Today we participated in a roundtable discussion with human rights activists centered on the rule of law and the status of human rights in Russia. We were joined by representatives from Human Rights Watch, The Soldiers’ Rights Foundation, Movement for Human Rights, and The Public Coalition to Protect Moscow as well as journalist and human rights activist Aleksander Podrabinek, actress/activist Tatiana Dogileva, and Lyudmila Alekseyeva, a veteran of the Soviet dissident movement and chair of Russian’s oldest human rights organization, Moscow Helsinki Group. The discussion was moderated by journalist Natella Boltyanskaya of ECHO Moscow, one of the few state-independent news outlets in Russia.
No matter what human rights issue was being discussed, the conversation repeatedly returned to the need for a truly independent judiciary. Inevitably, this brought us to the ongoing farce of justice in the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. His trial has become a symbol of political repression and legal injustice in Russia, and the verdict in his second prosecution (some would say persecution) is due on Wednesday. Lyudmila quite correctly stated that if there had been a real trial, with real evidence submitted, Khodorkovsky’s acquittal would be assured. The world has been treated to yet another Russian show trial, and the verdict will not be a just measure of the defendant’s innocence or guilt. It will, however, be a judgment on the Russian judicial system.