Civil Court Case Becomes a Battle of Experts

On November 11, 2013 scheduled court hearings were held on a civil case of the procurator’s office against private charitable association Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial”. Procurator’s office had requested that ADC “Memorial” should be obliged to list itself in the register of “NGOs serving the functions of a foreign agent” in the interests of “an undefined group of persons”. The procurators insisted that ADC “Memorial” was guilty of being involved in political activities because in 2012 it had prepared human rights report “Roma people, migrants, activists – victims of police arbitrariness”.

In order to define whether this report was indeed a “political action aimed at influencing public opinion with the intention of changing state policy”, the procurators had asked an expert, doctor of political science V.Rukinov, to analyze the report. The latter turned out to be not only a philosopher, but also ex-head of a public organization “Regional public foundation for support of Federal security service and the Service of external intelligence of the Russian Federation”. This expert came to the court hearings not only not having any documents, which proved his competence, but also without written replies to the questions related to the court case. It turned out that he was not asked these questions in written form and, moreover, even when answering them orally, he was not always able to do this in an adequate manner. Thus, when answering a key question about exerting influence with the aim of changing state policy, he replied: “I’m sorry, but I don’t see any charity in this report”. Replying to the questions from the defendants’ lawyers Tseytlina and Serov on whether there were any calls to change constitutional order, calls that fostered hatred, approval of mass riots or claims that all police officers were violating the rights of citizens, Rukinov replied negatively, admitting that only some police officers were called offenders and that the authors of the report wanted to change some structures, but not the constitutional order of Russia as a whole.

Answering a question about the methods used for analyzing the report of ADC “Memorial”, Rukinov replied that he used “a regular method of scientific analysis” and referred to some “two laws” (without specifying them) as a list of scientific sources that he had used. At the same time Rukinov claimed that the activities of ADC “Memorial”  in the form of presenting a report were of openly political nature, which he “didn’t like”, and that the report could exert influence through some “unconscious use of masses”, which Marx, Freud and Fromm had written about.

Following that, experts drawn by the defendants spoke before the court. Dmitry Dubrovinsky provided a socio-humanitarian expertise of the report, while Yelena Belokurova answered the questions of the court as an expert politologist. Both experts explained in extensive detail why the report couldn’t be considered a “political action” and what methods they had used when analyzing the report (content analysis, method of socio-humanitarian expertise recommended by the procurator’s office, etc.). Dubrovsky also opposed the statement of his vis-à-vis that the report in question could exert  “unconscious” influence, claiming that this was based on outdated ideas that belonged to the XIXth century, while Belokurova explained that the modern methods allowed to easily detect what influences political decisions and in what way, while the human rights report couldn’t serve neither as the basis, nor as an instrument of such changes.

In response to the question regarding the nature of recommendations in the final part of the report, Dubrovsky and Belokurova stated that these recommendations served for proper implementation and improvement of the Russian state laws in practice in the form of observing the Law on the police and the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

Court hearings ended with a request of the representatives of ADC “Memorial” to provide answers of all experts in written form for the next hearings so that these could be studied and compared, because, as the lawyer Tseytlina pointed out, there were “enormous differences in answers to the principal questions”.

Next hearings are scheduled for November 25, 2013. They will be held at 11-15am in Leninsky district court of Saint Petersburg (judge A.Moroz).

Political expertise of legal case against ADC “Memorial”