Staunton, June 16 – The Golunov case has highlighted a longtime problem with the Russian and earlier the Soviet criminal justice system: the widespread planting of drugs on opponents of the regime in order to charge them with possession or distribution of illegal substances rather than their real “crime,” dissent.
What makes this practice so dangerous is that in almost every case when charges are brought, the individual is convicted. Of more than 90,000 Russians charged with narcotics offenses in 2018 alone, only 27 were not found guilty, according to Aleksey Knorre of the Open Police organization (interfax.ru/russia/665345 and snob.ru/news/178504/).
The activist reports that police find it easy to bring such charges, falsely or otherwise, and the authorities recognize that they have to limit this abuse lest it lead to an increase in cynicism among the Russian people about the judicial system as a whole. Consequently, the Russian equivalent of “internal affairs” does bring charges in the most outrageous cases.
Knorre says that over the last five years, 500 police officers have been charged and convicted for falsifying drug cases. Not all of these are political, of course; the vast majority are likely “crimes” Russian police created to make their own arrest records look good and thus gain preferment and promotion.
Now that the issue has attracted more attention, the numbers of policemen charged mayincrease in an attempt by the political authorities to look good. The regime has already sent out a circular intended to cut the number of drug cases and some are now talking about decriminalizing soft drugs (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2019/06/15/80908-instruktsiya, novayagazeta.ru/articles/2019/06/09/80826-soblyudayte-vashi-instruktsii and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/06/could-moscow-decriminalize-or-even.html).
But even if that happens, the planting of drugs on political opponents is likely to remain in the regime’s toolbox, helped by the occasional charges of officers for doing such things in non-political cases as a way to gain credibility for its charges against those who are protesting against the regime’s actions.
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