8 July 2022
by Svetlana Astrakhantseva, executive director of Moscow Helsinki Group
Moscow municipal council member Aleksei Gorinov has been sentenced to seven years in a low security prison for making public statements about the actions of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine that “do not correspond to the content of the official position of the Russian Defence Ministry set out in the official briefings” (quote from the indictment).
It is indicative that systematic torture and beatings are punished in Russia by restriction of freedom for up to three years, the lowest penalty for murder is six years, for rape – from three to six years, but for a critical opinion about the use of the Russian armed forces and the actions of the Russian government a person is imprisoned for seven years!
The priorities are clear – the state puts a higher value on the absence of criticism about it than on human life.
The fate of dozens more people charged under Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code is also obvious – the bar and standards of ‘justice’ in criminal cases for anti-war statements were set today by the Meshchansky district court. The judge considered the information voiced by Aleksei Gorinov about the number of children killed in Ukraine false, solely because the website of the Russian Ministry of Defence does not mention the number of civilian victims in Ukraine. But people are dying! And the fact that the Ministry of Defence does not mention civilian casualties in its reports does not make the number of casualties smaller and certainly does not make them disappear!
The wording from Gorinov’s criminal case files strongly resembles the trials of the 1930s: “by their criminal actions … undermined the authority and discredited the armed forces of the Russian Federation, causing anxiety, fear, concern and insecurity about the government among citizens who have seen the videotape.” Of course, it is Gorinov’s words that cause the citizens to feel anxiety, fear and insecurity about the government, but not such criminal trials and verdicts, which bring to mind a famous phrase of an infamous strong man: “If you are not in jail, it is not your merit, but our shortcoming”.
This shameful, inhumane, and cynical verdict must surely be quashed. Now all that remains is to place our hopes in the higher courts, which have all the authority to restore the violated rights and render a fair decision. After all, the second chapter of the Constitution of the Russian Federation has not yet changed and the supreme constitutional value remains the individual and their rights and freedoms, in particular the right to freedom of speech and expression. The state (represented by those acting in its name) is still obligated to recognize, respect and protect human rights and freedoms, not a ‘special military operation’!
Translated by Ecaterina Hughes