Russian Media

This section features occasional translations by Rights in Russia of materials published in the Russian-language media on human rights issues and featured here with due acknowledgement to the original sources.

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Declaration by former Soviet political prisoners: "It is immoral to support the hypocrisy of the Russian authorities"

posted 6 Nov 2017, 01:45 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Nov 2017, 06:40 ]

30 October 2017

Source: Facebook page of Aleksandr Podrabinek. This translation was first published by the website of Vladimir Bukovsky and is republished here by kind permission. The statement can also be read in Russian on the website

Photo: Opening of the memorial to the victims of political repression in Moscow. Source:

As former political prisoners and participants in the Democratic Movement in the Soviet Union, we consider the opening in Moscow of a monument to the “victims of political repression” to be untimely and hypocritical. A monument is a tribute to the past, yet acts of political repression in Russia not only continue – they are increasing.

In sponsoring the opening of the monument, the present Russian regime is pretending that acts of political repression are a thing of the distant past: the victims of such political repression, therefore, may be commemorated. We believe that today’s political prisoners in Russia are no less deserving of our help and attention than the respect and remembrance we owe to the victims of the Soviet regime.

We cannot grieve over the past, while hypocritically closing our eyes to the present. We cannot divide the victims of political repression into those who have earned a monument and those whom we insincerely choose not yet to recognise. We must not participate in the commemorative events of a regime, which regrets in word the victims of the Soviet regime, but keeps committing acts of political repression and crushing civil liberties in Russia. We must not allow an authoritarian regime to open a memorial to the victims of political repression while it continues to act in a lawless and arbitrary manner. It is, at the very least, immoral to cooperate with the regime in this respect.

There is no doubt that a monument to the victims of political repression should be erected in Moscow. That can only happen, however, when there are no more political prisoners in the country, when their jailers and executioners have been punished, and when acts of political repression cease to be the subject of news reports, instead becoming a matter for historical study alone.

Alexander Podrabinek
Alexei Smirnov
Andrew Grigorenko (USA)
Arina Ginzburg (France)
Bohdan Horyn (Ukraine)
Vardan Harutyunyan (Armenia)
Vasyl Ovsienko (Ukraine)
Victor Fainberg (Paris)
Vladimir Brodsky
Vladimir Bukovsky (United Kingdom)
Vladimir Osipov
Gabriel Superfin (Germany)
David Berdzinishvili (Georgia)
Igor Guberman (Israel)
Igor Kalinets (Ukraine)
Iosif Zissels (Ukraine)
Kirill Podrabinek
Kuzma Matviyuk (Ukraine)
Lagle Parek (Estonia)
Levan Berdzinishvili (Georgia)
Levko Lukyanenko (Ukraine)
Mart Niklus (Estonia)
Mikola Gorbal (Ukraine)
Mikola Matushevich (Ukraine)
Miroslav Marinovich (Ukraine)
Mikhail Rivkin (Israel)
Mustafa Dzhemilev (Crimea - Ukraine)
Nikolai Ivlyushkin
Oles Shevchenko (Ukraine)
Olga Geiko (Ukraine)
Pavel Litvinov (USA)
Pavel Protsenko
Raisa Rudenko (Ukraine)
Sinaver Kadyrov (Crimea - Ukraine)
Tatyana Yankelevich-Bonner (USA)
Eduard Kuznetsov (Israel)
Yuriy Shukhevych (Ukraine)

NOTE: Unless otherwise stated the signatory comes from Russia.

Translated by John Crowfoot

Valentin Gefter: Prison and the world - how the Penal System could help both people and the economy [RBK]

posted 1 Nov 2017, 06:07 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Nov 2017, 06:25 ]

24 October 2017

By Valentin Gefter, director of the Human Rights Institute 

Source for this extract: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: RBK]

We need to reduce the number of prisoners, ensure their re-incorporation into society, and give responsibility for the economic development of the prison system to a designated state corporation

Today’s Russian prisons have, to put it mildly, been the beneficiary of a far from simple inheritance. While reforms in this sphere began 25 years ago, they were weak and superficial. The only serious step that was taken was to transfer the penal system from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the Ministry of Justice. Naturally, it remained largely a formality: those staffing the system remained in place, and the atmosphere remained much as before. Neither the penal institutions, nor the government as a whole, pursued a reform agenda. So we continued until it became clear that change in this sphere was increasingly lagging behind the changes that were taking place in society and state institutions. A few years ago, following a lively discussion, human rights activists and lawyers began to think about proposals for reforming the penal or correctional system. Now these ideas have appeared in papers by the Centre for Strategic Studiesб ‘A review of proposals for improving the penal system’, and ‘Criminal policy: a road map for 2017-2025’.

The prison population 

The first and the key task, which will determine all subsequent developments, is to reduce the number of prisoners. Such a decision is not primarily one for the penal institutions, it depends upon policy towards crime, and the justice system (who and for what is held responsible, how judgments are made). This complex problem includes a broad spectrum of issues – from legislation to established practices.

Today more than 600,000 are held either in prisons or prison colonies, a few years ago there were approximately one million. Thanks to legislative initiatives and certain political efforts, the number of prisoners was nearly halved; but the economic crisis of recent years has brought a levelling off in quantitative terms. There have been pluses: among them, the number of penal institutions has fallen, the geographical distance of places of detention has been reduced. But the relationship between the so-called first-timers and recidivists has not, unfortunately, changed: If anything it has shifted in favour of the recidivists. When referring to ‘recidivists’, we are not necessarily talking of hardened criminals, sentenced to 15-20 years (which in itself is often excessive!) – more often than not these are people who served a relatively short sentence but, while in prison, received no assistance in preparing for life on the outside, no skills on how to cope. Their subsequent committing of often less serious crimes is sometimes a means of getting back to prison, where the rules of the game are clearer than those in a fast changing world that does not welcome them. [...]

A carte-blanche 

The transformation of the penal system belongs to the category of those government policies which require political will for their execution. In this case, the mechanism could be the following: both the government and the presidential administration give a real carte-blanche to a group of responsible officials. In no way does this mean that they will destroy the Prison Service, dismiss its employees and free the convicted prisoners. On the contrary, within the framework of the existing system, they can create a new one – and for this pilot projects are necessary, and funding, and work to explain the need for the proposed changes. To give responsibility for such radical tasks to those who have been associated with the penal system for years, those who have tunnel vision, and a thousand other commitments, would make the enterprise wholly ineffective. Of course the Prison Service cannot be side lined, it will be necessary to listen to its views, but without new people reform will go nowhere. They should consist of a group of experienced administrators with a different set of values.

Translated by Mary McAuley

Anna Yarovaya: In the Dmitriev case, analysis of photos not ready - next hearing 29 November [7x7]

posted 30 Oct 2017, 10:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Oct 2017, 10:50 ]

25 October 2017

Source: 7x7

The latest hearing in the case of Yury Dmitriev took place on Wednesday 25 October although all had been warned on Tuesday that there would be no judicial hearing the next day. The court decided that the hearing would resume on Wednesday, 29 November 2017. The reason for this postponement was that the expert assessment of the adopted daughter of Yury Dmitriev was not yet ready. [...]

“The firm providing the assessment requested yet another month,” said Dmitriev’s defence attorney Victor Anufriev.

“I expect that they had no experts of their own – it’s not their field of activity – and so they tried to find a way out by bringing in someone to do the job for them. It’s a high-profile case. It cannot be ruled out that they will find it quite complicated to locate a normal, sensible and law-abiding expert who is prepared to take on this task and arrive at the desired result.”

At each hearing of the historian’s case a large group of supporters come to the courthouse: his relatives, friends and colleagues. Today, for the first time, only court bailiffs stood outside the entrance to the courtroom, there was no security presence. There were also Norwegian journalists who had come to Karelia to make a report about Yury Dmitriev.

According to Anufriev, he received a phone call from the court yesterday, informing him that the hearing scheduled for 25 October would be postponed. The next morning the lawyer went to the detention centre where his client is being held only to learn that the hearing had in fact taken place. Out-of-town friends of Dmitriev who come to each of the hearings returned their rail tickets for refund after hearing the day before that the hearing was postponed.
The Supreme Court of Karelia has extended Yury Dmitriev’s preventative custody until 27 January 2018.

Dmitriev was arrested at his flat on Friday, 13 December 2016 and accused of making pornographic images of his adopted daughter. His defence attorney and the defence experts who testified in court believe the photos to be part of a journal monitoring the girl’s health and have nothing in common with pornography.

The trial at the Petrozavodsk City Court began on 1 June this year. Yury Dmitriev was charged with three criminal offences. Apart from the production of pornographic materials depicting minors, he was also charged under Articles 135 (“Perverted non-violent actions with a minor”) and 222 of the RF Criminal Code (“Unlawful possession of a firearm”). Every hearing since then has been held behind closed doors because the case concerns a minor.

On 15 September Judge Marina Nosova requested a new expert assessment from an organisation in St Petersburg of nine of the 114 photographs taken of his daughter by Dmitriev. The choice of this body, the “Federal Department for Independent Forensic Assessment”, was not acceptable to the defence attorney Victor Anufriev. In early October he announced that he would make a formal objection to this decision; the judge denied his petition.

The Federal Department for Independent Forensic Assessment is a commercial organisation with a statutory capital of 10,000 roubles. Mr Anufriev was unable to find a single employee of the firm. He insists that by law the court cannot entrust a commercial form with a forensic assessment. He also expressed concern that the identity of the experts invited to carry out the new assessment remains unknown.

Translated by John Crowfoot

For more translations of materials about the case of Yury Dmitriev, see the website The Dmitriev Affair

International Memorial Society: Recalling the Names []

posted 30 Oct 2017, 09:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Oct 2017, 10:00 ]


From 10 am to 10 pm on Sunday, 29 October, we shall be reading out the names of the victims of political repression here in Moscow, on Lubyanka Square. The Memorial Society has now been organising this event for ten years.

One after another, people get up and read more and more names. Yet thus far we have barely read half the list of 40,000 people executed in and around Moscow during the pre-war period. [Read more

Name, surname, occupation and date of execution. Thousands of names will be spoken aloud that day on Lubyanka Square, next to FSB headquarters. People were shot in secret: we are turning this into a public commemoration of those victims.

Come to Lubyanka at any time during the day, or stand somewhere nearly, and join in Memorial’s annual Act of Remembrance beside the Solovetsky Stone, the oldest monument in our country to the millions of victims of the Soviet totalitarian regime.

This year, as in 2016, we invite all to contribute to the costs of this event through its popular funding – help share the costs of sound amplification, heaters and candles. Restoring the Names is our common cause.

Translated by John Crowfoot

Karinna Moskalenko: Expelling us from the Council of Europe means depriving Russians of protection; not expelling us means destroying it [The Insider]

posted 26 Oct 2017, 03:01 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Oct 2017, 03:26 ]

12 October 2017

An interview with the Russian lawyer Karinna Moskalenko [an extract]

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: The Insider]

Pictured below: Karinna Moskalenkko

The Council of Europe has lost 10% of its budget due to Russia’s decision not to pay its annual dues for 2017, stated CE Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. “We have been forced to restructure the organization and cut back on personnel,” he said. Earlier, Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko stated that Moscow was not going to recognize the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights[ECtHR] . According to her, these decisions will not be considered legitimate in Russia unless the country’s representatives can participate in the work of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE]. The Russian delegation was stripped of its voting rights in PACE in April 2014 after the annexation of Crimea. Karinna Moskalenko, an attorney, founder of the Centre for International Protection, and member of the Helsinki Group, who represents Russians’ interests at the ECtHR, recounted what ordinary citizens would lose in the event of a departure from the Council of Europe and why that step would mean a grandiose failure for Russian foreign policy. 

Today the need has arisen to develop new human rights approaches to the issue of Russia being in the Council of Europe. Previously, we occupied a perfectly concrete, very stable place in the organization, despite the occasional disagreements and variety of opinions.

Russia had its own face, rights, and responsibilities, which it carried out. It was its responsibilities that at some point began to weigh on the Russian regime. The Council began passing more and more resolutions concerning human rights violations, which the regime came to view with some trepidation. Of course, the key question in due course became the issue of Crimea, but I don’t want to touch on that topic right now. I’m a lawyer, not a politician. Russia has entered into a new stage, of which the Ukrainian question is only part of that stage, believe me.

What is happening in the second decade of the twenty-first century? The Russian Federation's relations with all its neighbours have been sharply exacerbated. Of course, we cannot speak about the fact that all the other 46 states of the Council of Europe maintain identical positions and only Russia takes a different one. However, acute conflict situations are being discussed in the Parliamentary Assembly, and the Russian delegation, whose status has been suspended, is no longer taking part in resolving these issues. This is a mistake. It is always better to be inside a process than on the sidelines, and beyond its confines even more so.

Today a serious stagnation has befallen us in the sphere of human rights. I do not deny that the Russian authorities are taking serious measures to implement the European Court’s decisions. However, as has already been stated many times, with regard not only to Russia, the payment of compensations by a State based on ECtHR decisions is not the end of the matter. Usually, these are relatively small, more symbolic sums, unless we’re talking about violation of the right of property that has been confiscated from lawful possession for one reason or another. When there are 300-400 applicants to the Court, we are talking about large sums. Nevertheless, the Russian Federation has always managed to pay them, but it just doesn't seem able to resolve the issues by taking the necessary measures of a general nature. […]

Right now we are hearing statements by highly placed officials and prominent figures in the Russian establishment about how Russia is not going to implement the European Court’s decisions. What is this membership for, then? What is this absurdity and hypocrisy for? Of course, I understand that many of my clients would not be among the living if it weren’t for the European Court, and this is not even because of the fact that our Centre has successfully argued approximately 330 cases. Of course, there is no need to run to the European Court with every issue, but the very existence of this procedure, the very fact of the presence of European law, is a tremendous restraining force against the tyranny and illegal actions of the Russian authorities. […]

The fact that Russians are at risk of losing the possibility of supra-state justice on matters that fall under universal jurisdiction is a very important point. If we are not irresponsible citizens and irresponsible politicians, we should in no way be undermining these foundations, and this means we have to implement the European Court’s decisions. If at some moment the Parliamentary Assembly, the highest legislative organ of the community of 47 states, realizes that Russia’s unpredictability carries a danger for the Council of Europe’s very foundations, that its basic elements are being destroyed — I fear Russia will not be tolerated in the Council of Europe. And this means that you and I will lose what for me as a lawyer is most essential: the right to the impartial jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.

Translated by Marian Schwartz

Sergei Pashin: Why Trial by Jury is of Great Legal and Cultural Value (Izvestiya)

posted 12 Oct 2017, 01:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Oct 2017, 02:04 ]

20 September 2017

By Sergei Pashin, retired federal judge, professor at the Department of Judiciary of the Faculty of Law at the Higher School of Economics, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights. Sergei Pashin played a major role in the introduction of trial by jury in Russia in the 1990s

Source: [original source: Izvestiya]

Appearing in front of jurors at the trial of trader Stepan Ovsyannikov, the eminent lawyer Vladimir Spasovich said, in a speech based on circumstantial evidence, that from separate marks “outlines form, and from outlines letters form, and from letters syllables form, and from syllables there arises a word – and that word is ‘arson’!”

Here are a few marks from the story of our jury system. 

Reintroduced to Russia in 1993, it gained the support of many lawyers and advocates, and was supported by Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev and the Council of Judges. However, the very next year defence lawyers were forbidden to mention to the jury torture undergone by the defendant during the course of the investigation; in 1999 50.9% of acquittals were annulled (along with only 11.7% of guilty verdicts). With the increase in the number of jury trials, the number of cases heard by representatives of the people decreased.

So, 20 years ago, in 1997, nine regional courts heard 419 cases by trial by jury, while last year nearly 100 courts handled only 217 cases. The number of trials by jury reduced from 51 to 23 during this time, and cases involving mass riots, bribery, and crimes against the judiciary were no longer to be tried by jury. Judicial chiefs complain that high costs and juror absences make it impossible to organise trials. But in Tsarist Russia more than 400 crimes were to be tried by jury, and every year they produced almost 40,000 (!) verdicts.

What does this all come down to? Incompetence? Sabotage?

Sadly, reforms traditionally go hand to hand with counter-reforms in Russia. The fate of jury trials depends on ill-disposed officials who have lost their understanding of this institution. Having received instructions from the president to expand the institution of jury trials, they have already tried to carry out a silent constitutional coup by abolishing it: they planned to replace jury trials where ordinary people independently make a decision with a court where they confer under the guidance of judges – as in Ukraine and Germany. In the heat of the moment, the right to trial by jury has been taken away from women and elderly men.

Meanwhile, trial by jury is not a burden or a concession to civil society, but a great judicial and cultural treasure. It has already given us examples of adversarial justice, where the presumption of innocence is not an empty formula. Supporters and opponents of jury trials alike agree that in such trials the quality of investigation is immeasurably higher – involuntarily, because of the jury’s demand for evidence. The spread of jury trials on a large scale could make it pointless to beat confessions out of detainees, and improve standards among both the judiciary and law enforcement.  [Read more in Russian]

Translated by Anna Bowles

The new experts in the Dmitriev case come from a private firm without office or employees (Novaya gazeta)

posted 7 Oct 2017, 10:10 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 7 Oct 2017, 10:18 ]

2 October 2017

By Nikita Girin (with Serafima Romanova)

On 15 September the Petrozavodsk City Court scheduled a new examination of the photographs in the Dmitriev case. The Karelian historian is accused of making pornography and sexually abusing his adopted daughter Natasha.

The evidence

The evidence is nine photographs on which the genitals of the girl are visible.

Dmitriev has explained that these photographs are part of a “health diary”. The meticulous historian photographed the sickly child to prevent any fault-finding by the adoption agency. He already had experienced such problems. Once his wife applied a mustard plaster to Natasha through a newspaper and traces of printers’ ink were left on her skin. At the kindergarten the ink was thought to be bruising. After that Dmitriev periodically took formal photographs of the girl – from the front, the back and the sides. The historian kept the photos in directories on his computer entitled “Natasha”, “Monitoring” and “Health”: he showed them to no one and never sent them anywhere.

There are more than one hundred photos in the archive. Two years ago, when Natasha had become strong and healthy, Dmitriev ceased to keep this photographic diary. Today the girl is 12 and after Dmitriev’s arrest she was sent to her grandmother. She misses her adoptive father and she and her step-sister Katya keep up a correspondence.

The nine photographs with which the investigation has incriminated Dmitriev were made a year to 18-months apart. Four (copies of the same photo) were made in early 2009; another four (also copies of a single photo) were made in summer 2010; and the last was taken at the beginning of 2012.

A first assessment and its refutation

They were termed pornographic in the first expert examination prepared by the Centre for Socio-Cultural Examination. (In violation of the Criminal-Procedural Code, Dmitriev and his defence attorney were only shown the decree appointing this examination after the Centre had already begun work.) This is the same organisation that has issued expert conclusions in different years concerning political activists, the Pussy Riot protest, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The political activists and members of Pussy Riot were imprisoned; the Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned.

Eleven specialists from Moscow and St Petersburg, invited by Dmitriev lawyer Victor Anufruiev, refuted the conclusions of the Centre for Socio-Cultural Examination.

They replied to all the issues under discussion.

Surely the photographs of a naked girl were pornography? No, said sexologist professor Lev Shcheglov: pornography is the cynical depiction of the sexual act or of manipulations of the genitals. On all the photographs, however, the girl was alone. In the words of defence attorney Anufriev they contained not a hint of sexual activities.

Why did Dmitriev regularly photograph his daughter without clothes over a period of several years? It was to monitor the growth of a child with stunted development, explained Moscow doctors Fyodor Katasonov and Grigory Sheyanov.

Perhaps, Dmitriev was a paedophile? No, the specialists asserted, it would be impossible to hide such a deviation by the age of 60: a psychiatric assessment of Dmitriev gave the same categorical reply.

Meanwhile, the investigation had a great many questions to answer. Who wrote the anonymous letter, after which a criminal investigation was opened? How did that anonymous individual get hold of the photographs and why did that person go to the law-enforcement agencies a few days after Dmitriev was called, on a false pretext, to the police station and kept there for several hours, after his passport and mobile phone were confiscated? How could Dmitriev be arrested without being charged? There are no answers to these and to other questions. Dmitriev’s friends and relatives can guess why. They link the prosecution of the historian with his work.

A new examination of the evidence?

For the last 30 years Dmitriev has been tracking down the burial grounds of the Great Terror. He has found and restored the names of thousands of those who were shot. Consuls and delegations from various countries, including Poland and Ukraine, came to the annual Day of Commemoration at Sandarmokh, a site Dmitriev discovered in 1997 (more than 9,000 were murdered there). In recent years those heading the FSB and other power agencies in Karelia were unhappy about this, and the local administration stopped taking part in these commemorative events.

These circumstances convinced the defence that the first examination of the photographs had not been objective. At the fourth attempt Victor Anufriev succeeded in having a new examination. He himself suggested that two State expert institutions should take on the work: either the Serbsky Centre or the Russian Health Ministry’s centre for forensic examination. The prosecutor insisted that a certain Agency for Intellectual Property in Moscow do the work.

Anufriev established that this was a private firm run by one individual and requested that it be taken off the list. Then the judge entrusted the new examination to the Federal Department for Independent Forensic Examination.

“Hearing the term federal department, I believed that it was a State-licensed institution and could be entrusted with conducting an expert examination in such a complicated and widely discussed case,” said Anufriev, “although a shadow of doubt remained. When I checked, the organisation proved to be yet another commercial company, with a statutory capital of 10,000 roubles but based in St Petersburg! I had not expected such a ruse from the judge.”

Several doubtful aspects immediately spring to the eye.

One, the court cannot entrust a commercial firm with an expert examination. Article 195 of the Criminal-Procedural Code states that “A forensic examination may be carried out by State forensic experts or other persons among those who possess specialised knowledge”. According to a decree of the Supreme Court (21 December 2010) such “other persons” are experts from strictly non-commercial organisations. […]

Two, Government decree No 1463 forbids the use of the term “federal” unless the organisation is a political party, a trade union or a religious association.

Next, the information about the activities of the “Federal Department for Independent Forensic Examination” is very limited. It does not provide a list of its experts: presumably, they are invited on a one-off basis. Information from open sources indicates that the “Department” is registered in an ordinary apartment on Srednyaya Podyacheskaya Street in Petersburg, next door to the directorate for the Russian Guard in Petersburg. There is no information about this expert organisation on the doors, the front wall, the stairwell or apartment entrance. Neighbours told a correspondent from the website that the inhabitants of the apartment are “ordinary people who work at the Apraksin Market”.

The general director of the firm is Julia Goncharova, who has a doctorate in sociology and formerly taught at the university of service industry and the economy. In a telephone conversation with Novaya gazeta Goncharova refused to name the specialists whom the organisation employed or to comment on the organisation’s involvement in the Dmitriev case.

“Where did you get such information?” Goncharova asked in an irritated tone.

“From the court proceedings.”

“Тhen go and ask the court!”

Worst of all, at the prosecutor’s request only nine of the 114 photographs are being submitted for assessment. This means that the new specialists, no matter how conscientious they might be, will not be able to assess the disputed photos within the context of a diary of health.

Defence attorney Anufriev has submitted a petition to court for the Federal Department for Independent Forensic Examination to stand down. There does not remain much time for consideration of this petition. The hearing of the results of the new examination has been scheduled for 11 October.

Translated by John Crowfoot

Dmitriev’s defence demand new assessment of the photographic evidence (7X7)

posted 14 Sep 2017, 13:18 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Sep 2017, 13:25 ]

7 September 2017  


By Gleb Yarovoi 

Source: 7 x 7 

The defence team of Karelian historian Yury Dmitriev will petition the court for a new or repeat expert assessment of the photographs of his daughter that the specialists of the Centre for Sociocultural Expert Assessments considered to be pornographic. This was made known on 7 September, writes 7x7’s correspondent, at the latest hearing of the case against the historian at the Petrozavodsk City Court.

As Victor Anufriev, Dmitriev’s defence attorney, told those outside the court building, the head of the Centre Natalya Kryukova was cross-examined on Thursday, 7 September. The conclusions reached by her organisation formed the basis for the charges against the historian. (An assessment as to whether the photographs were pornographic was made by the Centre for Sociocultural Expert Assessments, drawing on the views of an art specialist, a teacher of mathematics and a paediatrician.)

Victor Anufriev asked the experts to present documents confirming that they had the right to carry out such examinations. They did not possess such documents, he said.

“Kryukova announced that they were specialists, not experts, and were conducting a scientific investigation. That was why the conduct of forensic examinations was not among their main activities. Kryukova said although she was trained as a mathematician, she was a psychologist,” said Anufriev, “she had taken a course in General Psychology at college.”

During the day’s hearing, the defence and the prosecution discussed whether to conduct a repeat examination of the photographs that the first assessment had judged to be pornographic. The prosecutor insisted that the Centre which he had proposed do the work: the defence attorney wanted the work done by a State licensed organisation. This issue will be resolved at the next hearing on Friday, 15 September. By that date Dmitriev’s defence team will prepare a written petition, demanding that a new or repeat examination of the photographs be conducted.

At Thursday’s hearing, the policeman who summoned Yury Dmitriev on 29 November 2016 [to the police station] and spoke with him for four hours was also cross-examined. It was then, in the historian’s opinion, that someone entered his apartment and investigated his computer where the photographs of his daughter were found. According to Anufriev, the young man could recall almost nothing about those events.

“He was very forgetful,” said Anufriev. “he did not remember that he had visited Dmitriev three times. For example, he said that Dmitriev, supposedly, spent about 40 minutes with him [at the police station].”

About thirty people came to Karelia to support Yury Dmitriev: his friends and colleagues from other cities, the rights activist Zoya Svetova, independent investigator Nikolai Epple, and the US vice consul Demitra M. Pappas. None of them could enter the courtroom since the trial is being held in closed session.

Translated by John Crowfoot

Zoya Svetova: Right to interview. How I took the Federal Prison Service to court [Open Russia]

posted 7 Jul 2017, 00:09 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 7 Jul 2017, 00:16 ]

23 June 2017

By Zoya Svetova, journalist, human rights activist, laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group human rights prize, and a former member of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Otkrytaya Rossiya]
On 21 June Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky district court heard the case I had brought against the Federal Prison Service for refusing to allow me to interview Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov who is serving a twenty-year sentence in Yakutiya.

The judge, Nelli Rubtsova, sided with the Federal Prison Service and refused to grant my plea. The Zamoskvoretsky court deals with all cases brought against the Federal Prison Service, and, usually, sides with the prison authorities.

But I have no regrets that I brought the case. For a start, as Mariya Sernovets, the defence lawyer who represented me in court said, mine was what can be called a strategic plea. Strategic pleas may influence the application of a law in a specific case, but they can also bring about a change in legislation.

In this case the aim was to influence the law, and in particular to effect amendments to Article 24 of the Criminal Execution Code. This article permits representatives of the media and other persons to visit facilities within the prison system with the special permission of the institution's administration or that of higher authorities. But the Article says nothing relating to circumstances in which a journalist can be refused permission to visit a prison colony or a detention centre. The silence regarding the grounds for a refusal gives a prison authority great scope for arbitrary decisions. In other words: ‘If I want to, I’ll let the journalist in, if I don’t want to, I won’t.’

I was very interested to hear the explanation offered by the Prison Service’s representative. I wanted to understand why, after all, I had been refused, and who in fact had taken the decision. I’ll begin with the objections raised by the representatives of the Prison Service. Translated from legal language into Russian: 'We haven’t broken any laws, we have our law – the Criminal Execution Code - and if Article 24 contains no reference to giving reasons for a refusal, it follows that we are not required to provide any. You say that we have infringed a Constitutional right but, heavens above, the Constitution is the highest law of the land and all laws are checked for accordance with it; since Article 24 of the Criminal Execution Code has been adopted, this means that it passed the test. If you don’t agree, take it to the Constitutional Court and test its constitutional status. You say that Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘each has the right to express their opinion’) is being infringed but you haven’t produced a single precedent that supports this.'

In other words, the other party in the first place refers us to the Constitutional Court, to which we do indeed plan to turn to lodge a complaint against the law. Thank you for that! And its second objection is a bow of obeisance in the direction of the European Court of Human Rights. It turns out that the Federal Prison Service, in contrast to the Russian courts where one can often hear jokes at the expense of the European Court in Strasbourg, recognizes that institution and pays attention to its precedents. 

But my suit, it turns out, has no grounds. The Federal Prison Service breaks no laws. But what about the federal law on appeals by citizens which specifically states that grounds must be given for a refusal? This law doesn't exist for the Prison Service. For the Prison Service only the Criminal Execution Code exists. 

But these are, so to speak, legal niceties, important for the observance of the formalities of legal procedures.

As for the nub of the matter, judging by everything the decision to refuse an interview was taken in Moscow. The head of prison colony No. 1 in the city of Yakutsk, where Oleg Sentsov is imprisoned, was most likely left out of the picture. In answer to my question as to who took the decision, a representative of the Federal Prison Service responded that it was taken by the person who signed the refusal. And the refusal was signed by the deputy head of the press service of the Federal Prison Service. In other words by the official within the Federal Prison Service whose job it should be to assist journalists in their work. But no. This official is not helping.

And the most interesting thing is that the representative of the Federal Prison Service, it turns out, genuinely does not understand why I need an interview with Oleg Sentsov at all. Why I could not send him these harmless questions in a letter, and then, after I have received the answers, publish them as if they had been the outcome of a real interview? I had to explain in court that an interview and a letter are not the same thing. And, by the way, at the same time to tell him that the letters from Sentsov very often do not reach either me or his other correspondents. 

In this story with the refusal what also amazed me was that in all the years of my journalistic work I have requested interviews with prisoners on a number of occasions and have received a number of refusals. As a rule, no explanations were given, but sometimes I was told that the prisoner himself did not want to talk with me, only later to find out that this was not true. This time the Federal Prison Service did not even begin to make up a reason. They simply refused and that was it.

One thing that was strange was that only two correspondents attended the court hearing, one from TASS, the other from Radio Svoboda. The issue was not sufficiently interesting. Although it would seem to be an issue that should concern many. After all I am not the only one to be refused interviews with prisoners. Almost everyone who asks is refused. Exceptions where permission is given are extremely rare and only confirm the rule. 

Prisons and prison colonies as before remain institutions that are closed to society. Journalists envy members of Public Monitoring Commissions who can visit prisoners, talk with them, and then publish what they have said. Sometimes this can save a prisoner from bad treatment or even from death. 

I shall definitely be challenging the article of the Criminal Execution Code in question at the Constitutional Court. And I shall probably send Oleg Sentsov the questions I had wanted to ask him in the interview by post. Just possibly, after my suit has been heard by the court, the letter he sends in reply will reach me. 

Translated by Mary McAuley and Simon Cosgrove

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Genri Reznik on quitting the Moscow State Law Academy: "They lied to me" [Kommersant-FM]

posted 3 Jul 2017, 00:49 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Jul 2017, 06:14 ]

28 June 2017 

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Коммеrsant FM

Genri Reznik, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, vice-president of the Federal Bar Association, vice-president of the International Union of Lawyers, Honoured Lawyer of Russia, PhD in Law, and professor at the Kutafin Moscow State Law Academy has announced that he is leaving the MSLA because of the installation of a memorial plaque to Joseph Stalin in the central auditorium. In an interview with the Kommersant FM radio station, Genri Reznik said that he would not resume working with the academy even if the plaque was removed. 

- Please explain why you decided to leave the Moscow State Law Academy?

I saw a Facebook notification [saying that the plaque had been installed], and decided that the following Monday I would definitely check whether the report was fake. If it was really there, and remained there for a while, I would resign my professorship at the academy. I spoke to the rector, honestly expecting to get an explanation of some kind – that this was a misunderstanding, they would sort things out and take some kind of measures, and we’d discuss it. But instead I was told that the plaque had been put up in accordance with a 1960 resolution by the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR [Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic] regarding the preservation of monuments to our cultural heritage, which includes this plaque.

They had somehow forgotten that I’m a lawyer. I didn’t just lie back, I found this resolution and discovered that they were simply lying to me. There really is such a resolution – adopted on 30 August 1960, it remains valid, and it’s periodically amended. The last changes, I saw, were made in 2001, the only time Stalin’s name was mentioned there, in connection with the one thing that the resolution covered: the Lenin-Stalin Mausoleum. On the night of 1 November 1961, Stalin’s body was taken from the mausoleum, and mentions of him mostly disappeared from the resolution. I should mention that even Stalin’s grave is not protected by the state. Imagine: the graves of Dzerzhinsky, Kalinin, Frunze and Lunacharsky are still listed as objects under state protection, but not that of Stalin, because after the 22nd Congress, when Stalin’s body was taken from the mausoleum, all the towns and villages [that had been named after him] were renamed, all the monuments to him were taken down, along with all the memorial plaques, et cetera.

I found out that my colleagues had simply lied to me. And I had no way out, all I could do was react to it this way. Now, by the way, the leadership of the academy continues to feed people the same thing. It was even featured on a TV programme, some talk show. But I can now say that there was absolutely no legal basis for putting up the plaque, neither then or now. They fool around with people’s heads, counting on the fact that they aren’t lawyers. But the deception is now revealed, so perhaps we can make them blush.

- Have you talked about this matter with other professors? Have you discussed it?

- I have talked with two professors who are, let’s say, ashamed. I teach at the Academy on the side, and my primary profession is that of an attorney, but I have been working as a professor for more than 40 years. This all happened quickly. As far as I can see, the reactions of professors at the Academy will vary. But reportedly professors from the Higher School of Economics who teach courses have stated that if the plaque isn’t removed, they will cease teaching at the Academy.

- Yes, by the way, professors from the Constitutional and Administrative Rights Departments have stated that they are ending their work with the Moscow State Law Academy until the plaque is taken down. At the same time, Levada Center recently conducted a poll, the results of which showed that 38% of Russians believe Stalin to be the most significant individual in history. In your opinion, can the united position of the intelligentsia influence public opinion?

- It’s difficult for me to say, because, as you know, the intelligentsia are always too far from the people. But this is a result of propagandistic games and agitation that the authorities are playing with the figure of Stalin, taking into account that he is popular among a certain portion of the population due to a number of factors. This is all explained by the fight for the electorate, nothing more. I don’t believe that there are any decidedly diehard Stalinists in the country’s leadership. First and foremost, what Stalin did was frighten, and, mind you, he frightened everyone. Equality existed in society, which the nowadays-unpopular Marx wrote about. Marx said that equality also exists under despotism: all are equal before the despot; namely, everyone is equal to zero. No one wants to feel like a zero.

Stalin is of little interest to anyone. Stalin is a personified form of public criticism and discontent with the country’s current state of affairs. And for this reason, there is no Stalin as a real figure. There’s a myth about Stalin, which has existed in this form for at least the past three generations - that he is some strong, wise ruler who ensured order and justice in society. The authorities should, by all means, take notice of this, because it is a reaction to the disgraceful things that go on in this country; in particular to the rampant corruption, the violations of the principles of justice that people observe when matters that concern them are being resolved.

- If the plaque is taken down, would you be willing to return to work at the Academy?

- No, I won’t be returning, because I was lied to, you know. Now they are lying to the whole world that the resolution of 1960 is being carried out. I repeat, there is such a resolution, it is just that Stalin’s name is not there. After my colleagues decided to treat me like a fool, I don’t believe that even if they offer an apology it would be possible for me to resume further teaching at the Moscow Law Academy.

Thanks to Anna Bowles for assistance with this translation

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