Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Arrests of Russians in other countries: club law in place of protection

author: Polina Chernitsa

Photo: komonews.com
Arrests of Russian nationals by US warrants in other countries run counter to the international law, the Russian Foreign Ministry says. The most high-profile cases of detention of Russians abroad involve businessman Viktor Bout and pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko.

Experts call for creating a set of international laws to regulate these cases.

Despite criticism from human rights campaigners and present-day legislation, Washington continues to apply its laws in other territories in defiance of international law. The US is ignoring bilateral agreements as well. Konstantin Dolgov, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law, comments:

"Unfortunately, Washington continues to issue warrants for the arrest of Russian nationals in third countries, in spite of our efforts and demands from international organizations. This practice is at odds with the requirements of international law and violates the legitimate rights and interests of people in other countries. It also runs counter to a number of bilateral treaties between Russia and the US, including the 1999 Treaty on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters."

Should there be claims, the US is to submit relevant documentation to the Russian law enforcement agencies, the treaty says. In reality, this is far from so, and the cases of Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko serve as glaring proof of that. Bout’s lawyer Viktor Burobin says his client was extradited to the US before the completion of all court procedures.

"Viktor Bout was extradited when the Thai Court of Appeals had not yet completed the administration of two complaints against him. He was de facto on trial when he was taken out of the country. Not a single country envisages taking a person out of court. No executive or investigative authorities are allowed to do that, particularly by order of a foreign government."

Experts say Bout’s extradition was executed in accordance with the US legislation which stipulates punishment for "incitement to commit a crime". No other countries have this kind of wording in their statute books. The unique provision has been applied in a foreign country. According to human rights activists, this precedent affects Russia’s interests and could influence the international legal system.

Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko was detained in Liberia in 2010. He was then secretly transported to the US where he faced criminal charges. To Washington’s credit, he was not subjected to torture, like Guantanamo inmates. Another Russian national, Ravil Mingazov, is illegally serving time in Guantanamo. Washington is openly resorting to club law. Mikhail Salkin of the Moscow Human Rights Center, comments.

"Even though the US is positioning itself as a model constitutional state, it allows for breaches of the law. There are no organizations like the European Court on Human Rights in the United States, so there is nowhere to go to complain. As it happens, whoever happens to have most influence in this or that country, is right. A selective approach of this kind is inadmissible. All people should have equal rights to judicial protection, regardless of citizenship and nationality."

Russian nationals are kept in US detention centers for a long time, without charges or legal support. Four Russians were detained in the US recently on charges of smuggling electronics. It's through constant pressure that the Russian Foreign Ministry eventually secured implementation of the consular convention while the American side was trying to obstruct open court proceedings and exert pressure on the judges.


This article was first published on the "Voice of Russia" website

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Privacy: 2007 – 2012

9 years, 10 months and 9 days since the day of arrest
Metropolitan Detention Center Brooklyn, New York

In October 2007 Wired magazine wrote in its Geekipedia section about privacy:

"Be careful what you text. "The United States may be among the most aggressive states in the world in terms of listening to online conversations", reads a report from the OpenNet Initiative, a group that monitors Internet surveillance. You can't even trust your so-called friends, who can post your e-chatter for all the world to see, not to mention embarrassing photos taken at last week's corporate retreat. Even commercial relationships aren't ruled by discretion. When you use Yahoo! Mail or Gmail, the company's automated programs are standing by to sift through your messages for marketing data.

Privacy isn't dead  it's a commodity. You can give it away, exposing the details of your personal life on Facebook. You can trade it in return for a word processor at Google Docs & Spreadsheets or for disk storage at Xdrive. Or you can pay to protect it, buying encryption software to prevent snoops from analyzing your browsing habits.

The trouble arises when a business or government agency leaks your personal details without permission. In most cases, the law keeps eavesdroppers in check: last year (2006), a whistle-blower revealed AT&T's agreement with the National Security Agency to turn over millions of private communications. Now the company faces a class-action suit that could cost it billions. Of course, most of us would have sold our privacy for far less."

It was 5 years ago. You can imagine what is happening now.


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