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.
For translations of items about human rights in Russia from HRO.org, see our special website HRO.org in English
7 February 2017
Source : Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Ekho Moskvy]
By Alena Popova, activist
Photo: Moscow Helsinki Group
Putin has signed a law decriminalising domestic beatings. Well, now a perpetrator can pay a fine out of their family budget. We can thank Senator Mizulina for this, along with the co-authors of the bill. All victims of domestic violence, remember that legislators bear personal responsibility for your fate, as does the president. Each one of you. I remind you that in Russia we urgently, critically, need a law for the prevention of domestic violence. We are finalizing it, and will bring it to the Duma again.
Why we need the law now:
1 To bring in a protection order to prevent violence and isolate the abuser so that it’s not the victim that has to flee her home.
2 To ensure that the case is brought as a public prosecution, so that it won’t be the victim herself, as in the case with the new law when there is a second incident of violence, and the victim herself has to prove she was a victim, but the police who will undertake the investigation. With this in mind, I remind readers that, the way things are going to be now, when the victim goes to court her abuser is provided with a free lawyer by the state.
We are finalising our legislative proposal, taking into account all the recent changes in the Criminal Code. Anton Belyakov has already brought in our amendment regarding public prosecution. Anton is to be thanked, as he alone of all the members of the Federation Council defended the need to refrain from not shifting the burden of proof onto the victim of the beatings. It seems that one male senator is fighting alongside his female colleagues to defend victims of violence, most of whom are women. It’s like a bad film, because I saw what was being said about the decriminalisation and waited to hear what the women would say: enough, the statistics are horrifying. But no. Mizulina often says that the problem of domestic violence is foisted on us by the West, cites mortality statistics (even though domestic violence isn’t about death, in the sense of murder as defined by Article 105, but bodily harm) and says ‘THAT’S ALL’ – which she means not in the sense of a ‘summing up’ but of ‘ONLY’. That is to say, not many people die, only a few thousand! Senator Mizulina, even the death of a single woman or child in the whole country from domestic violence is a serious issue. Come down to Earth from your senatorial heights. Perhaps you should read Article 21 of the Constitution when you have some free time? Maybe you’ve forgotten it?
So I tell you: violence is unacceptable. The state has no right to stand with an abuser, provide him with a lawyer and regard the first offence with clemency (usually when a woman goes to the police it’s not the first beating but the first time she decides not to suffer in silence and turns to the state for protection).
Even if it takes me a lifetime to achieve a situation where violence has ceased to be the norm, I’ll do it. Nobody has the right to humiliate another. Family is respect, love and care, not tyranny and violence. Violence was NEVER a traditional Russian value. Violence is always a tool of control and compulsion, a tool of authority.
Translated by Anna Bowles
10 February 2017
Source: Moscow Helinski Group [original source: Оpen Russia]
Photo of Elena Lukyanova: Moscow Helsinki Group via Novaya gazeta]
The Constitutional Court has issued a decision in the complaint brought by Ildar Dadin regarding the compliance of Criminal Code 212.1 (“multiple violations of the established order for the organization or conduct of a meeting, rally, demonstration, march, or picketing”) with the Constitution. From the brief statement of the decision published on the Constitutional Court’s website, the following is clear:
(italics indicate commentary by Open Russia)
1. Article 212.1 wholly complies with the Constitution and should not be repealed.
2. However, the criminal punishment for frequent violations of the law in the conduct of street actions must be appropriate to the real danger posed by said violations of the law.
The difficulty will be that the degree of the danger’s “reality” is going to be evaluated by the investigative organs and district courts. If someone lights a flare during a mass public demonstration, their fate will depend on whether the investigator or district judge sees a “real danger” in this.
3. If, as a result of the violations, no real harm has been inflicted and no threat of the infliction of such harm has arisen, then this violation is formal and criminal responsibility cannot ensue.
This means that people with posters who are simply standing on a street or square cannot be held criminally responsible, even if they do this every day.
4. At the moment of commission of a violation of the law that entails criminal responsibility under Article 212.1, administrative court decisions on the three previous violations of the law must have entered into legal force.
Some of the decisions on Dadin’s administrative violations of the law had not entered into force at the time the criminal case itself was opened against him.
5. The court is obligated to prove that the defendant intended to violate the established order for conducting public actions.
Those who accidentally, following an emotional impulse, join an unsanctioned action cannot be punished; people cannot be punished simply because they are standing next to a place where an action is being conducted but they are not wearing a ribbon or pin on their clothing.
6. Punishment in the form of incarceration can be applied only to those citizens whose actions have caused a public action to lose its peaceful character and who have created a serious threat to constitutional values.
This corresponds almost exactly to Article 212 of the Criminal Code (“Mass disturbances”).
The Constitutional Court decided that the judicial acts issued with respect to Dadin are subject to review.
The Constitutional Court's decision was commented on by Professor Elena Lukyanova of the Higher School of Economics, who is a laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group prize for her expert and scholarly activities in the field of human rights.
In its decision, the Constitutional Court speaks about the role of the state and public authority in the matter of citizens exercising their rights to assemble peacefully and without weapons. The Constitutional Court speaks about the fact that the authorities must be neutral and nonaggressive. The authorities must only ensure the conditions for citizens to exercise their rights to the freedom of peaceful assembly—regardless of the political views of the assembly’s initiators and participants.
In my opinion, the court’s position is clear, and it is very strict; it is aimed specifically at protecting constitutional values. For our law enforcers, this finally correlates the punishment’s severity to the degree of public danger and magnitude of the damage from the act committed. It says specifically that people cannot be held criminally responsible for purely peaceful actions that have inflicted no harm on anyone and have not lost their peaceful character. This decision is very strict, in its strictness it is even more similar not to a decision of the Constitutional Court but to a Supreme Court decision that clarifies laws for law enforcers. It directly clarifies for the courts exactly what they must prove and establish. The Constitutional Court is berating this application of the law and saying that this application of the law is not aimed at safeguarding constitutional values.
This brief clarification by the Constitutional Court, which is published on its website, constitutes a real instruction for the actions of law enforcement agencies. It is comprehensible and readable. It is a wholly reasonable decision—unlike many other Constitutional Court decisions.
Translated by Marian Schwartz
6 February 2017
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Ekho Moskvy]
By Anastasia Zotova, journalist and human rights advocate
This past summer, less than ten thousand people gathered to protest the ‘Yarovaya package’. This was in Moscow, where more than sixteen million people live. Only a tiny, marginal group opposed the law, and, of course, the Yarovaya package was made into law.
Yesterday, it emerged that wireless service providers may stop offering unlimited data because of the Yarovaya package. And so people began complaining en masse—but where had they been when the law was passed?
I think this is also the case with torture.
Everyone seems to know about the use of torture in penal colonies, but they don’t feel strongly about it. After all, they’re not being tortured, so it’s fine.
And when misfortune finally comes, the relatives of prisoners start calling human rights advocates, hysterically screaming into the telephone, ‘Help! It’s a torture camp! They’re killing them!’
Even the prisoners admit, with shame, that until they themselves were beaten, they remained unshaken. And when they are no longer beaten, they are no longer shaken. Don’t meddle, as it is said, in affairs that are not your own.
According to this logic, I, too, should no longer be worried about torture, since Ildar Dadin’s story of torture has ended.
After Ildar Dadin, my husband, wrote a letter describing the use of torture in Karelian penal colony no. 7, he was removed from the torture colony. Of course, to transfer him to the Moscow oblast would have been ‘too good’, and so he was sent, as per tradition, to Siberia. We’re not allowed to meet, but this is a triviality, since he isn’t being beaten.
But there are dozens of people other than Ildar who have confirmed the use of torture, not only in penal colony no. 7, but in others as well (such as penal colony no. 1, psychiatric institution no. 4).
The Federal Penitentiary Service is already retaliating against those who spoke out about the torture, with prison guards threatening to 'make invalids of them' and promising to torture them once prison inspections have finished.
A criminal case has already been opened against Khazbulat Gabzaev, who is accused of attacking a prison guard. The review of the case will be quite interesting, since the footage [of the attack] has most likely not been preserved. The case was opened only after we objected to the beating of Gabzaev on 20 and 21 December 2016, apparently, in order to justify the use of force against the prisoner.
For some reason, his fate worries me, as do those of dozens of other prisoners who are now uncertain of what consequences their complaints may hold.
It’s too bad that I’m the only one worried.
Having seen that the scandal has gone quiet, and that the problem of torture is no longer interesting, the Federal Penitentiary Service has made serious moves, in particular, refusing to allow members of the Presidential Human Rights Council to visit torture colonies. This emerged on Friday evening, when most Russians were not paying attention (it’s Friday evening, fellas, what colonies? what are you on about?).
The Human Rights Council, which had planned to visit Karelia anyway, will now hold a meeting in which lawyers will pass on prisoners’ accounts (since human rights advocates are no longer able to meet prisoners anyway).
That’ll take place on 8 February.
It’s too bad that the verdict in the Kirovles case against Alexei Navalny is due to be read that same day. Because of this, our event will most likely take place unnoticed. And the Federal Penitentiary Service will have a greater chance of victory.
And then they’ll come for you, and no one will notice that, either.
Translated by Lincoln Pigman
“Something worth devoting your life to” - on the new book 'Dissidents' by Gleb Morev [Radio Svoboda]
30 January 2017
By Vera Vasilieva
Source: Radio Svoboda
Dissidents, a book by philologist and journalist Gleb Morev published by AST and presented on 26 January at Memorial, collects conversations with participants in the Soviet-era dissident movement.
“Dissident practices of nonviolent protest against the tyranny of the state, which are becoming increasingly relevant, have been described in detail in classic memoirs by prominent participants in the human rights struggle in the Soviet Union: My Testimony, by Anatoly Marchenko; Notes of a Dissident, by Andrei Amalrik; You Only Come Across Rats in the Underground, by Pyotr Grigorenko; And the Wind Returns, by Vladimir Bukovsky; Dangerous Thoughts, by Yury Orlov; I’m Not Afraid of Evil, by Natan Sharansky; and Reminiscences, by Andrei Sakharov. Nonetheless, we think it is important to record as oral history the reminiscences of other active participants in the Soviet dissident movement,” Gleb Morev believes.
The book is the result of a two-year project by the website Colta.ru and the Heinrich Böll Foundation. [...]
Jens Siegert was the director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Russia from 1999 to 2015 and is the author of the foreword to Dissidents:
“Memorial is a very important partner for us specifically when it comes to historical memory. For us, including people of my generation, ‘dissidence,’ on the one hand, is a very vivid word. On the other hand, it seems like a historical term. You know certain dry facts about the era. But what strikes me very strongly is that in this book the period becomes vivid once again. In this book, you come to understand something very powerful: dissidents have individual fates. These are people, very different people. They have very different motivations for fighting this criminal state. One of the very strong aspects of this book is that the historical term ['dissidence'] becomes so vivid again. You really have to read this in order to know about these people’s lives. [...] Irina Shcherbakova said that people come to the Memorial archive primarily for [materials about] the 1930s. I don’t find this surprising because the dissidents are about the 1930s, too. Without the 1930s there would be no dissidents. They are the next logical step. After a brief pause, after Stalin’s death, a small cell of the country woke up. They showed up on the trauma of the terror. Without that trauma, there wouldn’t have been this discussion, there wouldn’t have been these debates, and those debates wouldn’t have been as pointed, as personal, or as far-reaching as they were.
“The word ‘unprocessed’ has been used. I don’t like that word because it gives the impression that work of this kind can have some kind of end. That’s not true. Today again is not a very easy time, and it’s no accident that we are looking back at these times once again. In the 1990s and early 2000s, this kind of book would never have occurred to anyone.
“I think that something remains from that era even today. Something we can be guided by today, something that can help us even now in these far from easy times. The result of these debates was that these very different people were united, this is the language of law. At first, maybe more as tactics than strategy. But later it got deeper. This is the legacy that is now very often used in that mythic West without them even knowing where it comes from.”
Aleksandr Daniel, historian and board member of international Memorial:
Aleksandr Yulievich Daniel is a mathematician and historian and the son of Yuli Daniel and Larisa Bogoraz. In the 1970s and first half of the 1980s, he worked unofficially in the human rights movement as well as on problems of Soviet history: from 1973 to 1980, he worked on The Chronicle of Current Events; and from 1976 to 1981, he was on the editorial board of the uncensored historical anthology Memory, devoted to the problems of Soviet history.
Since 1989, he has been a member of the board of the Memorial society. Since 1990, an associate of the Memorial NIPTs [Research and Information Centre] (Moscow) and a member of the NIPTs Council. From 1990 to 2009, he was the director of the Memorial NIPTs research program on “The History of Dissent in the USSR from 1950 to the 1980s.” Since 2009, he has been an associate of the Memorial NITS [Research and Information Center] in St. Petersburg and has worked on “The GULAG Virtual Museum.”
“As to what Ira Shcherbakova said, I have literally two comments. With regard to the fact that we are the only place where an archive has been collected, that is not quite true. Yes, we have done a lot, but we aren’t the only ones. Of course, in the post-Soviet dimension our archive is the largest, that’s true.
“Here in the hall we’ve heard the comment: ‘Maybe the KGB archive is bigger?’ Yes, of course, lots of materials piled up in the KGB archive. Unfortunately, though, very few records and files were kept; they were destroyed in the late 1980s. Even if they weren’t destroyed, I’m not so sure it’s such valuable material. This is a view of the dissident movement that is totally specific, the police view. A view through a keyhole. I want to say that this is not a completely worthless source, but in my opinion it’s not the most important. Much more important are the texts to which the dissidents gave birth themselves. Those are what need to be collected above all, and, of course, as Ira said, ‘oral history’ is very important. Especially since in this instance, unlike earlier periods, all has not yet been lost. And what Gleb has done in this respect is simply marvelous. [...]
"If we’re talking about the dissidents’ unclaimed experience in the political spectrum, then yes, I’m prepared to agree with this thesis, although Vyacheslav Irgunov is sitting right here. But dissident practices were digested, assimilated, and developed in the culture. We have Lev Rubinshtein sitting right here. Who is he if not a dissident? The most natural dissident. Besides politics there are all kinds of other things where the dissident (yes, it's incorrect to say 'movement') community left a definite and intelligible trace that is important for the present day as well."
Translated by Marian Schwartz
Anastasia Zotova: Complaints from inside prison colony make your hair stand on end [Voice of America]
17 January 2017
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Voice of America]
This is an extract from: Danila Galperovich: 'Жена Ильдара Дадина: от жалоб из колоний волосы встают дыбом,' Voice of America, 17 January 2017
On 16 January, Anastasia Zotova received some bad news: as explained by representatives of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), which oversees prisons in Russia, she would not be allowed to see her husband, Ildar Dadin, until May at the earliest. [...]
Anastasia Zotova is now fighting to see her husband, but Russian officials have yet to grant her demands. In an interview with Voice of America’s Russian service, Zotova spoke about this as well as complaints about torture in Russian prison colonies.
Danila Galperovich (D.G.): When did you find out that you would not be allowed to see Ildar?
Anastasia Zotova (A.Z.): Here is the sequence of events: on 8 January, Ildar called and said that he was in a prison colony in the Altai region. On 10 January, I called and asked the prison colony’s head whether I could come visit Ildar. He said that lengthy visits were not permitted since Ildar was being held in a cell. I asked if a brief visit was allowed, and he responded, “Yes, it is, feel free to come.” Ildar’s sister and I agreed to buy tickets for 17 January. During the weekend, I received a letter from the Altai FSIN branch, stating, “No meetings are allowed until May.” Ildar is in strict detainment conditions. He is permitted two lengthy visits and two brief visits per year, four in total. The authorities cannot bring him out for a lengthy visit since he is in a cell, and now it has emerged that they refuse to grant me a brief visit instead of a lengthy one. They have halved the number of visits the law entitles him to. How can that be? We can’t even trade the tickets for new ones, since we bought the cheapest category. On Monday morning, I called [FSIN deputy director Valery] Maksimenko, I called everyone I could. Human rights advocate Lev Ponomarev sat next to me as he called [Presidential Human Rights Council head] Mikhail Fedotov. Yes, one can only expect meanness from FSIN, but it is unacceptable when one is first told a visit is possible and then that it is not.
D.G.: What do you know about the conditions in which your husband is being held? When did the two of you last speak? What did he say?
A.Z.: The first and last time I spoke with him this year was on 8 January, and it is unlikely that we’ll speak again in the near future. He is not permitted to make or accept phone calls or video calls—everything is prohibited. Our phone conversation lasted seven minutes. He talked about how he was being transferred [from pre-trial detention to prison]. Once again, he described what it was like in the Karelian prison colony. The week before, on Thursday, the lawyer Aleksei Liptser paid him a visit. He says that his conditions are alright, that he has no complaints. The space is similar to a prison cell, and another inmate shares it with him. Their relations are fine. He is being fed, and is not being beaten. In Ildar’s words, “They greet me like a VIP.”
D.G.: Amnesty International has deemed Ildar Dadin a prisoner of conscience. Memorial has called him a political prisoner. What is being done in Russia and outside the country to free him?
A.Z.: When the verdict was announced, we filed an appeal, and his sentence was shortened by half a year. Then, there was an application for cassation, filed and signed by [Russian human rights ombudswoman] Tatiana Moskalkova. But it did nothing to change the sentence. After that, a complaint was made to the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court did not even review it. And now a complaint has been made to the Constitutional Court, which is due to meet on 24 January. The Constitutional Court has already told us that Ildar will not be present. As its secretaries said, “We invited Ildar, but no one will go out of their way to transport him here, and there won’t be a video link.” [...]
Translated by Lincoln Pigman
24 January 2017
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group
[Original source: '“Militants have dealt a severe blow to security in Chechnya.” What do recent events in Chechnya tell us?', Open Russia, 24 January 2017]
The militant attack on staff of the Ministry of Internal Affairs which took place in Grozny on 18 December 2016 sent ripples through the Chechen Republic and led to the largest-scale security operation in recent years: in January of this year, around 60 people were detained on suspicion of involvement in the terrorist underground. Grigory Shvedov, the chief editor at the Caucasian Knot website tells Open Russia that, in his opinion, the recent detention of suspected terrorists is a reaction to the murder of police officers.
“These events are unusual for Chechnya in recent times. They underscore the fact that it’s not as peaceful a region as propaganda in the republic would have us think,” said Shvedov.
In his opinion, the most vulnerable social group is young people who see the injustice of what’s happening in their country: “They are the people ISIS is most interested in recruiting, and they are clearly having some success. It’s clear that conditions are right for young people to absorb terrorist propaganda that chimes with their aspirations and convictions. In addition, we can draw parallels between Assad’s regime and the one in Chechnya: both are authoritarian, both leaders inherited power from their father, and both countries have privileged elites as well as many people who have no legal means to influence the situation. Chechnya is notorious for its stagnation – the very problem that makes young people susceptible to propaganda. Even in Dagestan, where the situation is not great either, and the situation of many believers has worsened considerably, there is greater pluralism.”
Among other factors influencing young Chechens towards radicalism, Shvedov cited social exclusion and the impossibility of attaining a decent standard of living: “In modern consumer society, and also in Islamic Chechnya, the external trappings of prosperity are important.” Shvedov characterised the attacks as “suicidal”. “In fact, they are ‘shahada’- dying for the faith, suicide attacks. I don’t think they have the appetite for a long fight or involvement in a series of terrorist attacks.”
We remind our readers that in December, four police officers and seven militants were killed in a shootout. Four attackers survived, but according to reports by news media and the human rights organisation Memorial, three of them died in hospital. Caucasian Knot reported that sources were claiming that, after the attack on Ministry of Internal Affairs personnel, mass arrests of the relatives of suspected terrorists began. The Chechen authorities denied this. This move against militants was the largest since the seizing of the Press Building in Grozny in 2014.
Soon a new counterterrorism operation was launched across all Chechnya. As Novaya Gazeta reported, it became one of the largest in recent years: between 9 and 11 January, more than 20 suspected terrorists were detained; after a week, the number was up to 60. Novaya Gazeta published the names of some of those detained, and reported that there were minors among the detainees. Seven suspected terrorists and two soldiers of the North Battalion died in the operation. A source told the TASS news agency that those arrested had been preparing “a series of significant crimes in the North Caucasus”.
As in the case of the December attack, after the January arrests, relatives of those suspected of terrorism had difficulty finding their relatives: this time news media reported that the people of the villages of Kurchala and Tsotsi-Yurt, and the town of Shali decided in a “people’s assembly” to exile the families of the detainees from the republic. “The idea that relatives share responsibility is not a new phenomenon, and has always been traditional in the country. However, persecution under the guise of public opinion is a new thing, and here we clearly see the use of administrative resources and local customs for very specific ends,” explains Shvedov.
The most disturbing news turned out to be a report from the website Caucasus Realities that amongst the rebels was a member of the personal guard of Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the Chechen Republic. This person was arrested, then his body was returned to his family, who were told that he had shot himself with a weapon he had seized from the police. Kadyrov himself denies that the victim was a member of his personal bodyguard, saying that he was a “simple guard”. “There is no evidence to support the idea that Kadyrov is losing control of the country. However, militants struck a severe blow against Chechnya’s much vaunted security, and this shows that the country is not after all quite so secure. In my opinion, there will continue to be intermittent acts of terror and suicide attacks in Chechnya,” Shvedov sums up.
Translated by Anna Bowles
24 January 2017
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original Radio Svoboda]
An extract from Vladimir Kara-Murza, 'Konstitutsionnyi sud protiv Dadina?,' Radio Svoboda, 24 January 2017
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr. [presenter]: We have the lawyer Sergei Golubok on the line. Sergei, Tatiana [Voltskaya, Radio Svoboda correspondent in St. Petesrburg] said that your speech today was sensational. Tell us, please, what was the atmosphere like at the hearing in the Constitutional Court?
Sergei Golubok: We were fairly clear about the position we wanted to take. We wanted to drive home our points because we were not planning on quietly and peacefully discussing a law that, by its very existence, violates the Constitution, and in violation of the Constitution virtually revokes the constitutional right to the freedom of public assembly and the freedom of peaceful assembly. We took up the principled position that the criminalization of what is nothing more than participation in public events, if such a participation did not result in any other consequences that are dangerous to the public, violates both the Constitution and the norms of international law, and indeed everything else into the bargain.
But the authorities took a completely different point of view, as one might expect. Personally, I was very struck by the position taken by the representative of the federal Human Rights Ombudsperson who unexpectedly supported the law. He decided that everything is fine, that this article is constitutional. And this is a 180-degree reversal of what the previous ombudsperson Ella Aleksandrovna Pamfilova wrote in her annual report for 2015. For me this is the biggest piece of news, that our Human Rights Ombudsperson is now taking a different point of view. […]
The article of the criminal code in question establishes criminal liability for the exercising of constitutional rights without any other public danger or threat to public order or safety. The punishment is disproportionately large and not differentiated. A court will consider as evidence rulings on violations of administrative law that were arrived at without the participation of a lawyer acting for the defence. A court can now punish a person twice for one and the same act. The punishment is an attack on individual rights and undermines the essence of the constitutional law on freedom of assembly. So everyone has complaints about this article, various scholars. Some don't agree with the article’s wording in one respect, and others have other objections to it.
We believe that in principle the article violates the Constitution. However, in our presentation to the Court we put forward a large number of different arguments: in one place it violates the Constitution for this reason… You don't want to hear arguments about human rights? There are questions on the lack of differentiation of the punishment to be handed down, questions about the Criminal Code - that is, about criminal law. You don't want to hear citations from European sources? Here are African ones. We have a good number of alternative arguments. There are plenty for the Court to choose from. Clearly, there are other possibilities as well. The article is not at all straightforward. […]
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr.: Sergei, how substantial are the arguments from those who insist on the constitutionality of this law?
Sergei Golubok: Of course I believe that their arguments are groundless. But this is the appellant’s position in this case. I did not hear anything from representatives of government bodies that I wasn’t expecting to hear. The altogether predictable arguments about how we need to protect the rights of those who might be affected by a public event, that we need to worry about the police who are on duty, and so on. Well, altogether predictable and understandable arguments that all governments have been putting forward in every country for the past hundred or so years. This is why courts exist – so the balance of interests between individuals and public authorities can be kept so that no one is harmed. I think that this case will in a very important way establish whether or not there are such courts in Russia. Because this law is too draconian, this article is too harsh to be kept in the Criminal Code. […]
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr.: Sergei, did the judges ask you any questions which suggested that they favoured a particular position, either yours or that of the government agencies?
Sergei Golubok: The judges did not put any questions to the applicant’s side, and so we all concluded that our position was perfectly clear and understandable.
They did however put questions to the representatives of the state authorities concerning certain specific aspects of Article 212.1, whose provisions are worded in such a way as to invite a number of different interpretations. For example, criminal proceedings were initiated against Ildar Dadin before the judgment on the charges against him involving administrative offences had entered into force. I don’t think anybody disputes the fact that this should not have happened. What we absolutely do not want is for the Constitutional Court to find that Article 212.1 is constitutionally acceptable, and that it merely contains a number of shortcomings which can be remedied. Our firm belief is that this law should be repealed in its entirety rather than merely amended. [...]
In my opinion, the questions put by the judges never provide any useful indication as to the decision that will ultimately be taken by the Court, and the same is true in this case. The Court will decide as it pleases. Which side do they favour? There were 15 judges there today, many of whom will hold differing opinions and some of whom may seek to influence the others. My personal view is that there are more than two possible outcomes, or in other words a judgment either for or against the constitutionality of Article 212.1. The Constitutional Court frequently chooses a third outcome by finding a legislative provision to be constitutional, but clarifying its “constitutional and legal meaning” and thus restricting the scope of its application. Under some circumstances this means that the applicant’s case can be re-examined, since it becomes clear that the relevant article of the Criminal Code or another law was applied with a meaning other than the “constitutional and legal meaning” clarified by the Constitutional Court. The range of options open to the Constitutional Court is broader than a simple yes/no decision, and we need to wait and see what decision it takes. It will be a fundamentally important decision, since as it stands Article 212.1 curtails and negates constitutional rights owing to its over-exactness. Our Constitution directly prohibits the adoption of laws of this kind. […]
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr.: Sergei, if the Constitutional Court finds in your favour, will this mean that Ildar is immediately released?
Sergei Golubok: No, it will not mean an immediate release. It will mean that the Presidium of the Supreme Court will need to re-examine the criminal proceedings.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr.: But from a different angle?
Sergei Golubok: If the Constitutional Court finds that Article 212.1 is unconstitutional, the only possible course of action open to the Presidium of the Supreme Court will be to halt the criminal proceedings. If Article 212.1 is found to have a “constitutional and legal meaning”, the Presidium of the Supreme Court will need to re-examine the case materials in the light of this finding. […]
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr.: Sergei, is it possible now to organize telegrammes to the Constitutional Court and raise a wave of public resentment?
Sergei Golubok: I think it would only be a waste of money to send telegrammes. In my opinion, if the telegrammes are sent, it should be to the Federal Penitentiary Service, because support could have a significantly greater impact there. Before the Court met today, Ildar’s position was much advertised and discussed. The Court heard about this. We are certain of this. And it’s necessary on the one hand to grant the Court the opportunity to write and deliver its ruling, and on the other to support Ildar by helping to verify that he’s being kept in acceptable conditions, that his rights aren’t being violated.
For example, in a few days in Moscow a district court will hear an appeal against the decision to relocate Ildar from Karelia to the Altai region. He is appealing against the Federal Penitentiary Service’s decision. There will be, most likely, other court hearings too. But in so far as concerns the Constitutional Court, I think that Ildar Dadin had his say today. Not in person, but through his representatives, but he nevertheless had his say.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr.: And when might the time come to make an application to the European Court of Human Rights in his case?
Sergei Golubok: The application is already at the European Court of Human Rights and that Court will review it in its own good time. Nikolai Zboroshenko, a lawyer from Public Verdict Foundation, is representing Ildar’s interests there. That application concerns an even larger number of aspects, concerning not only Ildar's sentencing, but also other aspects of his case. And the European Court of Human Rights, in its own time, will consider this application. […]
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr.: Sergei, what are the [Constitutional] Court’s next steps?
Sergei Golubok: The Constitutional Court has withdrawn to deliberate. And we await a declaration in a few weeks’ time. [...]
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr.: Sergei, does it seem that Russia is drawing closer to isolationism?
Sergei Golubok: I wouldn’t want to jump the gun by talking about that. Representatives of state agencies refer to the experience, as they affirm, of civilised Western countries when trying to justify the use of a “firm hand.”
But the pendulum swings one way, then another. And the task that stands before all of us is to ensure that, when the pendulum swings back in the opposite direction, we not lose that chance, and that we know what to do, and that we have a precise understanding of how to reform the court system and legal system. We have to make sure that we don't miss the opportunity, as, in my opinion, we missed the opportunities in the 1990s when nothing was done to change criminal procedure or the penitentiary system — so that we aren’t just giving existing structures new names. That’s what we need to prepare for, we need to think about it and discuss it today.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr.: Sergei, you’re referring to Russia. But in the other 14 republics everything has changed. The Baltic countries have become civilised. We didn't want just freedom for Russia, but for everyone…
Sergei Golubok: In the Baltics they eliminated the courts that existed in the Soviet era and rebuilt the judicial system from the ground up, basing the new system on legislation as it had existed in 1940 [at the time the Baltic states were incorporated in the Soviet Union]. And that enabled them to overcome the “birthmarks” of the repressive Soviet system. That didn’t happen in Russia. […]
Karinna Moskalenko: "We shall demand that the decision of the European Court of Human Rights is implemented" [Open Russia]
17 January 2017
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Source: Open Russia]
Russian Representative to the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) and Deputy Minister of Justice Georgy Matyushkin declared that Russia will appeal the Strasbourg Court’s ruling, which found that the “Dima Yakovlev law” discriminates against Americans’ right to adopt Russian children. What effect Strasbourg’s decision will have was explained by the lawyer and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group Karinna Moskalenko, who represented the applicant.
— Can you comment on the fact that Russia will appeal today’s ruling on the “Dima Yakovlev’s law to the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR?
Karinna Moskalenko: Well, yes, of course. If Russia wants to turn to them, there’s another question: whether the Grand Chamber will accept their appeal. A bench of five judges will make that decision. That’s first. Secondly, even if the bench of five judges decides to refer the case to the Grand Chamber, that, of course, will delay the ruling’s execution, but then the case will be moved to public hearings, since Grand Chamber rulings are made only after public hearings. In that case I think that this shameful case will be monitored for even longer by the global legal community and society.
— You and the applicants waited four years for this ruling, although the application received priority status for review in five days, as was decided in 2012. What is the significance of this ECtHR ruling?
Karinna Moskalenko: This ruling means that Russia, through this rotten, disgusting law, discriminated against people without any legal basis whatsoever, and by today’s ruling, Strasbourg has recognized a gross violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
We will wait until the ruling enters into force and seek its execution, because it is in complete accordance with the Convention and Constitution, and it must be implemented. As part of its execution we will demand the restoration of rights of all those whose rights have been violated. Only one judge, Justice Dedov (from Russia—Ed. Open Russia), wrote a personal opinion.
But the other judges recognized violations of the Convention under Articles 14 (discrimination) and 8 (the right to respect for private and family life). American citizens who wanted to adopt Russian children were subjected to these forms of discrimination. For example, you’ve got Canadian citizens who at first also filed complaints to the European Court, but then withdrew their complaints as they had [managed to] adopt children. This is an extremely important ruling. People who have worked for years and years in the European Court called me, and they’re amazed by this ruling, many of them didn’t believe that such a ruling would be made.
— Now Russia must repeal the “Dima Yakovlev law?”
Karinna Moskalenko: We’ll see what they’re prepared to do. But they will have to make their apologies to people whose rights were affected.
— And if the law isn’t repealed, would Russia be excluded from the Council of Europe?
Karinna Moskalenko: If Russia doesn’t recognize the part of this ruling on the impermissibility of discrimination, then that will be a very serious violation. But I don’t want Russia to be excluded from the Council of Europe. On no account. It’s necessary that Russia observes human rights and doesn’t leave the Council of Europe. The State can make amends in various ways, but the principle solution would be to repeal the discriminatory law. We shall demand that the decision of the European Court of Human Rights is implemented, and that there should not be some merely illusory restoration of rights.
— Can Russia’s Constitutional Court make a declaration that the ECtHR’s ruling should not be fulfilled, since it contradicts Russian legislation?
Karinna Moskalenko: The Constitutional Court can do as it pleases. Russia can do as she pleases. I don’t plan on judging whether or not the Constitutional Court will take up this case, but I know one thing: the European Court’s ruling must be carried out, and discrimination is permitted by neither Russia’s Constitution nor the European Convention on Human Rights. I’m certain that this ruling must be implemented without any equivocations. [Read more in Russian]
18 January 2017
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Kommersant]
The draft bill proposing the decriminalisation of “battery within families” which is currently being considered by the Russian Duma has caused a stir not only in Russia itself, but also in other countries. Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, explains his position on the issue.
— Mr Muižnieks, when we last spoke it was the Saratov Migration Service rather than the issue of domestic violence which was your main cause for concern. How long have you been involved with this issue in a Russian context?
— This is an issue I have only recently started to explore, and the underlying problem is that Russia is breaking away from European structures. I have been involved with the problem of domestic violence in many countries belonging to the Council of Europe, and all have shown their willingness to ratify the Istanbul Convention (on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, adopted in 2011), or in other words have taken steps in the direction of banning physical violence against women and children. Russia is heading in the opposite direction, which would be a huge step backwards. I very much hope that our fears will not materialise, and that the State Duma will not adopt the amendment decriminalising domestic violence at final reading (a second reading of the draft bill is scheduled to take place this week).
— Are there any countries in Europe where the domestic violence situation is more problematic than in Russia?
— Russia is one of only four countries which have not ratified the Istanbul Convention. Certain countries are currently heading in exactly the opposite direction, such as Slovenia and France, which recently criminalised physical violence against children.
— Have you discussed this problem yet with representatives of the Russian authorities?
— A meeting is scheduled today (17 January) with the Russian Human Rights Ombudsman (Tatyana Moskalkova), who is currently in Strasbourg. I will raise this issue during my talks with her, and I hope that she will pass on my message to the Russian authorities.
— Are you planning to visit Russia?
— I hope to do so at some point, but only if I am allowed to do so under the same conditions as in other countries, or in other words if I am allowed to attend official appointments, meet NGOs and undertake a number of additional visits. I had hoped to visit in October, but the arrangements proposed by the Russian side [the Russian authorities imposed a time limit of 48 hours on the visit] meant that my visit had to be postponed. I will certainly try again, however. Today I met Russia’s representative to the Council of Europe (Ivan Soltanovsky) for the first time this year, and I will remain in contact with him and other representatives of the Russian Government with a view to organising a visit. I hope that this goal will be achieved before the end of the year.
— Mr Muižnieks, are you aware of the problem of torture in Russian prisons, which has become a topic of lively debate following the publication of a letter by the opposition activist Ildar Dadin, who was imprisoned for violating the laws on holding public meetings?
— To be quite honest with you, it is not a topic I have explored in any detail. I regard the monitoring of prisons as a matter for the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, which has some very knowledgeable experts working for it. As far as I am aware, they visited Russia last year.
— Are you aware of the problems faced by organisations which provide assistance to people in Russia living with HIV and have been included on the list of “foreign agents”?
— I have been very involved with the issues surrounding the Law on Foreign Agents, and I look forward to the day when the cases heard by the European Court on Human Rights in connection with this law are referred back to the Russian authorities. This will provide fertile grounds for discussion, and I certainly plan to make the most of this opportunity.
— Now that the “Yarovaya package” has been in force in Russia for a number of months, what observations have you made? What is your opinion on anti-terrorist laws in other countries?
— I have been opposed to many of the anti-terrorist laws adopted in countries throughout Europe, especially those relating to the surveillance of individuals. They not only jeopardise the right of each and every one of us to a private life, but also pose a threat to journalism and the principle of impartial justice. The fact that states of emergency have been declared in two countries (Turkey and France) and that three countries have filed a notice of derogation from the Convention on Human Rights (Turkey, France and Ukraine) is a highly unusual situation for Europe. Measures such as these should only be resorted to in exceptional cases and for short periods of time.
— The last time we talked, you said that you had visited Ukraine six times in recent years, and that you had established friendly contacts with the authorities in Kiev. What is your view on the harassment of Russian-speaking citizens in the country, including shop assistants who have been insulted for speaking Russian to customers, and last year’s ban on speaking Russian at railway stations?
— I am aware that there have been disputes over language policy in Ukraine, and I have heard a number of different allegations, but I have not received reports of any major problems, violence or discrimination in this connection. Last year I visited Donetsk, and in my opinion the differences between Donetsk and Kiev relate to the sphere of politics rather than ethnicity or religion.
Translated by Joanne Reynolds
10 January 2017
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Ekho Moskvy]
' “He prayed and carried out hygienic procedures": grounds for torture in Karelia'
By Anastasia Zotova, journalist and human rights activist
The Russian authorities have reported to the UN on their compliance with the provisions of the Convention Against Torture. The report talks about the humanization of the penal system and the improvement in guarantees for the rights of convicted persons in accordance with worldwide standards, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports.
Having successfully accounted for itself to the international community on its fight against torture, the FSIN [Federal Penitentiary Service] in reality is continuing to fight those who protest against beatings in prison colonies.
In the Karelian prison colony IK-7, there was, with Ildar Dadin, a young man by the name of Khazbulat Gabzaev, born 1991. Unfortunately, he is still there.
Gabzaev had even worse luck than Ildar: Tatiana Moskalkova did not ask him to be transferred to “one of the better” colonies.
Moreover, if my husband managed to pass on information about torture through his lawyer Aleksei Liptser, then Gabzaev’s lawyer, hired locally in Segezha, decided “not to upset” his relatives and simply did not pass on what Khazbulat had said about torture.
However, when Tatiana Moskalkova went to IK-7, he told her about the beatings and harassment of prisoners. Khazbulat’s mama and brother found out about the fact that he had been beaten from Igor Kalyapin, a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, who visited IK-7. After this, they were at our press conference in Moscow.
Gabzaev was placed in solitary confinement (ShIZO) for refusing to eat pork due to religious convictions (something, we will note, he has every right to do). In solitary, he, like the other prisoners, was subjected to beatings.
After he was beaten about the head, he started bleeding from his right ear and nearly went deaf in his right ear. Naturally, he was rendered no medical assistance.
“On 26 October 2016, while in solitary, Kh.S. Gabzaev was led out of his cell, lifted by the legs, stretched out, and struck hard several times on the heels with a wooden mallet. On 27 October 2016, colony employees took him out of his cell, lifted him up, and carried him into the toilet, where they stuck his head in the toilet bowl, poured some kind of liquid on his head, and threatened to relieve themselves on him.”
This is a quotation from an appeal to the Investigative Committee [SK] written by Khazbulat’s brother. Yesterday, a formal reply came to this appeal—a refusal to open a criminal case.
The FSIN doesn’t even deny it: Yes, they sent a man to solitary because he was praying.
“-- 16 November 2016, on the basis of a decision by FKU [Federal Penal Institution] IK-7 head S.L. Kossiev, placed in ShIZO: 14 November 2016, from 00:35 to 00:48 (after lights out), convict Kh.S. Gabzaev, while in his cell, performed a religious ritual (prayed); 14 November 2016, from 5:10 to 5:19 (during the time for passing out bed linens and receipt of cleaning equipment), Kh.S. Gabzaev, while in his cell, performed a religious ritual (prayed); 14 November 2016, from 9:30 to 9:38 (the time set aside for writing correspondence), convict Kh.S. Gabzaev, while in his cell, performed a religious ritual (prayed); 14 November 2016, from 12:39 to 13:12 (the time for listening to radio broadcasts), convict Kh.S. Gabzaev, while in his cell, performed a religious ritual (prayed); 14 November 2016, from 17:43 to 18:07 (the time scheduled for cell cleaning), convict Kh.S. Gabzaev, while in his cell, did not do his cleaning and instead performed hygienic procedures and a religious ritual (prayed).”
They did not confirm the fact of the beatings, of course, cynically listing prisoners who supposedly denied the fact of Gabzaev’s torture. However, these prisoners—in particular, Murat Nagoev—do in fact confirm that Gabzaev was beaten!
But even this (and not the indication in the document of a case pending for false informing) is not the most astonishing part.
After Tatiana Moskalkova’s arrival, and after the visit by members of the Presidential Human Rights Council to the IK-7 prison colony, they continued to beat Khazbulat Gabzaev.
Late last year, Khazbulat told lawyers that he was beaten on 20 and 21 December, specifying the places of the beatings. Considering that video recordings are kept at IK-7 for thirty days, the recordings of Gabzaev’s beatings must still be preserved.
I have long since written a petition to the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office demanding that the recordings be impounded. You can, too.
Over the holidays, Gabzaev’s family was very worried about him and so specifically on 9 January sent the lawyer Vladimir Bolgov to the prison colony.
However, they simply wouldn’t let the lawyer in to see his client. At first they asked him to wait until five-thirty, and then they refused to bring out Gabzaev altogether. Today (10 January), the lawyer has been at IK-7 since nine o’clock in the morning, and once again, they are not letting him in to see Gabzaev.
Khazbulat’s mother and brother are hoping that justice will triumph when the Karelian sadists stand before divine justice. But I am counting on punishment being meted out to them while they’re still in this world. The refusal to open a criminal case absolutely must be disputed. We are going to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
You can write a letter to this address: IK-7, 186420, Republic of Karelia, Segezha, Leigubskaya Street, Khazbulat Sultanovich Gabzaev, born 1991.
Translated by Marian Schwartz
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