Who Are We?
The full name of our Programme is: “Support for Political Prisoners and Victims of Unlawful Criminal Prosecution”
Director – Sergei Davidis.
Programme staff – Igor Gukovsky, Darya Kostromina, Aleksandr Alekseev and Vyacheslav Feraposhkin
What do we do?
If you know of such prosecutions, write to us at [email protected]
On our Programme’s webpage you’ll find information about legal cases, copies of documents, links to media publications about cases and trials, statements by lawyers and human rights defenders, open letters and texts of appeals in support of defendants, and other reports and journalism about the cases.
Our latest campaigns in support of political prisoners [link to news and announcements about events in support of political prisoners]
Individuals we are currently assisting [link to the page with the list of people]
Why do we do this?
When Memorial was set up in 1988 its primary purpose was the rehabilitation of victims of political repression.
“So that 1937 will never be repeated, we need to begin to speak the truth about how innocent people were imprisoned and PERSECUTED” [as a quotation]
However, at the beginning of the 21st century, political repression ceased to be something restricted to the past.
In recent years the courts and investigatory bodies have become ever less independent, a whole series of new offences has been added to the Criminal Code, the notion of ‘extremism’ has been stretched almost beyond limit, and law enforcement practice has become ever looser and more flexible in relation to criminal law and proceedings.
In present-day Russia, the political system and law enforcement practice put in doubt the constitutional principles of the separation of powers, independence of the judiciary, presumption of innocence and equality before the law.
Legislation on terrorism and extremism is used not so much to fight real terrorists and extremists as to persecute and intimidate those whom the authorities find disagreeable. For a long time now in Russia, the rights of freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association have been violated.
On the one hand, instances where citizens are prosecuted either with numerous violations of the law, or in direct violation of the law, are becoming ever more frequent while, on the other hand, prosecution on the direct instructions of the political authorities is also becoming more common.
Frequently criminal prosecutions are brought against individuals either because of their civic activity or to prevent that activity. Sometimes a prosecution of this kind is conducted selectively. Frequently, the grounds for criminal prosecutions are directly fabricated by law enforcement agencies. Courts fail to take into account defects of the criminal investigation, including clear violations of a suspect’s rights. Convictions are planned before the start of court hearings. Punishments are not proportionate to the actual offences that occurred, nor to the offences with which the defendants are charged. Not infrequently, political and civic activists are remanded in custody or placed under house arrest unlawfully and without grounds, and subsequently they may be held in detention for many months and even years.
Any civic activism independent from the state can be a pretext for repressive measures [as a quotation]
Often people fall victim to politically-motivated prosecutions on fabricated or obviously invented charges quite by chance. They find themselves unexpectedly in the situation of hostages. The conveyer belt of repressive measures functions semi-automatically. Ever more new prosecutions of ‘spies,’ ‘extremists,’ ‘terrorists,’ ‘hooligans and ‘troublemakers’ are required by law enforcement agencies to enable them to report on their ‘achievements,’ and by government propagandists to enable them to influence society.
It was for precisely this reason that, in the summer of 2008, Memorial Human Rights Centre, in collaboration with the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners and the Civic Assistance Committee, initiated the current Programme, ‘Support for Political Prisoners and Victims of Unlawful Criminal Prosecution.’
You can also join our team [this link is to the electronic address for volunteers] and become a volunteer.