Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 134

The Kremlin is pushing for reforms of Russia’s judicial system that would reduce the Soviet-era powers of prosecutors, introduce jury trials and protect suspects in criminal cases from police brutality. It could be argued, however, that other parts of the law enforcement system are moving in the opposite direction. The appeals collegium of Russia’s Supreme Court yesterday rejected an appeal challenging the legality of a Federal Security Service (FSB) instruction allowing its investigators to “consider” information provided by anonymous informants. The FSB instruction, “On the procedure for considering suggestions, statements and complaints by citizens to the organs of the FSB,” was signed by FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev last December and registered with the Justice Ministry a month later. This past March the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the FSB instruction brought by the group For Human Rights, headed by Lev Ponomarev. Yesterday the Supreme Court’s appeals collegium rejected an appeal made by For Human Rights challenging the March decision.

Anonymous “denunciations,” of course, played a key role in the work of the Soviet intelligence services. For that reason alone the apparent revival of the practice has set off alarm bells in the human rights community. Following yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court’s appeals collegium, Lev Ponomarev, chairman of For Human Rights, told journalists he believed that the FSB instruction on anonymous tips violated Russian law, in particular a decree issued in 1988 by the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet that directly banned state organs from accepting tips or accusations from anonymous informants. Ponomarev said that the FSB instruction permitting its agents to consider such anonymous tips would allow the security agency to “fabricate” criminal cases and promote “denunciations” and “calumny” of “a political character.” Yevgeny Ikhlov, the head of the For Human Rights information-analytical service, warned that the instruction would in practice permit any citizen to leave an accusation against another citizen on the FSB reception’s answering machine, after which the accusation would be written down and the taped message erased. He also warned that such “denunciations” could be used as weapons in battles between business rivals (Kommersant, July 13;, July 12). Likewise, Aleksandr Yakovlev, the associate of Mikhail Gorbachev who was considered the architect of the Soviet leader’s reforms, warned this week that sanctioning the use of anonymous accusations would move the country closer toward becoming “a police state” (Obshchaya Gazeta, July 12). For their part, FSB spokespersons and others who support the FSB instruction on using anonymously provided information argue that it does not violate Russian law and complain that the human rights activists tend to assume that all such measures by state security means a reprise of Stalin-era repression, even if such measures are necessary to such efforts as the fight against terrorism (, July 12).

For Human Rights plans to appeal yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court’s appeals collegium to the Supreme Court again, and, if the appeal is rejected, to gather the signatures of ninety State Duma deputies for an appeal to the Constitutional Court. The human rights activists have also not ruled out appealing to the European Court on Human Rights (Russian agencies, July 12).