29 March 2021
By Ilya Shablinsky, legal expert and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group:
Aleksei Navalny has stated that he has been designated as an ‘Escape Risk’. Every night, prison officers come on the hour every hour to Navalny’s prison cell, loudly announce their recording and begin to record him on video camera, I didn’t believe it or understand this at first. But people in the know have confirmed this happens. There is a wide scope for actions by the prison authorities. They can choose what to do, consulting with another set of bosses, as you might guess. But generally, this is something from the arsenal our professional prison-sadists used in the good old days, in the 1930s. You may recall, prisoners (both men and women) were forced to stand for 48 hours without sleep in an interrogation room, while the investigators (those animals) were changed every hour?
Nowadays, of course this kind of thing doesn’t happen. It is after all the 21st Century, the digital age. Instead, a person is woken up to stare at a camera every hour.
We have genuinely instituted torture as routine. I managed to grasp this when I was on the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights and read about these regrettable things. It is a specialisation in itself to decide – who needs a bag over their head? Who needs the insomnia treatment? The professionals will decide. They are part of the power structure we are living under these days – if you hadn’t noticed. They act in line with their professional know-how.
And yet, It wasn’t long ago that Lech Wałęsa nominated Aleksei Navalny for the Nobel Peace Prize for achievements in the field of human rights. Wałęsa himself served time and was held on similar charges to Navalny. He was given the title of American Agent too, of course.
Never mind. History has put everything in its place. Bravo Lech. And Aleksei, you just need to hold on.
Translated by Fergus Wright