23 U.S. Lawmakers Sign Nikitin Petition

Publish date: December 5, 1997

Lawmakers ask Russian President Yeltsin to demand review of environmentalist's case.

Twenty-three members of the House of Representatives signed a letter from Rep. David Skaggs, (D-Colo.), asking Russian President Boris Yeltsin to have the Justice Ministry review the case with regards to constitutional and rule of law issues.

Alexander Nikitin, a Russian environmentalist, was arrested by the secret police in 1996 for his involvement in the publication of a report about the potential for a global environmental disaster from the Russian navy’s unsafe nuclear submarine fuel storage practices. The report was published by Nikitin’s employer, the environmental group Bellona. His case was fraught with procedural errors, so that Nikitin was adopted by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Sierra Club and other international organizations as a prisoner of conscience. He also won the prestigious Goldman Award for environmental heroism, often called the Environmental Nobel Prize.

"This is an important issue for the rule of law and Russia’s future as a respected partner of developed democracies," said Thomas Jandl, Bellona USA’s director. "We are grateful for the support of all the signers of this petition. This letter shows that human rights and the rule of law are indeed a pillar of American foreign policy," Jandl added in reference to President Clinton’s speech on Human Rights day December 10.

President Clinton and Vice President Gore have taken up the Nikitin case in meetings with Russian officials, and a bipartisan group of members of the U.S. Congress has supported Nikitin throughout the case.

Attached is a copy of the letter sent to President Yeltsin.