COLUMNIST: Russia and the WTO

Russia and the WTO

by Ethan S. Burger

Original to La Russophobe

Ethan Burger

In 2002, at a conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, as part of a panel a U.S. government official gave a presentation praising all the new legislation Russia was enacting. He suggested that “western technical” assistance in the legal area was having a real impact in the country. The next speaker was a Russian law professor who specializes in anti-corruption and human rights matters. He began his remarks with the comment that while he enjoyed the prior’s speaker’s remarks, it was unfortunate that he was describing a country that did not exist.

Russia is now seeking entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). It should not be allowed to join this body until it enforces its own domestic laws, amends its restrictive foreign investment laws, and observes its existing international obligations. Russia has a poor record in applying the 1959 U.N. Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards. Its does uphold its obligations under, or follow the standards and guidelines of, arising from its membership in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Cyber attacks on Estonia and Britain has arisen from its territory (arguably NATO should have responded). It foreign policy to a great extent seems aimed “reset” Europe to the Cold War era (although it has apparently privatized or contracted out formally state activities. Russia is not so powerful that it should not be challenged for its aggressive actions.

Yet, it would be a mistake to treat Russia as an international pariah. Russia is a member of the international community. It should be held to the same standards as other countries. Progress in one area of international relations should not be linked to another It should not be offered a concession on a trade matter as a means to cooperate on dealing with nuclear non-proliferation and global warming.

The WTO is not like the Financial Activity Task Force (FATF), a body that combats money laundering. FATF is a body that promulgates norms and standards, offers technical assistance and performs evaluations of its members anti-money laundering policies. Ideally, overtime Russia will see the benefit from observing guidelines.

In the human and civil records area, the present situation is troubling. This month, Ms. Vera Trifonova s died during pre-trial detention. Ms. Trifonova asserted her innocence contending that she and a senator conspired to sell a seat in Russia s Federal Assembly s upper chamber, the Council of the Federation to the head of a Russian bank for $1.5 million.

According to her attorney, the investigator in the case, Sergei Pysin, controlled the conditions for her pretrial detention and indicated that he would release her if she confessed. Admittedly, I don’t know the truth in the matter, but now we will never know. Where is the outrage? Why is there no public outcry with the exception of some human rights activists,
journalists and lawyers?

Last year, 37-year old lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, also died in pretrial detention. He was being held because his CLIENT allegedly engaged in tax evasion — apparently a popular activity for many Russian politicians, their shills and their cronies. Appropriately, Russian President Dmitrii Medvedev orchestrated the firing of approximately 20 prison officials in response to the Magnitsky affair and directed the Russian Procuracy to conduct inquiries into both the Trifonova and Magnitsky cases.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation, Section IV — Measures of Procedural Coercion, Chapter 12 — Detention of the Suspect neither Ms. Trifonov nor Mr. Magnitsky should have been detained for more than a few hours (assuming that there were any legitimate grounds for holding them in the first place), but in any case they should have been allowed to be released on bail. Needless to say, the Russian Constitution has been violated. These individuals civil and human rights under both Russian and international law had been violated. Should anyone wonder why Russia has more cases brought against it in the European Court for Human Rights than any other country?

Unfortunately, as citizens of Britain, France and the U.S. know, there are occasions when police/militiamen use excessive force and sometimes even kill suspects in the process of making an arrest. They are frequently acquitted by juries or given light sentences despite using an unjustified level of force. Still it is not an unusual event than such persons are criminally prosecuted. Furthermore, the suspects (or their family members) can find lawyers who are willing to file civil suits against the government or the police/militiamen.

How long will it be before the Russian Procuracy after concluding an investigation file criminal charges against law enforcement personnel may have used excessive force when arresting a suspect, or when a person is being held in pretrial detention or after being convicted? Will private citizens be able to find attorneys to represent them in law suits against the government and have any chance of prevailing? Let’s hope that time happens in the not too distant future — but many people with unrealistic hopes often become disappointed and cynical.

Professor Burger has been an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center and will be joining the Law Faculty of the University of Wollongong (Australia) and its Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention in July.

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8 responses to “COLUMNIST: Russia and the WTO

  1. Thank you LR for this riveting article.

    To me the last two sentences in the first paragraph were especially poignant, namely “The next speaker was a Russian law professor who specializes in anti-corruption and human rights matters. He began his remarks with the comment that while he enjoyed the prior’s speaker’s remarks, it was unfortunate that he was describing a country that did not exist.”

    Now! how’s that for a description of present day
    RuSSia.

    More importantly the first two sentences of the same paragraph has shown up Obama “yomama’s” ineptitude in how he perceives the world to be and how to go about fixing it, LOL. Why?, because as “part of a panel a U.S. government official gave a presentation praising all the new legislation Russia was enacting. ” A subject matter he would not have dared to praise without the express approval of the powers to be that run the current Democrat controlled white house.

  2. AMEN! to Professor Ethan Burger and to Bohdan!
    This is anotherhighly intelligent and truthful article from someone who knows what he is talking about.
    But just wait till the trolling goons see this!
    (No doubt, they will claim he is a CIA agent!)

    And yes, I was born Psalomschick, chanting the Psalms of David from the moment I came out of my mother womb, in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Georgian, Armenian, Coptic, Romanian, Polish, German, Lithuanian, Ukrainian ,Fino-Ugrian, Church Slavonic,Bulgarian, Eskimo, and…even in the King’s English. Mummy called me, her ‘Little Sweet Psalm Singer’.
    They couldn’t shut me up, though they tried. That tape over my mouth, was a hinderance.

    Psalomschick Daniel, Oft, In The Lions-Den!
    (Can’t get no respect!)

  3. Thank goodness Georgia has a veto in the WTO……

  4. To me, for some reason, it was what really stood out in the whole article was this sentence:

    “Russia is not so powerful that it should not be challenged for its aggressive actions.”

    Now that is a real gem of realpolitik

  5. Francis Smyth-Beresford

    “Unfortunately, as citizens of Britain, France and the U.S. know, there are occasions when police/militiamen use excessive force and sometimes even kill suspects in the process of making an arrest. They are frequently acquitted by juries or given light sentences despite using an unjustified level of force. Still it is not an unusual event than such persons are criminally prosecuted….How long will it be before the Russian Procuracy after concluding an investigation file criminal charges against law enforcement personnel may have used excessive force when arresting a suspect?”

    I’d point out to the good professor that officers of the law in such countries – certainly in the United States – are not as frequently “acquitted by juries” as they might be, given that it is not required by law for doctors in emergency rooms to report suspected cases of excessive force. According to USA Today, some 98% of these cases are unreported.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-01-06-police-force_N.htm

    Studies of police use of excessive force in America indicate the problem is both widespread and that it is not the work of “a few bad apples”.

    http://www.drury.edu/multinl/story.cfm?ID=2436&NLID=166

    http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_13686438

    Oh, and here’s a good one – a seven-months-pregnant woman tasered 3 times for refusing to sign a speeding ticket; a nonarrestable misdemeanour in the state in which it occurred. This resulted in extreme pain, burn marks and permanent scarring. She didn’t die, though; I suppose that’s something. Can America’s membership in the WTO be revoked?

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/03/pregnant_woman_tasered/

    I’m not suggesting police brutality is not a problem in Russia, or even that it is worse in the United States. If you didn’t consistently adopt such a holier-than-thou position of unassailable purity, I probably wouldn’t even comment.

  6. what the hell is this site? I’m not even gonna go into why this site is so bias. Man, you really have to treat your phobia…because I’ve never seen so much hate being puked out on a web page. This is so full of lies, it’s actually pretty sad.

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