14 February 2020
Boris Altshuler is chair of the board of the NGO Children’s Rights and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group
Scientists and scientific journalists have stated that “unlike those fictional ‘terrorist attacks’ that the convicts were allegedly planning, the decisions and monstrous sentences in the Network case is a real act of terror that deals a cruel blow to the foundations of Russian statehood.”
However, in this case we are talking about an extended attack, rather than anything short term. Russia’s unjust courts, alongside the Federal Security Service (FSB) both fabricated the whole thing.
Throughout our country’s history there have already been periods of mass fabrication of terrible criminal prosecutions. We can only welcome the recent instructions of the President of the Russian Federation following the meeting with the human Rights Council on 10 December 2019 on the creation of the Butovsky Firing Range Museum and the formation of a unified database of victims of political repression. And it’s scary to think that similar instructions will probably be issued about our time, 80 years from now.
Uncontrolled law enforcement officers are a real threat to the national security of the Russian Federation. During January’s Gaidar Forum, German Gref and Aleksei Kudrin said that the current situation in the Russian law enforcement system is a priority problem. I am sure that they are keenly aware of the situation and its scale.
At the beginning of his first presidential term, Vladimir Putin championed the dictatorship of the law: “Democracy is a dictatorship of the law, not of those whose duty it is to defend this law in office” (28 February 2000). Today, the task of practical implementation of this thesis is perhaps even more important than 20 years ago. What is to be done?
Yes, it is very important that Genri Reznik’s proposals to strengthen the independence of the courts and strengthen judicial control over investigations, expressed at the meeting of the Human Rights Council with Putin (10 December 2019) are supported. I think, however, that the problem requires an immediate solution, otherwise it will be too late.
Multi-faceted preventive surveillance of law enforcement officers is the basis for law enforcement officers in all democratic countries, from Finland to the United States: “I see why your system is stalling. Because there’s nobody keeping checks on one another. Here, someone is constantly keep an eye on you. Constantly. I have 40 other detectives from different bureaus standing over me, who will put me in jail if I do something wrong. You don’t have anything like that” (from a 1994 interview with Russian-born New York police officer Peter Grinevsky in ‘Moscow News’.
Author’s note: Three years ago the Federal Security Service (FSB – successor organisation to the Soviet KGB) arrested a number of young people in five towns accusing them of organizing the terrorist group, ‘Network.’ The only proofs presented later to the court were confessions of the defendants given under most cruel torture. This torture was confirmed by the members of the Public Oversight Commissions and by Mikhail Fedotov, until September 2019 chair of the Presidential Council on Human Rights. However, all requests to investigate these alleged instances of torture have been in vain. All this has also been ignored by the court in Penza where the trial in the Network Case was held and on 10 February 2020 the court sentenced seven young people to long terms of imprisonment – from 6 to 18 years. These cruel sentences triggered an avalanche of protests all over Russia. The appeal quoted at the beginning of the article has been signed by 400 scientists and science journalists.
Translated by James Lofthouse
Related articles by Boris Altshuler:
‘Attacks on the Lebedev Institute: Russia urgently needs protection from law enforcement‘; 12 November 2019