Pasko case: Supreme Court to nullify secret decrees

Publish date: February 5, 2002

Written by: Viktor Tereshkin

The Russian Supreme Court has refused to consider Pasko's release on bail. But the Court will evaluate other complaints lodged by the defence shortly. The complaints challenge provisions of two military decrees, which were the basis for Pasko's verdict.

Grigory Pasko’s lawyers received the answer from the Supreme Court for their petition to release Pasko on bail on February 4th. The defence argued in the petition that Pasko has no possibility to prepare for the hearing of his appeal in the Supreme Court sitting in custody in Vladivostok.

The Supreme Court decided to consider this petition simultaneously with the defendant’s appeal for verdict’s unlawfulness as a whole. Judges said the current Criminal Procedure Code prohibits consideration of bail petitions, until the whole verdict is evaluated for it legality and validity in the court session.

In the middle of the next week, the Supreme Court will begin, however, examining Pasko’s complaints against several provisions of two Defence Ministry’s decrees, NN 010 and 055, used as a basis for the conviction.

Decree N 010

In Pasko’s verdict the Pacific Fleet Military Court did directly refer to the secret decree N010, signed on August 7th 1990 by the USSR Defence Minister Dmitry Yazov, who later became infamous for taking part in the failed coup.

This decree forbids all the military men “to get in touch and communicate… with foreign citizens about the questions, not ensuing from their duties of service.”

The Court decided that when a journalist of a Russian military newspaper speaks with a Japanese journalist about severe environmental situation in the Russian Far East, he commits a crime. And it was Pasko, who dared to speak about this, who handed articles on this topic over to Japanese newspapers, met with a Japanese journalist and even called him.

But according to this decree, if applied in earnest, up to 90% of the military men in the Pacific Fleet may be summoned in front of a judge. Some of them have relatives in Ukraine, Byelorussia, Moldova, and they visit them on leave. And now, after the collapse of the USSR, all those relatives are foreign citizens. Furthermore, all Vladivostok markets are crowded with Chinese sellers. To be in consent with this decree, if an officer buys something there, he should be arrested right on the spot. Provided that the Federal Security Service, the former KGB, wants that. Grigory Pasko used to visit his mother in Ukraine, he bought goods from the Chinese sellers. In the mind of the FSB such connections may well be a criminal offence.

Pasko’s defence say the decree 010 is illegal, because in violation of Article 15(3) of the Russian Constitution it has never been in public domain. And the provision, prohibiting connections with foreigners, contradicts Art. 23 of the Constitution, which guarantees the inviolability of private life.

The Supreme Court has to decide, whether Russia will keep on living according to the secret decrees of the already non-existent Soviet state, or it will follow its own democratic Constitution.

Decree 050

Another decree – N 055 — has already been challenged in the Supreme Court by Aleksandr Nikitin’s lawyers. The Supreme Court nullified several provisions of the decree, on the ground that it has neither been ever published, nor registered by the Ministry of Justice.

The decree was written in such a cunning way that many journalists may be arrested, should the decree be applied. If a journalist says in a TV-program that military exercises have started, he reveals a serious state secret, if one sticks to that decree. If he says that a new nuclear submarine is commissioned, it means he divulges the fact, that its reactor contains nuclear fuel. Even innocent information that a military base had small repairs or that a checkpoint barrier was painted, may be evaluated as a disclosure of secret information.

The experts of the 8th Department of the General Staff referred to this decree, examining the extent of secrecy in the documents allegedly found at Pasko’s flat. The verdict is based on this decree, but, having applied all its provisions, the judge of the Pacific Fleet Military Court did not dare to name the decree directly.