The human rights organization Memorial was victorious in the Dzerzhinsky district court on Tuesday when Judge Andrei Shabakov ruled that the police raid on their office was “unlawful.”
The key issue driving Monday and Tuesday’s hearing was whether Memorial was given the right to have their lawyer present during the raid. Chief investigator Mikhail Kalganov argued that the organization was given the right to have a lawyer present but didn’t take advantage of it. Memorial’s lawyer Ivan Pavlov argued that Iosif Gabuniia arrived at the office to monitor the search, but the police refused to open the door. Gabuniia testified in court that “We don’t need lawyers here” was shouted through the door. Kalganov claimed that he wasn’t aware of any of this. Nevertheless, the judge found that Kalganov’s actions, or lack thereof, prevented the lawyer from representing his client during the search.
The case isn’t over yet. Authorities have yet to return the hard disks and other archival materials seized in the raid, prompting Memorial workers to remain cautious despite their legal victory. The court ruling goes into force only after 10 days and the police still have an opportunity to file an appeal.
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By Sean — 12 years ago
Yesterday I received the new issue of the New Left Review in the mail. NLR is one of my favorite journals and its arrival in my mailbox is always eagerly welcomed. One article immediately struck me; a short piece by Susan Willis titled “Guantanamo’s Symbolic Economy.” The article is empirically horrifying as it is theoretically compelling. Since authoritarianism and totalitarianism are subjects of concern on this blog, I thought I would point readers to it.
Unfortunately, the article is only available to subscribers. I urge readers to get their hands on it. In the meantime here is a short excerpt:
A lawyer representing some of the Guantanamo detainees has argued that, in conjuring the category of ‘illegal enemy combatant’, the US Administration cast the detainees ‘outside the law’. But is the terrorist suspect really outside the law or is he, as Giorgio Agamben defines it, homo sacer: he ‘who may be killed and yet not sacrificed’; a being whose exclusion from the law is the very means by which the law constitutes itself? At stake here is an idea of sovereignty founded on distinguishing the simple fact of life—‘bare life’ itself—from the polis. But the act of making bare life into the state of exception that grounds all law also incorporates it into the political order. Was not Dilawar rendered homo sacer by reason of the state of exceptionality that shrouds Bagram? Agamben’s historical referent is the Nazi concentration camp, but he might have had Guant?namo in mind in distinguishing the camp from a prison: ‘while prison law only constitutes a particular sphere of penal law and is not outside the normal order, the juridical constellation that guides the camp is . . . martial law and the state of siege.’ Among the bleakest effects of Patriot Acts I and II is the way they serve to cast terrorist suspects into the legal limbo of the banned. As Agamben puts it, ‘he who has been banned is not, in fact, simply set outside the law and made indifferent to it but rather “abandoned” by it.’ Certainly, the detainee, bound in a foetal position, would have to feel that life and law had become indistinguishable, if not indifferent.
, it seems, is becoming the nation of the foetus—both the sacred and the banned. Besides those that pro-lifers carry about in jars at anti-abortion rallies, may we not also consider the brain-dead Terri Schiavo to be in some sense a foetus? ‘Better to err on the side of life’, was George Bush’s pronouncement over Schiavo’s inert body. For the Christian right, Schiavo was a sacred foetus, whose death would be forever remembered as a sacrifice; a martyr in the holy war against abortion. For others—including, it seems, her husband—she was simply a body whose organs continued to function. The Schiavo case dramatized the polarization of United States with respect to definitions of life and death. But her status as a sacred foetus has fast been superseded in the American psyche by the mass production of microscopic foetuses produced in fertility clinics. Homo sacer has migrated into genomics. Are embryos now to be killed by the thousands in the attempt to develop remedies for the elderly? Or is each cluster of cells a being whose murder will reverberate throughout the nano-sphere as a crime and a sacrifice? America
 Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford 1990.Post Views: 217
By Sean — 9 years ago
When the St. Petersburg office of Memorial was raided in December last year, the international media was aghast. Article after article saw the confiscation of Memorial’s database of archival materials and interviews of life under Stalin as proof that Stalinism was back in full force. Why else would police bother to raid the human rights organization, they reasoned, if not to silence their voices of anti-Stalinism?
The exact reasons why Memorial was put through this ordeal remain murky. The official explanation is that the organization was somehow affiliated with Novyi Peterburg, which was under investigation for extremism. Others opined that the raid was connected to Memorial’s screening of Rebellion: the Livinenko Case. Still others maintain that the raid was part of a larger battle over Russia’s past, in particular the memory of the Stalin period.
While much ink was spilled on speculating why Memorial was raided, and its implications in regard to the memory of Stalinism, the English language press has been virtually silent in pointing out that the human rights organization won two cases in court that rebuffed investigators” search. The fist ruling came in January, when the Dzerzhinsky court ruled that investigators’ raid was illegal because they didn’t allow Memorial’s lawyer to be present. The police, however, appealed and the case went back to court.
But then last week, the Dzerzhinsky court again ruled in Memorial’s favor. As for the return of the hard disks and archival materials, the organization received a letter from St. Petersburg’s human rights ombudsman saying that their materials have already been removed from the investigators office and will soon be returned.
One would think that this victory would be a perfect David and Goliath story. A tale where the good guys won against the evil Stalinists, who despite their enormous powers and nefarious plots were defeated in the court of law. One might even point out that in this case, the courts worked. They upheld Memorial’s right to have a lawyer present during a search and seizure. One would also think that given Memorial’s stature in the West as a defender of human rights, their victory would have been hoisted up as a great triumph. But apparently, this good news is not fit enough for the English media to print.Post Views: 1,129
By Sean — 9 years ago
As many already know, human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and Novaya gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova were gunned down in Moscow near the Kropotkinskaya metro on Monday afternoon. According to reports, a man in a green ski mask approached Markelov from behind and unloaded a few rounds into his head, execution style. Baburova was seriously injured when she tried to intervene. She died in a local hospital a few hours earlier. The gunman fled the scene.
Kommersant gives this description of the killing:
At 2:45 p.m. Stanislav Markelov exited the International Press Center with Novaya gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova. They went down Prechistenka toward the Koprotkinskaya metro station. The assailant, a young man of around 180 cm height, dressed in a black trench coat. dark jeans and a green ski mask, went from across the street towards them. He followed he followed his victims for several minutes, and then, not far from the metro, he crossed the street and shot the lawyer in the back of the head with a pistol with a silencer. After Stanislav Markelov fell, the killer quickly made his way down Gogolevskii boulevard. Shocked by the incident, Anastasia Baburova gathered herself, screamed, and what eyewitnesses say, she instinctively went after the murder. That sealed her fate. The criminal turned back and shot the young woman in the head. “Not many men would dare act in such a situation as she did,” Dmitrii Muratov the editor-in-chief of Novaya gazeta told Kommersant. According to him, Anastasia was a night student in the journalism department at MGU, and had worked for the newspaper since October of last year. Her writings dedicated to investigating the activities of neo-fascist groups. She died from her wounds in the evening. She never regained consciousness.
Robert Amsterdam has already done a rapid fire blitz of posts on the incident. I recommend readers to point their mouse there.
Markelov was clearly the victim of a contract killing. He was representing the family of Elza Kungayeva, 18, a Chechen woman who was allegedly raped then strangled to death by Colonel Yuri Budanov in 2000. Budanov was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2005, but was paroled after serving three for “good behavior.” Markelov called his release “illegal” and fought to keep the defrocked colonel behind bars. Budanov walked nevertheless. Now he has his revenge.
The Russian news coverage has been extensive. Reactions have been quick. More will certainly be forthcoming in the days ahead. Suffice to say that the murders prove that Medvedev’s “legalistic” Russia is no safer for human rights workers, lawyers, or journalists than Putin’s Russia. Hopefully, Medvedev won’t make the same mistake his mentor did by keeping silent after the Politkovskaya murder. All international eyes will be focused on Russia waiting for any gesture of recognition on the part of the President. For as Sergei Mitrokhin, the leader of Yabloko, stated that “This crime shows that political murder remains a determinant in Russian society.” Unfortunately, he’s right.
Here is Russia Today‘s report:Post Views: 263