A Note from the Translator: Russia today is a country so preposterous that it does not deserve to be taken seriously, and Russia has been that way for long swathes of its history. The only time it showed some promise was the period between the 1905 revolution and the Bolshevik coup; it could have become a constitutional monarchy and was developing on lines more or less normal for the times. Lenin put a stop to that. I simply do not understand why any of our leaders in the West can allow themselves to be besmirched by contacts with this country other than the minimum necessary to control arms and purchase raw materials, Russia’s only exportable commodity. In fact, I don’t see why it would not be possible to review and re-plan our commodity needs in such as way as to stop purchasing oil-and-gas from Russia. See how the country manages then. In particular since Russia could not very well threaten to bomb us unless we continued buying – after being bombed, we’d certainly not need that much oil and gas! Here is yet another example of cesspit thinking and nastiness. And we should pretend they are part of the community of nations?!
Investigator Bastrykin’s Expensive Toys
8 July 2009
Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel
It’s frequently said that the only difference between men and boys is the cost of their toys. Our country’s top investigator, Alexander Bastrykin, is a perfect example of this. At a recent press conference, he announced that the Criminal Investigation Department of the RF Prosecutor’s Office, of which he is head, has practically completed its preliminary investigation and has “proved the fact of genocide in relation to the inhabitants of South Ossetia during the events of August 2008”.
No one needs telling how our prosecutors “prove” things. We can all think of examples. Sometimes, the accused rush to give evidence against themselves, squirming with nerves as they remember the preliminary investigation, after which the court finds them guilty. Other times, if the accused are fortunate enough not to have cause to remember the investigation with fear, the accusations fall apart in court like a house of cards. But I am not proposing to look here into how evidence is produced.
My interest here is in “toys for the boys”. And Alexander Ivanovich’s toys are expensive. Over 100 investigators took part in the case, a thousand witnesses were questioned, 928 expert reports were commissioned, and 30,000 items of evidence were placed before the court. A costly investigation indeed. Its result – zero. Trial prospects – zero. In contravention of legal norms, the investigation was carried out in a foreign country. The plaintiffs – all 5315 of them – are in the main non-citizens of Russia, being inhabitants of South Ossetia (or rather Georgia, as far as international law is concerned). This should be a clear-cut issue for Bastrykin – the title of his dissertation for his master’s in law was “The Problems of Investigating Criminal Cases Involving Foreign Citizens”.
At a recent Interfax press conference, Alexander Bastrykin assured journalists that “at the present time, the question of indicting members of the Georgian government for genocide committed in South Ossetia is being considered at an international level”. What can our country’s top investigator mean? What international court or what court in what country is going to consent to hear a genocide case following an armed conflict during which, according to official Russian figures, 162 civilians and 10 Russian soldiers died? A court in Nicaragua or North Korea?
Does Mr. Bastrykin know what genocide is? To be fair, he was a law student in Soviet times, when law colleges preferred to stay away from such matters. But he could at least have taken a look at a contemporary sources! The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines as genocide “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. The deaths of 162 people, tragic as they are, cannot by any stretch of the imagination be termed genocide.
It’s a sign of a lively imagination when a little boy plays at soldiers and makes believe he is a general. If a grown up does the same thing, it’s more a case of delusions of grandeur. Bastrykin is playing his own fun little game called pretend Nuremburg or pretend Hague Court. He seems to think he’s doing rather well at it. Speaking of his investigation of the Russo-Georgian war, he announced his sensational conclusion: “We have established that it was the regular Georgian Army”. Whoever would have thought it?
Going on with the game, Bastrykin allowed a touch of self-criticism when he remarked that “the investigation has not yet found incontrovertible evidence that Saakashvili directly gave the order to start military operations on South Ossetian territory”. Seems that Mikhail Saakashvili is a lucky man” – Bastrykin can’t yet prove that Saakashvili is the president of Georgia and that as commander-in-chief, the president gives orders to his country’s army.
Pressing on still deeper, the CID head, his voice ringing with pathos, went on: “Never in history has there been a case of the regular army of a country shooting at peacekeepers and civilians with all sorts of weaponry”. Actually, finding examples is no problem at all. Alexander Ivanovich might perhaps be able to recall how in September 2004 the Russian army fired tank rounds and launched grenades at a school in the North Ossetian town of Beslan where over 1000 children – Russian citizens like himself – were being held hostage. Three hundred and twenty-nine innocents were killed in order to neutralise 32 terrorists.
Alexander Bastrykin has weighed in with his piece on the new anti-Georgia campaign which is getting under way. However, despite the fact that what he is doing may at first glance may look like a silly game, it may turn out to be the start of a bigger story, one in which the 380 volumes of the case gathered by Bastrykin are used to justify the escalation of military acts against Georgia, with the Russian army having been given a reason for entering Tbilisi – to arrest Saakashvili, deliver him to Moscow and give him a Basmanny court trial as a war criminal.