Orlov and Kovalev Advised Colleagues not to Work in the Human Rights Council under Putin

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May 16, 2012, 4:23:07 AM5/16/12
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Orlov and Kovalev Advised Colleagues not to Work in the Human Rights Council under Putin

On May 15, 2012, Sergei Kovalev, the Chairman of the Russian organization "Memorial", and Oleg Orlov, the Chairman of the Human Rights Centre "Memorial", wrote an open letter to members of the Presidential Council for Human Rights (text of the letter see below).

They call on colleagues to abandon the work of the Council under President Vladimir Putin.

Earlier, the Council has been already left by Elena Panfilova, director of «Transparency International Russia», Svetlana Gannushkina, a member of the HRC "Memorial", the Chairman of the Committee "Civil Assistance" and political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin.

Open letter to colleagues from the Council on Civil Society and Human Rights under President of Russia

Dear Colleagues! In the coming days you are going to discuss the possibility of further work of the Council in the current membership. We respect every decision made by you, but consider it possible to bring some of our ideas to you - only because at different times we both were in similar advisory structures for the President and both came out of them for reasons close to those which are presented below.

Without the interaction with the authorities complete work of human rights organizations is very difficult. This work requires constant appeals to the authorities at different levels - with recommendations, requests, demands, expertise, etc.

In our circle, many people believe that we should not abandon the interaction with the government until it can help to improve the human rights situation in general, or protect the rights of the individuals (or until we at least hope so). We agree with this - but with some reservations. In a simulation of democracy power very often use interaction with the public and creates the structure for this interaction for simulation, as a screen, curtain, decoration, covering the reality: the authoritarian nature of government. The harm of such interaction - and for our common cause, and for our organizations and the situation in the country - is certainly greater than the possible positive results, even if it comes to help for certain people.

Just the "election" of President of Russia passed. It would be possible to call them so if the event met the requirements of an equitable, transparent political competition, fairness, honesty. None of this happened. But there were massive fraud during voting and counting of votes - civil movement which observed the elections gave a clear understanding of the extent of fraud and falsification. Our human rights community has made a significant contribution to a civic movement. Indignation of the fraud of the parliamentary and presidential elections led to a mass protest movement, in fact - human rights movement: because it is based on the requirements of observance of human rights. In the society awareness of the illegitimacy of the current government is growing - as the president and the legislature. This illegitimacy does not mean the impossibility of a dialogue between the government and society. Moreover, such dialogue is needed - but it is a dialogue in which the society acts as an equal partner. Can the advisory body under the President be a platform for such dialogue? We do not think so.

For many years the society was silent, and now the majority of it is ready to fight for civil and political rights, peacefully and non-violently creating the conditions for the formation of a new, - legitimate - Russian authority. Without that real reforms are impossible, which are needed for Russia – reform of judicial system, police, army, penal system and other. The human rights community should be involved in this fight.
Could you influence the presidential power with advice and recommendations so that it goes to meet the legitimate demands of the protesters?
Influence, as advisors for the man that received his post as a result of imitation of elections? For a man whose inauguration took place in stripped from the citizens city center, and was marked by massive illegal detentions of citizens? A man, whose entire political career was built on the idea of systematic denial of human rights?

It would be naïve to hope so.

More possible, remaining in this Council, you, who have devoted all your lives to defending human rights, can do harm to Russian civil society, unwittingly contributing to legitimize an illegitimate regime. Irrespective of how the Council will be independent in its statements and actions, it becomes a decoration covering the anti-legal nature of the current government. On the other hand, in the eyes of the majority of the civil movement your participation in the work of the Council may discredit the human rights community as a whole.

All this can have very grave consequences for the future of Russian civil society.

Sergei Kovalev
Oleg Orlov

May 16, 2012

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