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Ilya Novikov on what you should do if you are detained at a demonstration [Ekho Moskvy]

posted 26 Jun 2017, 07:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Jun 2017, 14:31 ]
12 June 2017

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Ekho Moskvy

Photo of Ilya Novikov: Moscow Helsinki Group

O. Bychkova: We’re now going to talk to the lawyer Ilya Novikov about how to stay safe if you attend a protest, or if you decide to stroll along Tverskaya Street with the intention of taking part in an event organised by Aleksey Navalny – who did indeed refer to it as a pleasant stroll – rather than to visit the re-enactments of historical scenes, for example. Good morning, Ilya!

I. Novikov: Good morning!

O. Bychkova: ― We’d like to know more about how to behave and what to do in order to avoid getting into hot water if trouble breaks out, which after all often happens in the quietest and most peaceful of places.

I. Novikov: I’m going to start off by saying that there’s no guaranteed formula for success, because the one thing we learned from the events of 26 March is that the police were working to some kind of targets, and were aiming to detain somewhere in the region of 1,000 people. They detained the appropriate number of people, and the way they did this made it clear that they weren’t particularly bothered whether each individual had done something to make him or her stand out from the crowd. There were noticeably more young men detained than middle-aged men or women and school-aged children, but that’s a general trend rather than a hard-and-fast rule.

Now we come to a vital point for anyone who is detained – which article of the Administrative Code they have been detained under and which procedure is followed as a result. In all likelihood they will use Article 20.2, which relates to infringements of the rules on the organisation of public events, or Article 19.3 which covers failure to follow lawful demands by police officers.

A. Naryshkin: Infringements under Article 20.2 are generally given large fines, is that correct?

I. Novikov: Yes – although each case is different in terms of sentencing and the possibility of jail, as a general rule detentions under Article 19.3 end in jail terms and those under Article 20.2 lead to a fine of 10,000 roubles or more.

There is something else we should remember, however. Fines are unpleasant and a fortnight in jail is even more so, but they’re not going to kill anyone. Yet the Investigative Committee has also been busy in the aftermath of 26 March – criminal cases have already been opened against seven people who have been detained or arrested…

A. Naryshkin: And two have already been sent to prison.

I. Novikov:  Yes, they’ve already succeeded in handing down two sentences because the individuals in question agreed to the special simplified procedure.

O. Bychkova: Were these people who were picked up the second time round, so to speak?

I. Novikov: Yes. From what we can see, the procedure they follow does not depend in the slightest on whether action has already been taken under administrative law. Some of the individuals in question were detained immediately on the spot and were handed straight over to the criminal investigation team, but many of those who returned home and who perhaps paid a fine or perhaps had no punishments imposed by the police at all, after a week or two or three weeks or a month were arrested on the basis of old video recordings of the events which apparently indicated that they had beaten up police officers.

The most important thing is therefore not to avoid getting into trouble in any way at all, because anyone who goes for a simple stroll in Russia – and not just Navalny – may find that happening to them.

What is most important is to avoid having a criminal case opened against you, and there’s a very simple way to prevent this – if the police take you by the arm, act like a corpse and do not put up any resistance either verbally or physically, because if you try to escape their clutches you are entering a lottery which may land you with three or four years in prison.

O. Bychkova: And this lottery isn't usually in our favour.

I. Novikov: Not for everyone. But even if you are unlucky and you have pressure put on you, the only advice a lawyer can give is: don't sign anything or make any statements until your own lawyer has arrived, someone who has been invited to come by your family or friends…

O. Bychkova: Article 51 of the Russian constitution [the right to keep silent].

I. Novikov: That's not exactly it. Article 51 concerns relatives, in fact. But a defendant or suspect can refuse to make a statement without explaining why. You can simply refuse to speak and that's that.

A. Naryshkin: You're listening to the lawyer Ilya Novikov on Ekho Moskvy.

Let's imagine you're already in a police van and you're taken to the police station. What rights does a detainee have? At what stage can you ask to make a phone call or at what stage can you refuse to comply if some of your personal effects are being confiscated? What's the right way to behave?

I. Novikov: As I've already said, it's better not to resist, because that could be written up afterwards as a criminal offence. That doesn't often happen, but it does happen sometimes. You can use your phone, if only because phones aren't confiscated from people who are being detained for administrative offences. As long as the battery in your phone is not dead – and incidentally, this is a reason to check that your phone is fully charged before you go anywhere – you are able to photograph any documents which you are issued. Because there's very often an error in the initial report, and then it's quietly replaced with another report.

O. Bychkova: There's been more than one case like that.

I. Novikov: Yes, that has happened, and on a large scale. As soon as you are given a sheet of paper, take a photo of it. You won't be able to take a photo of police officers openly, but sometimes people manage to photograph them surreptitiously… I never suggest that people do that, but when that happens it does give the lawyer who is going to deal with your case, whether for an administrative or criminal offence, some interesting new material, because a photo of police officers is a treasure trove. When you can see in the video that a certain person is carrying out the detention, and then the report says that it was another person who looks nothing like the first…

O. Bychkova: But it should be the same police officer.

I. Novikov: Yes, it should be the same one. If you do end up in a police van, one thing that's essential is taking the opportunity to get to know the interesting people who are in the van with you …

A. Naryshkin: Future witnesses, I suppose.

I. Novikov: Yes, so don't ignore each other, take each other's phone numbers, set up a Telegram channel which…

A. Naryshkin: … will come in handy.

I. Novikov: Don't lose sight of each other.

A. Naryshkin: Who's the first person you should phone if you're detained?

I. Novikov: Your relatives, definitely.

O. Bychkova: While you're still in the police van.

I. Novikov: Who else is going to help you out?

O. Bychkova:  Phone your relatives from the police van, someone who is going to be able to work out quickly what to do and who to phone.

I. Novikov: Yes. There are various phone numbers – OVD-Info and other organisations. But usually there is someone experienced in the van with you, someone who knows their number, and everyone should ring their own relatives, of course.

O. Bychkova: Yes, they will already sort things out themselves once they are out of the police van, once they are no longer being detained. It will of course be easier for them to do that.

Ilya, many people are writing in to say that Navalny is inviting his supporters to take part in coordinated activities on Tverskaya Street today, for example. Or perhaps all it boils down to is that there’s going to be a walk along Tverskaya. All kinds of public celebrations and events are due to take place there today. So, what’s your take on all of this? There’s always some kind of dispute happening between us and Aleksei, and among our listeners.

I. Novikov: As a lawyer, I don’t have an opinion since, as I said at the very start, I see that people who are out for a walk are being detained without so much as a second thought, and they write in their official reports that they were holding up placards, chanting, and so on. And if the question is about how any kind of trouble can be avoided, then I have no useful advice to give.

From a purely technical standpoint, if there is already some kind of action agreed with the authorities going on somewhere, then as a rule, initially the police will have been given orders not to carry out a wave of mass arrests but rather to ensure some sort of decent order. And in that sense, of course, it’s likely that there will be fewer arrests on Tverskaya today than on Sakharov Prospect where Aleksei had originally planned to hold the event. It’s all an experiment, essentially, of which you will be the object, like a guinea pig, so, it’s only natural that if you feel strongly about being there, then you should go.

A. Naryshkin: One more question – probably the last. If I, for instance, am taking part in the action and I happen to witness some kind of injustice and want to protect and come to the aid of any woman, young girl or old lady who is being dragged along the ground… I want to put an end to – as I see it – this police rampage…Is it worth getting involved in the situation, to intervene to try to influence what these people in helmets are doing?

A. Novikov: Firstly, it’s likely that the more they are filmed, the less comfortable about it they’ll be. Hence, a phone can be your greatest weapon. People who physically assaulted someone – they are at the main contingent of those tried in the Bolotnaya Square cases, and in this ‘New Bolotnaya case’.

O. Bychkova: Yes, that’s true. It’s those very people, as was later established, who tore off people’s buttons and epaulets.

A. Novikov: The most non-threatening thing you can do is not take the police who are grabbing hold of someone to task, but instead hug the person they are trying to drag away and detain with both hands. This would be the least risky thing to do.

O. Bychkova: Best to either reach for the guy who isn’t a police officer, or get hold of your mobile phone and record it all.

A. Novikov: Yes, exactly.

O. Bychkova:  I see. Many thanks.

A. Naryshkin: – The lawyer Ilya Novikov has been talking on Echo Moscow, sharing his advice and ‘lifehacks’ on how to conduct oneself today - and in principle, at other public events - so as to avoid ending up in the back of a police van or then face administrative or, in the worst-case scenario, criminal proceedings.

And now we continue our discussion on this theme with you, our listeners, and other of our guests.

Translated by Nathalie Wilson and Suzanne Eade Roberts

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