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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Arresting Reality Of the Accused's Rights

Don't ask me how I know, but if you are arrested in Stavropol, the police are required to hand you a written deklaratsiya prav podozrevayemogo pri zaderzhanii (declaration of the rights of suspects under arrest). Travelers may want to clip this column and carry it with them, just in case they happen to be arrested in some less progressive city.

The Stavropol document starts out very promisingly by noting that, according to the Russian Constitution, the police must not only act in accord with explicit terms of the constitution, but also v sootvestvii s printsipami zakonnosti, ravenstva vsekh grazhdan pered zakonom, gumanizma i uvazheniya chelovecheskogo dostoinstva (in accord with the principles of legality, the equality of all citizens before the law, humanism and respect for human dignity). It almost makes it sound like getting arrested in Russia will be a boost to one's self-esteem.

After this prelude, the deklaratsiya gets down to business. First, grazhdanin mozhet byt' zaderzhan tol'ko po podozreniyu v sovershenii prestupleniya, za kotoroye mozhet byt' naznacheno nakazaniye v vide lisheniya svobody -- a citizen may be detained only under suspicion of having committed a crime punishable by imprisonment.

Second, soderzhaniye pod strazhei ne dolzhno soprovozhdat'sya pytkami, inymi deistviyami, imeyushchimi tsel'yu prichineniye fizicheskikh ili nravstvennykh stradanii -- imprisonment must not be accompanied by torture or other acts intended to inflict physical or moral suffering. Why don't they teach us these phrases in Russian class? Third, organ doznaniya, sledovatel' obyazan o zaderzhanii uvedomit' kogo-libo iz rodstvennikov ili blizkikh zaderzhannogo -- the investigative organ is obliged to inform a relative of the person about the detention. In the case of foreigners, I imagine, a call to the appropriate embassy will suffice

Finally, the declaration reminds us that srok zaderzhaniya ne mozhet prevyshat' 72 chasov -- the period of detention cannot exceed 72 hours. Before that time, which begins the moment one is detained and not whenever the investigator gets home from his dacha, the police must either file charges with the local prosecutor or release you. Of course, the period between the filing of charges and an actual trial can be years.

In Stavropol, the police must give you a written copy of this declaration and both you and the investigator must sign a statement that you have read it. However, even in Stavropol, I suspect, a prisoner demanding to be treated with uvazheniye chelovecheskogo dostoinstva, or "respect for human dignity," is likely to be told to shut up. We are dealing here with that great Russian distinction between v printsipe (in principle) and na samom dele (in reality).

But at least prisoners in Stavropol have something to read while they wait for their investigators to show up.