Public appeal: Stop the violence immediately and abide by the law!

8 February 2021

Pictured: Sergei Lukashevsky, director of the Sakharov Centre, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, one of the signatories of the appeal

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Новая газета]

An appeal to the citizens of Russia, elected authorities, political parties and public organisations expressing protest against the practice of political prosecutions, police and judicial arbitrariness, and the inhuman beating of peaceful citizens by the police has been signed by more than 180 scientists, actors, directors, writers and public figures. Among the signatories are actors Veniamin Smekhov, Chulpan Khamatova, Yana Troyanova, Evgeny Tsyganov, Yulia Snigir, Aleksandr Filippenko; directors Andrei Zvyagintsev, Vitaly Mansky, Zhora Kryzhovnikov and Marina Razbezhkina; writers Boris Akunin, Yuliy Kim, Denis Dragunsky, Sergei Gandlevsky and Maksim Osiplevsky; academicians Vladimir Zakharov, Evgeny Alexandrov and Efim Khazanov; and the founder of the VimpelCom company and the Dynasty fund Dmitry Zimin; and others.

The appeal urges the authorities to immediately bring the legislation on rallies and demonstrations in line with the Constitution of Russia and guarantee citizens the right of peaceful assembly, release all those detained at rallies in recent weeks, and stop the practice of inhuman beating of peaceful citizens by the police and judicial arbitrariness in relation to detainees.

To the citizens of Russia, elected government bodies, political parties and public organisations

In recent weeks, peaceful gatherings of citizens have taken place throughout Russia – people took to the streets to protest against political persecution: assassination attempts, the fabrication of criminal cases and the arrest of political opponents. Such phenomena, characteristic of dictatorships, are unacceptable in modern society, incompatible with the tasks of the development of our country, and are returning it to a totalitarian past. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Russian citizens took part in these peaceful protests.

All applications for such events have been turned down by the authorities in recent weeks, and this is a direct violation of the rights of citizens guaranteed by Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, the rules of which take precedence over any laws, especially decisions of the executive authorities.

If votes and elections are held in a country, then assemblies and rallies cannot be simultaneously prohibited in it.

In this situation, the behaviour of people taking part in peaceful rallies fully corresponded to the legal order defined by the Russian Constitution. It is attempts by law enforcement agencies to prevent them that are, by contrast, illegal from a constitutional point of view. To eliminate this conflict, it is urgently necessary to bring the legislation on holding rallies and public assemblies in line with the Constitution of the Russian Federation and oblige the executive authorities to strictly follow the Constitution.

The senselessly brutal actions of the police, who beat up peaceful, unarmed citizens, and the complete arbitrariness of the courts, violating en masse all conceivable requirements of the law, the principle of impartiality, justice, and the presumption of innocence, give rise to profound indignation.

These days have been a true disgrace for the Russian judicial system.

Even people who were accidentally seized by the police near the locations of rallies and meetings have received carbon-copy convictions. In fact, the courts have turned into something like the three-person ‘troika’ courts of the Stalinist terror, albeit, so far, within the framework of administrative proceedings.

Those detained and arrested, including through court decisions, must be released, and the court decisions must be annulled en masse. Contrived criminal cases initiated for political reasons must be terminated.

Even within the framework of the current laws (which do not fully comply with the Russian Constitution), the brutality of law enforcement agencies towards citizens was flagrantly inconsistent with the level of “public danger” represented by the protesters. With the exception of a few incidents, these were completely peaceful rallies. This practice of unlawful, inhuman treatment of citizens cannot be justified by groundless assumptions about the alleged illegal “intentions” of the protesters.

The inhuman and unprovoked behaviour of the police towards peaceful citizens of Russia was far beyond the scope of rights and laws, and should therefore be immediately stopped, condemned and punished.

This is the constitutional duty of the President of the Russian Federation and the representative bodies of power at all levels.

We call on people of goodwill, all our fellow citizens, to join in condemning violence against political opponents, to raise their voices in defence of civil peace, democracy and a decent life, and on representatives of the authorities to return to the framework of the constitutional legal order.

For a list of signatories, see here.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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