|Nadia Tolokonnikova with her daughter Gera, 2011 - photo Andrey Tolokonnikov|
this Open Letter has been read on RTL (Radio Luxembourg), 18th november 2013 - and will be published too in the printed press and on the Web
Banishing Human Rights to Siberia
Second OPEN LETTER
To His Excellency Dr Mark Entin,
ambassador of Russia to Luxembourg
18 November 2013
Excellency, for a year now you have been the ambassador of Russia to Luxembourg; by formation a jurist, you are a Professor and specialist of European Law: which gives me the hope that you will lend a favorable (and competent) ear to these few words I permit to send you.
Three weeks ago my Open Letter addressed to you was published in our print media as well as on the site of RTL (Radio-Television-Luxembourg) — a letter also widely disseminated in the Italian print media and with exponential circulation on the social networks, including those in Russia. A week ago I send you, personally, a handwritten letter and a photo of Nadia Tolokonnikova and her five- year old daughter Gera.
Maybe you showed my letter and the photo to your wife; you have three children, including a lovely little girl a little younger than Gera.
Since 21 October little Gera has asked every day: where is my mama where is my mama…? Nobody could answer her. Her mama had disappeared. For 26 long days Nadia Tolokonnikova had disappeared without a trace. Neither her husband, nor her father, nor her kin or friends, nobody knew what had become of her; they were beginning to wonder if she was still alive… How to explain such cruelty, such inadmissible brutality, such a blatant lack of humanity?
Since 12 November we know: Nadia Tolokonnikova was deported to Siberia, thousands of kilometers from her family and friends. Deported to solitude an isolation, to that Siberia of icy desolation where Stalin had consigned (and put to death) hundreds of thousands of opponents to his diabolic regime.
I am asking you, Excellency: what crime has this young woman (who celebrated her 24th birthday on 7 November 2013, in a sealed railway car or a transit camp…) committed?
A year and a half ago she, with a few friends, had, in a church in Moscow, for all of two minutes, sung a protest song against the shady & opportunistic political buddy-‐buddy relationship of ex-KGB agent Poutine and the most reactionary circles of the orthodox church — without causing any damage, without hurting anybody.
Her crime? To have expressed her thought.
If that had happened in my country, Excellency, a few people would have shaken their heads, while others, many, I’m certain, would have understood and applauded. And the police would have stayed in their barracks given that here the police doesn’t busy itself with what people think.
In your country, Excellency, things are different. In your country it is immediately a matter of arrest, of handcuffs, of barbed wire. On orders from on high. In your country it means a tribunal and a guilty verdict. And the charge is as scary as it is grotesque: “hooliganism by religious hatred…” — and the sentence comes down, staggering and obscene: two years in a forced labor camp!
Labor camp — slave camp: what this means in 2013, in Poutine’s Russia, the prisoner Tolokonnikova, once more standing up to the regime, expresses in a long document she published on 23 September 2013, the day she started her hunger strike: labor camp means 16 to 17 hours of hard labor a day (it’s illegal, but quotas have to be met!), it means 4 hours of sleep per night, it means one day of rest every six weeks, it means the blackmail and the threats of the penitentiary administration, it means daily vexations and humiliations (prohibition to wash oneself, to go to the toilet, forced to work naked), beatings by prisoners collaborating with the administration, and the continuous cold… The first day in the Mordovia camp, Nadia was welcomed by camp commander Kupriyanov with these words: “You need to know that in politics I am a stalinist.”
Down to the last details all of this resembles what we know since Dostoyevsky’s “The House of the Dead” and Chehkov’s “The Island of Sakhalin” (on the Czarist penal colonies) — all the way to Solzhenitsyn, Varlam Shalamov, Julius Margolin, Yevgenia Ginzburg — and yo the dissidents Andrei Amalrik, Yuli Daniel, Abram Tertz (= André Sinyavsky) and Anatole Marchenko, the latter pushed into death in 1981 by the neo-stalinian Brejnev, for having written, like Tolokonnikova, about the conditions of life in the regime’s jails.
Tolokonnikova, now subjected to the supplementary sentence of solitary confinement, is thus held incommunicado, forbidden of speech for having spoken out.
“Envoyé Spécial,” the France 2 program — the best investigative journalism show on all of French television — on this 14 November, aired a full show on today’s gulag in Russia. It’s conclusion: in Poutine’s prisons “there is torture at every level.” And in all impunity.
All this, Excellency, is deeply shocking and unacceptable — and I wonder how, when teaching European law, in front of your students or an knowledgeable public, how you manage to reconcile everything that has occurred in European law since Montesquieu and the many struggles against authoritarian repression and for freedom of speech, how you manage to reconcile all of this with how Poutine’s Russia banishes human rights to Siberia.
[translation Pierre Joris]