Igor Kalyapin on government policy, torture and the 'foreign agent'

posted 17 Jul 2015, 10:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Jul 2015, 11:57 ]
8 July 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)

On 8th July 2015 Nizhny Novgorod regional court’s board of appeals upheld the decision of Judge Olga Tonenkova, sitting in Soviet district court of Nizhny Novgorod, which recognised as lawful the inclusion of the Committee Against Torture by the Russian Ministry of Justice in the register of non-profits “fulfilling the role of a foreign agent”.

Igor Kalyapin, chair of the Committee Against Torture:

“Respected Court, I will not waste your time by repeating the arguments of my colleagues. I fully agree with them. I’ll allow myself a short resume. The Committee Against Torture always and everywhere has maintained that it fights the practice of torture which exists in our country despite the Constitution, federal law and official instructions.

"To the credit of our legislators and heads of law enforcement agencies, it is essential to say that in Russia there never have been any attempts to legalise torture. Torture in Russia has always been considered a grave crime. And government policy was always focussed on its prevention. That is exactly why the assessment of the prosecutor of Nizhny Novgorod region that our work is directed towards changing government policy seems to me absurd.

"Respected Court, I have always tried in my own practical activities to conscientiously study and understand the position of my opponent, no matter how absurd their arguments. I want to report that I have conscientiously tried to understand the position taken by the prosecutors in this case. I have tried to find in our work some sort of side effect, some sort of social or political function which we are carrying out, perhaps even without intending to do.

"And I think that our organisation really did have such a secondary function. And insofar as I have sincere suspicion that my speech is the “last word” that our organisation will be given, I want to say something about this secondary function.

"For the whole fifteen years of our existence we have demonstrated to the public in concrete examples that arguments and conflicts with official bodies, with government agencies, even such critical ones that touch upon illegal use of force, can and SHOULD be resolved not through barricades, nor at rallies, but in the courtroom. We have always advocated, both formally and informally, for all questions and conflicts be resolved within the field of law. Therefore we have tried, as far as our modest resources have allowed, to develop and refine the judicial mechanisms allowing citizens to stand up for their rights in a civilised manner with the help of legal, judicial process.

"It is precisely for this that I have worked in the Public Monitoring Committee, the Governor’s Committee on Human Rights, and the Presidential Human Rights Council. Precisely for this reason our organisation has prepared and published tens of thousands of brochures and manuals with the aim of raising the level of legal knowledge for all of Russia’s citizens.

"Figuratively speaking, we have always tried to lead people away from the street and bring them into the courtroom. It is precisely this function of our organisation that the prosecutor’s office has considered “the function of a foreign agent”, thereby asserting that government policy in our country is directed towards something or other…. In another direction. I don’t know… I have always sincerely thought that this was not the case. It’s for you to decide….”

Source: Committee Against Torture

Translated by Frances Robson