During his recent visit to Germany, Russia’s new president Dimitry Medvedev promised to place particular emphasis on developing an independent and reliable legal system in Russia. Together with his often repeated claim that Russia’s democracy does not need an adjective (in contrast to the concept of a “guided democracy” which was the label for the Putin era), this is another example of rhetoric which rises hope that Medvedev’s presidency may bring a change. In order to check his words against future developments, we need to have a clear understanding of the current situation.
Apart from Mikhail Khodorkovsky, there are many other cases of politically motivated trials that lacked basic lawful principles but did not draw much international attention. Who, as a scientist, a journalist, or even an environmental activist must face sanctions of the Russian authorities if they regard their state interests involved when he collects and publishes publicly available information.
For example, Igor Sutyagin, a political scientist in the area of conflict studies, has been convicted to 15 years in prison just because of his studies and publications on Russian strategic weapon systems and due to his cooperation with a British organization. This and other examples made observers speak of a new “spy mania” in Russia.
But not only did Russian authorities violate rights of individuals. NGO’s also became a target of politically motivated harassments. A number of cases that prove that the legitimate work of NGOs has been hindered under extremism-related laws have been reported by Amnesty International.
Please see the attached report in which we present a few cases of human right violations against organizations and individuals. In our opinion, it is not ‘russophobic’ to remind the Russian authorities that they are obliged to comply with international law standards.
And, please spread the word within the social science community about the fate of your colleagues Igor Sutyagin. You may also send petitions in support of him and Valentin Danilov!
Arianna de Mario and Jörg Beige are members of the Berlin based Russia Group of the German section of Amnesty International.