the time of her arrest she was a minor. She spent several months in a pre-trial detention centre, where she complained of health problems. She was then transferred to house arrest. According to investigators, a group of young people founded the extremist organisation New Greatness with the aim of overthrowing the Russian authorities. Pavlikova and the others accused insist on their innocence and point to the role of an alleged provocateur from the security services, who's idea it was to that the defendants create an organisation and write a constitution for it.

Translation by Anna Bowles