29 October 2021
Ivan Pavlov in conversation with Aleksandr Kasatkin
The Russian authorities have put the lawyer Ivan Pavlov, a laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group Prize, on а wanted list. А criminal case for disclosing confidential information about an investigation was brought against Pavlov in April this year. According to the FSB, Pavlov, the defence lawyer for the journalist Ivan Safronov who has been accused of treason, illegally gave documents to journalists. After that, the legal association Team 29 led by Pavlov was declared an undesirable organization. Team 29 was forced to halt its work, and Pavlov himself left Russia.
In an interview with Current Time, Ivan Pavlov spoke about how all these events are connected with the particular character of his work: he primarily handles cases on treason, espionage, and extremism. Among his clients is Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, which has been declared an extremist organization and banned in Russia.
I guess I’d rate it as a classic of the genre. First they have done everything to make a person leave. Now they have to do everything so that he doesn’t come back, so that it wouldn’t even enter his head that he could return and continue on with business as usual. They put me on a wanted list, they could bring another criminal case, but so far we know only that they’ve put me on a wanted list. That doesn’t mean that they won’t bring any criminal cases – maybe they’ve already been brought, we simply don’t know about them. Because it happened on September 20 — it turns out, that the decree putting me on the wanted list was dated September 20 – but we learned about it only in the past few days. And here they are taking measures to keep me at a distance, so to speak.
I continue to work [on the Safronov case), and on other cases. Lawyers remain in Russia who attend the court hearings and other matters regarding the investigation. I can still do some things remotely, a large part of an advocate’s work is in the office, and this part of the work I can do. And as long as my help is needed, I will not refuse anyone.
I think that the sum total of these cases has reached a critical mass, when my courtroom opponents began to work in an unsporting fashion and took steps to remove the defence lawyer. There’s a piece of oriental wisdom that says if you cannot bite the horseman, bite the horse. I’m the horse, you understand, and it’s not a sweet life. Here, of course, it is all about the people I am defending. And when something doesn’t go well for my opponents, doesn’t come together, the legal debits and credits don’t match, they decide to remove one of the active participants in the trial, the one who actively led the defence. And in order to remove that element of the criminal trial, they exerted unprecedented amounts of pressure that forced me to leave the country.
But once again, before I left Russia, I had a lot of preparatory work to do: we found other activists who would make up for my absence in Russia and are now continuing to directly participate in cases. Every case has at least one rights defender involved, or sometimes even several. And I, unfortunately, do my side of the job at a distance. But if the conditions change and I can return at least to the conditions that existed before 30 April, when I was told that a criminal case had been opened against me and I would be subject to pre-trial restrictions that paralysed my ability to practice as a lawyer because I couldn’t use the internet, any means of communication or communicate with my clients and lawyer colleagues… If these conditions are restored to allow normal legal work, then even with the level of security I had before 30 April – and this was quite critical – I am prepared to return to Russia. I’ll be on the first flight with what they call a one-way ticket – just as when I left Russia.
The legal community is not a monolith, it is not uniform in its views, or a corporation – we have different people with differing opinions. The only thing in relation to my case which I think none of them are in any doubt over is that I am being persecuted for my professional activities. No-one doubts this, even my opponents whose views differ dramatically from mine.
In terms of support, I feel it and can sense the solidarity extended by many colleagues. Many of my colleagues signed a petition directly to the leadership of the St Petersburg bar association, which is currently considering the Ministry of Justice’s third submission concerning my case with a demand to remove my status as an enemy of the people. There have already been some very straightforward views expressed that I am simply an enemy. I hope that my colleagues, including those in self-governing bodies for lawyers, which will decide my fate, will be consistent. I am counting on their solidarity with me and see these attacks not just as attacks on Pavlov the lawyer, but on the entire legal profession. This case touches on a number of serious, fundamental moments to which a strong profession must react and defend itself, protect its members, and in doing so, protect itself.
[How politicized are the courts?] In general, politics has a bad influence on the courts, and on the professional aspect of a case, and this is clear when a court must always change course and respond not so much to the requirements of the law as to the signals that are constantly coming from different departments – or rather, not so much from different departments as from the single department that has the highest-ranking.
This is all bad for justice: it means that justice will not be served, justice will not be realised in every concrete case if the court is not independent, if the court does not simply act in accordance with the law, but if it is instead directed by some informal signal. We used to have a system of “telephone justice” – you probably remember that term. That system is no longer in operation. Nowadays it is no longer necessary to call a judge in order to tell them what decision to make. Nowadays the judges already know in advance what decisions they should take. Even before the judge receives a case, and before they get to know what it involves, they already know for sure that they must reach a judgment that will be in the interests of the one who sends the signal. And that is not the person who makes the law, but the one who sends the signal. And you can do whatever you like with the laws: we see such desecration of the laws every day, when they are simply interpreted so crookedly that it is ghastly to see. This is all bad, of course. But we don’t have any other courts. As the great Genry Reznik says, “I have no other courts for you: if you don’t like it, change your profession.”
We’re not going to change our profession, we’ll work in the courts as they are, we’ll defend people who, so to speak, did not come to the courts of their own volition, but who were brought there. Other than defenders such as us, no one will help them. We shall do everything for them that we can. Honour and respect to those defenders who still remain in Russia, regardless of such difficult conditions, in order honestly to fulfil their duty. I know many lawyers who work conscientiously, defending their clients in very difficult circumstances, sometimes even putting themselves at risk of colossal danger.