23 January 2021
An open letter from Russian lawyers to the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, Vladimir Kolokoltsev
Pictured: lawyer Yury Kostanov, one of the signatories of the open letter and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
To the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, General of the Police, Vladimir Aleksandrovich Kolokoltsev
We, the undersigned Russian lawyers, are outraged by what happened to our colleague, the lawyer Mansur Gilmanov, at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia for Moscow’s Danilovsky district on 21 January 2021 and demand that those responsible be punished, an apology be issued to our colleague and that there be a discontinuation of the corrupt practice of obstructing defence lawyers from performing their professional duties in police stations.
On 21 January 2021 the lawyer Mansur Gilmanov arrived at the Danilovsky district police station in Moscow at the request of his client, Vladlen Los, a citizen of the Republic of Belarus who required legal assistance. According to statements by the lawyer Gilmanov, the following happened after his arrival at the Ministry of Internal Affairs:
‘I went to the duty desk at the Danilovsky district police station in Moscow. However, near the duty desk, a police officer at the security desk hit me in the legs, which caused me to fall. Then he demanded that I put myself in a supine position with my hands behind my back and that I not resist. I obeyed the police officer’s demands and did not resist.’
The lawyer Fyodor Sirosh, who came to the aid of his colleague, was not allowed to see him for a long time, just as they did not allow Tatyana Sustina, a representative of the Moscow Region Bar Association’s Commission for the Protection of the Professional Rights of Lawyers, to enter the Danilovsky district police station. Mansur Gilmanov, who was never able to provide legal assistance to his client or to receive it himself from his colleagues, was accused of ‘disobeying the lawful order of a police officer’ – an administrative offence under Art. 19.3 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences – and left to spend the night at the police station.
What happened is nothing more than a flagrant violation of the human right to receive qualified legal assistance and the corresponding right of a lawyer to the unobstructed fulfilment of their professional duties in order to provide qualified legal assistance to their client. We regard the unwarranted and heavy-handed use of force against our colleague and his humiliation by the order to lie on the floor as yet another instance of law enforcement officers demonstrating extreme disrespect to the legal profession.
This is not the first time that we have encountered arbitrariness in police stations. The issue of not allowing lawyers access to detainees in police stations has existed for a long time and has only gotten worse. This instance was no different, as lawyers were repeatedly unable to enter the premises of the police station under the pretext that a “Fortress” scheme had been implemented that allows for different procedures should there be a threat of attack on the station. In reality, this scheme was introduced when the defence lawyer arrived and was used exclusively to prevent lawyers from entering the police station.
In Moscow, it is often lawyers in particular who are not allowed to see detainees from peaceful protests.
Mansur Gilmanov’s case is outrageous. The lawyer was not only not allowed to perform his professional duties, he also had force used against him. was charged with an administrative offense, and detained. The colleagues who came to see him were not allowed into the station, which again grossly violated the norms of the Russian Constitution and the Federal Law ‘On advocacy and the legal profession in the Russian Federation’.
All this happens because those who commit these actions feel that they can do so with complete impunity and the tacit approval of the authorities (there is no other way to explain the lack of a proper response to what happened by the police authorities). Everything that happens causes irreparable harm to the institution of the legal profession and contributes to a feeling of insecurity among Russian citizens:
If their lawyer can be put face down on the ground and kicked, what might happen to them?!
We demand respect for our profession, which is called upon to help citizens realize their constitutional right to receive qualified legal assistance from the moment of their detention, regardless of the procedural status of the detainee and their political beliefs. We demand an end to the corrupt practice of not allowing defence lawyers to enter police stations, we demand an investigation of all previous violations and a public apology to the lawyers. We demand the immediate release of Mansur Gilmanov, the dismissal of all charges against him and the prosecution of the police officers who used force against him and illegally detained him.
For a list of the lawyers who have signed the open letter, see here
Translated by Tyler Langendorfer