5 December 2021
by Aleksandr Podrabinek
In 1999, the 49-year-old opposition journalist Slavko Ćuruvija – founder of several independent publications and famous critic of President Slobodan Milošević – was shot right next to his building in downtown Belgrade. The state security service of the then still Communist Serbia had settled their score with him for his illegal newspaper Dnevni telegraf [Daily Telegraph], which had been banned in the country and disseminated clandestinely.
A few days ago, a Belgrade court sentenced the former head of Serbian state security, 75-year-old Radomir Marković, to 30 years in prison for this murder, and three of his former subordinates to 20-30 years’ incarceration.
Justice was had, albeit with a delay of two decades. This brings to mind the crimes of the Communist regime in the Soviet Union and the criminals who have successfully evaded punishment.
The new Russian regime that took the place of the Communist one made do with rehabilitating former political prisoners; this was all the justice “democratic” Russia proved capable of. None of the former investigators, prosecutors, or judges, or the CPSU bureaucrats who supervised them, was held responsible in any way.
CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT
In the 1980s, Vyacheslav Lebedev, a former judge in the Moscow Municipal Court, issued verdicts against the dissidents Feliks Svetov and Elena Sannikova. Not only did Lebedev not bear any punishment whatsoever for falsifying legal procedures, but he was promoted — and is now Chief Justice of the Russian Supreme Court.
Many former associates of State Security and the Prosecutor’s Office, employees of prisons and prison camps, psychiatrists in special psychiatric hospitals, and highly placed functionaries in the Soviet system who bear direct responsibility for the humiliation, torture, and murder of critics of the Soviet regime are happily living out their days with increased pensions and guarantees of complete safety.
They have nothing to fear in present-day Russia. At the helm of power are their spiritual heirs and the continuers of their hangman deeds.
MOREOVER, THEY HAVE SET THEMSELVES UP NICELY IN THE WEST, TOO
In 1969, Bulgarian dissident, journalist, and playwright Georgy Markov fled to England from Communist Bulgaria. He lived in London and worked at the BBC. On 7 September 1978, on the street, he felt a small jab in his leg. The man with an umbrella standing next to him apologized, hailed a taxi, and rode away. At first, Markov made nothing of the barely noticeable wound on his leg. But the next day his health seriously deteriorated, and two days later he died in a London hospital. He was 49 years old. An autopsy showed he had been poisoned with ricin.
After August 1991, when the KGB archives in Moscow briefly opened just a little, it was clarified that one of the organizers of Georgy Markov’s murder was KGB General Oleg Kalugin. In early 1978, Bulgaria’s then-Interior Minister General Stoyanov had appealed directly to the head of the Soviet KGB’s foreign intelligence administration, Vladimir Kriuchkov, asking for his help in carrying out the personal order of Todor Zhivkov to exterminate the dissident Georgy Markov in London.
Kriuchkov went to KGB Chairman Yury Andropov, who issued the appropriate instructions, and Kalugin was brought into the operation. It was under Kalugin’s supervision, at Laboratory No. 12 of the KGB’s operations and technical administration, where technical means were produced for operations purposes, that the weapon was created to kill the Bulgarian dissident.
Kalugin’s role became widely known, but that did not prevent him first from becoming a high-profile “champion of democracy” in Russia and later from emigrating unimpeded to the United States. Even now he lives there quite happily, neither encountering justice nor fearing retribution.
THE UNIVERSAL JURISDICTION THERE ISN’T
In the West, there is an international warrant out for the arrest of the murderers of Aleksandr Litvinenko; however, the suspects are sitting tight in Russia and are impossible to arrest. But Markov’s killer lives in the United States. Why such a favourable attitude toward him on the part of American justice?
In international law, there is the concept of universal jurisdiction. This means that for certain crimes, such as genocide and acts of international terrorism, a national judiciary can call a criminal to account regardless of his relationship to that country.
Thus, as recently as this week, a court in Germany sentenced to life imprisonment a former IS fighter for the brutal murder of a five-year-old girl in Iraq. Preparing in the USSR for the murder of a Bulgarian emigrant in England is an act of international terrorism. Why is Oleg Kalugin not in prison to this day?
It’s too bad that universal jurisdiction is a national judiciary’s right, not its obligation.
Translated by Marian Schwartz