About the “Support for Political Prisoners” programme

Programme head - Sergei Davidis. Programme employees – Igor Gukovsky, Darya Kostromina, Konstantin Yankauskas.
Back in 1988 the initiative group that created the Memorial society set itself the primary task of rehabilitating the victims of political repressions. The very first Memorial members realised that in order to prevent a repeat of 1937 they had to start telling the truth about how innocent people were imprisoned and persecuted.

But by the early 2000s it had become obvious that political repressions were no longer just an element of historical memory. Criminal prosecutions for political motives started to enter the life of modern Russia to a greater and greater extent.

In the past few years the courts and investigative bodies have become increasingly dependent, all kinds of new types of crimes have been added to the Criminal Code, the concept of “extremism” has become virtually unlimited, and enforcement in the sphere of criminal law and procedures has become more and more widespread.

The system of government and practice of enforcement that has developed in today’s Russia puts the constitutional principles of a division of powers and an independent judiciary, the presumption of innocence and equality of all before the law and the courts in doubt. The legislation on terrorism and extremism is being used not so much in the battle against real terrorists and extremists, as in the persecution and intimidation of undesirables. For what is now an already prolonged period the rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and freedom of association have been violated.

More and more often there are cases when citizens are prosecuted, on the one hand with multiple violations of the law, or directly illegally, and on the other in connection with a political order from the authorities. The number of political prisoners in the country is increasing.

Often a criminal prosecution starts because of the civic activism of citizens or, conversely, to prevent it. Often such prosecutions are implemented selectively. It frequently happens that the grounds for a criminal prosecution are directly falsified by the power structures. In court the defects and obvious violations by the investigation are not taken into account. Guilty verdicts are planned even before the start of the court hearings. The punishments are inappropriate both for actual violations of the law, if they are relevant, and for the crimes of which the defendants are accused. Imprisonment or house arrest are often groundlessly and illegally chosen for political and civic activists as a pre-trial measure, which can drag on for long months or years. The FSB and the sadly renowned Centre “E” play an active role in the persecution of activists and in the fabrication of cases against them. Any public activity that is independent of the state can become a pretext for repressions.

Often random people who unexpectedly find themselves in the position of hostages are the target of political prosecutions on fabricated or clearly invented grounds. The conveyor belt of repressions works semi-automatically – divisions of the power structures have to register more and more new cases, and to work effectively official propaganda also demands food in the form of new cases against spies, extremists, terrorists, hooligans and troublemakers.

In connection with this situation since summer 2008 the Memorial human rights centre together with the non-profit organisation the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners and the Civic Cooperation committee has been implementing a programme to support political prisoners and victims of illegal criminal prosecutions.

If you know about cases of illegal criminal prosecutions for political motives, let us know at our special email addressadvokaty.aktivistam@gmail.com.

We will be glad to receive detailed information about such prosecutions. All the information gathered about politically-motivated criminal prosecutions will be published on the websites of the Memorial human rights centre and the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners.

In this section of the website of the Memorial human rights centre the reader can get information about specific criminal cases and people who have been subjected to political repressions and their fates, about actions in support of political prisoners and campaigns of solidarity with them, and possible forms of helping each of them.

We are trying to gather materials from cases, copies of documents, links to publications in the media on cases and trials, statements by lawyers and human rights activists, open letters and texts of appeals in their support and publicity materials in this section.

An important part of the programme is providing legal (lawyers) and other help to people who are being prosecuted for political reasons in a criminal case.

As far as we are able we try to help those who are being prosecuted in criminal cases, and to attract help from friendly organisations. We suggest that anyone who is being subjected to politically-motivated criminal prosecution should come to us for such help.