Writers and Human Rights Defenders Call on Medvedev to 'Free the Decembrists'

posted 24 Mar 2011, 07:14 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Mar 2011, 09:01 ]
Source: hro.org (info), 22/03/11

· Human Rights Defenders

· Protests

A group of prominent human rights defenders, writers and public figures have appealed to President Dmitry Medvedev to free Russian political prisoners, abolish media censorship, allow the political opposition to take part in elections, and put an end to the persecution of the opposition by the security services. The authors of the open letter, entitled ‘Free the Decembrists, Mr President’, have called on Dmitry Medvedev to confirm his commitment to following the historical example of Tsar Aleksandr II.

“In your speech on the 150th anniversary of the abolition of serfdom in Russia,” the authors of the letter write, “you said that for you the model for the implementation of liberal reforms is the reign of Tsar Aleksandr II, to whose lot fell the difficult historical task of liberating the country from the despotic, ‘military-bureaucratic’ inheritance left by his predecessor, Nikolai I.”

The authors of the appeal point out that the liberation of the peasants from serfdom was preceded by other important steps taken by the Emperor, “without which it would not have been possible to implement his reforms.” In the Manifesto “On Ending the War” of 19 March 1856, Aleksandr II announced the introduction of reforms and of the principle of equality before the law; and to mark his coronation on 26 August 1856, the Liberator Tsar “pardoned – without demanding a confession of guilt or a petition – the Decembrists, those who had taken part, as would be said today, in dissident circles (mostly the Petrashevsky circle, who included Dostoevsky), and participants in the Polish national rebellion of 1830-31.”

“If you, Mr President, are truly ready to set in motion a new era of ‘Great Reforms’, then there are a number of first steps that you must take,” the letter says. “These are: pardoning, without demanding a confession, all those who have been prosecuted for political motives; the rescinding of all unlawful court verdicts; an end to political repression against peaceful opposition; the end of political and ideological censorship of the media; and making it possible for all political opposition groups that operate within the framework of the Constitution to take part in the forthcoming elections.” As examples of prisoners who have been victims of politically motivated prosecutions, the authors of the appeal cite the businessmen Platon Lebedev and Mikhail Khodorkovsky and scientists who have fallen victim to spymania, namely, as listed in the letter, Valentin Danilov, Igor Reshetin, Mikhail Ivanov, Sergei Vizir and Ivan Petkov.

The authors of the appeal also call on President Medvedev to order an investigation into the declaration by Natalia Vasilieva, assistant to Judge Danilkin; to ask the Minister of Justice “to ensure that newly-created political parties are not hindered during the process of registration on completely fabricated pretexts”; ask the administrative heads of Moscow and St. Petersburg to explain “on what basis Tver Square in Moscow and Gostinyi Dvor in St. Petersburg have been closed to opposition rallies, and why each rally in defence of Article 31 of the Constitution has, in both cities, become a major security operation.”

The authors conclude: “We expect you will be decisive in introducing liberal reforms – and that this will be done, as you have said, with ‘the necessary determination’.” Among the signatories of the letter are the human rights defenders Ludmila Alekseeva, Sergei Kovalev and Lev Ponomarev, the writers Boris Strugatsky, Boris Vishnevsky and Viktor Shenderovich, academics Yury Ryzhov and Ernst Cherny, and the politician Leonid Gozman.

“Today, freedom for all is the goal of development,” Dmitry Medvedev said at a conference on 3 March dedicated to “The Great Reforms and the Modernization of Russia”, held to mark the 150th anniversary of the decree of Aleksandr II liberating the serfs. “Freedom can never be postponed until later and a free person, who in some way or other makes poor use of his freedom, must never be feared. That path is a dead-end. Political and social transformations must be thought-out, rational, gradual, but at the same time undeviating,” Dmitry Medvedev said. He pointed out that “the State is not the goal of development, but an instrument for development, and only the inclusion of all members of society in these processes can bring about the right, positive outcome.” In his words, a nation is “a living organism, and not a machine for the production of ruling ideas.” A nation “cannot exist by means of tightening the screws.” “Therefore,” Dmitry Medvedev stressed, “it is extremely important to give society opportunities for self-organization.” In his words, modernization and progress are always directed towards “widening the space of freedom.”

Source: Grani.ru