Open Letter to Mikhail Khodorkovsky

This is a guest post by Jeremy Putley

Mikhail Borisovich,

On the occasion of your birthday on 26 June I send to you my congratulations and respectful greetings.

Today, by coincidence, is International Day in Support of Torture Victims. The United Nations General Assembly selected June 26 to honour the day in 1987 when the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into effect.

The convention was created to reaffirm that the equal and inalienable rights of the human family are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

I believe in the inevitability of human progress. My experience of life has shown to me that there is an overwhelming tendency for the state of humanity to improve over time. Perhaps you will agree that this is so. Indeed, there is nothing new in this idea. Sometimes the trend reverses. The coming into power of the present regime in Russia was such an example.

Eventually, with the support of people of good will around the world it will pass away, just as other malignancies have come and gone in the course of human history.

The historical tendency for mankind to improve is the result of millions and millions of people making their individual efforts to make their conditions better, each day, and every day, during all of their lives. We see a result when we look at the world as it is now, because it has become a world in which the great majority of countries are governed under the civilising rule of law where people are not impeded from contributing their small or large improvements to the quality of human life. This world has convincingly shown a determination to throw off mistaken ideologies and to turn away from the leadership of wicked men. And it is by the small accretions of individual human progress that the world crawls to a better condition with the inevitability of plate tectonics – but not so slowly.

This is a simple, even trite, observation, and, as I say, it is not new – indeed, it is why people buy shares in companies, so that they can take part in their progress, as I do not need to explain to you in particular.

The efforts of the many thousands of people who have become active in support of human rights around the world – whether as members of organisations like Amnesty International, or as individuals – are visibly contributing to the improvement of the human condition. Your leading counsel, Yuri Schmidt, has reminded us that in Russia, with its long traditions of struggle to achieve the rights of mankind, there are the memories of honoured men to give inspiration – Sakharov, Solzhenitsyn, Bukovsky and Sharansky. I would add the name of the great Russian patriot Sergei Kovalev. It is now your experience to participate in the continuing effort to achieve a proper recognition in Russia of the vital importance of the rule of law, and justice under the law for all its citizens, in opposition to a procuracy which seems determined corruptly to obey the secret instructions of a corrupt hierarchy. The judicial proceedings against you and Platon Lebedev are a mockery of justice, and are seen as such around the world.

You could easily have avoided these abuses of justice, by leaving Russia. Because you are a true Russian patriot you decided to stay. This trial, in which you now play a leading role in the continuing fight for the fundamental rights of Russian citizens under the law, marks you as an historic figure. You are opposed by sinister men occupying positions of great power who are determined to succeed in the interest of preserving their influence and wealth. Because you have opposed them, the world can see them for what they are. This is already a partial victory.

Therefore, I send you my salutations and very best wishes on the occasion of your birthday, in the hope and expectation that the day will come soon when you will be set at liberty.

Yours very respectfully and sincerely

Jeremy Putley

"Institutionalized lawlessness" – 2

OMCT (Organisation mondiale contre la torture) has released a follow-up appeal on the case of the torture and harassment in a Russian prison of the Chechen national Zubayr Zubayrayev, which has attracted attention worldwide. See also this post.

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Russian Federation: Follow-up of case RUS 190209_Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev to be transferred to a high security prison_Fear for safety

Case RUS 190209.3
Follow-up to cases RUS 190209, RUS 190209.1 and RUS 190209.2

Transfer to a high security prison/ Lack of adequate medical care/ Fear for safety
20 May 2009

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has received new information and requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.

New information

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS), a member of OMCT SOS-Torture Network, that on 17 May 2009, Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev, a 30-year-old man from Chechnya, was taken from penitentiary colony ßÐ-154/15 (also known as LIU-125 prison hospital) in Volgograd, Southern Russia, to be transferred to a high security prison following a court ruling on 12 May 2009. However, his current whereabouts remain unclear. His lawyer believes that he is being moved to Krasnojarsk (about 4000km from Volgograd) but he has been provided with no precise information on Mr. Zubajraev’s new place of detention.

According to the same information, Mr. Zubajraev’s lawyer unsuccessfully brought an appeal to the Regional Court against the ruling of the lower Court. Mr. Zubajraev is reportedly due to serve his three years remaining prison term in a high security prison. OMCT recalls that the prison administration had justified the request of transfer on the basis of two claims: firstly, Mr. Zubajraev was accused of having kept “banned” pain-killers, which is contested by Mr. Zubajraev’s lawyer, and secondly, he would have quarrelled with another inmate, although the latter did not file any report or complaint about the alleged quarrel.

The OMCT International Secretariat is seriously concerned about the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev. OMCT condemns his transfer to a high security prison as it seems exclusively motivated by a wish to punish him following the allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment (see background information)[1]. OMCT fears that Mr. Zubajraev will be further isolated as it will be become very difficult for his family and lawyer to visit him. Furthermore, OMCT has received information that his health condition is very poor, requiring immediate appropriate medical care.

OMCT therefore repeats its calls on the competent Russian authorities to guarantee his safety at all times, to refrain from transferring him to a high security prison, and to carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, in order to bring those responsible before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law. OMCT recalls the absolute prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment and recalls article 11 of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment stipulating that, “Each State Party shall keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment in any territory under its jurisdiction, with a view to preventing any cases of torture”.

"Institutionalized lawlessness": Russian journalist fined for prison reports

elena maglevannaya Zubair Zubairayev In Yezhednevnyi zhurnal, Zoya Svetova writes that the Russian journalist Yelena Maglevannaya (photo) has been fined 200,000 roubles (6,238 USD) for causing “moral damage and to refute the information provided in the articles published on various sites”. The decision came from the Volgograd District Court, which found in favour of the authorities at the Volgograd prison where the Chechen national Zubair Zubairayev has been held and tortured (see photo). In her article, Svetova explains that she wrote a letter to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov outlining the fate of Zubairayev, but received a reply from  Nurdi Nukhazhiyev, Chechnya’s human rights commissioner. In his letter to Svetova, Nukhazhiyev says that he knows of the problems faced by Chechen inmates in Russian prisons, but is powerless to take any action. He was in continuous contact with the federal authorities, including the Prosecutor General, about Zubairayev’s case throughout 2008.

In late April this year, a delegation of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) made its eleventh visit since 2000 to the North Caucasian region of the Russian Federation. The delegation was led by  CPT president Mauro Palma, and held discussions with North Caucasus leaders, including Ramzan Kadyrov and members of his government. Zoya Svetova wonders why the subject of Zubairayev’s detention and torture was not raised at any of these meetings. She characterizes as “institutionalized lawness” the impunity with which the prison authorities and Russia’s FSIN (Federal Service for the Execution of Punishments) now act.

RFE/RL and the Khodorkovsky Centre have reports.