A case study from Russia
Author: Mikhail Golichenko, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
16 July 2011 marked the second anniversary of the arrest of Denis Matveyev, a Russian Human Rights activist who was accused of drug trafficking and sentenced to six years in a high-level security prison. During his three-year fight against corruption in the Russian city of Naberezhnie Chelny, Matveyev got under the skin of authorities on several occasions.
Two months before his arrest, Matveyev managed to disclose a scheme that police officials were using to pocket public money and that of detainees in temporary detention centres.
In addition to his anti-corruption and human rights activities, Matveyev volunteered for harm reduction projects to help people who use drugs to reduce negative health consequences of illicit drug use, such as HIV and other blood-borne diseases. He often had contacts with people who use drugs, which apparently played a role in how police retaliated.
Matveyev was apprehended on 16 July 2009 and has remained in custody since then.
On 21 July 2009, the Press Service of the Tatarstan Interior Ministry released information on the detention of Matveyev, who was suspected of drug trafficking. The same information was also made public on the website of the Russian Federation’s Interior Ministry. Not many offenders in Russia are awarded with such high-level attention.
On 18 March 2010, Matveyev was convicted and sentenced to six years in a high-security prison.
In violation of the “fair-trial” principle, the court completely ignored defence arguments for entrapment, lack of sufficient proof for incriminating acts and the incorrect qualification of their severity. In total, there were more than 60 gross violations of the right to fair trial in the case of Matveyev.
The prosecution was based on the results of three test purchase operations. The first operation has been carried out by the undercover police officer who mimicked a drug user suffering drug withdrawal syndrome. The other two test purchase operations were carried our with help of a drug user whom police use as an undercover agent. Police documented that, upon request of police undercover agents and for their money, Matveyev purchased heroin from another person (a drug user Fedorchuk) and handed over it to agents. There was no information produced by police to prove that Matveyev was ever engaged in any of the illicit drug activities apart from those instigated by the police agents. Matveyev denied his guilt in the drug trafficking.
It was obvious that he was incited by police agents, who were or pretended to be people addicted to drugs suffering withdrawal, in order to purchase drugs to alleviate drug withdrawal symptoms. Aside from the police entrapment, there was no other evidence that Matveyev’s had ever engaged in illicit drug use. The court did not assess these facts, despite numerous motions of the defence. These circumstances of the case of Matveyev clearly resemble those of Khudobin v. Russia and Vanyan v. Russia, where the European Court of Human rights found a violation of the right to a fair trial because the domestic court “did not analyze the relevant factual and legal elements which would have helped it to distinguish entrapment from a legitimate form of investigative activity”.
INPUD will be covering more issues about Russia over the coming up to round up in a World Aids Day Protest at Russian Embassies across the world, on Dec 1st. Please comment or email INPUD to find out more.