Team 29: 👔 Law in the grip of politics

5 June 2021

Hi, it’s Artem Kutlovsky from Team 29!

On 9 June, a court hearing in the case of FBK [the Anti-Corruption Foundation] will take place. We are continuing to cover this story, primarily the legal aspects, so you can see whether the Prosecutor’s Office is using up so much paper for nothing (they are!).

This and other high-profile trials were discussed on our YouTube channel by the lawyer Ilya Novikov. He got involved with the FBK case as a gesture of solidarity with his colleague Ivan Pavlov, who is at risk of criminal prosecution and hence disbarment, after being a practising lawyer since 1997. In a New York Times interview, the head of Team 29 described how the Leviathan came for him. 

Meanwhile, the ‘FBK law’, which restricts individuals involved in extremist or terrorist organisations from standing in elections, has now been signed into law by the president. This is a gross violation of the basic legal tenet of non-retroactivity. They’d give you a ‘D’ for that at the legal faculty! Nevertheless, the law has been passed, and now they’ll explain to us how for centuries we’ve misunderstood the fundamentals of law.

Now, that’s reminded me how seven years ago, the Constitutional Court recognised the NGO law – on foreign agents – as constitutional. Among its provisions, a passage has stuck with me in which the Constitutional Court maintained, in all seriousness, that, ‘any attempt to find, based on stereotypes of the Soviet era that have effectively lost their meaning under modern conditions, any negative connotation in the phrase “foreign agent” would be devoid of any constitutional and legal basis’. Disagreeing with his colleagues, Judge V. Yaroslavtsev wrote at the time in his dissenting opinion that, ‘The introduction by a federal legislator of the concept of “foreign agent” is arbitrary and has no objective or reasonable justification. In fact, it cannot identify non-profit organisations with foreign sources of funding as “foreign agents’’.’ Meanwhile, the latest independent publication VTimes is shutting down for being designated as such. So, there you have it, the dissenting opinions of judges of the Constitutional Court have simply disappeared without trace.

Up on the website now, we also have a lengthy and intricate piece, the product of a collaboration with the German-born Argentinian journalist and researcher Gabriele Weber. For a long time I thought that this story shouldn’t have taken decades of work but, for me, it was a great honour to work with Ms Weber. Without faltering, she took on the archives, secret services and whole governments, who weren’t the greatest fans of her work, to say the least.

Lawyer and not yet foreign agent,

Artem Kutlovsky

Translated by Lindsay Munford

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