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To the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and to other organizations

Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Committee against Torture

[an identical text has been addressed to Amnesty International,

Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, the European Parliament, its subcommittee on human rights and the ALDE Group, European Union, International Bar Association]

June 24 was the beginning of open court hearings in the so called Bolotnaya case ( http://6may.org/en/ ).

According to what the attorneys for the defense report, major violations of their clients’ rights were also the case during the preliminary hearings. Now we – members of the May 6th Committee, along with the defendants’ friends and families and representatives of the civil society – have ourselves become witnesses of blatant lawlessness. For lawlessness is the only word that can describe the trial that is now held at the Moscow City Court.

1.Obstacles preventing the defendants from receiving competent legal counsel from their attorneys. The guards prevent communication between the attorneys and the defendants: the ten defendants are placed into a two-section glass cell of several square meters inside which they find it hard to hear what is being said in the courtroom and from which it is hard to hear what they themselves are saying. There are four openings in the glass cell – two extremely narrow openings in the front and two on the sides, to allow communication between the attorneys and their clients. The defence attorneys have no other choice but to form a queue in order to be able to say at least a few words to their clients through the narrow opening in the glass cell. The guards also preclude confidential communication between the attorneys and the defendants since they are constantly sitting near and can hear all conversations, they also peruse all documents and papers that the attorneys and the defendants exchange. Moreover, any conversations with the defendants are easily heard outside the courtroom because of the live video stream. This means that the attorneys and the defendants are unable to consult with each other in confidence and with discretion in the course of the court hearings, which is a gross violation of their rights.

2.Violations of the custodial regime in respect of the defendants. According to Judge Nikishina, there are going to be at least three hearings scheduled for each week. This means that during a considerable period (and experts believe that the trial will last for some 6 months, at least) the defendants will have to get up at 6 in the morning, spending several hours travelling to and from the court premises in stuffy prison transport vehicles, staying in pairs in 1x1m detainee holding cells inside the court premises for rather long before and after the actual hearings, when they will spend several hours in a packed and stuffy glass cell, – which was clearly not designed to contain as many as 12 people at once, – inside the courtroom, and finally spend several hours travelling back to the detention facility. This means that they will return to their regular detention cells by midnight only and, consequently, that they will be deprived of normal sleep, let alone of the recommended 8 hours of sleep, as well as of normal breakfast and supper. The regular 3 hot meals a day are substituted with one packed meal a day. They are equally deprived of a chance to prepare for the next hearing. These conditions are not only inhumane, but also grossly violate their right to defence.

3.Inhuman conditions inside the courtroom. The glass cell virtually lacks any ventilation, with temperatures reaching 30°C at times. That said, some of the defendants suffer from a variety of chronic illnesses. The benches have no backrests to support aching backs; the defendants are deprived of the possibility to examine documents, as they are sitting squeezed up against each other in a tiny glass cell. There is naturally no question of having tables to help them read case documents.

4.Violations of other rights of the defendants. For the entire duration of the lengthy process they will be deprived of the right to communicate with their families. According to the judge, only once the interrogations in court are completed, the defendants will be allowed to receive visits from their family members. That said, the interrogations of the defendants are scheduled closer towards the end of the trial. The court’s secretariat refuses to accept written complaints and petitions to be granted communication with the defendants from the family members, while all attempts to raise this issue during court hearings are suppressed by the judge.

Both the defendants and their attorneys have repeatedly appealed to the judge, both orally and in writing, demanding humane treatment of the defendants and ensuring the conditions necessary for them in order to exercise their right to defense, yet all complaints and petitions have so far been to no avail. The judge pointedly, under false pretenses, shies away from any interference and any decision of these problems.

Considering the duration of the trial – there are more than affected 80 police officers in the case and over 300 witnesses for the prosecution, to say nothing of the witnesses for the defense – the conditions in which the defendants will be held are not only dramatically incompatible with the sanitary standards and norms, but are in fact explicitly life-threatening. Under the provisions of international law, they can be indeed qualified as torture. This is absolutely inadmissible, both because it means violation of the fundamental rights to defense, and because the Russian Federation has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

We insistently request from your organisation to send an authorised representative who would attend the hearings and monitor the Bolotnaya case trial. The global community must be fully aware of what is happening in the courtroom, to be able to speak up in defense of the constitutional rights and indeed the basic human rights of the defendants.

It is our genuine hope that together we will be able not only to stand firm against the lawlessness, but literally to save more than one life.

May 6th Committee

1 comment

  1. Lavinia

    What a malrelvous and beautiful meal! :) Every dish looks so beautiful. I loved their amuse bouche too. The rest I have not tried, but I hope to go back again!

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