22 February 2021
by Genri Reznik, advocate, vice-president of the Russian Federal Bar Association, first vice-president of the Moscow Bar Association, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group and member of the Presidential Council on Human Rights
On 20 February 2021, the Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI) published material under the headline “Exciting only for those distant from jurisprudence and susceptible to hype: an advocate on the Navalny case.”
The subject of the publication, as identified by RAPSI, was “activity of the Russian Federal Bar Association” with the tag “Federal Association (FBA).”
The headline refers to a quote about the A.A. Navalny case from a commentary by G.K. Sharov, vice-president of the Russian Federal Bar Association and identified as such several times throughout the publication. This created the impression on the editors of the Agency, and creates the impression for readers, that G.K. Sharov’s opinion expresses the position of the Russian Federal Bar Association.
This perception is wrong. With my full authority as vice president of the Russian Federal Bar Associaiton, I declare that the case of A.A. Navalny was never discussed by either the board of the Association, or by its leadership in a smaller group.
While I recognize the right of a colleague to his own opinion, I want to call attention to the fact that, in his commentary, there is not only a legal but a political assessment of the case as one having grown into a battle with the state. The arguments that G.K. Sharov characterizes as “empty in their content” and capable of “exciting only the minds of people who are distant from jurisprudence and susceptible to hype” comprise the defence’s position in the case. Advocates fight to free their clients through legal means, which include the right to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Professional ethics forbid advocates from publicly commenting on the merits of a case in which they are not participating. G.K. Sharov reminded us of this, justifiably reprimanding advocates for forcing their way into a discussion of the A.A. Navalny case — and there were truly many of them. But unfortunately, he himself has “sinned,” openly taking sides in the court dispute.
I take this opportunity to remind everyone: the bar association is not a political organization, it is not anti-or pro-government, does not fight corruption or even crime, does not solve socio-economic problems, does not sway in tandem with the “party and government line.” It has, at all times, one task — providing professional help to each person who needs legal help. In the manner provided for by law and independently of the political orientation of the client.
Translated by John Tokolish