This week our guest on the podcast is Ivan Pavlov, a human rights lawyer specializing in freedom of information and treason cases. For many years, Ivan Pavlov headed the civil society group Team 29, which also worked to promote freedom of information in Russia.
The topics of our conversation today are the persecution of lawyers in Russia, the rule of law, what reforms are needed, the history of Team 29, the right of association and the future of human rights in Russia.
The questions we discuss include:
- You are one of Ivan Safronov’s lawyers. Both you and Evgeny Smirnov, another of Safronov’s lawyers, are forced to live outside Russia. Question: why exactly are these measures being taken against lawyers now?
- Is the legal professional community able to stand up for itself?
- Has Russia ever been a country where the rule of law existed?
- What needs to be done to bring the country closer to the rule of law? What are the main steps that need to be taken to achieve this?
- Can you tell us something about the history of Team 29? When was it created? What did it accomplish? Why was it shut down?
- We are all following the Memorial case. One gets the impression the Russian authorities today do not want any independent civil society organizations to exist. What are the consequences of this policy for Russia? What is a country without civil society?
- Realistically speaking, what are the prospects for fair trial in the Russian Federation?
- What prospects are there for human rights in general? Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on SoundCloud, Podcasts.com, Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts and Anchor and YouTube. The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.
You can listen to the podcast in full here:
Given the length of the podcast, for your convenience we have also divided it into six parts that you can listen to separately.
Part One: The persecution of lawyers; the solidarity among the legal profession:
Part Two: Rule of law; human rights; politics:
Part Three: On Team 29:
Part Four: Perspectives for the future: civil society; fair trial; human rights:
Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “I remember well the 1990s when we crossed a certain threshold, everyone more or less attained a degree of material well-being and began to think about having some rights, about restoring democratic values in the country. I saw that the judicial system was developing, there were some hopes. This trend lasted until about 2004 or 2005, but then developments took a rather different direction. Every person looks for some stability in their life, something on which to base their decisions. In a society governed by the rule of law, that stable basis is the law. A state where there is the rule of law is considered the most stable. But if the law is not stable, and the only ‘stability’ is that a single person has been in power for a long time, it becomes easier for people to look for the signals that come from that one person rather than to the law, which is one thing today and another tomorrow. Officials today are not guided by the law, but by signals that come from that one person. The ability to change by democratic means those in power ensures the quality of life in a democracy.” This is what the human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov, who specializes in freedom of information and treason cases, told us. For several years, Ivan was the head of Team 29, an informal association of lawyers and journalists that fought the growing lack of transparency of the state in Russia. I vividly remember that in Soviet times, wherever I went to apply for a job, the hiring process necessarily included a visit to the First Department, a room with an iron door, where – as a rule – some retired man with a crazy look was sitting. These First Departments actually embodied the closed nature of the state, the total control over everything: why the hell do you need the First Department in the offices of a building restoration organisation where I worked in my youth? Ivan Pavlov in our conversation mentioned his team’s new project, which he called the First Department. On Monday, he told a wider audience: “The First Department of the state bodies was engaged in the classification of documents and protection of state secrets. Often what was going on behind closed doors in the First Departments had little to do with the law and was simply arbitrary. Our First Department will fight to ensure that employees of all first departments throughout the country comply with the law, so that they do not violate your rights.” Listen to our conversation with Ivan Pavlov, who temporarily left Russia but continues to do his fantastic work.