Friday, March 6, 2009

Window on Eurasia: More Confirmation, Details on MVD Order on Use of Force against Protesters

Paul Goble

Columbus, March 6 – Despite statements by anonymous Interior Ministry officials that no order allowing the militia to shoot demonstrators exists and their denunciation of human rights leader Ludmila Alekseyeva for saying the contrary, each day is bringing new confirmation of the existence of such a directive and ever more disturbing details of its content.MVD
Investigative journalists at the Irkutsk portal have assembled not only the denials but much more important the confirmation of the existence of this measure by a former deputy interior ministry and an analysis of its contents by human rights activists who work closely with Russia’s ombudsman in this area (
The confirmation of the existence of this order came from Vladimir Vasil’yev, former first deputy minister of the interior who in 2005 was chairman of the Duma security committee in an interview published by “Politicheskiy zhurnal” on July 18th of that year. Asked directly whether such an order exists, he responded baldly: “It exists.”
But more important than that acknowledgement except perhaps for those who were prepared to take the latest Russian government denial at face value was an expert analysis of the order prepared by the expert advisory council of the Russian Federation’s ombudsman for human rights. posted online the complete 2500-word text of that analysis, which was signed by A. B. Babushkin, the president of the For Civil Rights Committee, and L.S. Levinson, an expert at the Moscow Institute of Human Rights. Both men are members of the ombudsman’s expert advisory council.
Their text is a tightly argued legal document, but they make a series of devastating conclusions about the document. First, the two point out that there is no legal foundation for such an order, despite MVD claims in the text of the document to the contrary, and consequently, the order is on its face at least illegal.
Second, the order invokes “extraordinary circumstances” as the justification for the possible use of force by the militia against demonstrators but fails to define what that term means. As a result, the decree is almost infinitely elastic: it means whatever those in power say it means, neither more nor less.
And third, the decree uses the Soviet-era practice of extending law by analogy, thus opening the door to even more abuses, despite its extensive enumeration of cases in which the decree could be invoked, again an unconstitutional and illegal arrangement that should mean that the decree should be annulled.
In addition, the two say, the measure violates numerous provisions of international law to which the Russian government has committed itself as a signatory, including the European human rights convention and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a finding that could spark cases in Strasbourg were this order ever to be implemented.
Unfortunately, the willingness of the interior ministry to deny that this order even exists and to attack those who have pointed to these problems almost certainly means that the powers that be in Moscow at the present time will not be dissuaded from taking action if they feel in any way threatened, however much the order they say does not exist does not correspond to law.

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