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Maria Sereda: " 'I command: You may go free!' – That is no system of justice"

19 December 2013

Maria Sereda

Source: HRO.org 
Four defendants in the Bolotnaya Case have been granted an amnesty. Vladimir Akimenkov, Leonid Kovyazin and Nikolai Kavkazsky have been released: two of them from prison and one from house arrest. Criminal charges have been dropped against Maria Baronova and bail conditions imposed on her have been revoked. 

While rejoicing for those who have been freed today and their friends and relations, we should nevertheless remember that an amnesty is not a restoration of justice. Political gestures of the kind "I command: You may go free!" are an inadequate substitute for the due process of law based on justice and the rule of law. 

Amnesty International will continue to strive for just and impartial judicial proceedings for all the "Bolotnaya prisoners" without exception and the immediate release of those whose sole "crime" was to attempt to take part in a peaceful protest. 

All charges of "rioting " against all the defendants in the Bolotnaya Case must be withdrawn because THERE WERE NO RIOTS at Bolotnaya Square on 6 May 2012. Before our very eyes, we are witnessing an attempt to portray a peaceful civic protest as a riot started by an aggressively motivated crowd. Moreover, there would appear to be no attempt to find the chief instigators of the violent incidents that took place on Bolotnaya Square. The numerous human rights violations committed by the police remain unpunished to this day. And by all appearances "the sword of justice" has been applied to completely chance by-standers. 

Justice has not triumphed today. Innocent people remain behind bars. The courts are being used de facto as a political tool. Those who have been released today have not had the criminal indictments brought against them removed from their records and the one and half years of their lives that they have spent behind bars can never be returned to them. 

As our observer has reported, the word "riots" included in the court decision today were pronounced as if they had been established in fact, which leaves one very worried about the sort of the judgments that will be handed down to the remaining defendants. 

The release of four people is a joyful event but unfortunately it has brought us no closer to a Russia where the rights of citizens are respected by the authorities and defended by independent and impartial courts. 

About the author: Maria Sereda is Campaign Coordinator at Amnesty International – Russia

Translated by Simon Geoghegan
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