Grigory Pasko: Invasion of the Lawyers


Not long before U.S. President Barack Obama landed in Moscow, President Dmitry Medvedev commented to the press on the Mikhail Khodorkovsky case: “If one speaks of the pardoning of anyone at all, of Khodorkovsky, of other persons, then this procedure is implemented in accordance with those rules that exist in our country. In other words, a person must turn to the president, admit himself guilty [emphasis mine–G.P.] of the commission of the crime and beg for the corresponding decision.”

If we take a moment to translate this statement from Medvedev’s faux-legalese – the language of all lawyer-politcians, then it turns out that Khodorkovsky is going to be sitting behind bars a long time still. First, because Khodorkovsky himself, to the best of my recollection, has not expressed any desire to admit himself guilty before, because he’s not. Second, because there exists no such law («rules», to speak in the language of Medvedev) pursuant to which a mandatory condition of pardon is the admission of one’s guilt.

When I read yet again in yet another source the assertion that bothPutin and Medvedev – are lawyers, I begin to be tormented by vaguedoubts: is this really so? They sure seem to be very selective lawyers,these two. And two high-ranking lawyers for one country unspoiled bynormal justice – is a bit much. A veritable invasion of lawyers. Andeach one trying to interpret the laws his way. Introducing a new kindof tactic – «soaking in the toilet», a new kind of democracy -«managed», a new way of running things – «vertical», a new form ofcommunication – «sending a doctor»… I’m sure you can come up with moreexamples yourselves: there are quite a few of them.

But let’s get back to pardons.

Article 85 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation proclaims:«By an act of pardon a person convicted for a crime may be releasedfrom further serving of punishment or the punishment appointed for himmay be reduced or replaced by a more mild kind of punishment».

Please note that there is not a word about the admission of his guilt by this person.

And here’s what we have in the “Provision on the order forconsideration of petitions on pardon in the Russian Federation”: item5. “A petition on pardon shall be directed by the administration of theinstitution to the territorial organ of the criminal-execution[penal–Trans.] system no later than in 20 days from the day of itssubmission. To the petition on pardon by the administration of theinstitution shall be appended the following documents:

a) a copy of the verdict (verdicts) in accordance with which theconvict is serving punishment, and copies of the decisions ofhigher-standing judicial instances relative to the indicated verdict(verdicts);

b) a notification of the entry of the verdict of the court into legal force;

c) a memorandum about the state of health of the convict;

d) information about the remuneration of material harm caused by the crime (if such is had);

e) a form with an indication of the biographical data of the convict and of information about his family status;

f) information about the results of the consideration of previouspetitions on pardon, if they had been submitted earlier and about thisis had information;

g) a memorandum about the application in relation to the convict of anact of amnesty or pardon or about the application of conditional-earlyrelease [parole–Trans.] from punishment in relation to personspreviously brought to criminal liability;

h) a submission of the administration of the institution with acharacter reference of the convict, containing information about hisbehavior, attitude towards training and labor during the time ofserving punishment, attitude towards the committed act [emphasismine–G.P.].

The hidden reef here – information about attitude towards the act. Letus note once again: about it in the law – not a word. That is, this isalready a purely Gulagian innovation. In practice, this takes placebrutishly and nastily: the operative [prison KGB officer–Trans.] comesand simply says: for them to pardon you (release you on parole) youneed to write: I admit my guilt.

In so doing the inmate has to remember: after the admission by him ofhis non-existent guilt it is NOT AT ALL CERTAIN that he will bepardoned. This has happened many a time. It happened, for example, inthe case with the scientist Igor Sutyagin: he wrote a petition onpardon and admitted his guilt. And Putin did not pardon him.

How is Medvedev any better than Putin? A rhetorical question…

Vladimir Tumanov, a retired constitutional judge, considers thus: inthe event that he [Khodorkovsky–G.P.] is pardoned by the presidentwithout any conditions and entreaties on the part of the inmate,Khodorkovsky is not deprived of the opportunity to then protest theverdict. If the ex-owner of YUKOS writes a petition with an admissionof guilt, he, in the words of Tumanov, is deprived of such a right: «Aperson who is pardoned remains guilty, nobody removes the guilt fromhim. After the pardon he has the right to turn to a court with adeclaraction on reconsideration of the verdict issued to his address, -for various motives. But if they obligate him to admit himself guiltyupon turning [to the president for pardon], a reconsideration of thecase, as an example, in the order of supervision about newly discoveredcircumstances is ruled out».

…Once upon a time, the question of writing a petition on pardonstood before me as well. Putin had publicly (the case was at a pressconference in Paris in January of the year 2002) proposed to me to dothis. God preserved me from such an ill-considered step.

«Never ask for anything! Never, and nothing, and especially from thosewho are stronger than you. They will make the offer themselves and theywill give everything themselves».

Well, okay, we can safely assume that these guys aren’t actually goingto make any offers themselves – they need to be persuaded, and theywon’t give anything either – they’re much too greedy. But you shouldstill never ask for anything from them.

Photo: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev (R) and U.S. President Barack Obama talk as they walk in Moscow’s Kremlin July 7, 2009. (Reuters Pictures)