On the Day of Russian Constitution

Dec 12 2015

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.

Article 3
2. The people shall exercise their power directly, and also through the bodies of state power and local self-government.

Article 4
2. The Constitution of the Russian Federation and federal laws shall have supremacy in the whole territory of the Russian Federation.

Article 7
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.

Article 14
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.

Article 19
1. All people shall be equal before the law and court.

Article 29
1. Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of ideas and speech.
2. The freedom of mass communication shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be banned.

Article 31
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

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.

Vladimir Ionov

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

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

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.

Article 3
2. The people shall exercise their power directly, and also through the bodies of state power and local self-government.

Article 4
2. The Constitution of the Russian Federation and federal laws shall have supremacy in the whole territory of the Russian Federation.

Article 7
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.

Article 14
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.

Article 19
1. All people shall be equal before the law and court.

Article 29
1. Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of ideas and speech.
2. The freedom of mass communication shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be banned.

Article 31
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

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.

Vladimir Ionov

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

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

Free Russia Foundation demands Navalny’s immediate release

Jan 17 2021

On January 17, 2021, Putin’s agents arrested Alexey Navalny as he returned to Russia from Germany where he was treated for a near-deadly poisoning perpetrated by state-directed assassins.

Navalny’s illegal arrest constitutes kidnapping. He is kept incommunicado from his lawyer and family at an unknown location and his life is in danger.

Free Russia Foundation demands his immediate release and an international investigation of crimes committed against him by Putin’s government.

The European Court of Human Rights Recognizes Complaints on Violations in “Ukraine v. Russia” as Admissible

Jan 14 2021

On January 14, 2021, the European Court of Human Rights published its decision on the case “Ukraine v. Russia”. The Grand Chamber of the Court has recognized complaints No. 20958/14 and No. 38334/18 as partially admissible for consideration on the merits. The decision will be followed by a judgment at a later date.

The case concerns the consideration of a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights related to Russia’s systematic administrative practices in Crimea. 

The admissibility of the case is based on the fact that, since 2014, the Russian Federation has exercised effective control over the territory of Crimea, and, accordingly, is fully responsible for compliance with the norms of the European Convention on Human Rights in Crimea. The Court now needs to determine the specific circumstances of the case and establish the facts regarding violations of Articles of the Convention during two periods: from February 27, 2014 to March 18, 2014 (the period of the Russian invasion); and from March 18, 2014 onward (the period during which the Russian Federation has exercised effective control over Crimea).

The Court has established that prima facie it has sufficient evidence of systematic administrative practice concerning the following circumstances:

  • forced rendition and the lack of an effective investigation into such a practice under Article 2; 
  • cruel treatment and unlawful detention under Articles 3 and 5; 
  • extending application of Russian law into Crimea with the result that, as of  February 27, 2014, the courts in Crimea could not be considered to have been “established by law” as defined by Article 6; 
  • automatic imposition of Russian citizenship and unreasonable searches of private dwellings under Article 8; 
  • harassment and intimidation of religious leaders not conforming to the Russian Orthodox faith, arbitrary raids of places of worship and confiscation of religious property under Article 9;
  • suppression of non-Russian media under Article 10; 
  • prohibition of public gatherings and manifestations of support, as well as intimidation and arbitrary detention of organizers of demonstrations under Article 11; 
  • expropriation without compensation of property from civilians and private enterprises under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1;
  • suppression of the Ukrainian language in schools and harassment of Ukrainian-speaking children under Article 2 of Protocol No. 1; 6 
  • restricting freedom of movement between Crimea and mainland Ukraine, resulting from the de facto transformation (by Russia) of the administrative delimitation into a border (between Russia and Ukraine) under Article 2 of Protocol No. 4; and, 
  • discriminating against Crimean Tatars under Article 14, taken in conjunction with Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Convention and with Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention.

Cases between states are the rarest category considered by the ECHR. Almost all cases considered in Strasbourg concern individuals or organizations and involve illegal actions or inaction of the states’ parties to the Convention. However, Art. 33 of this Convention provides that “any High Contracting Party may refer to the Court the question of any alleged violation of the provisions of the Convention and its Protocols by another High Contracting Party.” In the entire history of the ECHR since 1953, there have been only 27 such cases. Two of them are joint cases against Russia, both of which concern the Russian Federation’s aggression on the territory of its neighboring states, Georgia and Ukraine.

New Year’s Blessings to All

Dec 30 2020

While 2020 gave us unprecedented challenges, it created transformative changes in the way we work and communicate. The hours of Zoom calls seemingly brought us all closer together as we got a glimpse into each other’s makeshift home offices along with interruption by kids and the family pets. Remote work also made us appreciate human interactions, in-person events and trips much more!

As 2020 comes to an end, we want to especially thank our supporters who continued to believe in our mission and the value of our hard work, and we hope the coming year brings all of us progress and growth for democracy throughout the world. We’d also like to thank our partners and staff in the U.S. and abroad, and we know how hard everyone has worked under difficult world changes to achieve so many of our objectives this year.

We send our best wishes to all who have stayed in the fight for democratic reforms and for the values of basic human rights. We look forward to a new year with the hope of many positive changes to come.

– Natalia Arno and the Free Russia Foundation team.

International Criminal Court Asks for Full Probe Into Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Dec 14 2020

On December 11, 2020, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement on the preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine by the ICC Office of the Prosecutor.

According to the findings of the examination, the situation in Ukraine meets the statutory criteria to launch an investigation. The preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine was opened on 24 April 2014.

Specifically, and without prejudice to any other crimes which may be identified during the course of an investigation, Office of the Prosecutor has concluded that there is a reasonable basis at this time to believe that a broad range of conduct constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the Court have been committed in the context of the situation in Ukraine.

These findings will be spelled out in more detail in the annual Report on Preliminary Examination Activities issued by the Office and include three broad clusters of victimization:

1.     crimes committed in the context of the conduct of hostilities;

2.     crimes committed during detentions;

3.     crimes committed in Crimea.

These crimes, committed by the different parties to the conflict, were sufficiently grave to warrant investigation by Office of the Prosecutor, both in quantitative and qualitative terms.

Having examined the information available, the Prosecutor concluded that the competent authorities in Ukraine and/or in the Russian Federation are either inactive in relation to the alleged perpetrators, or do not have access to them.

The next step will be to request authorization from the Judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to open investigations.

The Prosecutor urges the international community, including the governments of Ukraine and Russia, to cooperate. This will determine how justice will be served both on domestic and the international level.

We remind you that on September 21, 2020, Free Russia Foundation sent a special Communication to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (the Hague, the Netherlands) asking to bring Crimean and Russian authorities to justice for international crimes committed during the Russian occupation of Crimea.

Comment by Scott Martin (Global Rights Compliance LLP):

As Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda reaches the end of her tenure as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, she announced yesterday that a reasonable basis existed to believe that a broad range of conduct constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed in relation to the situation in Ukraine. One of the most consequential preliminary examinations in the court’s short history, the Prosecutor will now request authorization from the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to open a full investigation into the situation.

Anticipating that the Prosecutor’s request will be granted, the ICC Prosecutor’s office will be investigating the second group of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Russian Federation (the situation in Georgia being the other). This would make Russia the only country in the world facing two separate investigations at the ICC for crimes under its jurisdiction.

Call for Submissions – The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly vol. 3

Oct 26 2020

The Free Russia Foundation invites submissions to The Kremlins Influence Quarterly, a journal that explores and analyzes manifestations of the malign influence of Putin’s Russia in Europe.

We understand malign influence in the European context as a specific type of influence that directly or indirectly subverts and undermines European values and democratic institutions. We follow the Treaty on European Union in understanding European values that are the following: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Democratic institutions are guardians of European values, and among them we highlight representative political parties; free and fair elections; an impartial justice system; free, independent and pluralistic media; and civil society.

Your contribution to The Kremlins Influence Quarterly would focus on one European country from the EU, Eastern Partnership or Western Balkans, and on one particular area where you want to explore Russian malign influence: politics, diplomacy, military domain, business, media, civil society, academia, religion, crime, or law.

Each chapter in The Kremlins Influence Quarterly should be around 5 thousand words including footnotes. The Free Russia Foundation offers an honorarium for contributions accepted for publication in the journal.

If you are interested in submitting a chapter, please send us a brief description of your chapter and its title (250 words) to the following e-mail address: info@4freerussia.org. Please put The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly as a subject line of your message.