Posts Tagged ‘jeffrey kahn’

February 2013

In Putin’s Russia, Shooting the Messenger

New York Times

WHAT is the difference between Dmitri A. Medvedev and Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s tag-teaming presidents? It’s the difference between officially asking experts for unvarnished advice, and punishing those experts for giving it.

In early 2011, when Mr. Medvedev (now prime minister) was still president, the Kremlin’s human rights council selected nine experts to scrutinize the 2010 conviction of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was once one of Russia’s richest men but is now its best-known political prisoner. I was invited to serve, the one American in a group with six experts from Russia, one from Germany and one from the Netherlands. We did not mince our words criticizing the Khodorkovsky trial.

That December, Russian television showed the council’s chairman delivering our findings to Mr. Medvedev, with a recommendation that Mr. Khodorkovsky’s conviction be annulled. But then Mr. Putin, who was president from 2000 to 2008 and then bided his time as prime minister, returned to the presidency in May 2012. Since then, for their willingness to speak truth to power, at least four of my Russian counterparts have been questioned in connection with a criminal investigation. The court order used to harass them refers to their “deliberately false conclusions.” Talk about killing the messenger.

You may be surprised to learn that the Kremlin has a human rights agency. Not only has one existed since 1993, but the human rights council, as it is currently known, was active and respected under Mr. Medvedev’s presidency. Its membership was a who’s who of leading Russian human rights personalities, including Lyudmila M. Alexeyeva, the leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group and a former Soviet dissident.

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