Friday, June 26, 2009

Open Letter to Mikhail Khodorkovsky

This is a guest post by Jeremy Putley

Mikhail Borisovich,

On the occasion of your birthday on 26 June I send to you my congratulations and respectful greetings.

Today, by coincidence, is International Day in Support of Torture Victims. The United Nations General Assembly selected June 26 to honour the day in 1987 when the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into effect.

The convention was created to reaffirm that the equal and inalienable rights of the human family are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

I believe in the inevitability of human progress. My experience of life has shown to me that there is an overwhelming tendency for the state of humanity to improve over time. Perhaps you will agree that this is so. Indeed, there is nothing new in this idea. Sometimes the trend reverses. The coming into power of the present regime in Russia was such an example.

Eventually, with the support of people of good will around the world it will pass away, just as other malignancies have come and gone in the course of human history.

The historical tendency for mankind to improve is the result of millions and millions of people making their individual efforts to make their conditions better, each day, and every day, during all of their lives. We see a result when we look at the world as it is now, because it has become a world in which the great majority of countries are governed under the civilising rule of law where people are not impeded from contributing their small or large improvements to the quality of human life. This world has convincingly shown a determination to throw off mistaken ideologies and to turn away from the leadership of wicked men. And it is by the small accretions of individual human progress that the world crawls to a better condition with the inevitability of plate tectonics – but not so slowly.

This is a simple, even trite, observation, and, as I say, it is not new – indeed, it is why people buy shares in companies, so that they can take part in their progress, as I do not need to explain to you in particular.

The efforts of the many thousands of people who have become active in support of human rights around the world – whether as members of organisations like Amnesty International, or as individuals – are visibly contributing to the improvement of the human condition. Your leading counsel, Yuri Schmidt, has reminded us that in Russia, with its long traditions of struggle to achieve the rights of mankind, there are the memories of honoured men to give inspiration – Sakharov, Solzhenitsyn, Bukovsky and Sharansky. I would add the name of the great Russian patriot Sergei Kovalev. It is now your experience to participate in the continuing effort to achieve a proper recognition in Russia of the vital importance of the rule of law, and justice under the law for all its citizens, in opposition to a procuracy which seems determined corruptly to obey the secret instructions of a corrupt hierarchy. The judicial proceedings against you and Platon Lebedev are a mockery of justice, and are seen as such around the world.

You could easily have avoided these abuses of justice, by leaving Russia. Because you are a true Russian patriot you decided to stay. This trial, in which you now play a leading role in the continuing fight for the fundamental rights of Russian citizens under the law, marks you as an historic figure. You are opposed by sinister men occupying positions of great power who are determined to succeed in the interest of preserving their influence and wealth. Because you have opposed them, the world can see them for what they are. This is already a partial victory.

Therefore, I send you my salutations and very best wishes on the occasion of your birthday, in the hope and expectation that the day will come soon when you will be set at liberty.

Yours very respectfully and sincerely

Jeremy Putley

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