Appoints Rapporteur on Pasko-case

Publish date: April 22, 2002

Written by: Jon Gauslaa

The international attention surrounding the conviction of Grigory Pasko continues. This week the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will appoint a Rapporteur on the case.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (CoE PA) is the oldest international parliamentary assembly with a pluralistic composition of democratically elected members of parliament established on the basis of an intergovernmental treaty in the world. This week the CoE PA meets at the ‘Palais de l’Europe’ in Strasbourg for its second plenary session of 2002. One of the cases on its agenda will be the conviction of Grigory Pasko.

Appoints Rapporteur
The conviction of the environmental journalist has caused uproar both inside Russia and internationally. The CoE PA’s sub-committee on Human Rights has been designated to write a report on the Pasko-case, and will on April 22, 2002 appoint its Rapporteur.

The Rapporteur will make a fact-finding visit to Russia. He plans to meet with Pasko’s defence attorneys Ivan Pavlov and Anatoly Pyshkin, Aleksandr Nikitin, who was acquitted on similar charges as Mr. Pasko in September 2000, and also representatives of Bellona Oslo, who has taken part in the defence of both Mr. Nikitin and Mr. Pasko. If circumstances permit it, the Rapporteur hopes to be able to visit Mr. Pasko himself in Vladivostok, and meet with various Russian officials engaged in the case.

In order to increase its knowledge on the Pasko-case, the sub-committee has invited Ivan Pavlov and representatives of Bellona to a hearing in Strasbourg on April 25.

Pasko resolution
At its session the CoE PA will also have a motion for a resolution on the conviction of Grigory Pasko on its table. The motion is presented by Mr. Aleksandr Shishlov and around fifteen other parliamentarians from Russia, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Ukraine, Estonia and Lithuania, belonging to respectively the Socialist Group (SOC) and the Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group (LDR) within the CoE PA.

The resolution points out that the conviction of Pasko seems to involve a number of possible violations of the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights. It also refers to the fact that Amnesty International has expressed serious concerns about the fairness of the trial, adopted Pasko as a prisoner of conscience, and stated that the prosecution of him appears to be "motivated by a political reprisal for exposing the practice of dumping nuclear waste".

In its conclusion, the resolution urges Russian authorities to ensure that Pasko’s appeal case is heard shortly, and handled in accordance with the standards of the Russian Constitution as well as the European Convention.

FSB increases pressure
The Pasko-conviction is also looked at in a broader perspective. It is connected to an alarming increase of the power of the Russian secret police, the Federal Security Service (a.k.a. the FSB), on the expense of other sectors of the society.

In the report ‘Honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation’ issued on March 26, 2002, by the CoE PA’s monitoring Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe, the role and power of the FSB are discussed in paragraphs 59 and 60.

The authors of the report points to the "increasing pressure of the Federal Security Service on society, especially on the media", and states that it in recent years has been a "series of arrests and court trials that smack of lawlessness" and continues:

"The persecution of Russian citizens afflicts mainly environmental activists. The cases of navy captain Aleksandr Nikitin who was finally cleared of espionage charges after a long legal battle, journalist Grigory Pasko and scientists (for instance Mr Igor Sutyagin or the Krasnoyarsk physicist Valentin Danyilov) are symptomatic. All of them have been prosecuted for spying, treason and disclosure of state secrets. According to Amnesty International, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and other human rights organisations, all of them peacefully exercised their fundamental right to freedom of expression and the charges against them are completely groundless."

The report from where this statement is quoted will be discussed in the CoE PA’s plenary session on Tuesday April 23, at 10 AM.

Grigory Pasko was arrested on November 20, 1997 and accused with treason through espionage. He was acquitted by the Pacific Fleet Court in Vladivostok on these charges on July 20, 1999, but sentenced to a three-year imprisonment for misusing his position and released on a general amnesty. Both sides appealed the verdict.

In November 2000 the Russian Military Supreme Court cancelled the verdict, and sent the case back for a new trial at the Pacific Fleet Court. The re-trial started on July 11, 2001 and ended on December 25, with Pasko being convicted to four years of hard labour for treason and taken into custody. The verdict has led to huge protests inside of as well as outside Russia. Both sides have appealed against it, but the appeal case has not yet been scheduled.

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