Human Rights Defender Oleg Orlov on the Verdict in the Trial of Tikhonov and Khasis

posted 2 May 2011, 14:35 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 May 2011, 07:56 ]
Source: (info), 28/04/11

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Statement by Oleg Orlov, chair of the board of the Memorial Human Rights Centre: "We agree with the verdict of the jury: the accused are the real murderers, and not people who have been arbitrarily appointed by someone or other as such… "

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While the trial was in progress, human rights defenders were silent. We followed the trial with great attention. I think our experience over many years allows us to distinguish a kangaroo court where the charges are fabricated by the security and law enforcement services from a case where these same services and structures, with all their inherent problematic ‘birthmarks’, investigate in good faith.

Assessing the evidence presented by the investigation, we have tried to put ourselves in the place of the jurors, doubting everything that could be doubted. Now we can express our views, without fear that this will be perceived as pressure on the jury.

About the details of the trial we shall speak later in more detail. However, already today we can confirm that we agree with the jury’s verdict: the accused are the real murderers, and not people who have been arbitrarily appointed by someone or other as such. We shall just make two comments, since at the trial things were said about us and about our colleagues.

On more than one occasion the defendants and their lawyers referred to testimony of our colleague Natalia Estemirova who was killed in the summer of 2009. This is the record of the questioning of a witness conducted in the first days after the killing in which she outlines possible ‘Chechen’ versions of this case.

Many of us talked about a ‘Chechen’ version during questioning, but only as one among a large number of others. It was no accident that the defendants and their lawyers cited Natalia Estemirova who had been killed, and not witnesses who were still alive and could be called to the court to explain which of the numerous initial versions of the crime has the greater confirmation in the facts.

At the same time, giving evidence about the ‘Chechen’ legal cases on which Stanislav Markelov had worked, witnesses spoke in the first place not about ‘Chechens’, but about military service personnel of the Russian army and officers of Russian federal law enforcement agencies who were convicted of crimes against civilians in Chechnya and to this day have sympathisers in circles linked to the defendants (for example the lawyer Vasiliev alleged that the young woman killed by Budanov, whose parents Markelov represented in court, was a ‘female sniper’!).

The conflicts pointed out by the defendants between the lawyer Markelov and Kadyrov’s administration in January 2009 had not been particularly sharp at that time: Markelov had worked on the Budanov case in cooperation with Kadyrov’s human rights ombudsman.

Finally, the defendants and their lawyers alleged that some kind of connection between the murderers of Stanislav Markelov, Anna Politkovskaya and Natalya Estemirova, who had worked together on the same ‘Chechen’ cases, was highly probable.

So far as we know, in none of these three murders was there any link with the case on which they had all worked: that of Sergei Lapin – ‘Cadet’ – an officer of the federal law enforcement agencies. In the case of the murder of Natasha Estemirova, in our opinion the involvement of Chechen republic law enforcement agencies was very probable, but these had no connection whatsoever either with the murder of Politkovskaya or with the ‘federals’ connected with the ‘Cadet’ case.

Finally, as we reliably know, the investigation examined in great detail the ‘Chechen’ versions of the murder of Stanislav Markelov. They did not limit themselves to sending requests for information or other instructions to Groznyi. In mid-2009 staff of the Main Investigation Department were sent to Chechnya.

Evgeniya Khasis calls herself a ‘human rights defender’, using a phrase that has not enjoyed the greatest popularity in recent years. However, what meaning do nationalists put into this notion when at the basis of their ideology lies a rejection of the rights and freedoms that all people have equally (in the first place: the freedom of movement and the right to choose a place of residence)? In particular this question must be asked in relation to those radical nationalists or neo-Nazis (to which groups the defendants undoubtedly belong) who claim for themselves the right to commit violence and murder?

Indeed, Evgeniya Khasis gave help to Nikita Tikhonov, who has been found guilty of the killings, of a philanthropic kind, and helped him with information, but she did not give him any legal assistance (she had no such skills or education). But this help was given not for any beliefs, but for crimes of violence, committed on the basis that people could be divided into ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ categories.

It would seem that the nationalists substitute one meaning for another, putting into the phrase ‘human rights defender’ all those negative qualities that they themselves attribute to their enemies – those who are human rights defenders without quotation marks. They try to assert their own understanding of truth and law, using for their defence in court evidence that has been falsified. Just as an example, consider the clumsy attempt to organize an alibi for Evgeniya Khasis, an alibi that fell to pieces before the very eyes of the public! Throughout the trial, their lawyers, despite clumsy attempts, were unable to hide their own positive view of terrorism and their readiness to defend terrorists. After all, an important purpose of the murder both of migrants and of civic activists such as Markelov, is precisely the desire to sow fear in society – something which is precisely the purpose of terrorists.

I would like to believe that this verdict will serve as a lesson to all those who wish to represent the interests of the ‘white race’.
Rights in Russia,
2 May 2011, 14:36