Saturday, December 22, 2007

An Open Letter to Vladimir Putin

Inspired by a recent screening of Sicko, an Amnesty International campaign, and today's Garry Kasparov op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, I wrote the president of Russia a letter.

President of the Russian Federation
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
Rossiiskaia Federatsia
103132 g. Moskva
4 Staraya Ploshchad
Prezidentu Rossiiskoi Federatsii

RE: Reopen the investigation into student Artur Akhmatkhanov's disappearance

Dear President Putin,

While I've yet to pick up the current issue of Time magazine, which lauds you as the 2007 Person of the Year for helping create a new Russia, I can't help but think about the ironies involved in this announcement. If you are one of the more progressive and successful world leaders, how can instances like Artur Akhmatkhanov's disappearance -- and Yury Chervochkin's death -- continue to happen under your authority?

I call on you to explain why the investigation into the enforced disappearance of Akhmatkhanov was suspended in mid-2007. This is especially concerning given that the Chair of the Chechen Parliament’s commission for the search for abducted and missing persons pledged that they would try to discover the fate of all missing persons by the end of this year.

Please reopen the investigation immediately and ensure it is conducted in a thorough, independent, and effective manner. The findings should be made public, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. Additionally, Akhmatkhanov’s family should be kept fully informed of all developments in the investigation.

I further call on you to conduct an official inquiry into the effectiveness of the investigations into enforced disappearances. Numerous judgements of the European Court of Human Rights have found the Russian authorities guilty of violations of the European Convention on Human Rights and of failing to investigate them effectively and to take steps to end violations committed by Russian security forces and to ensure that law enforcement agencies operate in full accordance with Russian and international law.

Garry Kasparov's recent piece in the Wall Street Journal (Dec. 22, 2007) also concerns me. If you are indeed worthy of Time magazine's mantle, if you are indeed dedicated to being a respectable and progressive leader for Russia, if you are an ethical and moral human being, please end the attacks on those trying to bring a true democracy to your country. Don't fall prey to the allure of being a bully and a dictator. Because if you do, the new Russia won't be much different than the old Russia, and the country's newfound political strength will be a sign of your moral weakness.

Heath Row

Cc: U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer

If you ever get the urge to write or otherwise contact a political leader, I encourage you to do so. The best way to celebrate the rights you have is to use them.

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