Staunton, August 27 – Mikhail Khodorkovsky says that Russian citizens are fully entitled not to observe unjust laws imposed not to promote justice but to protect the power of Vladimir Putin, a potentially dramatic development in the relationship between the Russian opposition, the Russian people, and the Kremlin.
In a blog post on OpenRussia.org today that has been widely reposted, the former businessman, political prisoner and now émigré political leader argues that recent court cases and recent laws show that “in [Russia], there is no legal system, neither for ‘the others’ nor for ‘our own’” (openrussia.org/post/view/9227/).
“Many laws in effect in the Russian Federation are immoral and unjust. It is immoral and unjust to take away from invalid children the right to be adopted by foreigners and leave them in far from ideal orphanages. It is immoral and unjust to threaten to deprive all citizens of Russia access to Wikipedia which does not have any analogues as a world repository of knowledge.”
Moreover, “it is immoral and unjust to label groups ‘foreign agents’ and drive out of the country the Dynasty Foundation which supports scholarship while at the same time [the pro-Kremlin] United Russia Party receives financing from offshore accounts.”
Many people in many times and countries have discussed the proper relationship between law as a formal act and true law, and “a consensus on this has been worked out long ago. If a formal law is unjust, it does not correspond to true law; and that means that citizens have the right not to observe it.”
As Khodorkovsky points out, “the genocide in Nazi Germany also was carried out according to formal law, but who would decide to condemn those Germans who opposed it and refused to obey such laws?”
“From this follows a quite simple conclusion,” he continues. “Citizens of Russia have the complete right not to observe illegal and unjust laws like ‘the Dima Yakovlev law’ and the laws about the destruction of sanctioned products. They have the moral and what is most important the legal right to go around the blocking of websites by Roskomnadzor.”
The current situation in which Oleg Mironov was condemned unjustly and therefore “not in correspondence with real law, reflects “the nature of the Russian law enforcement system or more precisely its absence. That system has been transformed into simply ‘a protection’ one” for the authorities.
Those who commit even insignificant violations but whose actions are not in accord with the leaders of the country are punished severely, Khodorkovsky continues, while those who commit major crimes but do so with the agreement of those in power escape without any punishment at all.
“Regardless of our political views,” he argues, “we all as a society very much need a state which is capable of adopting understandable, truly legal and just laws and a state which will observe these laws and not use them as clubs against those the powers find unsuitable.” Russians need “a state based on law and not on propaganda and the unlimited power of one man.’
“A strong state about which many dream is not a state which can deal as it likes with any political opponent but one which is capable of ensuring that law is observed on the territory of the entire country.” Khodorkovsky adds: “without a state based on law and justice and not personal power, we will not make it better.”
Keeping people behind bars who threaten no one violates the principles of mercy which should be behind all legislation, he concludes. “The desire ‘to punish’ only distracts the attention of society from the true causes and the truly guilty.” What Russia needs are laws and a legal system based on justice and its universal application.
That is not what Vladimir Putin offers Russians now, Khodorkovsky reiterates, and Russians thus have every right to violate his unjust and immoral laws and his equally unjust and immoral application of formal law.