Back to the Problem of Lawyers Being Refused Access to Their Clients

posted 5 Dec 2016, 06:27 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Dec 2016, 06:28 ]
29 November 2016


Photo of lawyer Evgeny Gubin:

On 28 November 2016, Moscow City Court ruled that investigator Igor Krasnov’s refusal to allow lawyer Evgeny Gubin access to his client Temirlan Eskerkhanov in SIZO [pretrial detention center] No. 6 was legal. What is going on?

Human rights activists from the Committee for the Prevention of Torture state that, despite clarifications from the Constitutional and Supreme courts, as well as despite the position of principle of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the problem of lawyers’ access to their clients without the permission of an investigator has yet to be resolved.

On 1 October of last year, at a meeting between the President and the Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights [hereafter, Human Rights Council], the problem of lawyers’ lack of access to pretrial detention centres was in fact discussed.

After hearing a speech by Human Rights Council member Yury Kostanov, Vladimir Putin reacted as follows: “Yury Artemovich, with respect to lawyers’ access to perform their professional duties, shall we say, I am also at pains to give an answer. This is the first I’ve heard of such problems. Give me your observations and your comments then. The General Prosecutor’s Office must deal with this directly. This is its responsibility: to ensure citizens’ rights. If any additional decisions are needed at the level of the Supreme Court or other offices, if any additions to the law are needed, let’s do that. I agree with you, of course. And then there will probably be fewer judicial errors connected with the fact that innocent people are being condemned to incarceration or other sanctions that are excessive and unjustified. Give me your suggestions, observations, and analysis of the actual current situation in judicial practice.”

Legislators reacted quite swiftly to what Putin said, and in December 2015 draft legislation was sent to the Chair of the Russian State Duma introducing changes to the Russian Criminal Procedure Code that prohibit demanding that lawyers present any kind of permission from investigators upon entering a SIZO.

However, on 18 January 2016, the proposed legislation was returned to the deputy who had initiated it “in connection with its violation of State Duma Regulations.”

More than ten months have passed since then, but no other initiatives on this issue have come in from deputies.

Sergei Babinets, a lawyer with the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, comments: “In our view, changes do not have to be made in legislation to solve this problem. All that’s required is a clear position from the prosecutor’s office, which is obligated to react to violations of law.

“Fifteen years ago, the Constitutional and Supreme courts explained that lawyers do not need any permission from an investigator to meet with their client. All they need is identification and a warrant.

“Unfortunately, despite lawyers’ attempts to have the rights prescribed in Russia’s basic law observed, the law enforcement authorities continue to behave in an arbitrary manner and assiduously pretend that no resolutions or decisions at all exist.

“Unfortunately, as we see in this specific example, the courts, too, are indulging them by refusing the lawyer his right of access to his client, time after time.

“Meanwhile, lawyers continue to knock on every office door and crowd the corridors of departments, trying to catch an investigator and get clearance from him for access to the pretrial detention centres. Sometimes they spend weeks and months on this.

“Naturally, it is the people in detention who suffer from these insane delays, people whom investigators in this way ‘hide’ from their lawyers, effectively preventing them from reacting to statements about beatings and torture, which are not rare during detention and placement in a SIZO. While the investigator forces the lawyer to chase after him, the bruises and abrasions on the client’s body have time to dissolve and heal over,” lawyer Sergei Babinets believes.

Translated by Marian Schwartz