On the Day of Russian Constitution
The constitution of “New” Russia was adopted on December 12, 1993. To mark the twenty-second anniversary of our country’s fundamental law, the authorities have decided to adopt several initiatives that are directly destroying some of the constitution’s articles and provisions.
At present the fundamental law, which is the supreme legal force and the foundation of legislation, is purely declarative and bears no relation to the Russian state’s actual legislative practice.
It is interesting to open the constitution and simply read the articles from it to anyone who understands today’s realities of the state.
2. The people shall exercise their power directly, and also through the bodies of state power and local self-government.
2. The Constitution of the Russian Federation and federal laws shall have supremacy in the whole territory of the Russian Federation.
1. The Russian Federation is a social State whose policy is aimed at creating conditions for a worthy life and a free development of man.
1. The Russian Federation is a secular state. No religion may be established as a state or obligatory one.
2. Religious associations shall be separated from the State and shall be equal before the law.
1. All people shall be equal before the law and court.
1. Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of ideas and speech.
2. The freedom of mass communication shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be banned.
Citizens of the Russian Federation shall have the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons, hold rallies, meetings and demonstrations, marches and pickets.
And now I want to name three names. Three people held under Article 212.1, which was adopted as recently as 2014. This article is in direct contradiction to Article 31 of the constitution.
Ildar Dadin was sentenced to three years imprisonment for repeated violations of the rules of holding rallies. This is the first sentence in Russia under article 212.1 of the Criminal Code. In other words, Dadin repeatedly disturbed public order, which is questionable given that most of his administrative punishments are for solo pickets, which even by today’s realities in Russia do not require any approval. In practice, the police use provocateurs to remove pickets. The provocateurs approach the person picketing unnoticed, and the picket ceases to be solo. Both end up in the police van- but they let the provocateur go.
The case materials show that several of the administrative offences, for which Dadin had already been punished, have suddenly become a criminal case. The prosecutor asks for two years, and the judge helpfully gives him 3.3 years in prison. This is about the same as being jailed for repeated parking offences, having already paid the parking fines.
The Preobrazhensky Court in Moscow will sentence the activist Vladimir Ionov on December 16. Ionov is accused under Article 212.1- repeated violations at rallies. He has been under house arrest since February 3. It is indicated that he took part in the protests of January 10 and 15, as well as those on March 21 and May 11, 2015.
The prosecution is asking for Ionov to be sentenced to a three-year suspended sentence. Also, the prosecutor is asking the court to assign Ionov probation, ban him visiting places of mass gatherings and travelling outside of the city of Lyubertsy in the Moscow region, where he lives.
For the protest on January 10, 2015, when Ionov stood on Manezhnaya Square near the Kremlin with a picket in support of the French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo”, the court fined him 20 000 rubles (US$ 280). On January 15, Ionov was detained at a protest at which another 12 people were taking part. The court then handed him a fine of 150 000 rubles (US$ 2,120) for a “repeated” violation. A key episode in this case was a protest in support of Ukrainian pilot, Nadezhda Savchenko, on May 11 at the “Matrosskaya Tishina” detention facility where she was being held.
On June 26 court bailiffs blocked Ionov’s pension card for the non-payment of administrative penalties. He is virtually deprived of his pension.
At the time of writing this article, the seventy-six-year-old opposition activist Ionov has been hospitalized with a preinfarction syndrome and is in intensive care.
Mark Galperin is a regular participant in the solo pickets on Manezhnaya Square and a moderator of protest groups on social networks. After Ionov, he became the second defendant to be arrested under Article 212.1. He is threatened with five years imprisonment. Here is one of the episodes in the case: Galperin was detained on March 23 as a result of a provocation at a solo picket on March 21. Two unknown people approached Galperin with placards, but they were later nowhere to be seen among those detained at the Tver police department. So this scheme had already been worked out with the provocateurs, who help the police detain political activists under formal pretexts.
And on Friday, the State Duma approved at its second, third and final readings, a law that gives the Federal Constitutional Court the right to recognize the enforcement of international court decisions in Russia as impossible if they violate the supremacy of the Russian Constitution, RIA Novosti reports. In other words, from now on activists can no longer even appeal to international courts or the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) since these institutions’ decisions would not be recognized by Russia anyway.
Due to this, those wrongfully convicted under Russian law have lost their last hope for justice. This is yet another step towards Russia’s self-isolation, by way of repression and degradation. One more indicator that the constitution is simply a tribute to the “democratic vogue”, a decorative document that developed states are “supposed to have”. But no one in power thinks to look back on its articles during the decision-making process.
The Russian justice system has remained at the level of Stalinist repressive principles, operating according to denunciations, arresting people on trumped-up charges, and turning back the clock to the worst period of Stalinism. The USSR’s economy was built on two pillars: prisoners’ labor and the sale of raw materials and minerals abroad. Now we see that oil prices are moving steadily downward, and there is no indication that they will begin to increase in the near future. This means that once again slave labor will be necessary, once again the repressive machine will make money through the supply of prisoners in new GULAGs. Our task is to prevent it.
by Ekaterina Ponomareva