Political Imprisonment in Russia: Motives, Tools, and Trends
According to the Memorial, there are 312 political prisoners in the Russian Federation today
At the recent session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, for the first time in recent years, close attention was paid to the situation with political prisoners in Russia.
A briefing on political prisoners in the Russian Federation was held within the framework of PACE. Presentations were made by the Russian opposition politician, the chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation Vladimir Kara-Murza and the head of the program “Support for political prisoners and persecuted civil activists” of the human rights center “Memorial” Sergei Davidis.
According to the PACE resolution of 2012, a person is considered a political prisoner if his arrest violates the basic guarantees set forth in the European Convention on Human Rights. For example, if the decision to keep him (her) in custody was made for purely political reasons, as well as if, for political reasons, the duration of detention or its conditions are not proportional to the crime, and so on.
According to Memorial’s estimates, there are 312 political prisoners in Russia today. This is more than there were prisoners of conscience in the USSR. .
The correspondent of the Russian Service of the Voice of America spoke about the problem of political prisoners and their perception in Europe and Russia with Sergei Davidis.
Victor Vladimirov: What are your impressions of the briefing? Did the exchange of views take place?
Sergey Davidis: Our briefing was still held on the sidelines of the session, and those who were interested in the discussed topic came to it. And there were many of them – a full hall: the deputies. First of all, these were representatives of Eastern European countries, but not only. Their interest was quite lively, it seems to me. We talked about the current trend, about the situation with political prisoners in general. And this fit well with the initiative developed with the active participation of Vladimir Kara-Murza to appoint a PACE rapporteur on the topic of Russian political prisoners. Since the very existence of such prisoners violates Russia’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, this should be the subject of the organization’s attention. Still, the format of this kind of event is rather limited. We were given an hour between meetings, so it was impossible to conduct a detailed dialogue. Nevertheless, topical questions were sounded, including on the criteria for inclusion in the category of political prisoners. There were also questions related to the desire to gain a deeper understanding of the situation, the essence of our approaches to the problem and the methodology for forming lists of political prisoners..
V.V .: Was the question of the fate of specific people raised??
S.D .: Vladimir (Kara-Murza) spoke more about specific persons. He focused the audience’s attention on Anastasia Shevchenko (a member of Open Russia under house arrest), on Alexei Pichugin (ex-head of the internal economic security department at the Yukos oil company, sentenced to life imprisonment), on violations in the case which just recently was just another decision of the ECHR. I settled on a broader scope of the problem. After all, there are 312 people on our lists of political prisoners now, and it is not possible to list them all. At the same time, we focused on the persecution of human rights defenders and journalists – on the cases of Yuri Dmitriev, Dagestani journalist Abdulmumin Hajiyev and others. In our opinion, this topic requires special attention..
V.V .: What is required to eradicate the problem?
S.D .: The very essence of the attitude of a democratic society and human rights defenders to the problem of political prisoners is that there simply should not be such a category of people. Therefore, people who are now illegally imprisoned for political reasons should be released. In addition, articles of the Criminal Code that are obviously violating the Russian constitution and Russia’s international obligations must be abolished. The issue is also in law enforcement – in the effective and independent work of domestic courts, which, unfortunately, is not observed in our country. This is, of course, a complex problem. In fact, its solution requires a radical change in the existing regime, in which there is no rule of law and the primacy of human rights..
V.V .: It would be logical to assume that in the context of the situation with political prisoners, you have something to talk about with the Russian plenipotentiaries in PACE.
S.D .: They didn’t come to our briefing. And I, frankly, did not seek to meet with them, since their approaches are absolutely clear. They are based on the legislation that they themselves adopted. On it, in fact, political repression is based. Russian deputies are an organic part of the existing government. Therefore, it is quite obvious that they have nothing constructive to say..