Russian authorities repress user activist who spoke out against human rights abuses
Irina Teplinskaya is a Russian drug user activist who spoke out against repressive drug policies and human rights abuses. In addition to written complaints and appeals, in February 2011 Irina met with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and spoke about the lack of access to any opioid substition therapy in Russia. On the 18th of August 2011, at the “Khrabrovo” Airport in Kaliningrad police arrested her because a methadone pill was planted on her.
She sent the following letter to ask for the help of the international community – PLEASE HELP TO PUBLICIZE THE CASE!
|The letter of Irina Teplinskaya|
To my great sorrow, recently I’ve found out that the story with the planted methadone pill has a continuation. As you may remember, on 19 August 2011 I was charged with drug trafficking (Article 188, Part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), and later, on 25 August, Prosecutor of Guriev district of Kaliningrad region nullified the decision to institute these criminal proceedings. However, on 14 September me and my lawyer A. Koss were summoned to the Kaliningrad office of the Federal Drug Control Service (FDCS) and notified that my case was now under internal investigation (from 7 September to 7 October) to inspect additional details of the case. The officials refused to show me any documents on this matter, and the lawyer wasn’t able to get a clear explanation as to the grounds of our summons. Yet the meeting was held in an interrogation room, not in an office, and was witnessed – following our consent to his request – by Alexey G. Zvonarev, Deputy Head of the Kaliningrad FDCS office, which meant that information I was about to provide was crucial to FDCS.
More than half of the questions were related to my work as an activist and had nothing to do with what happened in the Khrabrovo airport where the pill was discovered: no one seemed to care about the pill; they wanted to know about what I do, who I communicate with, where I go and why. Special emphasis during the talk was given to enquire if I understood that my activity in the field of advocacy for methadone substitution therapy was illegal in Russia and equaled drug propaganda. I clarified that I don’t promote street drugs, but advocate for effective drug treatment that is recommended by WHO and UN and has been proven effective in most countries. When parting, we agreed that I would write down everything about what happened in the airport and about my activities, and will return this testimony to them on occasion. Mr. Zvonarev mentioned more than once that this was not a criminal case, that I was not a suspect and was free to move anywhere. It was also pointed out to us that the outcome of this case will depend on various circumstances, as well as on my future behaviour. To avoid any further provocation, I decided to move to Tatarstan, where I now continue working as a harm reductionist and recovering from drug dependence.
On 9 October, my lawyer A. Koss called the investigator to follow up on results of the internal investigation. You can imagine how surprised we were to find out that a criminal case was instituted – not against me, but on the grounds that the pill was found. The investigation should now determine whether the pill was mine or, according to me, was indeed planted. The proceedings for this are not clear, as new circumstances of the case will hardly appear – all violations were documented, and my lawyer has copies of all documents. Also, I didn’t receive any official notice about the initiation of a criminal case, and my knowledge is based only on telephone conversations. My opinion is that the planted pill case is a slow mechanism for manipulating a person and holding me on a leash to prevent further advocacy activities from my side. We all know too well how easy it is in Russia to turn a witness into a criminal suspect/defendant. Currently we are looking into possibilities to conduct an independent polygraph expertise for me in Tatarstan. The complaint that I filed to the European Court of Human Rights against Russia on the grounds of denial of substitution treatment for my drug dependency is now being processed, and I have already received an applicant’s status. I fear that the above proceedings are instituted against me to create barriers to civilized and legal investigation of my case.
On 10-12 October, Moscow hosted an International Forum on Millennium Development Goal # 6 (MDG-6), where Russia was acknowledged as a leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Before the Forum, I had a meeting with one of its organizers, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, where I told him about discrimination and overall violation of drug users’ rights in Russia fueled by the most repressive drug policy. In his opening address to the Forum, Michel Sidibé stated the following: “You can’t stop the epidemic in Russia until the last barrier is overcome – stigmatization of injecting drug users. In Russia, reducing the number of infections and controlling the epidemic can only be possible if the target of zero transmissions among drug users is reached. So far, HIV prevalence in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Russia remains at a steady level, but as soon as a virtual zero is reached for HIV transmission among injecting drug users, we’ll see a sharp decline in new infections. Countries that previously imposed criminal liability for drug use, such as China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, discontinued this practice due to lack of any effect and, instead, introduced substitution treatment and harm reduction programmes, which helped decrease HIV incidence.”
Perhaps Michel Sidibé will also be charged with illegal actions, and drugs will be planted on him the next time he comes to Russia?
Please distribute this information widely and help me have my voice heard! Me and my lawyer are ready to step forward with comments.
Irina Teplinskaya: +7965 612 21 70
Alexander V. Koss: +7906 234 43 50
Please also call the press-service of the Kaliningrad office of the Federal Drug Control Service for inquiries and comments on my case.