Will the Russian Federation Be Guilty of Murder?

In a recent column by Andrew Sullivan in the Sunday Times about the torture and interrogation of Abu Zubaydah by the U.S. Government, an interesting question is posed: if this cover-up of a war crime is finally unraveled, will it eventually lead to accountability at the highest levels of the Oval Office? Sullivan writes, “Any reasonable person examining all the evidence we have – without any bias – would conclude that the overwhelming likelihood is that the president of the United States authorised illegal torture of a prisoner and that the evidence of the crime was subsequently illegally destroyed.” In making the case for George Bush as a war criminal, Sullivan has raised a very important point – when a high profile prisoner is severely mistreated by the authorities and threatened with death, the responsibility goes to the highest levels of executive power which authorized these actions. We can now observe a parallel example in Russia, which although lacking the dramatic headline-grabbing stories of terrorist plots, waterboarding, and destroyed videotapes, features the same repugnant cruelty as the former Yukos general counsel Vasily Georgievich Alexanyan is systematically being denied access to emergency life-saving medical care and chemotherapy treatments.

With far more evidence clearly at hand than in the Zubaydah case, the Russian Federation is slowing killing a political prisoner, and, if he dies, the presidency will arguably be guilty of murder.We have spoken for years about the various abuses of law by the procuracy in this case, how they have engaged in flagrantly illegal witness tampering that would make The Sopranos blush. Never did we imagine that they could be so desperate as to take not only a man’s freedom, but also his life. By threatening him in this manner, the prosecutors are believed to be demanding false testimony to help their case in exchange for medical care.Alexanyan, who in addition to his duties at Yukos, became one of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s lawyers during the State’s notoriously unlawful campaign of persecution. In early 2006, he was arrested on invented money laundering charges, and has been held ever since in “preliminary” detention. Like the imprisonment of lawyer Svetlana Bakhmina and the attempt to disbar 14 lawyers related Yukos, Alexanyan’s illegal detention is seen as part of the government’s ongoing harassment and intimidation of the Yukos legal team.Just yesterday the Russian Federation prosecutors refused to comply with the deadline set forth by the third interim measure put forth by the European Court of Human Rights to transfer Alexanyan from prison to a specialized civilian medical clinic to receive urgent treatment. The previous two requests to provide medical care were also ignored.In a case as politically charged as Yukos, any decision regarding the treatment of these prisoners is approved at the highest levels of government, making the executive complicit in the breach of all known international and Russian laws regarding the provision of medical care to individuals in state custody. This despicable attack on lawyers has reached a new level, and we cannot stay silent and stand by while we watch a corrupt procuracy commit murder.I call upon all those in the international community to register their outrage before the Russian government, and demand that the law be observed in the case of Alexanyan. We are currently in possession of the names of the prosecutors directly responsible for the order denying him medical care, and we plan to go public with this list if results are not obtained immediately.There is no time for political grandstanding or bureaucratic dithering. A man’s life is on the line, and the Russian government is knowingly attempting murder of an innocent individual. As Alexanyan himself concludes in desperation: “In such a manner, as the result of unlawful nearly two-year detention in prison even before trial, I, being for all intents and purposes blind, have been brought to a critical deathbed condition through the conscious, well-planned joint actions of prosecutors, investigators, judges, and prison doctors. Meanwhile, attempts to make a purjurious false witness out of me and to obtain testimony from me that would discredit the other managers of the NK Yukos company – for all intents and purposes in exchange for life – have not ceased in all this time. This is unthinkable in the 21st century, but it is taking place in reality behind a veil of silence, suppression of facts, and lies.”We are intent on bringing these facts to the International Association of Prosecutors and will urge that body to investigate this prosecutorial misconduct, the implications of which go far beyond to reach the very highest levels of the Russian government.The desperation of the Russian authorities to somehow cleanse themselves through perjured testimony rests on their belief the Kremlin’s propagandists and eager business partners in the West can spin forced confessions and a tissue of lies into a golden fleece that can resurrect Russia’s reputation as law-abiding state. To accomplish this mission, they appear willing to go so far as to commit murder.