8 March 2023
by Maria Eismont, lawyer, laureate of a Moscow Helsinki Group human rights award
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group
Since the New Year, judges have been permitted to pronounce judgments in summary fashion, announcing publicly only the introductory and the substantive parts of the judicial decision, while the full text of the verdict is handed to the parties in a written version.
On the one hand, this has greatly shortened the whole procedure. Previously, members of the public had to stand for hours, shifting from foot to foot, listening attentively to what the presiding judge had to say, while the accused endured hours of agonizing suspense waiting for the punishment to be announced. Now everything takes more or less 10 minutes. You don’t have to stand for hours or worry unnecessarily during the long wait for the last – most important – lines to be pronounced.
On the other hand, the reasoning of the verdict, where the court evaluates the evidence and the arguments of the parties, remains unannounced and largely unpublicized.
Meanwhile, the text of the verdict in the case of Dima Ivanov, a 23-year-old student in the faculty of Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics at Moscow State University, who yesterday was given eight and a half years in prison for posts and reposts on the Protest MGU telegram channel about the events in Ukraine, deserves public attention.
There is much in the text that is vivid and revealing. But if I had to choose one paragraph which contains in concentrated form the entire essence of the prosecution for ‘public dissemination of information known to be false about the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation’ (Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code), it would be this one. On page 41 of the verdict:
‘The arguments of the defence, which actually amount to an expression of a lack of trust in the official position of the Russian Ministry of Defence as set out in official briefings and also of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as presented by Minister S. V. Lavrov in his speeches, are untenable and cannot be taken into account by the court, since any evaluation of the reliability of information presented by official representatives of one or another government body will not ensure realization of the constitutional principle of maintaining the confidence of citizens in the law and in the actions of the state.’
Translated by Simon Cosgrove